Nature is good for you, it’s science
There is a whole bunch of evidence now floating around which supports and suggests just how good nature really is for us all.
Besides the blatantly obvious straight up fact that the natural world feeds, clothes and keeps us alive, there is a deeper connection to nature that nourishes and revitalises us in ways some of us are just not awake to, or some of us are, and simply cannot get enough of the green stuff. And cultures all around the world have been vibing on this for thousands of years.
One of the things I have been totally neglecting all year is me. I have neglected my boxing training, my writing, my music, my art, my health, my down time, basically I have been really sucking at the self-care side of things, which is super important for us all.
2016 has been one full on (but incredibly fun and rewarding) year for me. Establishing a national organisation, and rolling out our first year of business, transitioning out of an eight year-long job to a free spirit in the freelance world, studying, and running a volunteer Landcare group in my own community, add to the mix a massive list of guest speaker gigs, conferences, forums, facilitation work and a little bit of a social life and some travel. Taking time out for just me was not on the cards, and when it was, I found myself feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt. There was so much to do! Who would do it? So I would just plough on through. And by the end of October I was on a downhill spiral into the arms of my old familiar friend, burnout. A trip I had booked to Bhutan could not come soon enough!
Post Bhutan (where I was able to completely sit still and invest in myself for twelve days – another story for another time), I walked straight back into the thick of a storm and I swear I did about three weeks’ worth of work in the week I returned. Boom. Straight back to burnout. And then, throw in a breakup. Ouch. Daaaaamnnnn.
My boyfriend and I had booked a trip to Uluru together months before jumping on some cheap deals that popped up. And we went from “Yay spontaneity!” to “Oh, well this is awkward, now we have a problem”. We could have done the, ‘let’s still go on the holiday and pretend it’s all OK and it’s the last hoorah’ or something like that, but credit to our emotional intelligence, instead we both acknowledged we were on completely different paths and we needed to move on. In fact, in the way of breakups, we could have almost hi-fived our way out the door as we went our separate ways, ‘thanks, it was fun while it lasted, see ya!’ It didn’t go quite like that, but we were both in touch with what we needed. And so it goes, on we went, he, back up north and me inland to the Red Centre in search of some down time.
Uluru is a place that has been calling me for a while. I’ve long wanted to connect to the desert landscape, a massive contrast to the coast where I am from. To feel the red sand between my toes, look out across the vast lonely plains, and lay my eyes on the spectacular geology of Uluru, and Kata Tjuta, which started their formation some 550 million years ago. I also wanted to get a deeper sense of the spirituality there, and grow my understanding and appreciation for our ancient Aboriginal culture. And now more than ever, seemed the right time to go, and go alone. Plus I already had the tickets.
What the desert gave me
I was craving a major dose of nature and knew a trip inland would do me good to just rest and recover, but what the desert gave me was so much more.
Selfishly, coming to Uluru there were a number of things I’d always wanted to experience. But to have them all ticked off in one visit seemed like a bit of an unrealistic expectation to hold, but here they were anyway:
Uluru wish list please…
- #1 – A sunset over Kata Tjuta and Uluru, but one with a bit of cloud so the sky looks more dramatic
- #2 – A thunderstorm over the desert, complete with lightening striking the ground, preferably around Uluru but not compulsory
- #3 – Waterfalls cascading down Uluru, but not too much rain so it’s still bearable to walk around
- #4 – A sunrise over the desert, again complete with enough cloud to have dramatic colour, but not too much to drown the light
- #5 – A clear sky to see the desert night sky with all the stars
- #6 – Walking tracks open so I can explore the wonders of the outback, but not too hot as to die of heat exhaustion
- #7 – Oh, and not too many people as to kill the vibe of these places
As soon as I landed and checked into my accommodation, the first thing I did was run up one of the dunes to get my first glimpse of Uluru. Here in Australia we have an abundance of breath-taking scenery, the more I travel and explore I’m constantly finding myself in awe of our natural world, but there aren’t many places that have truly knocked the wind out of me, the Grand Canyon, USA was one though, Dochula Pass in Bhutan recently made the list, and now you can add Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Australia.
It had been raining all day and it was heading on sunset. Cue clouds and a dramatic sky alright. My first sunset over Uluru was spectacular. The sun glistening between the desert vegetation as I walked along the dune, and the sky a transition of reds, oranges, pinks and purples. I was able to take shameless selfies (I never ever thought I would say this, but a selfie stick is your best travel companion as a solo traveller), without the weirdness of an onlooking crowd. The desert was mine with the exception of one lone photographer set up with three cameras on three tripods, and me with a phone camera and some strategically placed sticks for support. I think we both looked ridiculous so, that cancels that out. Request #1, tick.
