Ayers and graces

ayers rock

UPDATE: No more climbing.

Channel Ten’s morning gabfest was burbling away in the background when one of the resident blondes voiced the blonde view that tourists should not climb Ayers Rock/Uluru because that is “disrespectful”, as visitors “don’t go climbing all over cathedrals and churches.” Delivered with peroxided authority, that assertion will come as news to all who have ascended St Peter’s dome in Rome, Filippo Brunelleschi’s in Florence, Christopher Wren‘s in London and other sanctified high points. But apparently there are different rules for large geological formations — a distinction that inspired friend of Quadrant Marc Hendrickx to write:

William Gosse climbed to the summit of the rock he named after Sir Henry Ayers on July 20, 1873 with his Afghan cameleer Kamran, kicking off an Australian and international holiday tradition that is facing imminent extinction from an irrational Stone Age belief system, political correctness, and an army of soft headed nanny state administrators. Gosse and Kamran climbed it in bare feet, unchallenged by the locals and without the long list of breast-beating and brow- beating health, safety and cultural warnings climbers face today.

The Australian today reports that the “traditional Owners” of the rock want to close the climb down…again. The reason cited: the low numbers of tourists who have climbed the rock in recent times: “Where over 70 per cent of visitors climbed Uluru in the ’90s, only about 16 per cent make the journey today.”

A report from the Alice Springs News explains why this might be the case and it has nothing do with the intentions of visitors, who, lets face reality, go there to climb. It comes as no surprise that climb numbers are down when the climb is closed for an astonishing 84% of the time!  It seems a modest breath of wind, average desert temperatures, a remote chance of a thunderstorm or the requests of the locals are enough to ruin the dreams of most visitors. The fact that 16% manage to climb under such gross restrictions is a miracle and a testament to true visitor intentions.

On the days it actually is open it must be as busy as Pitt Street up there. The arbitrary nature of closures was nicely summed up by a German visitor in 2016 who encountered a Closed sign, purportedly due to rain on what was actually a sunny, dry and mild April Red Centre day: “Which is bull***t, because there was no rain. They don’t want to officially close it because they’d lose 50 per cent of tourists, so they do it through the back door — saying there’s too much rain or it’s too windy.”

With such restrictions is it any wonder tourist numbers are 100,000 lower now than they were ten years ago?

Climbing the rock is a great physical achievement and an education.  Millions conquered the summit before it was declared an animist cathedral more worthy of reverence than St Peter’s. Closing the climb will be the death of the National Park as if you haven’t climbed it, you haven’t really visited it. If you can’t climb it, it’s not worth going.

The ABC’s report on moves to banish climbers once and for all can be read via the link below. Even at the national broadcaster’s site, comments seem to be running in favour of maintaining climbers’ rights.

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