Last week I took you back to 2009, and mentioned how it was a rather good year. One of the best, and certainly most adventurous, things I did was to take a road trip up the coast of Western Australia with S, shortly after we’d just got engaged.
The thing is, we just kept finding the strangest stuff. It was like something out of made-up-land. Some things were beautiful, some things were strange, some things were gross. All were amazing in their own special way.
Here are some of the things we found.
Starting in Freemantle, or Freeo if you’re cool, we found some beautiful colonial architecture to start things off. Good breakfasts in this neck of the woods, I’ll say.
We discovered that the bargain-basic-cheapest camper van we rented had been miraculously upgraded to fully-tricked-out-Transit van. It had a kitchen and a bathroom and everything!
This is Ben. We found that we could love a vehicle far more than we thought. Oh how we loved Ben.
Back to the road trip – we’re not all camper van spotters – and we found that the famed red earth is really red!
Driving up the main coast road, we were surprised at how few cars we found. And how wide and open the space was.
We found the most idyllic beachside town, which I ramble on about here.
I could have looked at this view forever.
Alas no, time to get back on the road.
We found that when you see a petrol station, you fill up. Even if you still have half a tank left. That’s because the average rest stop looks like this…
If you’re lucky, you’ll get the petrol station version. You might even find a road train party.
Sidenote: road trains are terrifying. Look at the size of those things!
Sometimes you’ll find one of these on the road. I have no idea what it is but it looks very intriguing.
Further on, we found a jetty that was a mile long. It’s called the one mile jetty, obviously.
It’s so long it even has a train that goes the length of it.
When we visited, half of the jetty was closed for repairs having been damaged by some Weather. I think it’s been renovated now, luckily.
Then we found a satellite dish built by NASA to support the Apollo moon missions. You can climb up it and take cheesy selfies, which of course we’re far too sensible to do.
We found that driving such a long way requires lots of good music, conversation and biscuits.
On this stretch in particular, we found more enigmatically graffitied termite mounds than we saw passing vehicles.
After a long drive we found the Ningaloo reef! Turns out there’s a reef this side of Australia, too, and it’s just as interesting as the Great Barrier Reef.
So we found a boat to take us snorkelling with whale sharks. No big deal.
Our camera wasn’t waterproof so you’ll have to make do with some ambient boat shots.
Back on dry land, we found this pretty immense naval communication station. It serves the Australian and US Navy, and is the most powerful broadcast station in the Southern Hemisphere.
We found plenty of fantastic sunsets, too. Best enjoyed from our picnic chairs with a cold drink.
It helps that there’s so much wide open space. Did I mention the space? To quote Anne Watts, you can see for about three weeks out here.
Then we found a beach made entirely of tiny shells. It was quite a big beach, too. What had happened to all these tiny shellfish, I wonder?
The rain had dissolved some of the calcium in the shells and glued them together. We found a little quarry where they used to be cut up and used as bricks.
Imagine living in a shell house!
Shortly after the shell beach, we found the pièce de résistance. The reason we’d taken this trip in the first place.
What’s a stromatolite, I hear you ask?
I feel the explanation is one for those who want to know enough to google it, but briefly-ish: stromatolites are colonies of cyanobacteria, and are the oldest living things on earth. In fact, they made it possible for us to live – they evolved at the stage of Earth’s history (approx 3.5 billion years ago) where the Earth’s atmosphere was mostly carbon dioxide. Cyanobacteria produce oxygen via photosynthesis, and over millions and millions of years, they produced so much oxygen that they changed the composition of the atmosphere to very similar to that which it is now.
That led to the rise of other, oxygen metabolising creatures that in a sad twist of fate started eating the stromatolites. The consequence is that there are very few colonies living today, and one of the most extensive is found in Hamelin Pool, WA. One of the reasons for this is that due to a sand bar, the water here is trapped and subject to a lot of evaporation. So it’s very salty, and nothing that likes eating stromatolites can live there.
For two biology graduates, this is about as geekily exciting as it gets. It’s a living fossil!
You can see the bubbles of oxygen these little guys are producing. Still doing their bit, all these years later.
Having reluctantly torn ourselves away from the stromatolites, we hit the road again whilst trying not to hit any native (endangered) wildlife.
Sadly, we did not find any bilbies.
We found the other Denham, a town by the same name as a village just down the road from where I grew up. They’re even twinned with each other.
They’re quite different.
In Denham, we found a boat to take us to a pearl farm. We bobbed about looking at the lines and lines of farmed oysters, and found out how exactly you farm shellfish.
The views back to the mainland were pretty cool, too.
On our way back, we were found by a friendly dolphin who accompanied us home.
Back down the coast we headed, to the beautiful natural spot that is Kalbarri.
We found the perfect place to watch the sun go down.
And indulged in a spot of wave watching
Down the road we found a seahorse farm, with the most incredibly cute bright yellow seahorses. I really, really, really wanted to take one home with me.
Sadly it was not to be. Instead, we drove on and nearly took this home with us.
No thanks! I don’t even know what that is. I’m not sure I want to.
Next up we found a pink lake. We didn’t believe it would really be pink.
Turns out, it is.
We found landscapes so flat and empty that the wind roars in from the ocean at such a speed that trees actually grow sideways.
The sheep seem ok though so it’s fine.
We found more, ever increasingly beautiful sunsets. Lucky you don’t have smellovision because this was the stinkiest sunset I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. I think there was natural gas under the beach because the more you walked, the more it stank. Still, it was pretty though.
And finally, the last stop before we returned our dream van in a somewhat bewildered state, we found these rock formations.
They’re called The Pinnacles and nobody knows why they’re there. All I know is they’re really cool.
And that concludes my greatest ever adventure. It was such a strange string of bizarre sights that putting it down all together seems unreal. I promise, I have made none of this up.
And the best part is that hardly anyone (outside of Western Australia…) knows about all these amazing sights. There was basically nobody on the roads the entire time we were there, and most of these places we visited were deserted. Nobody about.
Please, if you can, go now before everyone else cottons on.
Linking up with Angie, Jessi, Emma and Andrea for the Travel linkup
P.S. Some of these photos were taken by S and some were taken by me, but it’s been such a long time ago that I can’t remember which is which. So, we’ll just say that for all the best photos, photo credit goes to S. And this is why I now have my own camera 🙂