Uluru


On Friday, 25 October 2019 Uluru was closed to climbers permanently. Tourists, both international and Australian have always considered the climb a bucket list item but the local Anangu people consider it a sacred place and have always asked that visitors do not climb.

In 1985 the lands surrounding Uluru, then more commonly known as Ayers Rock, were handed back to the Anangu people to administer. Climbing the rock was not immediately banned but over the past thirty-four years, they have tried to steer tourists into other activities. As time passed fewer tourists did make the ascent and it was agreed that when the number of tourists who were climbing dropped to less than 20% of visitors the climb would be closed permanently. The decision was made in 2017 and the date of closure was announced some months ago. Over the last few months, a lot of people have rushed to have a last chance to do the climb. Many people on social media have made scathing comments about it being disrespectful but it is what always happens when people realise they will only have a limited time to do something or see something. They want to be there, the last sailing of a ship, a last train journey, the last time in a favourite hotel. It’s human nature I guess. I can understand it.

Uluru in the distance
Our first glimpse. Photo David Jensen

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post or two David and I visited Uluru in the 1980s with a penfriend of mine from the USA. I think this was just before or around the time that the land was handed back to the Anangu community.

At that time tourists were requested not to climb the rock out of respect for the beliefs of the owners but it was not outright forbidden. My friend and I did climb it.

In hindsight, I don’t know why we did it except to say that we had done it because it was “a thing”. Perhaps it was to conquer our fears because both of us were afraid of falling. I didn’t intend disrespect to the indigenous owners but I knew very little about their culture and beliefs.

Uluru NT
Christie near Uluru

I suppose that I should say that I’m sorry I climbed but I’m afraid I can’t do that. It was a special experience to be there. I remember how I felt the age of my surroundings and how it felt calm and peaceful at the summit.

In recent years when the subject of closing the climb has come up, I’ve felt relieved that my ageing body would no longer allow me to climb safely even if I wanted to. I wouldn’t have to make the decision. But if I were suddenly granted the body of a twenty-something would I go? Probably not, I may not understand the reasons any better than I did then but ultimately I think I would respect the culture in the same way that I’d accept the rules of any religious structure I visited, covering my head, removing my shoes or whatever is asked.

37 people have died whilst climbing Uluru, many more have collapsed due to heat, dehydration or the exertion of climbing. As I said, I was in my twenties when we went and moderately fit. We saw much older people struggling to get up there. We also saw people who ran up. I believe people have taken bicycles up as well. It’s really not the safest place to be. On Friday morning it was very windy at Uluru and the rangers were obliged to delay opening the track for safety reasons causing a lot of consternation amongst the line of waiting visitors.

I have added some links to news articles about the closure below if anyone would like to read more about the subject.

Uluru photo was taken on holiday around the early-mid 1980s. I have cleaned the picture up a bit as there were a few dust spots but the colours are what I saw.

Further Reading:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-24/uluru-climb-closure-gives-voice-to-other-groups/11634498

https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-updates/hundreds-queue-for-last-chance-to-climb-uluru-before-ban-is-enforced/news-story/0344f36da37867416d8685857bfc35d3

https://www.9news.com.au/national/surge-in-visitors-to-uluru-for-last-chance-to-climb-landmark-rock/59dc749c-7a1c-4dd4-a997-6e0dc225dfe0

Taswegian1957

I was born in England in 1957 and lived there until our family came to Australia in 1966. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I met and married my husband David. We came together over a mutual love of trains. Both of us worked for the railways for many years, his job was with Australian National Railways, while I spent 12 years working for the STA, later TransAdelaide the Adelaide city transit system. After leaving that job I worked in hospitality until 2008. We moved to Tasmania in 2002 to live in the beautiful Huon Valley. In 2015 David became ill and passed away in October of that year. I currently co-write two blogs on WordPress.com with my sister Naomi. Our doll blog "Dolls, Dolls, Dolls", and "Our Other Blog" which is about everything else but with a focus on photographs and places in Tasmania. In November 2019 I began a new life in the house that Naomi and I intend to make our retirement home at Sisters Beach in Tasmania's northwest. My current housemates are Cindy, my 14-year-old Staffy-Lab X dog and Polly the world's most unsociable cat who is seven.

8 comments

  1. A very respectful post, Vanda. I think over time, the traditional owners have done much to educate visitors about the cultural and spiritual significance of Uluru. At a time when the religious freedom bill is being advanced, the broader Australian public and other international visitors may come to realise that spirituality comes in many forms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What about all the people dying on Mount Everest? Dead bodies all over the place. A dead guy with green boots is even a landmark and still they go. They line up for ages. It’s stupid and pointless. Someone climbed up some mountain or did some other thing. So what, who cares? Nothing really matters as long as you are not hurting anyone else or anything else. I should add for the fun of it and hopefully to get a reaction from the Greenies. What about Priscilla Queen of the Desert? Are the PC police getting mad yet????

    Like

  3. Here is a funny reason why I come back to this post. Like every year before Christmas, it’s my tradition that I participate in a couple of prize competitions on news websites and so.

    Today I took a quiz on a major German news website when I discover the following question translated from German…

    “Holidays are the best days of the year but there are also conflicts where many people are on the way. As a result of this, where is climbing prohibited since 2019?”

    – The Eiffel Tower in Paris
    – The Uluru rock in Australia
    – In the case of Lascaux

    Guess who taught me the right answer? Vanda πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know but it’s definitely a sign that we can also learn through blogging. I didn’t comment on your post back then but I’ve read your post at that time and memorized the rock is closed. When the question came up in the quiz, I thought “Uh, that’s an easy one”. πŸ˜€ Good that I have my little army of friends around the world that share things from their parts of the world πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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