Dead Dingoes and Cave Paintings

It’s a Sunday, probably around dinnertime. Matt has gone to bed because hes not feeling well; we’ve all struggled through this week. I had quite bad tonsilitis, the kids have colds and are miserable and today Matt has been struggling with the heat and feeling just generally poorly. The dogs start barking; I open the door and Reuben – the head of the Anangu Education Workers and his gorgeous, vivacious little 3 year old daughter Shefalie are at the door. They want to take us out somewhere. Fortunately Matt hears him and gets up and says yes he’ll come. Which I’m thrilled about – it wouldn’t be appropriate for me, as an Anangu woman particularly, to go alone with an Anangu man. I need my male companion there too. So Matt takes one for the team and we pile into ‘Mack’, our Toyota Hilux and head out of town. We head North East and after a while we turn off onto a dirt track – red sand and straw coloured grasses. The setting sun reflects of the ranges and casts an orange purple glow across the landscape. We head towards a rock hill, perfectly round, it looks like a small planet is imbedded into the earth. It has the same kind of texture to it as Uluru, red, rough and almost crumbly. We walk up the “hill” and Reuben shows us a perfectly round waterhole within the rock formation. The first thing I notice is a dead dingo lying beside the pool. And a snake. I say to Reuben “look, a snake!” “where?!?!” he looks around in panic, shuffling the kids out of the way. “oh its dead! Liz you scared me!!!” it was a small brown snake with a broken back and a few feet away was a dingo. Rigor mortis has set in, this poor guy had likely caught the snake, been bitten in the process, and they’d both died as a result. Such is desert life. We then travelled up and across to a cave with some ancient paintings. A cave that, Reuben explains would have been habitated by Anangu prior to white invasion and the forcing of Anangu into living in communities. Its incredible to see. I can almost hear the ghosts of Anangu past, walking around, talking in desert tongue, women caring for babies and children and Men returning from a hunt. Its filled with history. Reuben speaks of other places, with many artefacts like axes, all kept secret and hidden from white man so that they aren’t taken away to museums and such. “Many people don’t know this, but we take care of our sacred sites, we keep them hidden so that they aren’t trampled over by white man.” He tells Matt of other caves that he can show him but “not with Kungkas and tjiitjiis (women and children) – they are Mens place”. We climb to the top, and we can just see Uluru in the distance. The view is utterly incredible. We can see all of the ranges surrounding Amata Community, all of the landscape below; the red sand, the pale grasses, the lone trees. All bathed in thick, velvety dusk light. Its starting to get dark so we head back down to Mack, chasing Min and Shefalie who run off together “tjiitjii wiya!! Ngalya pitja!! (no, child! Come here!!). I cant wait for the next knock at the door.

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