Austral ia unspoiled landscapes
ICONIC TRAVEL| Autore & Fotografo Luca Bracali |
Right away, what makes us understand that we are no longer sitting comfortably in our armchair at home, but on a direct flight towards a world totally different from ours, is always many small details put together that make the difference. Think of a welcome with a smile at the airport, one of those reciprocated even by border police who offer one while stamping your passport, or think of the city that manages to keep an almost magical quiet despite its city rhythms and 140,000 inhabitants; coincidence? No, you have simply arrived in Australia. There is no frenzy, there is no traffic, there is no anxiety among the people; you sit at a restaurant and are served with all the serenity that one dreams of but is unlikely to be found on menus in any other part of the world. We are in Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory; it is a city that has absolutely nothing
to do with Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, and probably even Perth. Even though history indicates that the first documented landing on the Australian continent by European explorers occurred in 1606, it was the British led by the famous Captain James Cook who officially landed in Australia in 1770.
In that land as vast as it is red, they discovered the beauty of 250 different cultures and ethnic groups that spoke about 700 different dialects scattered among all the multitude of groups that populated the largest island-continent in the world without knowing it. To get a vague idea of just how boundless this area is, it only takes a visit to Kakadu, a World Heritage Site in what is today one of the most famous national parks, where 19,000 square kilometers of wild landscapes is outlined by rocky cliffs and waterfalls, flood plains and impenetrable forests. If this weren’t enough to satisfy your curiosity, then you could note that a third of Australia’s bird species and a quarter of its fish species live in Kakadu. Moline Rockhole and Motorcall Falls are certainly not the most famous waterfalls when compared to Jim Jim Falls or Twin Falls, but they are spectacular to fly over and able to give that charm that only a sense of mystery has. In short, we are talking about a corner of peace isolated from everything else where the vigor of a long restorative dip can only be an added value. However, the true extraordinary nature of Kakadu is something that the rocks there avidly hide: the cave paintings. This wonderful art was painted on the rocks thousands of years ago and act as an immortal testimony of the oldest living culture in the world: Aboriginal Australians.
It was not by chance that a stone ax dating back to 65,000 years ago was found precisely here. The first migrations towards the Australian continent apparently took place starting from Indonesia, when the water level was so low that the seas could be crossed on foot or using rudimentary boats, most likely driven by the arrival of an ice age and therefore in search of a better climate. Located on the edge of the Mary River National Park, the wetlands are a vast green area that is completely submerged in water. This
landscape has remained unchanged for millennia, an authentic paradise that can be visited by boat and a habitat to birdlife that is as varied as it is populous; it is a place where freshwater crocodiles hide almost everywhere, like in the middle of mangrove roots – its favorite refuge. The Australian outback is truly boundless, more than you could possibly imagine. For example, Alice Springs is the first center that welcomes us. We are talking about a city that has grown enormously in recent years, fueled by the many opportunities that rapidly-growing tourism brings. This is not to mention the West Macdonnell National Park that offers truly breathtaking views as does the Simpsons Gap with its rock gorges the color of blood and crystal clear water pools.
It is precisely in these places that the Aboriginal Arrernte people decided to make guardians of the divine and a theater of distant myths about gigantic ancestors, perhaps because they were even more enchanted than us by the magical beauty there. Leaving Simpson Gap we head towards Standley Chasm, not far away, and lose ourselves in the intimacy of a small but great oasis, designed and carved out over thousands of years by a patient stream that made its way through the rocks, reaching steep heights of around 80 meters. Alice Springs, however, is also the home to many activities such as the Parrtjima, a festival of lights, where Aboriginal culture and traditions shine once again in music and projections; the famous Flying Doctors launch into altruistic undertakings, as doctors who know no borders and fly their ultralights into the most remote areas of the outback to help Aboriginals. Since we’ve mentioned aid, we must spend a few words on a certain Brolga who, as he loves to define himself, is a mother kangaroo for small orphans full-time!
The Kangaroo Sanctuary, made famous by the National and BBC television series, is a must-see place to visit and Mr. Brolga is an extraordinary person, someone you can’t miss meeting. Then there is the most symbolic place in all of Australia, the most recognized icon on this island-continent, the one that surely no itinerary can skip. It is found farther central and even further west than Alice. The explorer William Goose named it Ayers Rock in 1873, in honor of the prime minister of the time who financed the expedition. The Aboriginal people who have lived here for thousands of years and consider it one of their most sacred places call it Uluru. It is difficult to explain the charm of this rock that is so imposing and so visible even tens of kilometers away, able to change colors depending on the season and time; the magic of the setting sun embodies the maximum intensity and range of emotions when it is reflected on the rock’s smooth and polished surface.
Apart from the purely aesthetic aspect that makes it so unique, Uluru also contains several cave paintings among its treasures. It is no coincidence that the Aboriginal regions and thus linguistic groups grow larger as they go towards the hinterland from coastal regions. Finally The Olgas, or rather “Kata Tjuta” in Aboriginal language, is about 40 kilometers away as the crow flies from Uluru. It is also a ceremonial site for the natives, but in this case exclusively for men and so private that Aboriginal women are not even allowed to approach during the ceremony. Kata Tjuta however is above all a set of 36 wonderful domed sedimentary rock formations generated by an evolutionary process that began with the erosion of the Peterman mountain range when it stood at 9,000 meters above sea level, higher than today’s Everest, over 200 million years ago.