Travel Theme: Big

Australia is a big country. Only by travelling through the states and territories can you fully appreciate the distances involved. Walking helps you realise it too. Here we are walking on the Larapinta Trail through the West MacDonnell Ranges in the Northern Territory.

From my notebook: We began our graceful caterpillar journey on a narrow rocky track, winding over softly rounded hills dotted with grey tussock, the ground glinting red and white, silver and grey, light flashing on small pieces of quartz, crunching beneath our boots. Heavitree Gap and Alice Springs nestling away to the south, waterhole green, and us amongst the silver grey gums green desert plants.From the north comes unrelenting sunshine, warmth and heat drying this fragile ancient land; deep shadows in nooks and crevices on the southern side of each rocky outcrop, each slender tree trunk and bleached strip of fallen timber. Are the nocturnal animals deep in the shade of these cool refuges, waiting for twilight and darkness before emerging to hunt and meet and mate? At our morning tea spot the sharp rocks are angled away to the south-east, creating overhanging ledges of safety, and smoothed openings signal the home of a lizard or other creature. Earth sheltering, supporting, providing.

Footfall on the track, light dancing vividly on broken stones, in sandy patches a fine-webbed pattern of boot soles, nice as any natural design … soft contact of boot on sand, then suddenly back to the crunch and crackle of the path ascending the next slope … The earth mysterious and ancient on Chewing Range, bones sleeping down deep and the scaling ridged surface rising like plates of a Stegasaurus, clothed with sprawling blue-grey plants ….

Tjilpa, Northern Territory

Ipolera, Northern Territory

The Tjilpa People are the traditional custodians of Ipolera land, in the West MacDonnell Ranges, about 170 km west of Alice Springs.  We camped there with permission, and were taken on guided walks by Mavis and Herman Malbunka, custodians of the land. Mavis sat with us around the campfire at night, telling us some of the sacred stories of her people. One tells how Gosse’s Bluff (in the background of the photo above) was formed long ago by a meteor falling from the sky …in the Dreaming, a group of celestial women were dancing as stars in the Milky Way. One of the women grew tired and placed her baby in a wooden basket. As the women continued dancing, the basket fell and plunged into the earth. The baby fell to the earth and forced the rocks upward, forming the circular mountain range. The baby’s parents, the evening and morning star, continue to search for their baby to this day.  Isn’t it wonderful that the Western Arrernte people knew the landform had been caused by an impact, long before geologists had ever seen it?

Here you can see Mavis telling this story in her own language

I have written about Mavis before … here

Thank you Ailsa for taking me out to the desert again, for your Travel theme Big

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