In Australia’s Red Centre, tourism is booming. The hotels are rammed, campers are spilling over onto the roadsides, and a human traffic jam is snaking up the side of Uluru every morning.
For the locals, it’s a disaster. To Australian Aboriginals, Uluru is sacred ground – a place of enormous spiritual and cultural importance that tourists have arguably trampled and despoiled for generations. At the bottom of the trail there is a sign: “This is our home. Please don’t climb.”
If you feel the urge to climb Uluru please instead find the nearest garbage bin and climb in there instead 😊
— Bec Shaw (@Brocklesnitch) July 11, 2019
In 2017, park authorities made the long-overdue announcement that climbing would be banned from October 2019. It’s part of a broader push to return the rock to its aboriginal proprietors – the Anangu – one that has also seen the name Ayers Rock shunned in favour of the more traditional Uluru.
But as the timer ticks down, many are now flocking to the rock to tick off what they see as a bucket list staple, many posting their exploits to widespread condemnation on social media.
The row was compounded by a Today Show segment on Australian breakfast TV, which eschewed aboriginal leaders, instead inviting on radio presenter Steve Price and controversial senator Pauline Hanson.
Today Show producer: Let’s get an expert on Uluru. A traditional owner, Anangu people, what about chairman of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board….
Producer 2: How about Pauline Hanson and Steve Price
— Belinda Barnet (@manjusrii) July 15, 2019
If there is one message to take away from the ruckus, it is this: Don’t climb Uluru. Here’s a few other ways to enjoy the magnificent monolith, that don’t involve sacrilege and inadvertent vandalism…
1. Take to the skies
The views from the top of the rock are good, but the views from the sky are better. Helicopters and small planes offer up an endless supply of panoramic, instagrammable goodness, and a bird’s eye view of the rock itself.
Snap your selfies safe in the knowledge that you’re not being horrifically offensive. Always a bonus.
2. Walk the perimeter
It’s strange in a way to climb Uluru, because by doing so you remove from your view the very thing you came to see. The 10km Uluru Base Walk treks round the whole site, and is actively encouraged by the aboriginal community.
For all those seeking to ‘conquer the rock’, the best views and temperatures occur around sunrise, and there’s a stop for drinking water halfway through.
3. Enjoy the Field of Light
Since the announcement of the climb closure, tourist authorities have been working overtime to promote alternative Uluru-based attractions. We hope they mean to go on as they started, because they started with one of the most ambitious art installations of all time.
British artist Bruce Munro flew 50,000 solar-powered bulbs into the heart of the outback to create this remarkable light show, papering them across the ground like a blanket of ever-changing colour.
4. Dine beneath the stars
Canapes, chilled sparkling wine, and perfect white tablecloths suspended above the deep orange dust – the Sounds of Silence experience serves up a candlelit dinner to tell your grandkids about.
The bush tucker buffet features classic ingredients like crocodile meat, barramundi and quandong, while after-dinner entertainment comes courtesy of a traditional aboriginal dance troupe. Round off the evening with a talk from a resident astronomer, while Uluru slowly fades away into the dark.
5. Go on a camel trek
Walking around Uluru; good. Walking around Uluru on a camel; better. Tour the local area on one of the magnificent humped creatures, or learn about cameleering at the designated Camel Museum. Alternatively, sign up to a motorcycle tour, and cruise the desert on a Harley-Davidson.
– Press Association