Why You Shouldn't Visit Uluru
Because these days Uluru is no longer the down-to-earth outback pilgrimage it once was, it's a fully commercial enterprise that's been micro-managed out of reach
Gone are the days when you could pull up your own square of Western Desert, pitch your tent and sit back with a beer as the sun melts over the big red rock. Today you'll be herded and shunted into designated camping zones where you'll be relieved, yet again, of your hard earned cash.
The 'Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities' manage Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and will decide for you if they think it's too hot for the tourists to take a stroll around the rock. Yep, they'll close the base walk for fear someone may have a real desert experience.
Are you a semi-professional photographer? Made the 3000km trip in the hope of capturing a great shot that you may possibly frame and sell? Whoa! You'll need a permit after paying the appropriate fee. You see, Uluru isn't an image that belongs to all Australians, it's a piece of real estate to be traded like futures stocks.
Want to clamber atop the thing? Good luck. If the climb isn't closed you'll certainly be discouraged (read:shamed) from climbing the rock. You see, the regular climbing path crosses a culturally significant track and the indigenous owners are concerned tourists may hurt themselves up there.
We say - adjust the climbing path to avoid the culturally sensitive track and encourage people to be responsible for their own welfare. We're all big enough to decide if we can make a 1.6km walk up a rock. Instead of the climb you'll be encouraged into enjoying an alternate Uluru experience. Maybe an indigenous dot painting class instead. Shouldn't cost you too much.
You can still drive around Uluru, these days it's a lovely ring of bitumen seal. Don't pull up for a quick snapshot though. There's no parking bays and plenty of signs warning you not to. Park Management needs to keep these tourist dollars moving. Go instead, to the designated parking bays where you can shuffle up the sunrise and sunset viewing boardwalks, bleating. When you've made it to the platform don't be surprised to find a scruffy gum tree obscuring your view of the rock. That lone eucalypt is vital to the 1326km² park and must remain where it is.
If you've come for a real true-blue, Australia outback experience then you'll need to get out the Gold Visa Card. Now you'll be able to take a short camel ride around Uluru before you are ushered back to the museum and shops and cash registers. Perhaps a sunset dinner with your own personal waiter delivering private silver service to your specially prepared table - forget the barbeque in the bush, far too Australian. Feel like camping near the rock? Get out the wallet because your personal guide will hand roll your personal swag and drive you in a 4WD bus (that's never been 4x4 driving) to a designated 'secret bush' camping spot where you'll be encouraged to sleep at the appropriate time.
What is Uluru?
Firstly it's not fragile. It's a 550 million year old lump of sandstone lying on a semi-arid section of the Northern Territory at the edge of the Simpson and Gibson deserts. Technically Uluru isn't in the desert itself. It was first discovered by white people in 1872. The local Pitjantjatjara people - the Anangu, have lived near Uluru for 10,000 years. Australian Aboriginals themselves are thought to have arrived on the Australian continent around 60,000 years ago, probably displacing another ancient culture. Everyone that lives in Australia originates from migrants.
Uluru is special to the Anangu. There's nothing else out there apart from the Olgas - Kata Tjuta. Any geographical oddity, any unusual natural feature, holds a special attraction to aboriginal people. Uluru is shady and there are pockets of water that attract wildlife - food. And when there was nothing else to do the Anangu drew pictures on Uluru to remind themselves and others of the nature of the place and what can be found there. There are tens of thousands of places like Uluru all over Australia, natural deviations that attract human beings.
These features attract non-aboriginal Australians too. And Chinese, Dutch, German, Taiwanese, English, American, Japanese, Russian - everyone. It's because they are unique, curious and mysterious places. They contain no more magical powers than crystals, dolphins or Cherokee Indians simply because someone scratched an image of a wallaby on a rock face a thousand years ago.
The environment around Uluru isn't possessed of some mystical power or unique conservation-worthy properties either. If there wasn't a big rock there, and it could be farmed, there would be 20,000 drought master cattle stomping all over it.
Most Australians grew up calling it Ayers Rock. Uluru is no more sacred to aboriginal Australians than it is to non-aboriginal Australians - except for the handful of Anangu who are culturally connected to the place. Uluru is of no more and no less cultural importance to the Bibbulman tribal groups in Western Australia or the Woiworung people in Victoria than it is to any other (non Anangu) Australian.
It is simply a unique chunk of rock in the middle of nowhere and no Australian citizen should have to pay 25 dollars to get close to it, black or white.
Whose Is It?
No ones. It's been regulated, legislated, annexed, desiccated, sterilised and disseminated out of everyones reach, including the Anangu, who can't have it back the way it was, prior to European discovery in 1872, even if they wanted that.
Uluru is served up to the tourist as sterile bite size portions, with the clang of a cash register in the background the whole time. Your Uluru experience is allocated to you.
Is It With Visiting?
Yes. Uluru is a world icon, of similar significance as The Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu (though less impressive) and its solitary stance against a desolate background is a stark and affecting image. We just believe that making it the focal point of the central Australian tourism experience may lead to an expensive disappointment. On the other hand, many folk fly direct into the resort, spend a week ticking activities off the bucket list, and return home, completely fulfilled by their outback experience.
Perhaps consider going at the height of summer when tourist numbers are at the lowest and simply making Uluru a waypoint as part of the red centre experience. Uluru is an operation. It's a corporation. There's lots more rewarding ways of discovering the outback than accepting the control and vampiric extortion exercised by the park operators and overpriced facilities.
Want to know where to find the Outback - Where is the Australian Outback?
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