Spot the loopy

Apparently the first tourists visited Uluru in 1936 but it wasn’t until a track to the Rock was finished in 1948 that tourism really got going. From the 1960’s there was a steady increase in visitor numbers but from the mid eighties on it has gone ballistic. Today, there are nearly 400,000 visitors annually to the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, making it the most popular arid land National Park in Australia.

Good on ya Bob

Originally part of an Aboriginal Reserve, Uluru and Kata Tjuta were taken out and established as a national park in 1958. After years of Aboriginal Land Rights activity, it was in 1983 that then Prime Minister Bob Hawke acknowledged Aboriginal title to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. By 1985 the traditional owners were granted ownership of the National Park under an agreement to lease it back to the Federal Government on a 99 year lease. Today many Anangu work within the Park, as well as having a majority on the Park Board of Management. The Park became listed as a World Heritage Natural Property in 1987 and re-listed again in 1994 as a significant Cultural Landscape.

In the 1950’s an airstrip and Motel were built at the base of Uluru to cater to the tourist market. However, with the rapid increase in visitor numbers the area was starting to suffer adverse environmental impact and so was closed down in 1984. This coincided with the opening of Yulara Resort about 20km north of Uluru on the Park boundary.

A good sneak preview

The Uluru Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre within the Park was established in 1995 and is great place to visit first upon arrival. You can learn about Tjukurpa (Aboriginal law, religion and knowledge), Anangu art, their way of life, foods they eat, wildlife, etc. There are excellent displays, photo collages, sound panels outlining oral history, videos, artefacts, etc. Explanations are in Pitjantjatjara, English, Italian, German, French and Japanese. A little prior knowledge before you head out exploring the Park will maximise your experience.

Shall I … shan’t I?

While many eager travellers head to Uluru with the express intention of climbing the Rock, there is a growing trend away from it due to the wish of local Anangu that visitors don’t climb. The track up Uluru crosses over an important Tjukurpa site which they’re not so keen people walk on and Anangu also feel a sense of responsibility for the safety of visitors. There is a fairly regular number of injuries and fatalities, mostly from people slipping and falling or suffering heart attacks later, often a day or two later!! At this stage, however, there is no mandate and the decision lies with the individual.

For those deciding to climb, they should take plenty of water as it is quite a steep climb and takes about 3 hours return. Make sure you wear good footwear as the rock is really rough and gets bloody hot in summer. Also check for any notices about closing the climb as in summer Park Management do close it once above a certain temperature.