Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles

[Kyle]The night was not comfortable! Early in the evening the wind coming over the dunes propelled 1000’s of grains of sand up under our rain fly and into our tent, sifted by the mosquito netting, it rained fine particles over us as we tried to sleep. Eventually I built a burm of sand up against the rain fly on that end, it stanched most of the flow. We still woke up with us and everything in the tent, covered with 1/8” of fine sand. This is when you do not want to rub your eye as you wake up. Anyway, we were dry, and when we climbed out the tent most of it fell off. We left our tent and headed into the town of Jurian, where I spent an hour on hold making our return flight reservations with Quantas. Since we were close, we headed for Lesueur National Park on our return to camp. On the way we passed as sign for the campsite we had actually been looking for, discovering we had not camped in the correct spot, we felt we were secluded and remote enough all would be well.

Lesueur was an unexpected gem, and a biodiversity hot spot. The park is hardly mentioned in any of the guides and pamphlets available, nor on the local towns’ information boards . The park is remote and accessed only via a rural dirt road. Within the park is a nice paved 18km loop, providing views of the terrain, including the mesas and the local ocean. Almost immediately on entering the park we spotted two blue tongue lizards (also known as snub tail skets) and a group of kangaroos resting under the shade of the tree. The area was established as a park because of its amazing biodiversity (and international hot-spot), many of the plant and animal species found here are endemic to the park and endangered. The park only has two hiking trails open to the public (one 4km and the other 2.5km), I had initially intended to take the 4km trail to the summit of Mount Lesueur, but since we joined on the wrong side of the entrance, we ended up doing both trails. There were so many wonderful and unusual (to us) varieties of plants) and so tightly packed together, that it felt more like a botanic garden than a naturally occurring habitat. The only other person we saw on the trail was taking pictures of the many, tiny, wild orchids (which includes a black one). Much of the biodiversity isn’t apparent in larger scales, Maryanne made the comment that if you look out over the landscape the colour is absent, but wherever you look in the near distance is full of bright colour everywhere, but all on a tiny scale. The hike eventually took us to the summit of the plateau where we were again treated to great views of the park and the coast beyond.

Once again we find we have a park practically all to ourselves, we are so spoilt with this, that whenever we see another car in the car park, or someone else on the trail, we find ourselves disappointed. We’ll have to kick that habit I’m sure! For now it is wonderful to not have to worry about other tourists as we take pictures.

We popped into our campsite briefly to ensure all was still there (it was), and then headed south to Nambung National Park, the site of a popular tourist draw, the Pinnacles. We had both seen postcards and photographs of these geological forms, so pretty much knew what we should expect, but our jaws both fell as we discovered the expanse of the site. On the images we’d seen there have generally been an Armani clad couple in front of a dozen pinnacles photographed in stunning light. Dust covered, and certainly NOT Armani clad, we had planned to be there for the light of the setting sun.

The Pinnacles are essentially 1000’s of individual hard limestone columns, known to have once been sand dunes, how the spiked columns actually formed is not known (or certainly not agreed among geologists). Over time the wind exposes and then recovers these pinnacles, and it is believed that just a fraction are currently visible (many more still buried). The site covers about 2km square; there are hills and pinnacles as far as the eye can see.

Cars are allowed access via a sand track that weaves its way through the area, often squeezing itself between two large pinnacles. The road was in good shape for a sand track, but we and the few others in the park, found it difficult to get out of first gear before we were stopping and climbing out for more pictures. The yellow/orange sand in stark contrast to the glaring white dunes of the distant beach, and the colour is accentuated by the low, reddish light of sunset. Most of the tour groups had long gone for the day, so again it was just us and a couple of other cars left to wonder the site and its long shadows. I found a family of 5 galahs, nesting in a cavity in one of the pinnacles. They allowed me to get fairly close before they started complaining with their loud squawks. I tried to keep a distance to avoid stressing out the family, but I was still close enough to hear chicks begging in the nest.

