I remember going to the Pinnacles as a kid, and wandering around this patch of yellow-sand desert poking up out of the coastal scrub, filled with eerie rocks that were much bigger than me… a place to lose yourself in, to watch the shadows grow longer and the patterns of the wind on the sand. We were always told that they were fossilised trees, which had decayed and filled with a harder substance (calcrete) than the limestone surrounding them. Nyungar people told me it’s a punishment place, where a family who broke Law in a big way were punished by being turned into stone. Other people who broke Law were sent to spend time there, amongst the frozen remnants of their ancestors.
Whatever the cause of these strange spooky rocks, they’re beautiful in a slow and deep kind of way. We arrived just at sunset, and Joey raced off towards the sun as the shadows turned the yellow sand into gray. We followed the tracks of other humans and animals among the rocks and mounds of sand, and Joey and I walked through the gathering darkness back to meet Jean and drive into the night.
Broome to Kalbarri
We spent a couple of lovely days staying with Shelley and her daughters Tya and Kiara. Mangos dripping from the trees, Sophia was screenprinting hundreds of “Hands off the Kimberley” t-shirts in the backyard and there was Jael and family living around the corner. Too sad, we packed up for the epic drive to the Pilbara.
We missed visiting my cousins in Karratha by a day, and had to find a place to stay. Full moon, and we found a beautiful bay to set up camp in somewhere between Karratha and Dampier. The sides of the bay were huge mounds of those pindan-red rocks. We scrambled up to watch the moonrise, and poked around looking for rock art (the Burrup Peninsula is famous for having the largest rock art gallery in the world, mostly etchings into rocks) but didn’t find any. After a delightful dinner and a bit of a snooze we were again woken up by bogans and decided to cut our losses and move camps. They tried to convince us to stay, but their channel-flicking DJ style was too much to cope with and we hit the road again, sleeping at some roadside rest stop somewhere on the way to Exmouth.
Exmouth… we were back in the sea. Swimming the famous Ningaloo reef, with sharks and parrotfish and hundreds of other snorkellers… Windy as all hell but SO worth it. We spent 2 days there, then headed down to Shark Bay… Jean took us to visit the dolphins at Monkey Mia where the baby dolphin’s out-of-control dives cracked us up, and Joey followed a slow but stately bungarra to its hiding place under the boardwalk. We paid a quick visit to the Stromatolites: the oldest living species on earth. They look a bit like rocks, but the incredible thing was seeing that the damage caused to the living rocks by wagons and horses can still be seen today; a hundred years later the tracks are as clear as ever.
More and more driving… until we finally reached Kalbarri. We walked the gorges, sat high in the wind on the striated rocks and dreamed about cooler days for hiking. We watched snakes cross dirt roads, and stopped to chat with the blue-tongued lizards by the side of the road in the mornings.
We dropped by the camps out at Walmadanj (also known as James Price Point) to offer our solidarity with the Traditional Owners and the protesters camped out there trying to stop work on Woodside’s mega gas hub. We walked on the ancient reef literally in the fossilised footprints of dinosaurs. Joey went on a bushwalk looking for signs of endangered bilbies - recently captured on video in the area. We ate turtle and goanna cooked up by the family. We met up with old friends, and met a bunch of lovely and very dedicated people, some of whom were planning to spend the wet season living out there to make sure nothing dodgy happened during the off season.
It’s a beautiful place, and the people who were sacrificing their daily comforts to live out at the camps were impressively strong and passionate about what they were doing to prevent the destruction of that special place. At the road camp, Black Tank, people blockaded the road twice a day to hold up the shift changeovers.
The Traditional Owners of the place were very welcoming despite the briefness of our visit. There’s been some good news about the struggle, and you can find out more at Hands Off Country and The Wilderness Society.
This photo is from the Hands Off Country website.