As we drove to Woomera today, having spent last night in Coober Pedy (separate blog post coming), and the night before that in Marla, Kirstine spent the time looking through the multitude of photos we took during our nearly week long visit to Yulara, incorporating Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park.
We came to the conclusion that even though we have some amazing images captured as digital pixels, there is simply no comparison to actually seeing these sights for yourself. You may wonder at some of the photos we have included, however, please know that it is in no way a substitute for the experiences you have in visiting Uluru and Kata Tjuta in person.
We undertook the base walk around Uluru, knowing it was nearly 10km long and would take 3.5 hours to do. Luna was welcomed into the park upon provision of her identification card from mindDog Australia. The park officer also radioed the rangers in the park to let them know we had a service/assistance dog with us, and as we met them, they smiled and said hello to us AND Luna.
Hats, water, snacks – check! From the moment we left the Mala carpark, we were in complete awe. We saw the tourists who had chosen to climb Uluru, despite signage everywhere asking that you choose NOT to. The climb is not banned, interestingly as the Anangu believe that there is no way to take back the footprints already left by those visitors who climbed. They also follow Tjukurpa, their laws and way of interacting with the earth, which mandates that they try and teach visitors to behave appropriately at this sacred site.
Some of the path takes you right up to the rock, and they have wonderful information plaques and stories along the way. The first stop was at the cave area used by the menfolk to teach the bush boys (older boys) the ways of the Mala (Anangu) men – tracking, hunting, weapons, history. The remnants of their lessons left on the cave walls in intricate drawings, to be enjoyed from the boardwalk path. Kirstine placed her hand on the overhanging rock, and was overwhelmed by the warmth radiating from it, even in the shade on a 25 degree autumn morning. It was an intensely moving experience, and we felt truly blessed that we were able to view these sacred pieces of Australia’s indigenous history. Happy tears soon followed as came the realisation of a dream being fulfilled.
The walk took every bit of 3.5 hours, and we met many people along the way. Some riding bikes, some on segways, others walking the reverse route to ours – but everyone smiling and exchanging greetings! Uluru is not simply an oval shaped rock, and there are no words to describe the immensity of it, as well as the hidden treasures to be found when walking. The multitude of textures on the surface, the water hole, the caves, the sensitive sites which are sacred to the men or women folk and may be viewed but not filmed or photographed, the wondrously scented flora only found in the park … Yes, it was tiring, but invigorating and incredibly satisfying at the same time, for our whole family.
About half way round, we met a couple who stopped at the same rest point in the shade, and were surprised to see our children on the long walk around the base. As happens, we spoke about our journey, and they were very interested in Luna’s role and Paul’s career. As they hopped back on their bikes, they actually THANKED Paul for his years of service. This was absolutely a first for him, and he was taken aback initially until he realised what they had said.
The next morning we drove out to Kata Tjuta to do part of the Valley of the Winds walk, before heading back to camp to shower and tidy up in preparation for our meeting with Fiona, who was travelling to interview/photograph/video us for Cub Campers. Kata Tjuta is another 50km from the entrance to the National Park, and is utterly fascinating. This site is so sacred that whilst we can visit it, the Anangu people cannot share the stories of the domed rock formations. There is very much an air of mystery there, and we will have to go back and do the other walks at the site when we have more time.
We worked with Fiona back at Yulara that afternoon after her flight arrived, and again the next morning as we packed up the Cub to get some footage of us driving towards Uluru. We’re excited to see what she comes up with, and hope that our attempts to not squint into the sun as we were interviewed, worked!
We had so many people come and talk with us while we were camped at Yulara. Significantly for us, the children made a great impression on a large group of indigenous families and friends, who were attending the First Nations conference at Uluru. One lady, Shahnaz, came back to our camp with the children, to tell us how gorgeous they are (which as a parent is always difficult to hear). After speaking with her for a while, Shahnaz offered us some contact numbers for important people in some of the indigenous communities around Australia. We were humbled by this and gratefully accepted her offered information.
Our other visitors included a woman who is concerned for her husband, a retired paramedic with a head full of traumatic memories. A man who has a friend who is in the emergency services and may be putting on a brave front as she is new to the role. A mental health nurse who recognised Luna as an MHAD and thinks our journey is fantastic. An off duty police officer who thanked us for undertaking this trip to raise awareness in smaller communities too.
We are not counsellors or psychologists, but will always listen when people approach us and want to share. Having someone to talk to, even informally, can be the start to a healthier head space, and who doesn’t want that?