Standley Chasm (Angkerle)

SG 12

Standley Chasm (Angkerle) is north of Alice Springs. We decided to make a day trip and head out to look around, sans “Fluffy.” It feels so strange to be driving without our little wagging “tail” behind us. The drive out reminded me again of the areas around Utah and Nevada and the canyons out there. Standley Chasm is part of the Iwupataka Land Trust, bordering the West MacDonnell National Park. Visitors are invited to walk the gorge all the way to the end where the famous money shot of the chasm itself can be had. Beyond that, you are asked to respect that the land is sacred and you cannot go further.

We could barely take a step without stopping, turning every which way and “oohing” and “ahhing.” There is just so much to see with the amazing rock formations, the plant and animal life and where you could, at times, feel the layers of life that had been filled with past generations. One could sense the presence of their hopes and dreams, their struggles and their living. It was as if we were standing in some kind of time warp where you cross over and feel everything.

I am the older woman who probably annoys the heck out of all the other people who have some place to be and are combining a bit of physical fitness with their sightseeing. I stop constantly and want to bend down or reach up. I make Derek climb through the bush, run up mountains, navigate dangerous rocks and head out on the ledges, to get the best photo. I probably have driven my kids crazy with my love of nature but I cannot help it. And I have to know everything. So, I ask Derek and if he doesn’t know I insist he should ask someone. I stop people. I think they should know the name of the bird in the tree above me. I can’t hide my disappointment when they don’t. I wonder if they could phone a friend and ask. I really am a fun fun date.

I can handle the people rushing to get to the end and get the money shot to post on social media. My life was once incredibly busy and I sometimes forgot how to slow down and take each moment in, BUT what drives me crazy is when you are standing there in awe of some huge boulder balancing in an impossible way at the edge of a cliff and then seeing in the sunlight, some ginormous spider web spun from it across to the trees that looks like strands of gold in some glorious beautiful pattern . . . and you hear people loudly discussing feminine hygiene products, or their divorce problems with their ex. Really? Out there? There should be a check point before you enter these places and instead of taking your bags or your cameras until you come back out, they should make people give them all their daily worries and concerns. They can pick it up when they are done, along with their purse. Is that crap really important? I really wanted to push them into the spider web, off the ledge and down …. It was big enough to catch a dinosaur and while I admired the craftsmanship and the positive thinking on the part of the spider, I did not want to meet him if he truly felt a dinosaur was doable. However, I was happy to intro him to some of the people who came up behind us scaring away all the birds and small animals.

And then smokers . . . are you kidding me? If we don’t want you polluting our common buildings we certainly do not want you polluting the most beautiful places nature has ever created. And perfume … enough to convince all the animals to run for fear of some kind of a chemical holocaust that has hit. I had to pull the rock off Derek and tell him he was safe. And it was clear that much of the natural life that once would have lived in the wild just off the nature path, had been erased. No signs of them and no smells. Human was everywhere. I think some of those people must have rubbed themselves all over the plants, or marked their territory. There should be an “unmarking crew” in the National Forests. They can free the vegetation and give it back to the little animals and birds again. People could have a bath before they walk through.

At one point we were stopped and looking up, pointing, trying to get a picture, obviously all the appropriate universal signs that say, “WHOA there is a cool something up in that tree” and suggests to people “let’s get out cameras out, be quiet and slowly walk up and see if we can see it too.” But instead these people heard the call to stampede. I mean Amazonian giant elephant people like stampede where all the warriors are drugged up with some wild ancient root and they are riding large steroid pumped up, ancient root drugged up Rhino’s while screaming (both the men and the rhinos) at the top of their lungs. Their women followed chanting and stomping to the drum beats. Guess what? The bird left and they stomped on by with one of them complaining ,”there is not much to see, is there?”

Once we got to the chasm, I was grateful I know Photoshop. It helped calm Derek down as he waited for his turn to get a picture without the three Asian women in it and then learned they were going to stay there until the sun did the thing it is supposed to do on the walls at noon. It was a very cloudy day. It was raining lightly. I told Derek about photoshop and promised him it would be OK. I could either take them out or put the heads of the kids on them and we could laugh about it.

Derek was not laughing.

Eventually, we found a quiet lull in the parade back and forth and we stood and took it all in. We could hear the silence, and then the birds, and slowly a sigh of a breeze as it seemed to wind its way through the bushes, around the trees, and over the rocks. I breathed deeply and settled into the moment. All the smells of nature flooded in. I could hear the water in the stream, the birds called out to one another and I hope I was there with all who had come before, who stood and honoured the land, and tried to respect its secrets. There is such a feeling of layers and such a sense that life is so much more than we can even possibly understand. For just those few glorious moments I lived that and understood it and was part of it. Gosh I hope that my kids carry some of that love in their hearts for the world around them. I hope that kids today have a chance to really understand the beauty they are seeing, and not just interpret it as something boring that interrupts their video game.

I am so impressed with all the young people who travel this country, some alone, some in groups, unafraid and willing to just figure it out as they go. I wish I had been that brave and had that opportunity when I was younger. I listen to those who have travelled this country well, and their stories of what they saw and what they have learned. They share where to go and what we must do and all of it just excites you and spurs you on. You begin to realize that beyond what you see and experience lies all the different experiences of what others see and do. The lessons that are there are profound. Sometimes the stories just remind us of the joy of being human and many more times there are gems of wisdom taught to us by nature herself. History clings to the rocks and the trees and the stories of the past are told and retold and here I was learning about how the white man came to the area and what he encountered and tried to do. These are all our stories and one day our travels and experiences will be the stories that are told and shared, but first we have to find a way to connect with one another, and to learn from the world around us. I hope we never forget the importance of preserving the past while still moving forward.

And me? I have another forever treasure to tuck inside my calm and alive scrapbook.