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Australia: Tourists flock one last time to Uluru Rock, now closed to climbers

Hundreds of tourists flocked to Uluru, a famous rock formation in the heart of the Australian desert, for the last time on the eve of the ban on its ascent. Beginning on Saturday, a measure permanently prohibiting the rise of this giant monolith, considered sacred in Aboriginal culture, will take effect at the request of its owners, the Anangu Aborigines.

Hundreds of people waited for hours Friday morning for permission to begin the climb, prohibited until mid-morning due to high winds. Parks Australia has indicated that weather conditions will be re-assessed throughout the day to determine if the climb could continue to be permitted.

“I just came to see but when I learned that this was the last time it was possible (to climb), I decided to try,” said a tourist AFP Polish, Matt Oswiecimiki, 29 years old.

While deeming “normal” such a ban out of respect for the Anangu people, he was determined to seize the opportunity to climb the rock one last time. Many tourists think that climbing Uluru, also called Ayers Rock, is one of the things you absolutely must do when visiting Australia.

Ayers Rock is “not a playground”

The Anangu Aborigines, who have venerated the place for tens of thousands of years and who own it, had decided to ban the rise of Ayers Rock in 2017, saying that “this is an extremely important place, not a playground or a theme park “.

Tourists, however, will still be allowed to visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park where they can stroll or discover the indigenous heritage.

In recent months, tourists flocked to the site, eager to visit it before the ban came into effect. In the 12 months to June, more than 395,000 people visited Uluru-Kata National Park, 20% more than the year before, according to Parks Australia. Only 13% of them, however, climbed Uluru.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt likened this influx to “a rush of people who would like to climb the Australian War Memorial”.

“Our sacred objects, community by community, are of absolute importance in the history of this nation of peoples,” he told the chain. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Saturday marks the 34th anniversary of the award of the park's title to its traditional owners.

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