The last post was devoted to a range of flowering plants on the Base Walk. By contrast this post will look at the way the eastern end and then the northern side of Uluru appear.
The track extended eastwards until perhaps one or two kilometres of land separated me from Uluru, effectively excluding my access to the sensitive zone used for special aboriginal men’s ceremonies. I never saw footprints in the red earth indicating people left the wide track to disrespect the sacredness of the land closer to Uluru.
Mostly I walked in silence and saw less than a handful of people. Suddenly, I heard a whirring coming fast behind me. As I turned, a Segway machine followed by two others ripped past. They looked so silly. I broke out into a serious laugh and said g’day as the three riders disappeared into the distance, with the woman holding on for dear life and coming in a distant third as the two males raced ahead. So incredibly silly to see these machines in a pristine desert. I knew the Segways could be hired but it never occurred to me that people would (well of course they would, I realised at that point). A little further along the track I passed the riders where they had stopped for their guide to provide information about Uluru. Ah … the joys of the unexpected.
As the morning wore on I realised there was a constant sky noise; seemingly endless helicopter flights and small planes whizzed overhead. Previously I had considered taking a helicopter ride but I developed an itinerary into which I could not squeeze another event. Hearing those sounds during my walk that should only have given me bush sounds, was an unwelcome distraction, and I am glad I didn’t go flying to disturb other walkers. Each to their own, but it is a shame when one person’s pleasure reduces that of another.
On the northern side, some of the ‘track’ is the circular road for vehicular traffic without a footpath; after a while a new red dirt track leads closer to the rock. Instead I continued on the road to the Mala carpark, with the notion I would return and complete the close-to-the-rock walk in the next day or so during subsequent planned visits to Uluru.
I had believed that access to walk on the rock was now removed. In September 2017 while I visited this was not the case because of a deal with Japanese tourism agencies that extends until 2020. When a coach disgorges dozens of Japanese tourists in the Mala carpark, they arrive with the belief that climbing Uluru is part of their travel package. And up they go, despite large signage indicating this is sacred ground. The pathway of the climb has spiritual significance to the Anangu, the traditional owners of Uluru. It was the route taken by ancestral Mala men on their arrival at Uluru. I wondered what Japanese people would do if someone was to clamber all over their Shinto temples.I saw no sign of penalties being applied.
When I sat in the Mala carpark resting my aching feet and legs, plus re-hydrating and adding to my energy stores, I fumed each time I saw another group rush the first hundred metres then sit around before trying to go higher – but at that time, I was not aware of the deal.. Naturally, when non Japanese people see someone walking up the rock, they also think the sign requesting people not to walk on Uluru does not apply to them. So I watched as some were able to climb way up high and continued out of sight on the ‘flat’ top (not really) of Uluru. Thankfully 2020 will arrive soon!
STOP PRESS – I wrote this blog post a couple of days before a momentous, globally significant decision was made. I was stunned, happily so, when the news to stop the option to climb to the top of Uluru was announced – the decision will take effect on 26 October 2019. The story broke as Uluru climbs banned from October 2019 after unanimous board decision to ‘close the playground’. Read the ABC online news story here.