Around Australia Week 34 – Geraldton and The Pinnacles

Geraldton is a nice spot: we’d be happy to make it our base for some time. Like most visitors, we went to see the HMAS Sydney Memorial on top of the hill, which is beautiful – we loved the design, the flowers around it, and the statue of a woman looking eternally out to sea, looking for lost sailors. A fitting memorial to the HMAS Sydney and all the crew.

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Rob liked the Western Australian Museum at Geraldton, as well; he spent a few hours wandering around checking it out. There was a lot here about the early explorers and shipwrecks, including the Batavia – it was an interesting blend of information about wrecks and modern seafaring activities.

While we were there we bumped into Norm and Alistair (after they’d seen us at a previous park – they came up to say hello) and took a photo of them. We sent it on via email, and in return got some lovely photos of places they’d visited that showed some real imagination into turning them into something special. Turns out that these two are going to create a line of postcards which they will eventually make available for sale… we loved what Norm had done with some of the familiar landmarks. (In a future blog we’ll show you the results.)

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Not far from the museum is The Dome, a popular restaurant chain in this part of the world, in a top-notch position overlooking the water at Geraldton. We had lunch there, then came back a few nights later for a meal with friends we’d met (and then encountered again) on our way around Australia: Mike and Zanette Phillips. Also with us were a lovely couple we met at the park at Geraldton: Tom and Rhonda. We all found plenty to talk about (surprised???) and we were so interested in Mike and Zanette’s story about setting up business on the road that we interviewed them later for an article for Caravan & Motorhome… so watch out for their story!

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If you’re visiting Geraldton, don’t miss calling in to see the Cathedral of St Francis Xavier. Another traveller enthused about it so much that we felt we couldn’t leave without a visit, and we’re glad we did.

Priest-architect Fr. John Hawes was asked by the first bishop of Geraldton to design and build a cathedral for the Geraldton diocese. The resulting “poem in stone” as it was referred to by John Hawes attracts visitors from everywhere to see the unique interior. There are guided tours to the cathedral three days a week, and you can also follow the “Monsignor Hawes Heritage Trail” around Geraldton and Carnarvon.

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One of the last things we did before leaving Geraldton was take Fred and Denise Reeve up on their invitation to visit them at the Belair Lifestyle Village, and meet some of the other residents at their regular Friday night Happy Hour.

Fred and Denise find the lifestyle an ideal solution for caravanners: they have room to store their van at the back of the complex (although some residents actually tuck their vans in under their carports) and they don’t have to worry about leaving their home base unattended while they’re off on their latest jaunt around the countryside. (We had a ball at their Happy Hour, but felt a bit embarrassed that we managed to draw our own names out of the hat for the raffle… but hey, I guess it does happen at times!)

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Jurien Bay is another pleasant little spot and obviously popular with holiday makers. We stayed there for a couple of nights on the way to Perth, and paid a visit to nearby Cervantes (250 km north of Perth) where we went into the Nambung National Park to see the Pinnacles. Entry is $11 per car and access to the Pinnacles area itself is by a 100 metre walking trail from the car park – plus the length of the walking track itself.

But what ARE the Pinnacles? The strange thing is that… well, nobody really appears to know, exactly. Even though these are a tourist attraction attracting over 190,000 visitors each year, a quick browse through the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre reveals that these limestone structures are actually a bit of a mystery. They can range from stubby little rocks to towers of around 5 metres high, and were apparently formed somewhere between 25,000 to 30,000 years ago. The tide receded, the wind blew away the sand… and hey presto, you have gaggles of Pinnacles dominating the landscape. (Not sure if ‘gaggle’ is an appropriate word for a group of Pinnacles, but hey, it’ll do.)

How come they’re this shape? Hmmm… there are several ideas about this. One theory is that the pinnacles are “the remains of a sand dune layer rich with plant roots”. A second theory holds that “the Pinnacles are the calcified remains of trunks from an ancient forest”. Whatever the initial cause, the Pinnacles are a work in progress: when the wind blows it whips the stone into different shapes, and changes in temperature cause them to expand and contract… and crack. Who knows what you’ll eventually be seeing?

And ‘seeing’ is the ultimate challenge here, because you more or less have to squint at the Pinnacles through a fly veil or be attacked by squadrons of those sticky little menaces. Rob and I tugged our fly veils firmly on before we got out of the car, and they were still annoying.

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We watched with interest while a tour bus pulled up and the guide hopped out and shepherded a large group of miserable-looking tourists along the path winding between the Pinnacles. They rushed along the path, hands flapping madly to keep the pests at bay. Some pulled jackets over their heads. Others turned around and retreated to the Discovery Centre. (Where they could have found plenty of fly veils for sale up on the back wall. We wondered why the manager didn’t buy them in the thousands and keep them in a prominently labelled dump bin near the entry. They would have been best-sellers. I was tempted to offer my fly veil to all and sundry for a hundred bucks… but I needed it too much.)

We walked about ½ a kilometre in, then decided there was an easier option… and retreated to go back for the car. Much easier to drive the track rather than walk it! Rob jumped in and out taking photos, and each time we spent several minutes shooing the flies back out of the car. O joy. One enterprising couple (fly veils in place) jumped in the back of a ute being driven by their friends and took photos from there. Good thinking.

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