Introducing the Mound People

There’s no denying that Outback Australia provides travellers with many long stretches of road or track devoid of anything much to make conversation about. It’s also a well-known fact that having something to do or to chat about during the two-hour drive to the next point of interest makes the time pass much more rapidly. It’s therefore not surprising that Aussie travellers have come up with a variety of ways to inject a spot of entertainment into the journey.

One is cairn building. There must be many hundreds of cairns – piles of stones – in conspicuous places around the Outback. Often on the top of a steep hill, they can sometimes provide a challenging 4WD climb to reach the site of the cairn. “Hey, looks like people have driven up to the top of that hill. Let’s give it a go!” Next thing, you’re in low range, and grinding upwards to the spot where you’ll lob a few more rocks onto the top of the cairn, take a selfie or two, and then start wondering whether the brakes will work on the way down.

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The motivation for cairn building may have something to do with the yearning for immortality – when you return to that spot in ten years’ time, “your cairn” will probably still be there, albeit a bit taller than it was. Maybe in 100 years …… ?

Another popular activity on the Oodnadatta track is “sleeper art” – spelling out names or words using the sleepers from the old abandoned railway line. I’m sure “LEVI” is secretly chuffed by the thought that several hundred people have by now seen his name right out there in the desert, and there’ll no doubt be many more in the years to come. But he’s unaware that some bright spark has already come along and changed it to “EVIL”.

Then there are “public collections” – items hung in a place that will be seen by many people, some of whom will be moved to stop and add to the collection. The venue is usually a tree, and the items thus displayed may be hats or footwear or t-shirts – even underwear.

But on our recent trip to the Kimberley and the “Top End” (roughly speaking, the top one-third of the Northern Territory, north from about Daly Waters), I realised there’s another important genre which I hadn’t previously seen: the “mound people”. These are termite mounds to which have been added various items to make them look like people.

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There are of course hundreds of thousands of termite mounds just waiting to be turned into mound people, although we’re not sure whether the termites are happy about this trend.

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About dazzlerplus

Writing about the things that interest me helps me to discover what I think. One of my loves is the Australian Outback, and I travel out there often, and when possible take friends with me.
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6 Responses to Introducing the Mound People

  1. urbantutu says:

    Great read

  2. Sue Emeleus says:

    I think it’s wonderful Ozzie humour. Just like Rob Brennan has. Love to you both, S

    On 20 September 2016 at 16:53, Bobby Dazzler’s Blog wrote:

    > dazzlerplus posted: “There’s no denying that Outback Australia provides > travellers with many long stretches of road or track devoid of anything > much to make conversation about. It’s also a well-known fact that having > something to do or to chat about during the two-hour drive ” >

  3. Lavinia Ross says:

    An interesting post, Rob, especially the Mound People. No doubt, some travelers were looking for something creative to do. 🙂

  4. Anne Newton says:

    I have mixed feelings about the mound people, tree collections and cairn building. On one level the are mildly amusing but essentially it is a form of environmental damage and littering.
    So I guess I’m not a fan of altering the outback.

    • dazzlerplus says:

      Yes, I understand what you’re saying, but it’s not as bad as throwing empty drink cans out the window, or dropping your rubbish on the ground rather than walking ten metres to the bin, or worst of all, leaving used toilet paper lying around. where you camped.

      I’d be interested to hear from others in response to Anne’s comment.

      • Lavinia Ross says:

        I would have to agree with Anne in that this sort of artwork should not be encouraged. Yes, it is better than throwing beer cans, etc., but it is still altering the environment.

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