On day two of our tour, we woke up to the sun rising over our sleeping bags... Gus was fixing us up some hot water for coffee and tea, and had cereal and fruit out for our breakfast. Today was going to be a pretty big day, we would be climbing Ikara (the aboriginal name for the Wilpena mountain) and it was going to be quite a hard hike. (Hah, understatement of the year!)
For day two, I got shotgun, along with Sarah R. Here is a pic of my view if I turned around in the truck... I have no idea what they are seeing and pointing out... but it looks like it must have been pretty amazing!
It was a great day to be in front! We saw all kinds of wildlife today, kangaroos bouncing, wallabies... bouncing... and a family of EMUS! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a great picture of them because they were far away and on the other side of the car from me. But here is something for you...
Now, so you can know what I was up against, here is a picture of the mountain range we were about to climb:
And us, contemplating the climb:
Now, this climb was HARD. It was hard, and it was HOT, and the two did not mix very well. I think that Cradle Mountain (in Tassie) was a harder overall climb, but this one was definitely harder on me... I think it was the heat, the climb, the fact that I had just gotten over a chest cold (and I still had the cough from it) AND the headache that was now starting to come back... but I definitely had a hard time with this climb. I kept on going though, because of the promises of 360 degrees of beautiful views when we got to the top. I had to keep stopping because it started to get hard for me to breathe... I've never had asthma before, but the way I was wheezing, I could definitely understand how it would feel. I was also kind of afraid that I was going to have an attack (first time for everything), because it really WAS so hard to breathe.
Here I am at a mid range point... resting and staring off into the distance... The one with me actually looking at the camera didn't turn out so you have to live with this one!
And here is just a nice picture of what we were climbing... cool tree, no?
Well anyhow, after a lot of struggle, and a lot of breaks (everyone eventually ended up pretty far ahead of me) I did get to the top... and it was worth the pain! The view was beautiful! Here we are, all looking proud of ourselves for making it to the top.
And this is what we could see from way up there on asthma mountain, I mean Ikara.
This mountain is pretty important to the dreamtime stories of the Aboriginal people of the Flinders Ranges. This picture shows you what is seen as the head of one of two giant snakes, who many years ago sat coiled around the mountains and were hungry, so they ate hundreds of people who were in the mountains doing some kind of an initiation ceremony... and then because the snakes were so full after eating so many people, they just decided to die there... (happily I assume) which is why you can still see the head and bodies across the mountains. That is just one of many of the stories for that area... I'm not even positive that this was the story we were told while on the mountain (I was still recuperating from my near fatal attempt at getting to the top of the mountain and didn't take proper notes) but this was a story that was told on the Lonely Planet and I liked it.
While we were up on the mountain, resting our weary selves and eating fruit and cookies (biscuits to all you English/Australian readers) somehow the subject of Steve Irwin came up (it probably does often when a foreigner talks to an Australian) and Gus told us a time when he met him. He said that Steve was just walking outside in a remote area, trying to look normal in jeans and a cap (but was followed by a small film crew and his entire family). He did say that Steve was an incredibly nice guy. Just as I always imagined!
Anyhow, after we had all rested enough, we started the trip down. This way was MUCH easier on my lungs, but harder on my knees and harder to keep your footing, for sure. It was OK though, because I finally had 'hiking' shoes that weren't death trap Yoga Slides or Birks! They were cheap, but the covered my toes and had grip, so they worked well.
When we got to the bottom, we were all hot and sweaty and hungry. And we had a little surprise as well... apparently some strings were pulled, and we had the chance to take a dip in a pool of some little resort! This... was... heaven!
We stayed in the pool for at least an hour... playing, cooling off... it was like we were kids again! There was a little outdoor shower for us to rinse off in first, so don't worry, we didn't just get the pool nasty and gross and full of sweat and grime for the actual people staying there... Oh, and the part where you had to turn on and off the water for the shower was CRAWLING with bees. That is how dry it gets in this part of Australia... the bees swarm to any fresh water source. They don't do that in the US... or at least, I have never noticed it! And everyone who knows how terrified I am of bees... you will be proud to know just how close I came to those bees! My hand was less than an inch away from them so I could turn on the water... (and then I discovered that the actual tap to turn on the shower was somewhere else, and this was just the main water shutoff valve... but still)
After our swim, we had lunch... there were tons of magpies all around, begging for food. These three I call Moe, Larry, and Spider Man.
And here is a video of the birds, so you can hear how pretty the magpies sound.
When we finished lunch, we were soon back on the road again. Here is some pretty scenery from the area that we were in... I love those trees!
Along the way, we saw plenty more kangaroos (the RED ones too!) If anyone is wondering how kangaroos have the ability keep their children alive during heavy drought periods, when they barely have enough for THEM to drink, it's actually a very interesting story. They can have a little joey fetus in their pouch, and when they realize it wouldn't be able to survive any current drought conditions, they can stop it from growing, and it won't be born until the conditions are better. Isn't that amazing?
Anyhow, on the road again, we saw more EMUS! AGAIN! And, I got a much better picture, and some video of it running... but stupid youtube won't let me upload the emu video! It keeps saying 'failed' and I can't upload it here because it is fast moving so it looks terrible in a small video.
More pretty scenery of the road ahead...
