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national icons

national icons

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Published by davidjarman

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Published by: davidjarman on Oct 17, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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From: David Jarman [dsrjarman@hotmail.com]
Sent: 27 November 2002 13:43
Subject: national icons
however strong the urge not to travel the world ticking its many wonders off
your internal must-see list, every so often you find yourself in the privileged
and unique position of following countless others' footsteps and experiencing
a phenomenon. thus i, and several (car, van and coach loads of) others saw
the rosy glow of sunset light the ridges and slopes of uluru. call it ayer's rock
if you will, the champagne would have gone down just as well - picture
postcard made real.
aside from the must-see, the world's largest monolith has also been a must-
climb until relatively recently. the high profile cultural meanings for the local
tribes of aboriginals have shaped the perceptions of visitors to such a degree
that those who scale it are in a declining minority. the many indigenous
stories which have evolved from its scars, water holes, craters and caves give
the rock a character of its own; it has been a religious site longer than the
pyramids. aside from that, it took me the first three hours after sunrise to walk
round it - it's huge! i took time to study the rock art, read up on the sites
sacred to men or women, feel dwarfed in caves carved by the wind over
millions of years, and occasionally look the other way at miles of flat
shrubland. it truly is awesome, it really does change colour, and it's going to
be here for a while yet - there's around 7km (seven kilometres!) of it to be
revealed as the surroundings blow away at 1 metre every million years.
if that isn't reason enough to travel to the middle of the country, there always
the 1.7 billion year old devil's marbles - building sized pebbles worn down by
wind and rain and left serenely balanced just beside the highway (of slightly
more recent vintage). other car parks compete with 200 or so 'magnetic'
termite mounds, stretching into the middle distance like so many headstones
from a forgotten civilisation. perhaps you'd prefer kata tjuta - 'the olgas' - a
collection of mounds near 'the rock' which you might mistake for some
skyscrapers and monumental ocean liners that somehow got left behind when
someone was building a city on the coast. (you might not make this mistake
of course - they are admittedly dark red, look like rocks, wouldn't float, and
have no underground car parks.)
while visiting such ancient geological icons, the journey itself makes no less of
an impression on you. there are miles, and kilometres, of very, very little out
there - north to south through tropical, semi-desert and drought stricken
agricultural landscapes. i haven't experienced such relentless daily heat as
when travelling from darwin down to alice springs. hitting a high of at least 43
degrees in the shade, even swapping tropical humidity for the relatively dry
centre brings little relief. that only came watching the sparks fly over alice on
my last night there - sparks from the lightning, and a deep red glow reflecting
off the clouds from bushfires near and far. while they say a raging fire can
outrun you, it can also block out the sun, choke the air and turn vegetation to

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