Devil’s Marbles – More Than Just Rocks

 Devil’s Marbles –  More Than Just Rocks

To truly experience the Australian outback, one must not forget to visit The Devil’s Marbles. The gigantic rocks in the middle of Australia’s Northern Territory make a visually appealing landscape that attracts thousands of tourists every year. Situated almost in the centre of Australia, it is one of the most characteristic sites when talking of the outback. The vast expanse of flat dry land with surprisingly placed rocks makes for some good photography material and camping destination for the entire family.
Where is it located?
The Devil’s MarblesConservation Reserve is located about 393 km north of Alice Springs near Wauchope and is 110km south of Tennant Creek. The huge reserve spreads across an area of 1802 hectares which gives the tourists ample space to explore and discover once inside the reserve. Visible from quite some distance, the first look at the rocks is enough to shock most people.
What is its aboriginal significance?
The uniqueness of the area has had the aboriginal people consider it sacred who have been protecting it for centuries so that the beauty and sanctity of the place is maintained. To the aboriginal people, the area is known as KarluKarlu which translates to “giant boulders”. It has deep spiritual significance to the aboriginal people who have quite a few stories about their formation and origin. According to some stories the boulders are eggs of the devil serpent whereas others credit the Devil Man ‘Arrange’ from a nearby hilly region who used locks of his hair to mark the trail he took through this area which later turned into these rocks. Whatever the story be, the locals are very sentimental about each one of these rocks and it is not allowed for anyone to remove them without their permission. Some of these rocks were removed and placed in another location on two different occasions but had to be returned to its original place both times upon resistance from the aboriginal chiefs.
How were they formed?
These giant round granite boulders are found scattered across the area in various sizes, from a few centimeters wide to as much as six meters in diameter. More than the size, their placement is what intrigues onlookers. The rocks are balanced perfectly on the ground in spectacular formations and combinations. They appear to be perfectly balanced on the ground despite having a smooth and curvy surface. These rocks have taken millions of years to become how they appear right now. Granite, which is found in the earth’s crust in molten stage, sometimes appears on the surface due to high pressure. These large sheets of granite now exposed to the atmosphere start weathering away and develop cracks. Over the course of time, these blocks lose their edges and become rounded due to erosion. Every rock in this area is a result of this process over so many years and has its own uniqueness based on where it is placed and the natural forces that have been acting on it. No wonder there is an abundance of rocks in all sizes and shapes.
What to do at the Reserve?
Apart from exploring these wondrous rocks on your own, there is a lot more that can be done at the Devil’s Marbles Conservation Reserve. Beneath the largest pile of rocks is a camping ground equipped with picnic tables and wood barbeques. You might have to bring your own camping gear and anything else you might need for camping out. For a nominal fee paid using the honor system, you can pitch your tent in this beautiful location and experience the breath taking view of slanting rays of the sun falling on these rocks in the morning and evening hours which is the best time to be at this place.
On the other side of the reserve you can find a self-guided tour to the area with sign boards and information cards explaining everything from the formation to their significance to aboriginal culture. You can explore the variety of flora and fauna that has developed here due to different habitats such as moist shade and sun exposed nooks and corners among the rocks. These places have acted as a shelter for many small plants and animals for millions of years.
Tennant Creek which is one of the nearest settlements from The Devil’s Marbles offers day tours to the place that also includes barbeque lunch. The town also has things to explore such as art galleries full of aboriginal art, visitor information centers, market places and places to stay. Another nearby place which is closer to the Marbles than Tennant Creek, Wauchope, is just 9kms away from the Marbles and is also a good place to find food and accommodation.
Whether you visit the place just to see the two famous marbles pictured everywhere when talking of the area or to camp there for days and discover newer more interesting rocks, be sure to soak in the immense beauty of these ancient boulders when the sun’s rays make them glow the same way they did centuries ago!

Mahesh Mohan

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