Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Welcome to Aboriginal Land!

"Pukulpa Pitjama Ananguku Ngurankutu" as the aboriginals from Uluru (Ayers Rock) put it.

Well, kind of aboriginal land as Australia's 19 million inhabitants are composed of about 380,000 aboriginals. Most of them live in the northern territory as the colonisers did a good job killing the aboriginals in other areas. Tasmania's aboriginals for example, were erased from the face of the planet as early as the 1800's.

The aboriginal culture here seems more alive than the American Indians' I suppose. At least they don't "sell out" their culture easily to white people, don't have government sponsored glambling in their lands and much of their culture is still kept to themselves and those of their own tribe who are initiated and worthy of the information.

There are plenty of legends, stories, songs and rock art to represent their believes like most indigenous people. In general, the whole culture revolves around respecting the earth, its laws and their religion contains rituals and ceremonies that corroborate in maintaining these laws and how to be grateful for what they receive from nature. Just like all other native people of other lands before the colonisers brought in more ephemeral values and ideas.

" This country has always been the home of Anangu (aboriginal people). We survive today because our traditional lands give us strenght and purpose."

"Anangu will always celebrate and respect the spiritual identity that Uluru gives."

"The Tjukurpa is the traditional Law that explains existence and guides daily life. Like religions anywhere in the world, the Tjukurpa provides answers to important questions. How was the world and all life created, and by whom? How do people fit into the total picture of life? What are the laws that sustain nature and all living things?"

"The Tjukurpa is the foundation for Anangu. It provides the rules for behaviour and for living together. It is the Law for caring for one another and for the land that supports our existence."

In any case, it is very nice to be in Australia, a place where English is vastly spoken although at times the Australian accent sounds like a foreign language. The australian coins have Queen Elizabeth II on one side and the flag is very similar to the British flag. Australians are under a commonwealth with a british representative I learned, so much more English influence still than I ever thought.

Sydney is an incredible beautiful city! The Opera House by the rocks and the Harbour Bridge are both astonishing. Darling Harbour is a beauty, with many ferries coming and going, restaurants by the waterfront and a fantastic aquarium with a replica of the Bay Reef. Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef formation in the world? It spans an area of 344,000 square kilometres. A paradise for scuba diving I am sure. The IMAX shows 2D and 3D films that made me close my eyes and ear a few times because of the overload of impressions through my eyes and ears. And there is Bondi Beach with fine waves and white sand, Kings Cross with Govinda restaurant and cinema with a big screen and much more.

Despite all this beauty, it is evident how life in less contact with nature, natural food and its essence makes people harsher, tense and more difficult to smile. We all seem so "dullified"by the endless consumption of cigarettes, caffeine, alcohol, tabloids, video games, processed food, web surfing, pizza, mobile phones and 3D movies!

No worries, the Aussies (Australians) often say, but I cannot see anything else but worries in their faces. People seem very uninterested in interacting and in expressing the vibrant life energy that must run in their veins once in a while.

The central station is beautiful and uncrowded, the city rail network has very efficient and clean trains (double deckers), but people kept pulling the seats that faced another person to the opposite direction in order not to interact. Instead, they would sink their heads into a book, a paper on just gaze into the blank air with an unhappy worried face. Maybe it is unemployment, or too much work, or the war. Maybe it is the disconnection with our life force, the spark of divinity I know we all have. This constant activity around nothing is disturbing.

Is this what I missed? I am not sure anymore where I belong, but music and dancing is something that moves my spirit these days, even more so than meditation or yoga. I also ached to have long conversations, and interact and to feel alive in my own culture. Maybe it is time to claim the aboriginal soul in me through dance, music, ceremony and relationship with my tribe (community) and the earth.

I can't help it but to compare my first stop in the West with Asia where they not only interact quite a bit but many times go out of their way to lead me to a place I am trying to find or follow me for a whole afternoon or evening just for the good company, a good conversation and sometimes a free meal.

In Bali, even the poor man selling souvenirs on the street would have the sense of humour or purity of heart to start cracking up at me when I kept looking at him with a smile on my face from the seat of my scooter while Kamel asked for directions for the next village. The salesman was doing his best to sell me his set of wood chopsticks neatly placed in a wooden box, which I unfortunately didn't buy. In the midst of trying to keep a serious face and make a sale, he said: "beautiful" looking at me to reflect back a smile and giving up the idea of selling his neat box of chopsticks.

When I arrived here I felt like an alien looking at things from a different perspective after 6 months away from western culture. The green light for pedestrians also seemed to take forever to come up and all the organisation around everything seemed lifeless.

I missed the fruit juices available almost everywhere in Thailand and Bali and the fruit in India, specially the mangos in Pune. And the massage and the beach and the warm sun and humid weather and most of all, the warmth from people.

I am back to "normal" now and everything seems like they have always been!

