Friday, 1 May 2009

Let’s Make It Up As We Go Along, Shall We? Nambung & The Pinnacles

The most popular day trip from Perth, after Rottnest, is to the Nambung National Park, about a two and a half hour drive North of the city. Nambung is the ‘official’ name for what most tourists are looking for when they’re vainly scanning maps and signs looking for The Pinnacles, a frankly quite freaky patch of desert just inland from the coast near the tiny fishing town of Cervantes.

In fact, the Pinnacles are just about the only things at all between Perth and Cervantes, so hiding them behind a bit of modern-day geographic political correctness seems a bit daft.

Nevertheless and despite the lack of anything of note on the drive, and the regular concerns that you might have missed the turning, the Pinnacles are indeed worth the expedition.

Try to find out how these curious pillars of rock, some tiny, some as big as a bus, were formed though, and you’ll be as confused as you were trying to find the place. For many years the various theories, from the wild and wacky to the potentially practical, were lumped together under the pragmatic response to the question: we don’t really know.

In recent years however, a swanky new visitors’ centre has been built (to justify the park entrance fee, it would seem) with all sorts of interpretive exhibits. When those exhibits have exhausted every possible description of everything else in the area other than the very things everyone has come to see (and, as we’ve already established, there is nothing else to see) their attention is turned finally to these damn nuisance rocks and a couple of fantastical new theories are mixed in with the old ones, as a sort of resigned attempt at giving the building a reason for being. That over with, visitors are spat out into a taterama in the hope of hauling a bit more loot from their wallets and purses.

Which, as I say, is a bit of a shame, because these rocks are quite the thing. Even better in the exposed desert heat, they appear to have prehistorically arranged themselves most conveniently to allow one to view them at close quarter without leaving one’s air-conditioned Toyota.

How thoughtful.

It’s a gentle cruise through the custard-coloured sands, stopping occasionally if the fancy to climb a few steps to a viewpoint takes you, and then continuing in a grand loop to return to the car park for the cash-extraction facility.

Regressing back along the park access road, there are a couple of side roads to some typically stunning Indian Ocean beaches. One such is Hangover Bay but be warned: there are no facilities whatsoever other than a BBQ, so bring your coolbox and your picnic and enjoy splendid isolation amid white sands and crashing surf.

The aforementioned town of Cervantes is home to a tiny number of shops and a general dealer, a bar, a motel and a campground. The beach is very nearly as stunning as that at Hangover, if a little busier with trailers and fishing boats which launch directly from the sands.

If there’s little to see in Cervantes, then at least it’s likely to be new to the first-time visitor – unlike the road back to Perth which, as we now know, has absolutely nothing beside it and has already been viewed on the outward journey. On the return leg then, a couple of lengthy CDs or a well-loaded iPod are essential.

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