Whilst re-inflating our tyres at the side of the road a number of mud splattered vehicles thundered past us on the corrugated Mereenie Loop Road. It always comes as a bit of a shock when you have not seen a soul for days on end to suddenly be confronted by the rip roaring noise of passing vehicles and it brings you back to the reality of where you fit in with society. Sometimes I yearn for being somewhere else instead.
It had rained a lot more here than where we had been as the road was inundated with pools of water and which were now rapidly changing into mini quagmires as the tourist hordes make their way to and from their destinations.
We were taking care driving along this byway and were frequently overtaken by tourists hurrying to wherever they were going. At one stage I stopped to look at a couple of Dingoes which were trotting through the grass just off the side of the road.
About an hour into our drive we came across yet another Landcruiser Troopy with a flat tyre. The driver explained that they were now out of tyres as they had blown 2 spare tyres as well. They were ferrying friends from somewhere out in the bush to the airport in Alice Springs and had to be there by the following day. The problem stemmed from driving too fast with tyres overinflated to high pressures. I suggested that they could borrow my extra spare tyre and tube. They gratefully accepted that and soon the loan turned into a purchase and the bloke gave me $100. I said that it was too much and that $50 for an old tyre would do and so he gave the other $50 to Jeremy for his physical help (and he bought a slab of beer for us when we reached Alice Springs). We gave the driver strict instructions to not drive over 60km per hour as he was now running three radial tyres and one cross-ply tyre. The seven of them piled back into the Troopy and off they went, albeit very slowly. I subsequently found out that they made it to Alice Springs without any further mishap but had another puncture just near the airport!
Meanwhile the tourist traffic left us in their wake of mud stones and dust while we looked at the wildlife. We stopped for lunch at the entrance of a small gorge just off the road. Three wild horses walked by casually and gave us nary a glance. Later we came across a Grader cleaning up the road and the last few kilometres to a short section of sealed road to Katapata Gap was smooth as silk.
We made for an age old feature in Central Australia namely Gosse Bluff, or Tnorala, in the local language. Gosse Bluff is named after Henry Gosse, an explorer of the late 1800’s.
This crater is thought to have been formed by the impact of a comet about 140 million years ago, in Cretaceous Period., The original crater rim has been estimated at about 22 km (in diameter, but this has been eroded away over time to around 5 km in diameter. The sides of the crater reach up to 180 metres in height.
The site is known as Tnorala to the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people, and is a place of significance in their Dreaming Stories. Folklore has it that a long time ago a man went out hunting and when he returned to his camp at Tnorala everyone there had been killed by the Kurdaitcha Men (Aboriginal Sorcerers). The man alerted other families and they hunted the Kurdaitcha men down. Tnorala then became a place you do not stay at and the Traditional Owners of today have requested that no one camps there.
I had been to Tnorala on a number of occasions before and had driven through the crater and had walked the rim a long time ago. There is even an Oil Well Drill Site right in the middle of the crater. After the lands were restored to the Traditional Owners and a Conservation Reserve established, the parameters changed so that the wishes of the owners could be met. As it is a Day Visit Point only, we could barely find parking at the Picnic Area due to the number of Interstate visitors at this time of the year and we spent just a minimum amount of time having a look before driving north again.
At Tylers Pass there is a nice sealed road to the viewing point and the Gosse Bluff profile is very prominent in the distance. After Tylers Pass the road has now been sealed all the way to Alice Springs. Bill and I had visited Roma Gorge some 20 years before and we wanted to show Jeremy the intricate petroglyphs of the place.
The access road to Roma Gorge (Moon Dreaming) has changed now and is no longer via Boomerang Bore as it passed by a watering point for stock on Glen Helen Station. Now you leave the sealed road at Davenport Creek and drive the 8 kilometres along the stony creek bed. It is an easy drive to the Day Car Park and there is a 200 metre walk into the gorge.
This petroglyph site is Men’s Business for the Western Arrernte People and is an initiation site for young men into adulthood and the meaning of the carvings cannot be revealed unless a person is initiated into Aboriginal Law. Only one carving may be talked about and that is of Itaya, the Moon Man. The rays show that he is shining like a diamond. The boomerangs shaped like a number 7 are killer boomerangs. Arrernte Men used boomerangs for fighting and not spears. They worshipped Itaya as their god. Some of the Dreamtime Events are recorded here. It is told that some of the symbols were made by human ancestors and some by the Spirits of the Dreamtime using a hammerstone and sharp pointed rock or bone chisel. It is thought that the carvings can be up to 10,000 years old. Some carbon dating put most of the carvings in this area at 6000 to 8000 years of age.
The sign at the entrance of the site asks that visitors do not proceed beyond the waterfall. And so we spent a good deal of time here.
One aspect of petroglyph symbols is puzzling to me. Also pecked into a rock within the gorge is a much later petroglyph.
From what I have observed it reads:
So how deep was the original carving and has it lasted only 35 years or 135 years? So where does this put the 6000 year old carvings? I hope to find an answer soon.
We camped outside the National Park in a secluded corner up from the creek bed and enjoyed a quiet night in the bush except for a distant croaking of some night animal. It sounded like an arid lands Frog but it could also have been a Night-jar. Bill went to inspect the sound but it went quiet when he approached and started up again after he left its immediate vicinity.
The following day it was a pleasant run back along the Mereenie Valley and Namatjira Drive to Alice Springs, arriving there just before lunch.
This denoted the end of our two week trip together. Jeremy and I left Alice Springs the following day bound for our respective homes. I have seen more places and new art and have new places to explore on my next visit to Central Australia.