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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Uluru - big in Japan

What's wrong with Uluru?

On the one hand, nothing.
It's a big rock in the middle of the desert, just like it has been for hundreds of millions of years.

On the other hand, it's a bit odd when you can go days and not see a single Anangu, or Aboriginal person in the area.

All the hotels seem to be staffed primarily by Koreans. The tour guides are all white Aussies, with the exception of the dozens of Japanese guides who exist to ferry the hundreds of Japanese tourists seeking to climb the rock daily.

Of course the locals don't like people to climb the rock. Not that the Japanese give a shit. They're not interest in Anangu culture (just as well, as the locals and their culture are quite hard to encounter out here), they just want to conquer the big red rock.

Everything is preposterously priced, as you might expect in the middle of four deserts. But that is disappointing given the poor level of service going on.

I'm not like those pampered Yank tourists who go to Third World countries and whinge non-stop about the conditions. Really, I'm not.

But this is Oz, and the prices are eye-watering: $45 just for a lift to go the four kilometres from the accommodation to the rock and back in a bus. And that's the cheapest way to do it. Tours (with 22 year old Sydney born guides reading from scripts) and food (mostly fast) are also four times the price they ought to be.

Continually, I'm hearing and reading the lip-service paid to embettering the Aboriginals of the area with bemusement.

Why isn't there a college out here to teach the locals how to work their own land? How to run accommodation and tours without Whitey as middleman to claim all the profit? Why do they still live off handouts in a place that's clearly minting money?

And why does all the staff in the hotels and tour firms rotate with such frequency that a person here for 12 months is considered a veteran?

Uluru may be big in Japan. But for me, despite its awesome beauty, it has been a disappointment.

Australia could learn a lot from some so-called Third World countries about how to assist indigenous populations rather than simply throwing them a bone like token land ownership then going on to rape their history and culture for tourist bucks.

Photos to follow once I reach Melbourne.


Missing Neighbour said...

The Japanese are some of the worst tourists in the world. I regularly encounter them on my winter excursions to Switzerland. They exist in some sort of cultural bubble no matter what country they visit. They block book everything to keep the experience as Japanese as possible.
One occasion in particular springs to mind whilst I and several friends (as well as a load of Swiss people) were waiting for a Train at a high altitude train station in the alps. The train was late (which is highly unusual in Switzerland). When it eventually arrived one of the two carriages had been block booked by a whole load of Japanese tourists who en masses stepped out from the nearby restaurant just as the train was pulling up. Well the Swiss were having none of it and proceeded to board the train and occupy every available space. I duly followed their lead. When a train guard boarded and ordered them off they told him on no uncertain terms what to do with himself. I laughed at the incredulous faces of all the bemused Japanese faces as the train pulled away from the platform. It still brings a smile to my face every time I think about it. On another note, this was at around 2000m above sea level and not one of the cretins was wearing outdoor clothing.

Missing Neighbour said...

Apologies on the overuse of the word faces. :)

attic luddite said...

Excellent questions about the lack of actual infrastructure for Aboriginals/Anangus in the form of education or even a structured share in tourist profits, when the white Aussies are clearly coining in. What you report is disheartening, but depressingly shows the actual nature of Australia's 'multicultural' policies.

I hope the landscape at least remains inspiring.

JC Skinner said...

There is a contribution to the local community in terms of a slice of the national park entry fee, AL.
Still only a pittance ($8 or so per person) compared with the money Voyages are making from their resort at Yulara.
Voyages kindly offer the Anangu people $200,000 a year (only if it's matched by visitors, that is.) I reckon they're turning that sort of profit in less than a week.
@MN: With the Japanese it really is all about the photo op.
A travel writer once told me that when writing about a destination for Westerners, they want to know where the secret little places known only to locals are.
With the Japanese and Chinese, it's exactly the opposite. They couldn't care less about what's real, or authentic or indigenous.
They're only interested in grabbing a snap of themselves on top of Uluru, or the Eiffel Tower, or in front of Big Ben, so that they can show off to the folks back home.
It's something to do with the Asian concept of status. I suppose you could say they don't want to lose face! ;-)

boro said...

Hope you are enjoying it anyway! Im confident you wont stay quiet while being ripped off anyway :)

Informer said...

Pack mentallity me thinks, security in numbers. I also am guilty of it at times, when in a strange country stay to the known and not the unknown, could get a nasty shock comin at ya....Kungfu Panda is a scarey thing!!

JC Skinner said...

Pandas are China, informer. More like rabid kangas in this part of the world.