Rock of Ages

by Eric Hayman

Ayers Rock is a natural geological feature. It is not a church, a mosque, a man made object.

For one group of people to ban everyone else when that group claims the world belongs to no one but is only held in trust by those alive at any one time is pure hypocrisy, more so when they take the tourists' dollars and (now in 2008) sell them somewhat tacky souvenirs in return.

If no one should climb Ayers Rock because it was sacred to the tribe of Aborigines who once actually lived in the area, why not allow the descendants of the sixteen men killed in the construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge make it sacred and allow them to ban the public from making the rather tame Bridge Climb?

Why not ban people from climbing Mount Everest, or visiting the North Pole. I'm sure someone somewhere calls both of them "sacred".

In the time I spent living and working in Australia, I visited and climbed Ayers Rock. Back in 1977 it was at the end of a dirt road, with a bush airstrip nearby. Today it is slap bang next to a multi-million dollar desert resort, with air-con hotels, air-con coaches and plenty of conned tourists. Think of how many "ignorant" tourists wander around cathedrals and mosques without any reproach from those who take their money.

"Worth seeing. but not worth going to see" sums up Ayers Rock. In 1977 I climbed it, almost alone. I walked the length of its top, stripped off and cooled off in one of the large pools of water that had formed after the night's rain. At least I was as naked as the Aborgines that the Europeans found there and made wear European clothes - all in the name of the Europeans' god. That is what calling things "sacred" does for human beings.
Am I an atheist? No. I'm a realist.

And, for me, The Olgas have a much greater aesthetic pull than Ayers Rock. A much greater "spiritual" pull. Walk around them, walk through them - and feel it. Back in 1977 I felt a great wind roaring through my head as I stood against one of the giant boulders. I was stone cold sober, had not had any hash, or amyl nitrite (although it felt like having had a lungful of the latter) but I felt that unexplained hot dry rush.


You hit the highway out of Alice,
with the other tourist cars,
down the Stuart on the black top -
like all the mas and pas,
down to the Erldunda Homestead,
then west along the dirt.
Through dust clouds or else puddles,
with sweat upon your shirt,
and then the kids jump off the seat,
to give you one great shock:
“That’s it. Dad - there, on the left,
“for sure now, that’s Ayers Rock!”

“Belt up, back there,” you harshly rasp,
“and check your tourist maps -
“that’s just Mount Connor you can see,”
and you let it go at that.

The eski rattles like a drum,
Coke bottles clink in time.
and hub caps spin off through the dust,
or sink into the slime.

The petrol tank is empty,
or has the fuse just blown?
Whichever way, by Curtain Springs
you’re chewed down to the bone.

The tank topped up - at outback price -
one litre thirty cents.
The kids content on candy sweet,
and mother’s voice relents.

In time you reach the famous rock.
With the sun now in the west,
out come the Instamatics
to snap it at its best.

You gaze in silent wonder
at this pimple on the plain -
the chameleon of The Centre,
and monolith arcane.

© Eric C. Hayman. December 1977.
Coober Pedy/Adelaide/?, Australia.

Comments for Rock of Ages

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Ban is wrong word
by: Anonymous

The have not banned climbing, they just don't want people doing it.

Rock of Ages
by: Chester Cool

What's the rhythm of the song?, I was amazed on that rock until the end of the day.

Ban or no ban?
by: Eric Hayman

What a pity "Anonymous" chooses to hide behind that word.

I met a number of people - mostly non-Aborigines - who want to see a ban on climbing the Rock. Then there are the people sending back little bits of stone they took home with them because they have been made to feel guilty for wanting a souvenir of what was perhaps one of the most magical experiences of their lives.
A ban on the climb would dramatically cut the numbers visiting the area. And the cash spent?

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