And we drove on; we had covered about half the distance from Perth to Exmouth in a little under two days. I suppose that this is about the distance from Los Angeles, California to Portland Oregon. Before sunset Mick took us to Shell Beach – a beautiful little secluded beach made up of layers upon layers of little white shells. The area around Shell Beach is cut off from the ocean by the Pilbarra Peninsula and the waters have a much higher saline content than the nearby Indian Ocean. The marine life that has survived in this area has adapted to the higher saline content and the number of different species is quite limited on this beach. Mick said that only these white shells survive and we only saw one type of fish in the waters just off shore.
These little shells have spawned over the millennia and they are piled as high as 30’ deep (10 meters). Over thousands of years the pressure from the weight of the shells compresses them into a porous material that is quite hard and can be used as bricks to make buildings. The shells are exported as bricks and for a variety of other uses; near Shark Bay we saw this restaurant that was made entirely of Shell Beach bricks:
Shell Beach is quite beautiful to look at and it has a very unique material for sand. The downside to the beautiful white look of this beach is that the shells are quite rough to walk on – sandals are definitely recommended. To walk in the water I took my sandals off and tried to move around and it was like walking on broken glass; I’ve walked on gravel that hurt less than these shells! I can’t imagine dropping a beach towel and spending a day sun bathing here unless it was a very thick towel.
The other downside to this pristine (looking) beach was the FLIES! As with every other stop we had made since our departure from Perth, this beach was loaded with THOUSANDS of flies. They attacked us as soon as we exited the bus and swarmed all over us the entire time we were here. I pulled out my Aussie fly hat that I’d purchased (it certainly paid for itself a hundred times over) and used it to maintain some sanity as these little suckers buzzed and swarmed. One of my fellow travelers took this shot of me as I was covered in the little black demons. If you look, you can see dozens of them on my hat, two or three in the air and on the right side of the photo you can see that the flash has caught one mid-stroke as he flaps his wings in flight. Yuck!
Before departing I made a quick visit to the bathroom and I began to realize just how scarce water is out here. I’d first noticed water conservation in Perth as many of the urinals are water free; they have a one way cap at the bottom that lets liquids down and keeps smells out. Not sure how they keep the bowel smelling fresh if it constantly coated with each use. I can say that none of the toilets smelled any worse than the (water) flush type. The toilets at Shell Beach are more like a Porta-John than a toilet: they are really just a hole that leads to a large underground tank. The sign asks you to close the lid – not that it will matter, there are so many flies outside that I wondered if opening the lid might attract some away from the beach :-p
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