Sunday, 14 August 2011

Ochre Pits

A visit to the West MacDonnell National Park west of Alice Springs includes the gorges (Ormiston, Glen Helen, Stanley, Simpson and Ellery) that are all very beautiful. And it also includes the Ochre Pits.

These pits are in a short section of a river cutting, the sides of which have been mined for thousands of years for the ochre that is present in a variety of colours. Aboriginals used ochres in ceremony, weapon and utensil decoration and medicine. It was traded across the country and some ochres were more valued than others. The red ochre (with a high percentage of the iron oxide) was most valuable and the white (which has a high kaolin or clay content) the most versatile. And there are yellows, browns, creams and oranges as well. Ochre pits are common across the country but some are more special than others.

The patterns of the swirls of colours of the ochres in this spot are impressive and it is humbling to stand in the creek bed and ponder on the long geological history as well as the long cultural history.

As I was walking back to the car I saw another section of a creekbed where the geology is exposed - layers of smooth pebbles above a layer of clay or ochre. Everywhere I look in central Australia I see interesting land formations, most of which I barely understand.
Now I think it's time to upload some more pretty flower photos. These are some I've seen in the MacDonnells.
Hakea sp., a Corkwood.
Pale-leaf Mistletoe

Ptilotus sp., Silver Tails

Swainsona sp. (possibly flavicarinata). This was a stunning little plant with many coloured flowers from cream through red to deep purple.
Leaves of a pond plant floating on the water surface (with reflections of a red gorge).

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