Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Ken and a pinnacle

Pinnacles panorama


drive through


emu in the bush



not yet eroded

on the sea



Even though we’ve had two days in Perth, it was tough to make a choice from all the great things to do. We’ve come to the conclusion that with the exception of Sydney (perhaps Melbourne, too) Australian cities are lovely places to live, but not all the special for people like us to visit. We have many fine cities at home and the Aussies ones are just not that different. When we fly thousands and thousands of miles, we don’t want to see the same things we see at home. Therefore, we chose a tour to the Pinnacles, even though it meant for a twelve hour day on a bus. A tourist’s work is never done!!

As we left the port, we noticed a ship very much the same dimensions as ours, But instead of cabins and balconies, this ship had deck after deck of animal pens. The guide said that many animals, sheep and steers in particular, are shipped to the Middle East alive so that they can be slaughtered in the halal manner that is customary in their culture. Mucking out all those pens on the lengthy trip must be an aromatic delight. Hopefully, the animals enjoy their final cruise overseas.

In the midst of the busy container port, we saw a small typical Australian home covered with a corrugated tin roof. This home belongs to a 90+ year old woman who has refused to sell her home to the commercial concerns all around her. Her view of the sea had been obliterated by stack after stack of containers.

As I looked around the bus as we drove, it was easy to tell the Aussies from the rest of us. Seat belts are a very strict law here. We’ve had taxi drivers yell at us for not putting them on in the back seat and every seat on a bus has belts. The Aussies were buckled up.

We drove through some areas that had recent forest fires. Our guide explained that the Aboriginals used to set regular controlled fires to burn off the grass and encourage new growth. Many of the plants here require heat and/or smoke to germinate and new green shoots were already apparent in the blackness.

As we drove we were on the look out for kangaroos. They are a menace to drivers - and drivers to them - much like deer can be dangerous on our roads. They are most active at dawn and dusk and like to drink the moisture on the edge of the cooling pavement as it condenses after the sun goes down. Many vehicles have wire cages over the bottom half of their windows called roo catchers. We didn’t see any roos, but did note emus on the roam, which could have an equally deleterious effect on a car whizzing by.

Much of our drive was on Route 1, a highway that goes the entire way around the country. There was little expressway on today’s drive. Because the population is so small compared to ours, they really don’t appear to be necessary.

Finally we arrived in Nanburg National Park to see the Pinnacles Desert. Millions of years of interaction between lime, sand, rain and wind have transformed an ancient sea floor into a forest of spires and mystical forms dotting the desert sands. Masses of limestone pillars, from a few inches to over ten feet, rise up out of golden sand dunes. In spots the brilliant blue sea could be seen in the distance. Some small pinnacles were just fragments, others were tall, solid mushroom headed giants, and the sharp jagged ones looked like dragon’s teeth. It was a field day for the imaginative as we wandered around the shapes speculating on what they looked like and how they got there. We got two explanations about what formed the spires, but neither made total sense to me. Apparently trees grew in the area at one time and they or their trunks gathered calcium which is stronger than the desert sand. The wind blows the sand away and the calcified spires remain. It would be interesting to see how deep into the sand they really go, but no one has dug them out thus far. We took way too many photos in this picturesque spot and felt glad that it was worth the drive.

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