As climbing ban is about to be effective, Japanese tourists rush to Uluru

Published on : Tuesday, August 13, 2019

At the base of Uluru, there are signs in about seven languages requesting people to think again regarding climbing the landmark, once known as Ayers Rock.


The sign highlights the beliefs of the Anangu — the native, traditional owners of Uluru and its adjacent lands — who view the rock as sacred, roughly equivalent to a church or temple.


Several safety warnings for the people to drink water in the desert sun and keep on the well-worn track to the near about 350-meter-high summit are posted in a range of languages side by side.


Nevertheless, from Oct. 26, the request will be replaced with a prohibition by law on climbing.


In the lead-up to the ban, visitor numbers to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park have increased as travelers rush for climbing as they still can.


“We’ve had the highest visitor numbers in more than 13 years,” said Steven Baldwin, a park manager.


From 2018, entry gate figures shows a more than 20 percent rise since November 2017, when the board of management declared that there would be a ban.


“Anecdotally, visually, we can see there’s a massive increase of people who want to legally climb, and that’s to be expected,” he said.


Baldwin explains that Japanese are among the most recurrent visitors to the park, and some of the most excited climbers as well.


“Clearly the climb is popular with the Japanese market. I’ve seen it, I’ve been down there and seen the buses turn up and the Japanese jump off and start the climb,” the 50-year-old said. “They love to conquer it.”


A 42-year-old office worker from Hokkaido said he was keen to climb the rock since he was a student.


“When I heard climbing will be banned, I wondered if I shouldn’t go, but I felt it would make a good memory,” said the man, who asked not to be named.


“I came as part of a tour so I only had an hour, but I climbed partway. I was so moved by being able to set foot in such an incredible place.”


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