The arrival of Europeans and tourists in Central Australia disrupted tens of thousands of years of Anangu history, but 150 years later, there’s a new appreciation for traditional wisdom
Source : Inspiring Vacations and re-produced with permission. Click here to view original article
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For anyone planning to visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park for the first time, there’s one thing you need to know about the experience of visiting this remote and beautiful part of Australia: Whether it’s staring in wonder at the night sky as you learn about the Anangu’s interpretation of the stars or waking at dawn to see Uluru emerge from the darkness, you will be profoundly moved by the power of the park’s history, people and landscapes.
The stories of the Anangu, who are thought to have settled in this part of the Central Australian Desert between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, describe how their spiritual ancestors created the animals, plants and rocks at the beginning of time, bringing the world into life as they moved across the land. Since that time, the Anangu have borne the responsibility of caring for the land and passing on the traditional knowledge of its wisdom, laws and customs (Tjukurpa) through millennia.
Guides are allowed to share some of this Tjukurpa, and as they describe to visitors the relationship of the landscape to the dreaming, rocks shapeshift into animals and spirits as the landscape becomes a world of stories.
While this is the way many visitors to the park will experience the Uluru-Kata Tjuta landscape today, in 1873 explorer William Gosse had a more prosaic outlook (although he was equally astonished by the view). When he first glimpsed Uluru, he described it simply as an “immense rock rising abruptly from the plain.” On a reconnoitre with his Afghan cameleer Kamran from their base camp at Kings Canyon, Gosse noted the sighting in his diary – the first on record by a European – then named it Ayers Rock after the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers, before returning to his primary expedition to find a route from Central Australia to Perth.
Millions of years in the making
Despite speculation that Uluru and Kata Tjuta may have been the result of a massive meteor, the view that Gosse and Kamran were so astonished by is actually a rock formation that, along with its neighbour Kata Tjuta, had its beginnings around 550 million years ago, when erosion caused flat fans of sand and rock to form on the plains around the Petermann Ranges. These were later covered by the sea and the water pressure slowly turned them to solid rock. The sea eventually disappeared and movement in the tectonic plates caused the rocks to fold and tilt, creating the two distinct formations we know today. There’s more to both rocks that the eye can see: Uluru’s iconic red colour comes from the rusting of iron found within the grey arkose rock while Kata Tjuta’s texture, often described as looking like plum pudding, is a mix of granite and basalt and both formations are the relatively small tips of rock slabs that stretch another 6 km underground.