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Australia The grand rock of the desert is finally left in peace

23:20  25 october  2019
23:20  25 october  2019 Source:   watoday.com.au

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From today, all that is left is a long white scar on a ridge of the vast red monolith to remind visitors of one of the more curious and contested periods of The climb beneath the gruelling central Australian sun has always been arduous and dangerous, but conquest of ageless Uluru has been finally been

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a group of people standing in front of a large rock: Visitors climb the rock on Friday.© Alex Ellinghausen Visitors climb the rock on Friday.

"When I was a little girl," said Minja Jean Uluru-Reid, "I would come here with Mum and Dad to this place and there was nothing and nobody. No one climbing. It is my home. My memory.

"Now there will be no one climbing again. I am happy."

"This place", described by a wide sweep of the hand, is Uluru. Uluru-Reid, an elder of the traditional owners, had come to see the end of long decades of outsiders climbing a rock she and her people are forbidden from climbing by ancient law.

a group of people holding a sign: Ranger Lynda Wright places the new sign of the permanent closure of the Uluru climb.© Alex Ellinghausen Ranger Lynda Wright places the new sign of the permanent closure of the Uluru climb.

She had come with other elders – Barbara Nipper, Johnny Dingo and Reg Uluru among others – to witness a sign being hoisted at 4pm on Friday declaring the Uluru climb closed permanently.

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Traditional owners pose for photos after placing the new sign declaring the permanent closure of the Uluru climb on Friday.© Alex Ellinghausen Traditional owners pose for photos after placing the new sign declaring the permanent closure of the Uluru climb on Friday.

From today, all that is left is a long white scar on a ridge of the vast red monolith to remind visitors of one of the more curious and contested periods of both recent and ancient Australian history.

The scar is the steep track taken by tens of thousands of Australians and foreigners intent since the middle of last century on adding the conquest of Uluru to their list of travel exploits.

a person looking at the camera: Minja Jean Uluru-Reid.© Alex Ellinghausen Minja Jean Uluru-Reid.

The climb beneath the gruelling central Australian sun has always been arduous and dangerous, but conquest of ageless Uluru has been finally been put out of reach. The track to its summit, 345 metres above the weathered desert floor, is a puny thing compared with its immense bulk.

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I've been through the desert on a horse with no name, It felt good to be out of the rain. In the desert you can remember your name, 'Cause After nine days, I let the horse run free, 'Cause the desert had turned to sea. There were plants and birds, and rocks and things, There was sand and hills and rings.

The grand rock of the desert is finally left in peace . The last day of climbing, Friday, threatened to be a bust as a line of expectant climbers snaked 200 metres across the dust at the base of the rock an hour before the sun rose.

a screenshot of a social media post with text and people in the background: A sign climbers must walk past on their way up the rock.© Alex Ellinghausen A sign climbers must walk past on their way up the rock.

To the Anangu, the Pitjantjatjara people who are the custodians of Uluru, that track represents something beyond age itself: it is a creation trail taken by their ancestors, the Mala men, the rufous hare-wallaby.

It is for this Dreaming, the track is sacred to the Anangu, who have been asking for decades that outsiders stop climbing it, while park management allowed it to continue.

Media photographers have been told not to photograph climbers up high on the track, despite thousands of other photographs circulating on social media. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald has chosen to abide by the wishes of the custodians.

All those who have climbed Uluru in recent years have been required to file straight past a sign beside the gate to the track that pleads "Please don’t climb".

Visitors climb Uluru on Friday.© Alex Ellinghausen Visitors climb Uluru on Friday.

"We, the Anangu traditional owners, have this to say," the sign begins. "Uluru is sacred in our culture. It is a place of great knowledge. Under our traditional law climbing is not permitted." It goes on to say that "too many people have died or been hurt causing great sadness".

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Other desert features include rock outcrops, exposed bedrock and clays once deposited by flowing water. Temporary lakes may form and salt pans may be left when waters A semi-arid desert or a steppe is a version of the arid desert with much more rainfall, vegetation and higher humidity.

