I visited Uluru, which is either Australia’s most famous icon or second after the Sydney Opera House, in 2006. In November of 2017 the Australian government voted to ban climbing it, so tourists are now flocking to Australia’s Red Center before the ban goes into effect in October.
The reason for the ban? Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) is of great spiritual importance to the Anangu people, the collection of Aboriginal groups in central Australia who traditionally owned it. They prefer that visitors don’t climb Uluru because the rock is of great and ancient spiritual importance. The path that people climb is associated with important ceremonies. In addition, if a visitor gets injured or dies (36 people had been killed prior to my visit) while climbing the rock, the Anangu believe that his or her spirit will remain there forever. They will feel very badly if that happens.
I didn’t climb Uluru not only because I didn’t want to disrespect the Aboriginals (I don’t need any bad karma) but also because I’m afraid of heights. It’s steep! According to the guide I had at Uluru, half of all visitors at the time were still climbing up it. It seems like the percentage has only gotten higher since, and right now, with the ban looming, the queues to climb Uluru are pretty insane, as seen in the photos in the Guardian story.
I don’t endorse climbing Uluru, but that aside I would highly suggest going after the ban goes into effect in October since there will no doubt be fewer people. Plus, you won’t get bad karma.
More on Uluru
From a distance, Uluru looks really smooth, but up close there are all kinds of holes, caves, tunnels, natural sculptures, and even paintings in/on it. There are even gray streaks running down the side caused by waterfalls, which form when it rains (a rare occurrence). At 986 feet high and five miles around, Uluru is one of the largest monoliths in the world. It’s made of arkosic sandstone, infused with minerals like feldspar. The rust color comes from oxidation. It’s amazing to see Uluru (and Kata Tjuta, another red rock formation) change colors with the reflection of the sun, particularly at sunrise and sunset when it appears to glow. It’s a mind-boggling site.
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