Mparntwe (pronounced m’barn-twa), or Alice Springs, the little city nestled in the Tjoritja (pronounced choor-it-ja), or MacDonnell Ranges, is one of the prettiest in Australia. Immersed in red sand, red rock, soaring peaks and ridges, white ghost-gum (eucalyptus) trees, and green and yellow grasses and shrubs, it is a giant’s bonsai garden!
The city’s location is the ancestral home of the Arrernte (pronounced aruhnduh) people, who were, and are, one of the greatest desert cultures of the world. Today, they also share their home with the still-oblivious newcomers.
The Tjoritja Ranges are ancient. In sheer height, they once exceeded today’s Himalayas. Although they are harsh and unforgiving, along their length and breadth are dozens of gorges, chasms, gaps and water-holes. There are also the Ochre Pits, the jagged peaks, and the world-renowned Larapinta desert trail. For the Arrernte, all of this is sacred. Crisscrossing the landscapes are the ancient song-lines of the caterpillar, eagle, perentie, euro, and others.
Many Australian Aboriginal cultures maintain a view of life that can be characterised as “we-us”, instead of “me-you”. We-us includes everything that lives, and is – elevating individuals and cultures beyond conditional limits. The sense of me-you, however, which presently pervades the world, degrades individuals and cultures into separation, fear, and limitation.
The red quartzite walls of Standley Chasm are formed from 2.2-billion-year-old rock, among the planet’s oldest known. Along parts of the Larapinta trail, and while climbing Mount Rwetyepme (pronounced ‘roo-chip-ma’), or Sonder, in the dark and early dawn, I wondered if I would meet Shiva, or Moses, or maybe Smaug!
As I travelled throughout Tjoritja, I approached each “place” with care, deliberately announcing myself and my intentions. If I felt welcomed, I would enter, wander, and sit for hours, meditating like a cat or lizard. Various locations energetically also felt analogous to the energy centres of the body*. Time within these places felt bodily and emotionally healing, consequently widening and deepening my meditations.
In some of the more remote areas, off the beaten paths where people seldom, or ever, go, I encountered birds and lizards who had no fear of me. They alighted and climbed on me, letting me touch and sit near them.
The Tjoritja is an intricate, living, and complex world, inducing both outer and inner exploration… a realm of mysteries that I now cherish and value with deep and intimate regard.
* Energies of Tjoritja
Rungutjirpa (Simpson’s Gap) – the perineum
Angkerle Atwatye (Standley Chasm) – the navel
Yarretyeke (Redbank Gorge) – the solar plexus
Kwartatuma (Ormiston Gorge) – the heart
Alherrkentye (Trephina Gorge) – the throat
Ulpma (Serpentine Gorge) – pineal and brain
Rwetyepme (Mt. Sonder) – the whole body and beyond.