Having spent a couple of days exploring the city of Perth with Imy and Mike, Miles and I were keen to explore further up the coastline. We had been told on countless occasions that the West Coast gives you a flavour of the ‘real Australia’ in comparison to the East Coast. We were so excited about exploring, however, we weren’t quite sure of the best way of going about it…
Having spent the last few weeks travelling down the East Coast in a campervan, neither of us were that enamored by the thought of doing that again quite so soon. the constant driving had become a tad tiresome which ruled out the possibility of a hire car. We ended up popping into a branch of Peter Pans in the city centre and asked a little about any tour options available to us. We took home a couple of brochures for a tour company called Aussie Wanderers to have a think about over night. After talking through the itinerary with Imy and Mike we decided just to go for it and we made the booking; it was a little expensive (!) but meant that we would see as much of the West Coast as we good fit in, and – the best part – we would be driven around the entire time! With no rest for the wicked, the following morning we were up at the crack of dawn, waiting to be picked and ready to embark on our week long trip up to the town of Exmouth, 800 miles away from Perth, along the western coastal roads.
After a little wait outside a hostel in the city centre we were soon picked up by our mini bus, introduced to our guide, Cabs, and met the rest of the group on the bus. There was a good mix of people on board, mostly girls, but Miles didn’t seem to mind that too much and we all got on pretty well pretty quickly.
We had about a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us up to our first stop of the day; the Pinnacles Desert at the Nambung National Park. The change in scenery from the East Coast was instantly apparent, the roads were vast and quite, the red dusty earth a sheer reminder that we were in Australia – I for one was super excited to see the scenery on this side of the country.
On entering the Nambung National Park we stopped off initially at the Pinnacles Discovery Centre which is a super modern museum with interesting artefacts about the history, ecology and wildlife in the area. We found this museum fascinating and, surprise surprise, Miles and I were the last of the group still wandering around the centre. All the reading.
Soon we wandered out into the desert and were treated to our first glimpse of the impressive Pinnacles. This surreal landscape consists of numerous limestone pillars that rise out of the yellow sanded Quindalup dunes. The pillars have been formed by the leaching of calcium carbonate, dissolved from sea shell fossils by winter rains. As the calcium accumulated over thousands of years it formed a hard limestone rock. Westerly winds eroded the remaining surface of loose quartz sands, gradually exposing a forest of tree-like limestone statues. It really is an amazing place and honestly feels like you are walking on a different planet.
The discovery of Aboriginal artefacts suggests that the Pinnacles Desert was exposed around 6,000 years ago but has been covered by shifting sand again to remain hidden until only a few hundred years ago. Although there is no evidence of any recent human occupation there are several aboriginal legends surrounding the Pinnacles. The Yuet people call the pinnacles the ‘Werinitj Devil Place’, a haunted area where young men were explicitly told not to go. The ones that disobeyed the elders apparently vanished into the dunes and the pinnacles are believed to be their grasping fingertips attempting to claw out from under the sand….
After an hour or so wandering around the amazing desert we wandered back towards the van, ready to hit the road again towards the town of Geraldton where we would be stopping for a quick lunch stop out on the beach.
After spending some time in Geraldton we hit the road again for a couple of hours and arrived at our accommodation for the evening; the Big River Ranch in the town of Kalbarri. You really couldn’t stay in a more rural and remote location if you tried; the signs and warnings for spiders and snakes was a deafening reminder that we were well and truly staying out in the Australian wilderness… The ranch was super cool, basic for sure, but a great place to rest our heads. We all set up camp in the open air kitchen and set about cooking a dinner of barbecued steak which we sat out with a few beers and a chat with the other travellers. By this point we were all fairly knackered after a long day on the road. After showers (making sure to check to check for creeping and slithering guests, of course) we hit the sack for a well deserved night sleep!