Australia’s Sacred Uluru Monolith Is Closing to Tourists for Good This Weekend—So Tourists Are Rushing to Climb It

Thomas Schoch, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Thomas Schoch, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Thomas Schoch, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Tourists are rushing to the Australian outback this weekend to climb the continent's most iconic landmark one last time. As SBS News reports, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park will permanently close Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, to climbers on Saturday, October 26, acknowledging the wishes of the Anangu people.

Centuries before Europeans colonized Australia, the massive rock formation known as Uluru was regarded as a sacred place. It plays a central role in some Aboriginal creation stories and tribes have used the surrounding area as a site for ceremonies for millennia.

In the most recent chapter of Australia's history, Uluru has transformed into something else: a tourist attraction. People come from around the world to climb to the pinnacle of the rock. But members of the indigenous Anangu group say that visitors don't treat the site with the reverence it deserves, and have long called for climbing to be banned.

In 2017, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is jointly owned by the Anangu people and the Australian government, announced plans to ban climbers from Uluru. Since then, adventurers have been flocking to the site to cross it off their bucket list or scale it one last time. With the rock scheduled to close for good this Saturday, the site is busier than ever.

The controversy surrounding Uluru has been strong enough to inspire legends of a "curse" that befalls disrespectful tourists. Some hikers claim they've experiences streaks of bad luck after taking a rock from the landmark home with them. Mailing these cursed keepsakes back to the park has become so common that rangers have dubbed them "sorry rocks."

[h/t SBS]