North from Perth

We had flown to Perth (no not in Scotland) and our plan was  to visit the Pinnacles and then go on to Geraldton  before heading  to Monkey Mia and the dolphins and dugongs. Geraldton is the main town on the coast about 400k (250 miles) north of Perth (although going via the Pinnacles makes it about 508k – 315 miles).  We headed out through the Swan Valley where we spotted five black swans flying overhead. We stopped at Bullsbrook for a pie and drink. We had frequent stops to admire the flora including the smokebush (conospermum) which from a distance looks like a smoky haze, and the Western Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda) which is a parasitic tree which has bright yellow flowers at Christmas time. It was good to see the endangered rose mallee (eucalyptus rhodantha) in flower.

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The Pinnacles

We had had to leave the main road (the Brand Highway) heading up the coast towards Geraldton in order to get to Cervantes which is almost off the beaten track and is the nearest town to the Pinnacles Desert. On the way we passed Emu Downs Wind Farm. It was late afternoon when we arrived at Nambung National Park for the Pinnacles so we had them virtually to ourselves. We drove off the main road onto a track that wound round this forest of rocks growing out of a bed of sand. Many of them seemed not much bigger than us except that they stood several times taller. The rocks vary between a grey and a warm golden colour which is similar to the colour of the sand they stand in. In the distance other sand seems almost white. They are an amazing sight and stretch much further than I had realised – you don’t get much idea of the scale from photographs.  In the distance we could see low scrub and the sea was just over a low hill.

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There was a bit of a breeze and the sun was going down. There was also some light drizzle. On the road back to Cervantes we came across quite a few kangaroos in the road drinking from the puddles. One group of half a dozen allowed me to walk to within a few yards of them but the half light was not good enough for decent photos. We spent a little while watching these animals bouncing and drinking. However this did mean that we had to drive verrrry slowly. Even when they are standing beside the road facing away you can’t be sure they won’t jump out in front of you.   So we decided to stay in the Cervantes Pinnacles Motel in Cervantes for the night.

Cervantes

The small fishing town of Cervantes takes its name from an American whaling ship which was wrecked off the coast in 1844. Apparently it was anchored off Thirsty Point, the promontory which lies to the west of the town, when a gale blew up and the ship was blown ashore on an island to the south of the point. The ship was not badly damaged but due to difficulty of repairs all the contents were sold on the site. The island was named Cervantes and, in 1963, the name was given to the small township which had sprung up on the mainland. Many of the streets in the town take their names from places and people in Miguel de Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote.

The motel in Cervantes was pleasant and the manager (who was leaving the next week) had gone completely over the top with his Christmas decorations. I have never seen so many mechanical santas which made quite a noise when they were all ‘singing’ Christmas songs at the same time. Away from the big city the sky was clear and the stars amazingly bright. Yet again I was able to tell everyone back home that “I can report that the Milky Way is still alive and well and living down under”.

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Next morning we took a walk on Cervantes beach before continuing up the coast stopping to admire a beautiful turquoise sea and white sands at Jurien beach. I noticed a few bins with the label “Doggy dumpage” which sounds much nicer than “Dog waste”.  I took a few photos of a juvenile silver gull which was doing its best to stand still on a concrete pillbox while being buffeted by the wind.

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A little further on Grigson’s Lookout (a low hill a hundred yards off the road) gave us great views inland over the salt flats. The cairn was built in 1875 as a trig point for the survey of the coast between Geraldton and Perth. Back on the coast we reached Port Dennison where we rejoined the Brand Highway (the main Perth-Geraldton road). We had lunch at Dongara bakery.

Geraldton

We got to Geraldton in the early afternoon passing the famous leaning trees of Greenough on the way in. These are trees where it seems that the trunk has not been able to grow more than ten or fifteen feet before the prevailing wind has forced the tree to grow horizontally. They are native Western Australia River Gums (Eucalyptus Camaldulensis) which are hardy growers with weak branches. The constant strong southerly winds burn off the growth on the windward side which the plaque by the trees describes as “flagging”.

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