A little while along the vehicle trail, Maryanne spotted three kangaroos in the bushes. I was further down the hill so she directed me to their location so I could take pictures. As I got in the general vicinity, they decided I was too close, and they bounded across the sands, weaving through the pinnacles – the kangaroos of the Pinnacles, pretty cool!

The sunset of course, meant that it would soon be dark, and we had to hurry to get back to our camp while we could still see the roads and to protect ourselves from generating any new road kill.

[Maryanne]For a site where I was pretty much expecting to see what we’d already seen in the many pictures, we were amazed to discover a treasure that will remain a highlight of our trip to Australia.

[Kyle]Back at camp we built a fire and had a dinner made from an assortment of remnants from our food bag (with a flight to catch in a couple of days, we have to finish up all we can’t carry). This night was even worse than the previous. Even though it started out with almost no wind, giving us the chance to shake the sand off everything before going to bed, the wind picked up and we resumed our constant snow of sand, joined with the whip crack of the tent walls. As I was climbing into bed I found a tick. I quickly put him outside, but this gave me (and to a greater extent, Maryanne) the heebie-jeebies all night. This meant that once I finally relaxed from constant worry from being bitten, and just as I’d fall asleep, Maryanne would let out a yelp and swear she was being bitten, and I would have to search for a potential tick with the flash light). By the time we both finally got tired enough to no longer care, gusts of winds would shake the tent and the sand began flying. The other thing was that I had planned to get up early, and without an alarm clock, I was also nervous I would not wake up in time. Our plan was to get up early, get the tent and car packed up and return to the Pinnacles for sun rise (or shortly after). We managed to get up (hardly surprising) and be on the road before official sun rise, arriving at the Pinnacles just 20 minutes after.

Except for a diehard photographer, looking for the best light, we were the only people there. This gave us the freedom to stop the car right in the middle of the one lane road any time we saw anything of interest, and to wonder off without concern for other tourists. This time we also took the walk trail through the Pinnacles. More great pictures, including some of the galahs in the morning, and we also had time to watch a blue tongue lizard go through his morning routine of being cute. Still not in a hurry to leave we had breakfast and re-packed the car, (preparing the car for its return to the rental company, and our back packs for our flight the following day) while waiting for the visitor centre to open.

Eventually we found ourselves back on the highway and heading for a hotel in Perth, presumably with showers, internet, and a comfy, tick and sand free bed (along with other luxuries like electricity, pizza delivery, and the like).


Anonymous said...

well U2 you have certainly had us wondering where you were and as usual ejoying yourselves in the procces fabulas photos and tales of the RIVERBED I hope Kyle has paid for first class hotel room for you I have just sat and read all the postings from the last 2 weeks and enjoyed every one wish I had been with you but at least I was as i read the blog.

Mommy Dearest said...

I am left, amazingly, with few words after reading these wonderful accounts of your adventures. So you have left Perth. And where are you going? You neglect to tell your Dear Readers what the future plans are. Are you headed back to the US? Africa? Iceland maybe?

Whereever you have landed, I also hope it includes a great hotel, hot showers and meals prepared by someone else. Be safe! Missing you.

Anonymous said...

That's one good thing about sailing- no ticks. Searching each other for ticks is a primate obsession that is older than time. Doin' da Gritty Gritty Giggity Giggity!

- Glenn Quagmire

Anonymous said...

G'day Mates:
For an American bloke and a Scottish Sheila, you both have become fair dinkum swagmen.
Keep enjoying the billabongs and keep the Matildas' dry.
Thirty five foot seas will seem mild after trekking through the outback.


Karen said...

Reading your posts about Western Australia (which I did all in one sitting) transported me to the desert there, feeling every bone-jolting bump in the ‘roads,’ practically tasting the red dust and trying not to make any sound that would scare away or threaten any of the wonderful creatures. The experience seemed so real that after reading the last one, I was surprised and disappointed to realize I was actually sitting in front of my computer, with the sorry results of the latest job search waiting for me in the other window. I’m SO looking forward to your next stop! ;-)

Happy trails!