Respecting the wishes of indigenous people: The best choice I made was NOT to climb Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Travellers are faced with numerous choices and ‘the need’ to tick off places on the bucket list often overshadows the wishes of cultures associated with sacred sites around the world. Countless signage surrounds Uluru, the magnificent red monolith in the heart of Australia’s Northern Territory, highlighting that is a protected site. The traditional Aboriginal owners, the Pitjantjatjara people, consider it as part of their creation story, from over 550 million years ago. This majestic red rock landscape is considered to have been formed by the spirits of their ancestors and understandably a sacred place not to be tainted.

Sadly human curiosity and the need for capturing that instagrammable photo has meant that visitors have completely overlooked the wishes of the the very people the land belongs to – trampling over this majestic red landscape. Tour guides giving descriptions of the awe-inspiring views and spiel ‘Well why come all this way not to explore?’ makes my stomach turn. For me, the traditional owners have politely asked people not to climb – it is simple courtesy to respect their wishes.

Images courtesy of Unsplash

There are other options and it is possible to walk the base, which accumulates to a seven mile walk through some sheltered woodlands, eventually unveiling a timeless desert. Visitors can still observe the red rocks, formed naturally by the rusting of iron in the arkose rock and admire this ‘land iceberg’ from afar. It’s hard to miss after all, 300 metres above sea level and, what few seem to realise, a staggering few miles underground.

Surely, this is better that defecating a sacred site, clambering up the rocks in searing temperatures? Apparently not, for the majority who do just this without a care in the world. As a result, of continuous visitors the climb was shutdown in October 2019. It goes against many a popular opinion – but I am very happy about this. It is time people reflect on their selfish actions when travelling and start to show respect, where it is due.

Maria

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