[:gb]For many tourists it is a must see on a visit to Australia. The Ayers Rock possesses a special attraction to people all over the world. A towering stone formation in the middle of endless plains, shimmering red underneath a glowing hot sun. I would without a doubt recommend a visit at least once in a lifetime. What I would never recommend, however, is to jump on the bandwagon and climb it. Ever.
**** Good news, it is no longer possible to climb Uluru! ****
There are many reasons that seem reasonable to most and stem from a self-centred perception. First, the rock surface is smooth with no protruding edges or a rocky path that can serve as makeshift steps and the climb is super steep, too. There have been deaths with people stumbling and falling off. Second, people can be gross and disrespecting and therefore the formerly clean water pools on top have become dumps of waste with people relieving themselves or changing nappies. Also, the occasional batteries were changed and disposed of here so that lithium and salmonella are common features of said pools. The climb is therefore dangerous and unhealthy.
Apart from an effect on one’s own safety and health, these two examples already show a gross disrespect to fellow human beings and nature. Tell me why the aboriginals have to put their beliefs and traditions second to tourist’s need for adventure and show-offy selfies? Why not climb another rock in the middle of nowhere? Australia actually has plenty of those. So my ultimate and most important, because often belittled point is cultural sensitivity. Yes, that one. Think about it for a moment. Would you also ignore traditions and stand on a church altar or wear a mini skirt in a mosque? Why would you climb a highly treasured cultural monument which can only be climbed by a select few honorary men of the culture community itself? Why do people feel so entitled?
Now you might possibly throw the argument at me that it is allowed and indeed it is, complete with a railing hacked into the rock surface to support the climbers. But what if I told you that white men have always climbed that rock whether the aboriginals liked it or not? It started with the explorer William Gosse, who, upon seeing the rock, had to instantly scramble on top (or had someone else sent – it is still under historical debate) and named it after the then Chief of Secretary Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers, neglecting the fact that it already had a name given by the traditional “owners” (ownership of nature is a white man’s concept). When a road was laid to Uluru in the 60s, tourism came rushing in, placed a hand rail and with encouraged carefree and careless adventurers to come. Before the Anangu people could stop it, the rush was already in full swing. People trampling their marks into the rock’s surface.
So in the end, there was nothing to be done from keeping people away. There would always be ones that tried to scramble up and by blocking one entrance, they might as well try and find new ways up, which might be extremely dangerous or on a holy site (such as the waterhole Gosse chose). To prevent more desecration as well as deaths, which would result in extensive mourning episodes by the aboriginal people (they do feel responsible for the Uluru and are deeply connected with it), keeping the climb open was a sad but necessary step, in my opinion.
Just because you can do it does not mean you should. The Uluru is still a place that is welcome to visitors and the Anangu share parts of their creation stories with the eager visitors. Like in a museum, you can walk around and admire, read the inscriptions and take photos in some and keep your camera shut down in other places. Just don’t touch, change or climb anything and be mindful of the object’s significance as well as to other visitors. Don’t run around, don’t yell or walk off the path, don’t rip out plants or take stones with you. It is a National Park and there are a lot of don’ts, but there are a lot of do’s, too. Do take in the magical atmosphere and walk around the lusciously green base contrasting with the shiny red rocks. Discover the many faces in the rock’s outside, learn about geological creations and aboriginal creation stories and realize that it is much more than just a polished stone protruding from a flat canvas of red sand. As the saying goes, “take photographs, leave only footprints”. And please respect that.