After leaving Uluru, I drove three hours northwest to Watarrka National Park – sacred to the Luritja and Arrente people. Here, the canyon oasis provides a year-round refuge for animals and birds, and, during deep droughts, for humans, too.
Traditionally, such places are usually reserved for non-human life, in support of the arid-region’s delicate species and systems. If humans overuse, or wrongly use, these waterholes, a great deal of desert life will be put at risk.
Apart from the dramatic upper cliffs of the main sandstone canyon, Watarrka is a relatively unassuming escarpment of rocky ranges and shallow gorges.
To avoid the heat, I rose early to summit the canyon rim, while fresh sunlight warmed the cool morning with orange and yellow. The striking cliffs were beautiful to behold.
Watarrka is home to 60 rare or relic plant species. With around 570 species of desert plants, it is regarded as a ‘living museum’. Notable are the ancient cycad palms and perennial rock pools. Nearly 100 bird species live here, too, as well as a variety of desert mammals, including herds of wild camels.
Near the top of the canyon is a sacred twin-waterhole. The energies of this spring feel similar to those of Uluru – sinking deeply into the body, stilling the mind, and opening the heart.
With the heart widening and opening, all of human travail, including mine, was laid bare. The impulse to deepen in meditation and understanding increased, and I was drawn beyond separation, fear, and mortality, prior to thoughts and mind, into the source of existence – freedom and love. Sitting beside this pool for a long while, it also became clear that this was the end-point of my present wanderings. And with this, I decided that in the morning, I would commence the journey ‘home’ to south-east Queensland, with one more stopover along the way…