To camp or not to camp

With the Queen’s Birthday long weekend on the horizon, I was anxious to make use of the glorious three-day stretch that would soon be available to us. We had considered going to Darwin to see Simon but due to Glen’s work and the limited number of non-stop flights from Perth to Darwin, we wouldn’t be able to spend a worthwhile amount of time there. There were few other options open to us that we hadn’t been to recently (namely Sydney and Melbourne) and so we fixed our sights closer to home.

Prior to leaving Toronto, we decided to make a concerted effort to be a “tourist at home” and see a few of those things that locals know about and direct tourists to but rarely check out themselves. One of these is the Pinnacles, an outcrop of limestone columns situated just two and a half hours north of Perth. I’ve lived in Perth my whole life and not once in 30 years have I been. Glen’s the same (though older and has failed at this even longer than I have).

Combined with seeing these geological wonders, it’s also wildflower season and if there’s something that WA is known for, it’s wildflowers. Once again, apart from the ones that I’ve seen locally, it’s not something I’ve made an effort to go look for. Fortunately there are a number of national parks near the Pinnacles so seeing one led to seeing the other.

The Pinnacles are near the coastal towns of Cervantes and Jurien Bay. Both are popular destinations on long weekends and school holidays which, in the case of the Queen’s Birthday weekend, happen at the same time. Originally I’d suggested to Glen that we rent a room at a motel or hotel in either of these places. We could go for two nights, see everything there is to see in the region, and it would all be wonderful.

Then someone mentioned camping.

Camping: who’s idea was it anyway?

Glen and I have been together for 11 years this October and camping has been mentioned a lot over those years. Glen used to be a scout. He used to enjoy camping. It doesn’t seem to matter that over 11 years we have spent one night in a tent and that was last year in Canada. I think the last time Glen went camping was probably when he was a scout. Nevertheless, I came on board with the idea because we’d talked about it so much and it seemed like a good idea.

We were excited to go buy new camping equipment and I got thoroughly into a beginner’s guide to camping website that told me all I needed to know. We then needed to go buy it all, but a couple of friends came to the rescue and offered us a lend of all their stuff. Grateful for not having to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment we may not ever use again, we picked it all up a couple of days before our trip.

We then had a problem. We had all the gear and I’d hired a car to get us there (our car probably wouldn’t make it) but we didn’t have anywhere to set this stuff up. The caravan and camping sites were all full but luckily, if you can call it that, the football oval would be setup for overflow camping at $25 a night. This seemed like it would have to do. After all, we still wanted to go. We had all the stuff. Why wouldn’t we camp?

On Saturday morning we loaded up the car with all the stuff and an esky full of food. We had plenty of snacks for the drive up there. The car was filled to the brim and we’re lucky we don’t have a dog or children because they would have had to stay behind.

It was a beautiful day for a roadtrip. We soon got out of the city and headed north up the Indian Coast Drive. We made our first stop at a lookout where we could see out to the ocean, took some snaps of wildflowers, dodged some Japanese tourists and then, feeling righteous that we were exploring this great nation of ours, got back in the car and continued up the road.

We arrived into Jurien at 12:30, stopping in at the Visitor Centre for some information about Lesueur National Park, the nearby caves, and where to go for fish and chips. We found the place, parked, ordered our food and then headed to the beach to eat our dhufish.

Jurien Bay was heaving with people. There were cars everywhere, people wandering aimlessly across the road like they were on holiday, morons throwing food to seagulls so they’d swarm, and a general throng of humanity. We sat and ate our food, a cool wind coming off the ocean and blowing away our initial thoughts of spending the afternoon on the beach and going for a swim.

We’d earmarked Lesueur National Park for the next day, after we’d braved a night of camping. You may notice that I said a night. I think the day before we’d decided two nights was excessive and we wanted to enjoy a bit of the weekend in Perth so we chiselled it down to one night only. It was about at this point though, sated with fish and chips, windblown and cold, that we decided one night wasn’t necessary at all.

That’s right. We were forgoing camping entirely.

Wildflowers and Flies

We figured we could quite easily see wildflowers at Leseur and the Pinnacles and still be back in Perth at a reasonable hour. The drive out to Lesueur was filled mostly with us trying to find good reasons why, after telling everyone we were going camping, we didn’t actually go camping. I don’t think we managed to convince ourselves but in the end we were ok with that because we were going to be sleeping in a real bed that night. We figured that at least we’d been prepared so that if the car broke down along the way, we had something to sleep in.

Without the stress of having to go pitch a tent that evening, we enjoyed what the region had to offer. Lesueur National Park is an 18km loop that you can drive. There are a few set tracks that you can explore on foot but otherwise it’s a 40kmh drive around the loop seeing an amazing diversity of flora. Even one side of the road is vastly different from the other. We stopped along the route to take photos, though the flies quickly reminded us what we hate about Australia in the summer. I’d packed fly nets that went over our hats so that made things much more bearable.

The wildflowers were beautiful. There’s no doubt about it that they put on a good show at this time of year. We saw plenty of banksias and dryandras. We even saw some donkey orchids (which remind me of chromosomes). And one part of the park just seemed to be dominated completely by grass trees. There must have been hundreds of them dotted along the slope looking like green-headed Grugs.

We didn’t just see flora of course. A bearded dragon ran out onto the road ahead of us and we slowed to watch him while he watched us. And then further down the track a bird of prey flew beside the car. When we left the national park and drove down the dirt road back to the main road, we stopped to watch a blue-tongue lizard ambling along. We got out, took some photos, he hissed at us and we continued on our way.

The Pinnacles

After Lesueur it was about a 45-minute drive to the Pinnacles. Being mid afternoon the light was starting to shift and we were beginning to get excited about how the Pinnacles would look at that time of day. We drove into the carpark, had a quick look around at the shop (where Glen bought some wildflower seeds) and then we went looking around the Pinnacles.

It’s a really unusual landscape. One person said how much it looks like something out of Star Wars and I suppose that’s a fitting description considering it’s a desert. But what’s weird is that to get there you go through coastal bushland and then suddenly you’re in a desert area with shrubs dotted about the place. It looks so plonked, so alien.

We wandered amongst the stones. I had expected all of them to be incredibly tall but most are about 6 foot tall or shorter. There are various stands of them, which does lend itself to the theory that they’re petrified tree roots. We took plenty of photos, even getting down at dirt level to get a different perspective. A galah flew out of one of the stones but that appearance paled in comparison to the sudden arrival out of the bushes of an emu. I’ve never seen one in the wild before so to watch this oddly designed bird stalking across the sand and violently pecking at bushes was a real treat.

Satisfied with what we’d seen we headed back to the car and began the journey home to our comfortable beds. I’m glad we took the time to see this part of the state, even if it was only for a day. I wondered afterwards if I would recommend visitors to check them out and I think, if they were into weird natural landscapes, that it’s worth the trip to see them. However, I’d definitely suggest combining it with either a look at wildflowers or a swim at Jurien Bay.

2 Replies to “To camp or not to camp”

  1. Great photos, great trip, and no worries on the camping! It should be for when one is in the mood to camp. I have not been for years (don’t want to go on my own) so if you ever change your mind then let me know 🙂

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