11 June 2013

Fremantle to Darwin- The Pinnacles and Monkey Mia

The Pinnacles
As the dry season was about to commence up North, Darwin seemed a good choice to continue the travels. We decided to make a roadtrip out of it and see the most talked about attractions on the way. The Pinnacles, Monkey Mia, Coral Bay, Exmouth, Cape Range National Park, Karijini National Park, Broome, The Gibb River Road and Kakadu National Park.

Instead of buying a car that might break down on our 6000 km journey on rough Western Australian roads, we chose the safer option and rented a car, a 4WD that would allow us to explore a bit more.
To make the trip cheaper we took to Gumtree(a site where you can find, buy and sell anything) and found some travel buddies. Two French and a German girl. More on travelling with complete strangers later. Needless to say it was a huge challenge.

Our first stop was The Pinnacles, less than two hours away from Perth. The Pinnacles are within the Nambung National Park. Beforehand I had only seen a few photos from the area and I thought it was just a tiny collection of rocks in a hidden away corner of the park, but the area is huge. Protruding the yellow desert sand is soft limestone developed through years and years of wind and rain. As far as the eye can see thousands of Pinnacles enjoy their time in the limelight while the yellow sand is constantly moving from one place to another. I never found rocks so mesmerizing.

Sandy Cape Bay

We started late the first day as preparations took more time than we expected, so we decided to make it safe to a camping ground before dark; kangaroos love crossing the road especially by dusk, night or dawn. Not far from Jurien Bay lies a beautiful camping spot officially only reached by 4WD, Sandy Cape Recreational Park. From the moment we hit the dark red sand the car got the signature off-road color it would have for the rest of the trip. It was the cheapest camp ground we went to with only $15 for all five of us. It was the first night of many we went to bed at 8. On an unpowered campsite there really isn't that much to do after sunset and dinner. It's dark and without the impact of noise from motors, as well as the usually action packed days we enjoyed it was a great ending to a day to fall asleep under a night sky lit only by the stars.

Our next destination was to go all the way up to Monkey Mia which from our camping site was a full day of driving, 616 km. On the way we reached Geraldton, a nice little port town with a surprisingly pretty white beach front, shops, restaurants and a great atmosphere. Nothing like a little bit of bonding over a McDonalds meal.

When we left Geraldton and headed on to the highway it was the first stretch I realized how incredibly far our trip would be. For hundreds of kilometers the landscape was the same and the road very straight. It seemed like it would take forever. When we came close to Monkey Mia it was already dark. We decided to try for a 4WD camping site in Peron National Park about 40 km from Monkey Mia, but they weren't kidding when they said strictly 4WD. After just five minutes of driving we were stuck in the very soft sand. What we thought was a 4WD that could take us anywhere was not. There was no other option but to turn around and drive to Monkey Mia. It was our first time driving in the dark and just as we had been warned about there were kangaroos crossing the road right in front of us.
Dolphin feeding

The drama turned out to be a good thing in the end though. We found the Dolphin Resort where we could camp for the night, and then watch dolphin feeding in the morning. The Dolphin Resort lies right by the beach and every morning they have two dolphin feedings, the best at 8 in the morning. After watching the dolphin keeper talk about the dolphins who are used to regular feedings by the resort, it was time for feeding. Only a handful of people got chosen. As the dolphin keeper kept moving along the long row of people who had showed up for the feeding that day, she suddenly yelled out:"You with the Daisy skirt!" I look at her, then I look at my skirt, then look at her again. With out making as much as a yes I stroll out into the water, holding on to my Daisy skirt, and grab the fish I am given. While the dolphin is staring directly at me I gently drop the fish in her mouth, before she drags it with her under water. It was over nearly before it had started but it left me breathless. I forgot time and space, and the noise of the people standing around watching disappeared completely. Feeding a trained circus-dolphin might sound silly to certain people(names shall not be mentioned), but to others(like myself) it was nearly spiritual.
Shell Beach
On the way to our next big destination Coral Bay, we stopped by Shell Beach and the Stromatolites in Hamelin Pool. Shell Beach is exactly that, a big beach made out of billions of tiny shells and only shells. I had imagined a beautiful, idyllic beach from what other travelers had told me, but Shell Beach looks more like a huge industrial area because the shells are mined for calcium used in poultry feed and mulch for gardens, just next to the beach.
Stromatolites in Hamelin Pool
The Stromatolites are rock-like living structures formed by blue-green algae. They can be dated back to billions of years ago, and form an insight into life on the planet from the beginning of time. Hamelin Pool is one of only three destinations in the world where you can still see living Stromatolites.
Ahead of us we had a long drive towards Coral Bay, a place famous for its fantastic snorkeling.

1 comment:

  1. So there are things I never heard about, and Stromatolites are in that group. The scale of it is amazing too. I surely can understand the breathlessness of feeding a dolphin as they must be looking you straight in the eye as you do it. This area must be pure wilderness with its many strange landscapes, and to drive the distances you describe must be a challenge. Your writing is full of personal commentaries making it very interesting to read.