The next day the sky mounted an army of clouds in preparation for some pretty epic thunderstorms. Boom. Request #2 granted. It didn’t look too ominous, but lightening was starting to flare up in the distance near Uluru, so I thought here is my chance to catch some of that storm action! I ran out to one of the dunes, it wasn’t raining where I was, but it sure was in the distance. By the time I reached the top, waterfalls were cascading down the side of The Rock and lightening danced all around it. A big rain cloud dumping everything it had as it swept through, I was able to catch some of it on film. But enthralled by the spectacle, another storm crept up behind me and the next thing I knew I was being whipped in the face with large rain drops, and the lightening was a little too close for comfort. I made a bee line straight back to the resort the whole time thinking ‘OMG my mum will kill me if I get killed!’. I didn’t die. Thankful.
Not bothered by the prospect of walking in the rain, the next day I jumped on a tour and headed out to Watarrka National Park to explore Kings Canyon. And as we drove out the light show continued. The sun was making the clouds glow as it came up, and all around us storm clouds flickered with light. It was so spectacular to watch. While everyone else slept I was glued to the window. Arriving at the canyon, we’d headed out of the storms and a perfect cool breeze was waiting for us and we were blessed with broken sunlight. The rain elsewhere must have kept the tourists at bay because our group was the only group on the track for most of the walk, allowing us exclusive access to views and moments to soak it all up in silence. It was gorgeous. Thankyou, requests #6 and #7. Tick and tick.
The rim walk takes about three to four hours at a slow pace, you could do it much quicker, and if you have any decent level of fitness, it’s quite an easy walk (it’s really only the stairs at the start that get the heart rate up). But you wouldn’t want to rush it. You would miss the feels you get from those views out across an endless desert, you would miss the dramatic natural architecture of the domes of the “Lost City”, you would miss that lizard chasing the insects and changing colour with each rock it landed on, you would miss the eeriness and beauty of the oasis laced with 400-year-old cycads called the “Garden of Eden”, a sacred site for men’s business. And finally, you would miss just how wise and ancient the whole place feels when you just sit and observe. On many group walks I’ve been on in the past everyone wants to rush to the end like it’s a race. But in doing that you miss the middle stuff, and that is the best part of it all. Being able to just be still and slow, is so much more rewarding.
Back in Uluru, the rain clouds lingered.
I hired a car so I could do my own thing for the next few days, and first on my list was a walk around the base of Uluru. It was overcast, and there were no waterfalls like I’d hoped, but I started out anyway. As soon as I hit the base walk track it started to sprinkle, and that was the case for the entire four hours I was out there. Every step of the way was absolutely amazing. Fog lingered between the crevasses and floated just above the top, and as the rain lingered too, waterfalls began to flow all around me. Water holes were full, the path turned into mini rivers that were overflowing with water, and the place was alive with frogs croaking (which sounded like clap sticks), birds darting, and all sorts of bugs. Yet it was also so still and peaceful, full of millions of stories that belong to a very special culture. And there wasn’t another person on the track with me. Just the spirits I guess. With over 250 000 people visiting Uluru each year, surely this must be a rare thing. It almost felt like this experience had been created this way just for me, and it was magical. The rain stopped as soon as I left the track. #3 TICK!
After a fiery sunrise over Kata Tjuta the next day (complete with the perfect amount of cloud cover, thanks #4), I made my way through the Valley of the Winds. Again I had the place to myself (seriously, what was going on!?) with only the sound of the wind, and the company of a few snakes, lizards and birds. While it was only a short walk, I seemed to get lost in time. The place felt so ancient, with not another soul around I could almost feel what it would have been like to walk through there thousands of years before. I thought I had been in there for hours when in fact it was only 8 am.
The rest of my time in Uluru was clear. The skies blue and the night full of the brightest stars. Two nights of #5. So beautiful.
The desert gave me everything I had ever wanted in one week, and everything I needed to reconnect to what I need to look after myself and heal. It inspired me, nourished me, and taught me to slow the hell down, and that there is so much more to see and feel when you do. It’s so easy to lose this in the fast-paced world we all live in now, so I am grateful for such an immersive reminder. I always find being in nature calming and my stresses easily diminish, and this certainly was the case here. I feel so much more alive, happy (and not the pretend kind, like actually happy) and energised, yet calm and at peace after this whirlwind of a year.
Besides the amazing sensory experiences there is a depth of culture and an undeniable spirit to this place. Even people who are not in touch with that sort of stuff often make comment “there’s just something about Uluru”. And as well as the significance of being located in the centre of Australia, one of the oldest continents on earth, Uluru holds the most beautiful stories of one of the oldest living cultures on earth. It is not my place to recreate them for you here, you will have to come and experience them for yourself some day. And hopefully you find some peace, connection and a little bit of magic too.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta, the Anangu people, and pay my respect to elders past, present and future. The original carers and knowledge-bearers, who still manage and protect this land for conservation, protecting all that nourishes us in body, mind, and spirit. Thankyou.