The grand rock of the desert is finally left in peace . At 4pm on Friday, Parks Australia closed the climb permanently, 34 years after the government officially returned the site to its traditional Anangu owners. Great moment for the Aboriginal people of Australia.

"We worry about you and about your family."

There have been promises reaching back to Bob Hawke’s assurance in 1983 that the climb would end.

It has taken till October 2019 for those old broken promises to be met.

Sunday night, the Anangu will gather not far from the great rock and hold a special ceremony to celebrate.

The last day of climbing, Friday, threatened to be a bust as a line of expectant climbers snaked 200 metres across the dust at the base of the rock an hour before the sun rose.

At 7am, with a chilled desert wind judged at 20 knots – and thus, about 40 knots up high – rangers hoisted a sign declaring the "climb [is] closed due to strong winds at summit".

Many of those lined up said the climb had shot to the top of their "bucket list" when they learned it was to be stopped forever, and they were determined to wait.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Yulara resident Rick Petersen is against the climb.© Alex Ellinghausen Yulara resident Rick Petersen is against the climb.

They got their wish at 10am.

The wind abated and climbers set off, quickly becoming no more than a long ant-like column marching slowly up on that thin white scar, gripping a safety chain strung along the track.

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The grand rock of the desert is finally left in peace . The last day of climbing, Friday, threatened to be a bust as a line of expectant climbers snaked 200 metres across the dust at the base of the rock an hour before the sun rose.

The grand rock of the desert is finally left in peace . The last day of climbing, Friday, threatened to be a bust as a line of expectant climbers snaked 200 metres across the dust at the base of the rock an hour before the

Soon the chain and the poles will be torn down, and anyone venturing there will face fines of several hundred dollars.

Some of the climbers insisted it was their right as Australians to climb Uluru, because it was a symbol of the whole nation.

a woman who is smiling and looking at the camera: Hikara Ide pays his respect to Uluru and the wishes of the traditional owners not to climb.© Alex Ellinghausen Hikara Ide pays his respect to Uluru and the wishes of the traditional owners not to climb.

Some said they were conflicted. Jim Koutrouvelis, who had driven from Bentleigh East in Melbourne, said he was "a little bit torn", because he’d had an Aboriginal friend when he was younger and "part of me feels it’s wrong out of respect for her".

"But the truth is, I’m here, still willing to do it [the climb], so that’s where I am," he said.

When he descended hours later, he declared the climb was "brutal", but he felt glad he’d completed it.

A few visitors to the rock on Friday declared themselves opposed to the climb.

"I cannot climb out of respect for the Aboriginal people," said Hikara Ide, of Nagano, Japan.

His friend, Masahiro Suda, of Tokyo, said to ignore the wishes of the Anangu would be disrespectful.

"We are of the Shinto belief, which is to respect everything and not to indulge in conflict," he said.

Tomoyasu Kato, 32, however, had flown from Tokyo to reach for the top of Uluru, and he’d already managed it in the short period the gate was open on Thursday.

"It was scarier than fun," he said. "But if it opens again today, I will do it again. I enjoyed being at the top, but my heart was beating hard when I was coming down. My heart was saying ‘danger, danger’."

Rick Peterson, a tour guide who also works within the nearby Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu, wore a t-shirt declaring "I chose not to climb". A former special forces soldier, he said he’d gained great respect for indigenous people.

"I was naive about Aboriginal culture before then, and if I’d been here in the 1970s or 80s, I’d have climbed," he said.

Peterson was confident tourism wouldn’t suffer. Only 15 per cent of visitors have climbed in recent years.

"There are so many things that visitors can learn here without climbing," he said. "The plants, the animals, the stories, the indigenous beliefs in ancestral spirits and their creation stories – Uluru is extraordinary."

Today, Minja Jean Uluru-Reid, who cannot tell you her age because "I was born in the bush", is, like the rest of her people, finally content.

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