U is for Uluru
On 26 October 2019, Uluru was officially closed to climbers. The rock is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area, who believe that the spirits of their ancestors continue to reside there. Climbing was not permitted under Anangu law but tourists began to ascend in the 1930’s. For decades, the indigenous population have pleaded with visitors to respect their culture and just walk around the base.
In 2004 we hired a camper van in Alice Springs and headed for Uluru. We hadn’t thought much about it but ‘presumed we’d climb it’ – how amazing it would be to say that we’d stood on the top of Ayers Rock. Meanwhile, when we arrived at the campsite we signed on for a dawn walk around the base of the rock.
The guide (couldn’t put a name on him now if my life depended on it!) wasn’t local but he was brilliant. He had such respect for the rock that although he’d been living in the area for several years he’d never climbed. By the end of the tour, that respect was instilled in every member of the group – none of us would ever set foot on it.
The group was being dropped back to the campsite in a communal bus – anyone could use it. As we waited for it to fill, this guy (nationality unrevealed!) about 30 years old boarded. He was decked out from head to foot in serious khaki – you know the look – cap, shirt, shorts, socks… everything matching and accessorised with a rucksack and belt – both jangling with every known tool and gadget. He was sweating buckets and looked absolutely wrecked. He sighed and groaned as he awaited the question which no one was going to ask!
Finally our guide inquired ever so nicely whether he’d reached the top. He had of course. The guide asked him what it was like up there and our pal was off, sharing his morning’s experience, totally oblivious to the fuming indignation emanating from all those around him. The guide nodded away politely – he knew he’d done his job and his message could not have been rammed home in a more effective way!
(first light, Uluru, August 2004…..)
(….and a short while later)