Pinnacles & Lancelin

pinnIt’s three months, now, since I arrived in Perth, and this weekend found myself anxious to do a little more exploration. So yesterday I headed off to the Visitors Bureau in Perth looking for a one or two day tour to somewhere in the countryside. After browsing the brochures, I settled on a trip to “The Pinnacles”, located about 250km north of Perth. The twelve hour trip offered some picturesque scenery and day out of Perth for just $129.

I was picked up this morning by the driver and the Japanese interpreter who informed me there would be quite a few Japanese people on the tour and that she would be both a guide and a translator. She wasn’t wrong Narelle. After leaving Perth, we called in briefly to a national park where we looked at kangaroos, koalas etc. Great for the tourists, but maybe a little boring for me.

Thus for me, the first major stop was actually at the massive sandhills located just east of Lancelin, which is a small fishing town about an hour’s drive north of Perth. The sandhills – reminiscent of some of those featured in Mad Max – are, apparently popular with sand boarders, dune buggy drivers, motorbikers and four wheel drivers. Throwing caution to the wind, I was the first to sandboard down one of the slopes, and I made a fool of myself, falling off only about ten metres down the hill. The second time around, however, I was much better and it was great fun. Mind you, having to walk up the hill a second time, I quickly got “over it”.

A few more hours in the car, some lunch and then finally we arrived at our destination, The Nambung National Park, home of the Pinnacles. There are two main theories to explain these rather odd looking strucures. The first is that they are “slightly harder columns of limestone that formed around tree tap roots that penetrated deep into limestone formed within ancient sand dunes. Water is always active in limestone and calcite is thought to have been preferentially deposited near these roots. When the softer limestone was eroded away, the columns remained”. The other theory, no longer readily held that they “are the result of calcification of tree stumps from an ancient forest, once covered in sand and now exposed by shifting dunes”.

The experience was quite amazing. Some of the formations are up to 14 feet tall, others just tiny rocks on the ground. The combination of these strange formations, the desert sands, and the ocean closeby makes for an interesting, slightly eery place to visit. As we ambled (?) our way through the stone maze, many people took photographs, with people often interpreting the shape of the rocks to be reminiscent of turtles, churches, elephants etc. While I could see that in some, others were a long bow in interpretation in my view. But what a wonderful experience it was.

As I mentioned previously, most of the people on the tour were Japanese, with the exception of myself and a young English couple. Almost all of the commentary was in Japanese which didn’t worry me so much, since a lot of it was apparently about “Australian culture”, but I know the English couple found it a little overwhelming.

At one point our guide handed around some books about Australian wildflowers – one in Japanese, one in English – and so I kept the Japanese one and handed the English version back. I know, smartarse! Everyone browsed through the wildflowers. But when our guide showed a copy of “Women’s Day” with Mary Donaldson on the cover, and spoke for at least 15 minutes about the Royal Wedding there was genuine interest in the bus!

Coming back I began to get the giggles about the day – the Japanese commentary, the “Air Supply CD” etc – and then finally I lost it when at a road stop cafe a couple asked for “two lattes” and were given the response “would you like milk in them?” You gotta laugh.

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