Indigenous Australians are dismayed by the hordes of people who have rushed to climb Uluru days before the sacred monolith is permanently closed, with anthropologist Marcia Langdon saying “a curse will fall on all of them.”
The October 26 ban will mark 34 years since the site was handed back to the traditional custodians of the land, the Anangu people, but the pending permanent closure has caused thousands of tourists to ignore the calls from Indigenous Australians to stay off the rock.
The images of hundreds of people queueing to scale Uluru has been unsettling for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“A curse will fall on all of them,” writer Marcia Langdon wrote on Twitter. “They will remember how they defiled this sacred place until they die and history will record their contempt for Aboriginal culture.”
NITV reporter Ryan Liddle, who grew up in Alice Springs, said it takes tourists hours to climb Uluru, meaning people often use the rock as a toilet and leave their rubbish at the top.
“Water is such an important part of desert Aboriginal culture,” he told HuffPost from Uluru on Friday. “At the base of Uluru there are a few, very special, watering holes. These sustain life not just for humans but for animals.
“And to know the things that are left on top of Uluru are washing down into these watering holes, what does that say about people’s mentality, that they are willing to take part in that? It’s utterly disrespectful, in my opinion.”
While strong winds in Alice Springs hindered climbing conditions on Friday morning, people have taken to Twitter to express their thoughts on tourists waiting to climb Uluru.
Kelly Derks, from Melbourne, said she wanted to climb Uluru while at the same time respect Indigenous beliefs.
“We respect that. We climb but we don’t leave rubbish, we stay to the path,” Derks told Reuters.
Sonita Vinecombe, from the Australian city of Adelaide, said the impending ban prompted her to come to Uluru.
“We weren’t planning to come anytime soon, but because it’s the last day, we are here,” she said.
Senior custodians of Uluru are confident tourism will thrive after the ban.
“I’ve noticed more and more people are coming on tours to learn from us Anangu,” Sammy Wilson told the ABC’s 7.30.
“I enjoy people asking about and wanting to learn about our country.
“We don’t live in fenced-off squares. It’s time they came here in return and learned about our place and the way we see it — circular country,” he said.
Liddle added that it is not the end of an era but the start of new beginnings for tourism in the area.
“The only thing people will lose is the chain,” he said.
“People want to jump off the plane and have a genuine interaction with Aboriginal people. They want beyond the veil. Hopefully people will be able to get out to homeland and outstations. There’s been a big push for that.”
Nearly 400,000 visitors flocked to the Australian landmark in the first half of the year, government data shows.
The closure was announced two years ago when fewer than 20 percent of visitors were making the climb.
To commemorate the climbing ban, the park will conduct public celebrations over the weekend.
“It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland,” Anangu senior traditional owner Sammy Wilson said in a statement.
“We welcome tourists here. Closing the climb is not something to feel upset about, but a cause for celebration.”