Day 25 & 26 of our Big Trip of the Simpson and now the Flinders Ranges

Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 at 15:28

Member - Matwil

Day 25
We were up early after packing most of the truck the night before. I had rung the man who runs the cultural tours at Mutawintji and he confirmed that they were running one on Saturday starting at 11am Sydney time leaving from the camping ground at Mutawintji. We left Broken Hill with Louise at the wheel in plenty of time to get there but suddenly realised that Broken Hill was on SA time and we would have to step on it to get there by 11am. Anyway we did arrive at 11.10am and they were waiting for us. The area we were going to is closed off to the public and you can only go there with a tour guide, and we would soon see why.
First call of the tour was to visit the cultural centre where we were told the dream time story of how Mutawintji came to be. It is an incredibly important place spiritually and culturally to the aborigines who have frequented it over 1000’s of years. There are two predominant speaking groups that have traditionally used these lands over the years. In the 1850’s Charles Sturt passed through the area and was soon followed by the pastoralists who saw Mutwintji as a haven as it had permanent water.

So now is has important heritage to both the White man and the traditional owners. It became a national park in the 1980’s and it was open slather on who could visit the area and what they could do. Within the Park there are two areas that are very sacred to the traditional owners. One is the women’s birthing place and the other was the men’s secret business place where initiations took place. It was taboo for people of the opposite sex to visit these places and this what was happening now it was a National Park. As well people were starting to chisel out the etchings and stealing them. They had been in one place for 10,000 years and now we had new comers thinking they had a right to take them. One good story told was when we came across a flat rock that was about a metre square and would have weighed a heap. Some university students in the late eighties got close to the spot in a car, chiseled out the etchings and then with an elaborate flying fox lowered the piece to the valley floor. (They must have been engineering students)A ranger discovered the theft next morning and rang Broken Hill police, who by accident found the car during a normal highway stoppage. They made the students return the piece but had to leave the car where the road ended and then manhandle under supervision to the spot they took it from. We were told that it took days and the punishment fitted the crime. No need for a magistrate. Sometime I love the old fashion way of policing. Anyway the elders felt there was a story to be told here and now the rock is stood up next to the place it was taken from so the story can be told and be a warning to anyone else who has the same desire.

Sometime in the late 1980’s early 1990’s the traditional owners blockaded the entrance demanding respect for what is to them a very sacred place. In the end the management of the park was handed over to the traditional owners and is co managed between National parks and them. To me that is a win win for all. Within the park, the closed off area, there are traditional rock art that goes back 1000’s years. Carbon dating dates some of the rock etchings at over 10,000 years old and could be as old as 20,000 years. It was amazing to see it, the diversity of it and the extent of it. History recorded in stone and a means of passing knowledge from one generation to another. Later in the walk we went to the other side of the George to see rock paintings. Hand marks outlined by ochre. It is dated later that the rock etchings but again is very old to as recent as 100 years ago. The Ochre does not come from around these parts, but would you believe from the Flinders Ranges. Mutawintji was an important stopping point for many aboriginal language groups and was a place where they traded their wares.

One interesting drawing in Ochre was a symbol that showed where water was and then a hand stencil over it. This was to show visitors that there was water here, but they could not used it as the locals claimed it. There were other symbols that showed visiting tribes that they could only enter this place if they had permission.
Another of the interesting things we learnt today was that the aboriginal people get their lineage from their mother. Their father gives them a totem, which is generally an animal. So if your totem is a red kangaroo you cannot kill it or eat it, and it is your job in life to protect it. The example we were given was that if your totem was a Cod (Murry Cod) then you couldn't eat it, and when the cod had a their three month breading season you would be influencing people to leave the cod alone. A traditional way of guaranteeing the survival of a species.

A lot of the heritage of the main language groups that frequented the area is being lost as the last initiated elders die. The young men don't want to go through a full initiation and the elders feel very strogly that the stories and heritage can only be passed on the initiated men. Initiation tkes years but two things get in the way of young people going through it today. One is having a front tooth knocked out by a stone and stone chisel, the other is having deep cuts all over your body and ash dubbed in to create tattoos of welts. As the guide said, there are not too many people lining up for the experience. In one way it is a pity but in another totally understandable.

In walking through this place you can see why it is a special place to the traditional owners. They have managed this land for thousands and thousands of years, disturbing it very little. The white man has been here 230 years and he has left goats, (thousands of them), rabbits and of course rubbish. I wish the modern city tourist would learn to take their rubbish with them and not treat the whole of Australia a rubbish tip. Half way up the mountain walk we found a discarded Mt Franklin water bottle. Lucky I didn't see who dumped it or there may have been a scene.

Last year when we were here we walked the Mutawintji Gorge, so today we decided to do the western mountain track. It was amazing. To stand at the top of the ridge and look down on the plains on one side and then the Mutawintji hills on the other was truly breathtaking. I can not tell how many photos I took but it was 100’s. Lucky I am retired I am going to need months to process them all.

Early in the day we gathered firewood out side the National Park and had a cracking fire. Nothing like sunshine in the day and a fire at night to lift the spirits. WE had had a fire the night before but not as good as this one.

Day 26
We were up early and had a leasurly breakfast, and used the fire to cook our toast and make our coffee. Life is good. We got away by 10.30am and took the back way up towards Tibooburra. There is really nothing much to report on the way but we dropped in again to Miliprinka, which used to be the main government centre from the 1850’s to the 1930’s. There are a few stone buildings so we have camped here for the night. The population of the town is 15 and there is a pub. So tonight we are going up to the pub for dinner, a beer or two and a shower, only $4.00. As well we have our own fire place so can have a fire in the morning to wake up to. Before going up to the pub we are going to photograph some of the old buildings at sunset. Should get a few good shots.

Tomorrow its on to Tibooburra and then top explore the Sturt National Park before heading back to Innaminka and Coongie Lakes.

I might say that I am loosing weight with all this camping. It must be the fresh air. Plus the beard is long and bushy so I am really starting to look the part – but we are not grey nomads. That's my story and I am sticking to it.

Occasionally we get stray phone connection and today in the middle of no where my phone went ballistic. I was able to see a heap of photos of the snow in Blackheath.Well I would have fun if I was there photography it all, but not as much fun as I am having now. Sorry to all of you in Blackheath but we are really enjoying where we are.
Wanting to explore our vast wide land
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