OPINION: Change comes through insight
TWENTY-six 26 years ago my husband and our 18-month- old daughter made the pilgrimage to Ayers Rock and epitomised the traditional tourist; we climbed the rock. At the time I gave no thought to the reason I climbed the rock; it was just the done thing.
Fast forward to 2019 and when it was announced the climb to the top of Uluru would shut, I knew that I wanted to return and climb it one last time. And so began my journey.
I am not sure if it's age, or not having a baby to tend to, but this journey has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Not only have I been reminded what a beautiful, inspiring country we live in, but I have seen first-hand how passionate people are about the areas they've chosen to call home.
Every person has a story, every face tells of a different hardship that has been overcome and everyone is an ambassador for their little corner of Australia.
It mattered little where we stopped; every town had a claim to fame, whether it was Glenalbo in SA where the flies outnumber the sheep, that outnumber the people, or Augathella where the local footy team proudly call themselves the mighty meatants, or even that this weekend the world's only land regatta is held in Alice Springs - only in Australia!
There have been many highlights on this amazing trip, but just as I started out, Uluru sat at number one, but for a completely different reason to what I expected.
See, after 3000km and much internal deliberation, I chose not to climb the rock.
This is one of those topics that I could have skirted around and simply just talked about the rest of my trip, but my first day at Uluru completely changed my thought pattern.
To have the opportunity to speak to the local Indigenous residents and hear their passion for their corner of Australia made me completely stop in my tracks. I decided to spend my time walking around the rock, learning its secrets and listening to its glorious silence and speaking to many locals to gain an insight into their lives and their homes.
Day two, with my mind nearly made, I read the sign at the base of the rock. it simply said "Please don't climb Uluru.
We, the Anangu traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, have a responsibility to teach and safeguard visitors to our land. The climb is dangerous and too many people have died while attempting to climb Uluru.
We feel sadness when a person dies or is hurt on our land. We worry about you and worry about your family.'' It then went on to say "That's a really important, sacred thing that you are climbing. You shouldn't climb. It's not the thing to do”; and with that I finalised the decision I had spent so much time deliberating.
I returned to the town centre and opted to sit with some elderly Aboriginal ladies and I learnt to understand dot painting and its significance. Pollyanne, the artist, painted for me, a very specific painting about girls learning from a grandmother figure about their land - how appropriate.
Along my trip a fellow traveller told me that we only regret the things we don't do. I think he was wrong, I won't regret my decision. I learnt far more about my country by remaining at the base of the rock than I ever could have from its summit.