Incredible Lines As People Rush To Climb Uluru Before It Is Banned
Many people have been left gobsmacked at long, snaking lines of people queuing to the top Uluru, just months before climbing the sacred Indigenous site is banned for good.
ABC Alice Springs shared several photos in recent days showing a huge single-file of tourists making their way to the top of Uluru, in the Northern Territory.
The unusually long lines are thought to be the result of aspiring climbers rushing to take their last chance to ascend Uluru before rules are changed to prevent climbing -- and locals say this has caused problems with overcrowding and littering.
The management board of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park decided in November 2017 to close the summit from October 26, 2019. The date was chosen for symbolic reasons, marking 34 years since the site was handed back to the traditional owners.
In April, 10 News First reported the park’s attendance figures are the highest in 16 years. Around 380,000 people visited in 2018 -- a 20 percent increase on the previous year.
The local Anangu people have long called for tourists not to climb, as it is a sacred part of their culture.
Tourists have been politely asked to not climb Uluru for years, but many tour groups offer visitors the chance to reach the summit.
Even Parks Australia, the government body which manages the national park, has a section on its website titled 'Please don’t climb Uluru'.
"We Anangu have a responsibility to teach and safeguard visitors to our land. The climb can be dangerous. Too many people have died while attempting to climb Uluru," the website states.
"We feel great sadness when a person dies or is hurt on our land. We worry about you and we worry about your family."
"We ask visitors not to climb Uluru because of its spiritual significance as the traditional route of the ancestral Mala men on their arrival at Uluru."
Anecdotal reports from Uluru suggest over-crowding and higher than usual amounts of rubbish left at the site by the visitor influx.
The Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation, based in western Sydney, claimed on Facebook people were defecating and urinating on Uluru.
"It is a deeply deeply spiritual and sacred place, it makes me sick looking at this photo at the disrespect and disregard shown for the Traditional Owners wishes," the Facebook post, published on Wednesday, said.
Alison Hunt, an Anangu tribal elder, told 10 daily that the unusually large crowds are "desperate" and "just want to catch a late view" before climbing is banned.
"It's sacred land. We always want it to be respected," she said.
"Tourists have had a fair go. It's time to walk away and give it back to the Aboriginal people."
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park management and the Central Land Council have been contacted for comment.
In a statement, NT Tourism said "the decision to cease climbing Uluru is ... a decision for Traditional Owners to make" and that the territory had developed many other tourism options for visitors.
Tara Harrison is PR and communications manager for the Intrepid Group travel company, which runs tours to Uluru. She said her staff had relayed anecdotal reports of high crowds and more littering, and suggested many of those climbing were Australian visitors, not foreign tourists.
"We spoke to our team on the ground, they said it's definitely corroborated with what they've seen. There are more people travelling to climb," she told 10 daily.
Harrison said her company did not offer tours to climb Uluru, and had actually discouraged visitors from doing so since 1998.
"While we haven't seen a spike in our travel numbers, we have seen a spike in the number of questions around climbing around organising it and asking questions," she said.
"It's about respecting the traditional owners. There are sacred sites around the world we treat with respect and it shouldn't be different in our own backyard."
Nathan Butler, product manager with Sightseeing Tours -- which also does not offer climbing experiences -- said he expected some travel businesses would be affected when the ban comes in. He said he was unsure if more visitors were rushing to Uluru, but called the pictures of the line "astonishing".
"I think the ban may impact the few companies that still offer a climb to the degree of which they can longer access a market of customers both willing and wanting to purchase a tour that does climbs the rock," he told 10 daily.
"But with this in mind, the ban has been a long time coming."
Photos of the long lines have stoked strong debate, with many standing in harsh opposition to tourists climbing Uluru.
However, others are still in favour of climbing Uluru, despite the wishes of traditional owners.
Last month, geologist Marc Hendrickx -- author of the 'Climber's Handbook: A Guide to Climbing Ayers Rock' -- claimed in an opinion piece that the climbing ban was "malicious" and would "outlaw awe and wonder", based on "irrational religious beliefs or petty bureaucratic restrictions".
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