Amma is in Australia now (in Perth as I write). I got a little emotional just seeing a picture of her in a flier with the program in Australia at the Geebooks in the neighbourhood I am staying. She looked very luminous in a way I have never seen before. I suddenly wanted to be near her reflecting what she represents to me: love, service, peace and contentment.

While waiting for my connecting flight in Singapore, I received an e-mail from Nancy asking me if I needed anything from New York as a friend of hers was coming to see Amma in Australia. That reminded me that one of the original reasons for me to stop in Australia was to see Amma here. But it was too difficult to change my plans and cut my visit to other places short. So, I decided to wait a couple more months to see her in San Ramon in June instead.

I went to Yulara to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) on March 25th after spending four days in Sydney. I spent 4 days in Uluru and left to Alice Springs where I planned to spend a couple of days and then two more days in Kings Canyon but I changed my mind and went to Darwin in northern Australia instead after spending an evening in Alice Springs. I didn't like the place. The aboriginal people hanging out in the city seemed awfully displaced and diseased, and drunk and left out to bear their own misery for not having a culture where they belonged to anymore. I've heard that some aboriginals are banned from their communities if they don't obey the laws set out by their ancestors. Others are just too lured by the "easy" life in the cities. Why spend hours hunting for meat if you can go to the supermarket and grab whatever you want?

These people end up in the cities and have sort of a sad destiny of not belonging anywhere although the Australian government sort of take care of their immediate needs of health care, housings and social security payments known here and Europe as the "dole."

Uluru was brilliant though (sorry...hanging out with too many English folks). I saw "the rock" from many angles at different times of the day. The site reminded me a little of Stonehenge in England but the area is more like the Grand Canyon (which technically should be called a gorge I learned) or Death Valley in California.

I went on a camel ride at sunset, stargazing and many walks around Uluru and Katta Tjuta (the Olgas). And yes, Britt, I saw not only the southern cross, but Orion's belt, the milky way, Pluto and many constellations like Leo, Virgo and Sagittarius. The sky was so clear and the dark moon helped. I also saw Venus one sunrise day right next to the waning moon. Being in Uluru reminded me of how little we are and at the same time how we are all intertwined with the land, the landscape, nature and each other.

There is another "rock" on the way from Uluru to Alice called Mount Cook which is very similar to Uluru, but we just drove by it and headed towards Alice.

I flew from Alice to Darwin on April 30th and on May 1st at 6:30am I found myself in a 4WD-expedition trip with 7 other young enthusiasts in the wilderness of the northern territory. The "Wilderness 4WD Adventures" advertised themselves as "safaris for young active people" which I am neither, but chuckled along and walked several kilometers a day to waterfalls, rowed for a whole day at Katherine Gorge (stunning!) went on a boat cruise on the Mary river with 500 crocodines swiming under us and camped out in swags under the stars.

We went to Kakadu National Park, Katherine Gorge and Litchfield National Park. What a gorgeous area.! We swam in the best swiming pools of the world and stayed at places with the highest numbers of stars I've ever been. The skies in the remote areas of Australia are indeed superb. Lying down in my swag at night I could see the brilliant stars and the falling ones marking the sky with a flash of light. The sunsets were so beautiful there with so many tones of colours against the changing tones of blue in the sky; there are no words for it.

We were in such remote areas, with hardly anybody in them, in awe by what was in front of our eyes. What gorgeous waterfalls, almost unreal to have so many in such short distances between them. We drove about 1,400 kilometres through rivers, rocks, dirt roads and asphalt. Such jungle out there, so much wild life. Plenty of crocodiles, magpie geese, jabiru bird, lotus bird, lotus ponds, green tree frogs and all kinds of lizards, buffalos, wallabies; such bountiful area! The wet season just ended and it is still humid and hot there (high 30's C.) But the "jungle" here is kind of more orderly than the wild jungle of Brazil, where both wildlife and humid weather is almost too much to bear.

By the way, as soon as I left Sydney, people were extremely nice. I think nature has a calming effect on human beings. All we need is more of it.

I returned from my expedition at 8pm last night, had dinner and a few drinks with my travel companions and took the shuttle to the airport at midnight. At 1:30am I was flying to Sydney where I arrived at 6:30am this morning. I had breakfast, followed by a little nap, took my whole suitcase to the laundry as I didn't have one piece of clean clothing anymore, went out for lunch, a haircut, took care of a few errands and went to a movie at the "rocks."

Tomorrow I will be in Christchurch in New Zealand for more nature adventures. I was told it is even more beautiful than Australia which is hard to believe. I will give you a full report from there. Until then,

A thousand petals to all of you, or as the aussies say,

Cheers!

Marisa

"Love and beauty are within you. Try to express them through your actions and you will definitely touch the source of bliss." Ammachi

"But wait! Look! Notice! The days of your blossoming are at hand. The stalk has grown strong, and the petals are soon to open. And I tell you this: the beauty and the fragrance of your flowering shall fill the land, and you shall yet have your places in the garden of Gods." Conversations with God - Donald Walsh

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