On our last full day, Brian, our driver, miraculously found some wild black orchids along the road as we headed south from Geraldton to Jurien Bay Marine Park. Declared a protected area in 2003, Jurien now watches over the breeding ground of many diverse & rare fauna like the Australian sea-lion, the world’s rarest species of pinnipeds. Jurien is a place of migrating humpback whales and birds, some from as far away as Siberia, dusky morwongs (fish), sea squirts (ocean floor filter feeders that look like tiny Chinese lanterns), endangered dibblers (yet another marsupial), critically endangered Boullanger Island dunnarts ( mouse-sized marsupials), etc –my head spun with new information and raised consciousness.
We had morning tea, a ritual, on a pristine beach near Wedge, a town of holiday beach shacks that will probably be razed in 2012 for environmental reasons. As I stood there alone relishing the sound of rolling surf, a woman who had never spoken to me before came over and introduced herself as Joan from New Zealand. “I hear you’re from Washington,”Joan began, and I assumed she wanted to chat about The US Northwest. In a way, she did. After she told me at great length about her true passion, quilting, she gave me hundreds of details about her Alaskan cruise scheduled for the following May. About the only words I got to say were, “Yes, I’m from Washington.”
Our next stop was the highlight of the day–Nambung National Park, place of The Pinnacles, a 5-compass attraction that wasn’t truly discovered until the 1960s. Now a quarter of a million visitors gape at them every year. Seventeenth century Dutch sailors under William Dampier exploring the coast of New Holland thought they were the gravestones of an abandoned civilization. If they had landed and explored, they would have realized they were huge limestone pillars of strangely yellow compacted sand caused by water & wind erosion. Beginning as sea shells that became sand and blew upland over 2 million years ago, the structures they formed eroded over time into pillars, or pinnacles.
Our final wildflowers were some black kangaroo paws and a hooded lily. We had driven just over 3,000 miles to find them.
After 19 days on the road, we were back in Perth by evening getting organized for an early flight the next morning that would take Ruth, Lynette, Robert, and me back to Canberra for a long-anticipated reunion with the Aussies whom I wrote about in Alone Near Alice.