There is a land we all know. It rests beneath us, and sings all around. Its crystal oceans, rivers, and billabongs have reflected the songs of the indigenous for over 40,000 years.
This place is Uluru, Australia.
Inscribed on the World Heritage List for its natural beauty in 1987, then again as a cultural landscape in 1994, Uluru has become a symbol of Australia in so many ways: the uniqueness of Aboriginal cultures, the problems between the various communities of Australia, and the vastness and ancient beauty of our land.
This massive sandstone rock formation reassures us that, in the 21st century, ancient cultures and languages are still alive.
While we struggle to understand the lives, and will never know the languages of those who painted extinct animals on the walls of European caves some 10,000 years ago, Australia has living ceremonies and songs as ancient as Europe’s and older still, with verses that tell of history, morality, law, and creation.
Etched into the very surface of this national icon are features that tell not only of the tortured geology that created this unique sculpture and the unfathomable amount of time since its creation, but also those rock paintings that preserve some of the world’s oldest memories.
These songs and stories are ours if we want them to be.
Cast alongside Uluru’s irrevocable beauty lies an ancient group of rock formations — Kata Tjuta — located about 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) away from Uluru in Australia’s Red Center. Together, these giant stone formations form the two major landmarks within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Kata Tjuta is a Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal word meaning “many heads.” There are abundant Pitjantjatjara legends associated with Kata Tjuta. One tells the story of the great snake king Wanambi, who is said to live on the summit of Mount Olga and who only comes down during the dry season. Kata Tjuta is a sacred site for men in the Anangu Aboriginal culture, and many of the legends surrounding the site are still kept secret.
There was no doubt in my mind that Kata Tjuta had a spiritual quality to its atmosphere. I can’t entirely explain how being surrounded by such monumental beauty felt, only that in my heart there was at once both a peacefulness, reverence, fear, and a feeling of being watched by something powerful and pure. As my mum and I walked further along the path, with a cool wind pressed gently against our skin, we noticed indentations of different sizes on the side of the small rock-like caves.
The more I noticed their depth and difference, the more I felt that guardians of the reserve rested soundly within. If you were to ask what kind of shape they’d take, I wouldn’t be able to say. Maybe some of them would resemble humans with slender, elegant bodies. Perhaps others would be the spirits of ancient animals such as large spiders, dragons, or birds.
All I know and believe is that there is more wisdom and truth to the Aboriginal Dreamtime stories than most willingly admit.
As we walked back to the car, I turned around to thank Mother Earth and God for giving us the chance to have experienced something so unforgettable. The purity and power of Kata Tjuta give credence to the fact that, even though we can only perceive a small amount in this infinite world, that doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with magic.