Uluru. What’s One Superstition More Or Less?

We woke up at 3:30 in the morning to witness the sunrise over Uluru, before starting our exploration of that most famous of Australian places. To be honest, I wanted to climb Uluru. It is a rugged and wind swept climb of some note, and I am sure that I would have enjoyed it immensely, being an avid hiker.

We first got our glimpses of The Rock at sunset the day of the Kate Tjuta Hike. We also got our first pleadings and warnings of the unlikely possibility of climbing Uluru. “The Climb” is the traditional route taken by ancestral Mala Men and has great “spiritual” significance for the traditional people of Australia. As such they urge at every moment that we (uninitiated) do not climb. We are asked to respect their culture, and don’t climb. The climb is not prohibited (in the strictest sense) but it is dissuaded forcefully. The approved and urged track is to do the 10km Base Walk, a flat long stroll around the rock, from which you can see many “sacred” sites.

In the end I opted for the base walk, partly from peer pressure, and partly because I had not come to conquer The Rock, but to know it and add its fact into my experience of the world. But, I spent the long, walk in contemplation.

To me the argument for not climbing is the poorest of arguments. It amounts to showing (feigned) respect for magical thinking.  Consider the following: “Our culture insists that we have the one true path to god, and we must destroy any one who is not faithful to this path.” Should we, would we, free thinking people of the world respect that magical thinking? Clearly not, or not when I put it in such direct terms anyway.

The Anangu superstition, that the rock is sacred and reserved for their ancestors, is not worthy of respect. Please do not misunderstand, the Anangu do have many ideas to share, ideas that are natural fact, ideas about land management, food and water sources, and about how to thrive in such a harsh landscape that I do admire and respect. They also have works of art that are stunningly beautiful, and they have a history, which is interesting and informative to learn about. But to ask me to respect ongoing, obvious, magical thinking…that bothers me.

Is the path to peace and harmony really to allow each sect to own their own supernatural, un-provable one true way to heaven? Seems to me that is the way towards more of the same. The way forward should be to dissuade all rules, laws, “cultural norms” and actions based on religious thinking of any kind. If you can’t prove it, if it is of mystical origin, have at it, but keep it to yourself.

Uluru is a beautiful natural place, and the Anagu are a beautiful natural people. Nuff Said.