Soon, we made another stop to see if we could spot a rare creature... a yellow footed rock wallaby. These little guys aren't seen very often, but they look pretty cool, kind of striped like a tiger. We did see some, but the pictures I got of them aren't very good because they were so far away. But here is a blurry one, now is a good time to use your imagination!
The next spot we stopped to take a look at was an area of rocks (Willkawillina limestone) that formed about 530 million years ago... when it was once covered by the sea. At first, the rock looked like any other rocks that you might see... but when you poured water over them (to remove the dust) you saw hundreds of fossils from the ancient sea. We wasted a lot of water, looking at the cool things that would be under this rock or that one. How awesome does this look? I also got video of the action of pouring the water, below the picture.
Finally, after one more quick stop for picking up firewood (the easiest firewood we'd ever get... old railroad tracks chopped up into nice sticks for us) we got to our camp for the night... Iga Warta, an aboriginal community. It was quite a neat spot too... it was kind of like a little farm... horses were wandering around... there were turkeys and chickens in pens (a couple of chickens wandering around loose too) and they had WHITE turkeys.
We were in for quite a treat too... we were going to have story time with some of the Aboriginal people who lived in the area... they would tell us a bit about themselves and their lifestyles and a bit about the Aboriginal culture... but first, we had another treat (something we normally take for granted!) We had SHOWERS! It was probably the best shower I had taken in a while, even though it was short and a little cold... but I was CLEAN so who cared!
So, we had dinner and waited until we would see our soon-to-be new friend Terry, the Aboriginal who would be leading the nights events. The other Heading Bush group was here as well, so you may see people you don't recognize in the pictures.
When we met Terry, he seemed to me at first to be a little timid and shy... he was very quiet, but he might have just been a bit tired. That is him in the background picture...
He first sang us a welcome song with his guitar, to make us feel that we were at home... Then he spoke for a while about the importance of the campfire, and it was really interesting. He said that it was to be thought of as a place for cooking, so we should never throw anything like cigarette butts and beer cans in the fire, because to them, it would be like throwing that kind of stuff into your oven. He also said that the fire is important because it is used as a place of meeting (such as we were doing) and that it could be used as a place of meditation. He also said that the spirits of their ancestors were able to be seen through the fire... and that it was used to keep away unwanted spirits. It was also used at weddings, as the smoke from the fire would let the unwanted past of the newlyweds go up in smoke, so when they go into their union together, they don't have to take the burden of the past into relationships. And finally, he said that in the olden days, when Aboriginals had stayed in one spot for a long time, they would leave it and they would set the place on fire, which would help regenerate everything that they had used up, effectively restoring the landscape for the next people who would come to live in the land. I never knew just how useful a fire could be!
Next, he told us a dreamtime story that explained why everyone speaks in different languages. I found this one interesting because I also know the Christian story of why this happened... and it's always interesting to me to hear the many explanations to one phenomenon. A man (I forget the name) who was a great spiritual leader and who taught everyone how to live in harmony with the land, and love each other had noticed that their homeland had started to get too crowded with people, more so than the environment could handle... so this man said he was going to will himself to die, and when he did, he wanted them to eat his various organs, especially his tongue. The people didn't want to do it, but because he was their leader and they figured he knew what he was doing, they did. They found that as soon as they ate his tongue, they could no longer speak with each other, they spoke in different languages... and so they ended up spreading out into the different parts of the world.
After a few more stories, Terry began talking about how we all need to love one another, everyone in the world would be so much better off if they could forget their prejudices and hatred and just love, and live in harmony with the land. He went around and made everyone sing, 'All we need is love. to live in peace and harmony'... and then we all got up and had a nice hug. It was really cool actually... and we all bonded that much more.
The next song was one that was another Aboriginal Dreamtime story... he sung it first in his language, then in English. It was a fun one (for women especially!) about the story of how the robins breast became red. In the story, there was a robin couple. The man bird was out eating, and the woman bird was building a shelter because it was about to rain. She kept calling for the man bird to help her, but he kept saying 'Later woman, I'm eating!'. Eventually, it started to rain, and she flew over to her husband and beat him until he bled (making his breast red). The moral of the story was, always listen to women.
I could go on and on about everything that he spoke about, but that would make this extremely long... so I'll just end this part with this video of another song we learned... it was a really cute song with hand motions and everything... This was our practice run, I joined in on the real one :) Oh, and it is youtube because sometimes blogspot is annoying with videos... but then so is youtube...
And a picture of us dancing... the spots aren't ghosts, it was just really dusty and we were kicking up the dust by dancing.
Finally, after all the singing and the dancing, we all had a bit of bread that Terry had been cooking on the fire while we sang and talked and listened to stories. We ate the bread with Quandong jam (a fruit found in the area) and cream... and WOW it was delicious. Probably the best bread that I have had in a long time (have I mentioned that Australian bread is terrible?). Yum, just thinking about it makes me want it again...
Here are 3 of the girls chilling! The one on the far left is Helen, a girl in the other Heading Bush group, then in the middle is Christine and then on the right, Sarah R.
Anyhow, after all that fun and games, we all went off into dreamland, again sleeping under the stars and moon... you will be happy to know, though, that the ants were NOT a problem today! The singing around the campfire probably kept them away.
DAY 2 DOWN! ONLY 8 TO GO!