Canberra, Oct 25 (IANS) Foreign and domestic tourists have this week flocked to Uluru, the sacred Aboriginal site in Australia, before a climbing ban comes into effect on Saturday.
Authorities have reported that tourist numbers had skyrocketed in the past month, as visitors from interstate and overseas tooj advantage of their one last chance to climb the rock, while officials have called for respect for traditional culture, reports Xinhua news agency.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that there were an extra 10,000 visitors to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park per month in the past six months leading up to Saturday’s closure.
However, on Friday morning, strong winds meant rangers had to close Uluru, disappointing the queues of tourists who had gathered before daybreak.
So far, rangers at Uluru have decided to re-open the climb and almost 100 people have already begun climbing. It will be closed permanently at 4 p.m. on Friday.
Uluru is considered to be a place of spiritual significance by its indigenous custodians, the Anangu people, who have pleaded with tourists not to climb it for many years.
But they haven’t enforced an outright ban. That will finally happen Saturday when no one will be allowed to make the steep ascent to the top of the monolith.
Uluru custodian Leroy Lester told the ABC there were several reasons why Anangu wanted the climb closed.
“Mainly because it’s a sacred site and mainly because for safety reasons, pollution on top, no toilets up there and E. coli killing all the organisms,” he said. “And it’s very, very dangerous.”
Thirty-seven people have died in Uluru’s history while trying to make the climb.