I asked the flight crew which side of the aircraft Uluru would be visible from and took a seat on the left side – and sure enough, we flew right over and I had a wonderful view. It was nice to see it from the air, especially considering that it was a free aerial view. I posted about taking the window seat before and I think that it is always best to sit by the window.
My next adventure would be up the coast and I booked a ticket with an organized tour company called Western Exposure. In the wee early hours of the morning I walked across from my hotel to the pickup point and saw one young woman already waiting. Within the half hour 3 more ladies showed up and it appeared as though I might be the only man on this trip. Our bus arrived (below) and we met our driver Mick (how Australian is that?) and everyone in the group introduced themselves. There was another man on board: Ian from Scotland, we had Michelle and Ronnie from Hong Kong, Trine from Denmark, Nicole from England, Andrea from Sydney and Iris and Jenna from Ottawa, Canada. When it came time to introduce myself I said, ‘I’ve been backpacking for 16 years and Australia is my 67th country.” Everyone’s eyes opened a bit and there were a few comments about 67 being an impressive number. Mick came from the music industry and he worked as a producer in London for 30 years after being (as he put it) forcibly retired by the piracy of music on the internet.
We began our drive – a long drive – we would be spending most of the day on the bus and would drive for about 12 hours less a few stops. I looked down the aisle of the bus and out the front window and as far as I could see to the horizon was our long road and desert-like shrub brush along the road. I noticed a few yellow warning signs and gave a chuckle as I noticed that drivers were being warned to watch out for Kangaroo and Emu.
Mick had a wonderful collection of music and as we pulled out after our first restroom break he started with Johnny Cash’s On the Road Again and this really set the mood for the trip. Slowly we began to chat a bit but it would be our first stop where everyone began to get to know each other. Our first tourist stop of the day was to Pinnacles Park. I’d never heard of the Pinnacles before and I wasn’t too excited about the stop – until I got out of the bus and saw them and then I was impressed. The Pinnacles are really quite unique and exotic looking and they reminded me of Bryce Canyon in the United States. Everywhere throughout this park were these odd looking rock formations sticking up out of the sand.
Some of the Pinnacles where short, maybe a meter (3 feet) tall and some were a towering 8 or 9 feet (2 ½ – 3 meters). As Mick began explaining how these Pinnacles came to be, I listened with great interest as we walked along looking at them. It seems that hard water deposits formed around the roots of trees that grew in the ancient coast line and after time were buried and then compressed. As the ground has eroded these hard water deposits are heartier than the other compressed soil and rock and they remain as the wind and elements wear away the ground surface. The wind and elements further shape the Pinnacles giving them a unique and weathered look.
One thing that I was not expecting and really surprised me was the massive assault by flies. There were flies everywhere and as soon as you stopped walking they swooped in buzzed your ears and face. It was then that I remember a German tourist at Uluru telling me that the flies in Uluru were not as bad as when she was on the west coast. Ugh, I hope they don’t get worse as we head north.
We walked around for about 45 minutes and over each little hill top we saw more and more – hundreds of these Pinnacles. I took this photo (below) of one of the fields of Pinnacles – the photo shows only one direction but we were surrounded by these little rock structures.
As Australia has a much smaller population than America or Europe and the number of travelers to the west seems to be quite limited, tourists are allowed to walk through the Pinnacles, touch them and pose for photos (as I did in the pic below). As I continued to travel through Australia I would find that public access to many areas that I would consider delicate or sensitive still allowed public access. In many of the national parks people are allowed to climb on rock formations, swim in pools and touch things that would be off limits in many other countries. Much of the land out here is completely unspoiled and the population density is quite low; we might drive for 20 minutes before seeing another car. This low tourist impact is a big benefit to traveling in Australia, especially in the west.
We climbed up to a wooden platform atop the highest bluff that offered a 360 degree view of the park and I was able to see all the way back to the ocean. I captured a photo of the shore line and sure enough, the entire foreground is full of Pinnacles.
I wasn’t really expecting much before we arrived at the Pinnacles but I was quite happy with our visit. Aside from the flies, I found the Pinnacles Park a wonderful excursion and really enjoyed looking at and photographing the Pinnacles. Any caravan tourists that are coming up the coast, I recommend making a stop and checking them out :-)
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