One of the most definitive things that all of us do on a holiday is bring back memorabilia or souvenirs from the trip. But what happens if you bring back a piece of the very place that was on your itinerary? Surprised? Then hang on for there is more to come.
In central Australia lies a historical site called Ayers Rock or Uluru. This magnificent red rock is sacred to the aborigines of the region and is located in the Kata-Tjuta national park. Several international tourists are known to steal pieces of the rock. But strangely, most tourists around the world are now reposting the stolen pieces back to the park, often at great expense, because of ill luck or mysterious misfortune that has befallen them after the illegal removal of rocks from this spiritually momentous site.
A visual treat rising (about 1,142 ft high) from seemingly nowhere in the deep centre of Australia (the closest city being Alice Springs), this rock formation is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. The impact of this stunningly beautiful monolith is heightened when tourists witness a dazzling interplay of colors and light when the sun rises and sets around the rockscape. A spectrum of colours from deep russet to violet bathe the rock and nothing prepares one for the immensity of this sacred monolith. Uluru is sacred to the Anangu — the aboriginal people of the area. Listed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO, the area around the rock formation is home to numerous water bodies, petroglyph rock caves, several endangered species and ancient paintings. When William Gosse stumbled upon the landmark in 1873, he named it Ayers rock after Sir Henry Ayers who was the chief secretary of South Australia and since then both names have been employed. Geologists refer to Uluru as an ‘inselberg’, literally meaning an island mountain. Archeological findings near the site indicate that the rock was home to humans for more than 10,000 years.
According to the local aborigines the experience is truly enriched only when one understands the cultural and spiritual significance of the place. The historical site is richly celebrated in the myths and legends of the aborigines and their dreamtime stories in particular. Though several tourists climb the rock in order to explore its secrets, the aborigines advise enthusiastic visitors to avoid climbing. Since the rock is viewed as a sacred space they believe they would be transgressing on dreamtime traditions by climbing the rock. They believe that great misfortune will fall upon people who disrespect their sacred space. There is a ban on photography on certain sections of the Uluru where specific aboriginal rituals are still in practice.
What the traditional owners of the Uluru tell the tourists is to respect and enjoy a landscape that is both rich and vibrant. What we as law abiding tourists need to remember is the generosity of these people in sharing their sacred space. It is enough if we bring back memories that can be treasured and cherished from this land that rocks!