The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park, Western Australia

02 Oct

It was only on our second day at Cervantes that we visited the town’s main attraction – the Pinnacles Desert, in the Nambung National Park, 17km south of Cervantes.

The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park, Cervantes

The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park, Cervantes

As I wrote earlier, the Pinnacles are worth seeing. The entrance fee for an ordinary car is $11. I’ve noticed that those natural attractions with entrance fees tend to be the best maintained, and the Pinnacles is no exception. You have a few choices for seeing the Pinnacles, which I’ll talk about now.

A Very Tall Pinnacle

A Very Tall Pinnacle

First of all, there’s the Discovery Centre. This has various informational displays and videos. Some show the types of animals that live in the desert. Don’t worry, most are nocturnal, and won’t bother you on your visit! Other displays show the various theories about how the Pinnacles formed. There’s also a shop where you can buy various Pinnacles-related gifts and so forth. The Discovery Centre closes at 4:30pm each evening.

Second, there is a walking path. You can amble an easy 150 metres to a lookout with a good view of a large section of the desert, or do a 1.2 km loop that leads you into the desert itself. We didn’t do the walk, in the end.

Third, there is a dirt road called Pinnacles Drive that leads you on a 4km tour of the desert. Pinnacles Drive is well kept and clearly marked. An ordinary 2 wheel drive car will have no trouble. There are places to park along the way, so that you can wander around taking photographs of the eerie rock pillars dotting the landscape.

We made the most of our time there – it’s a strange, unique area, quite different from anything you are likely to have experienced before. It’s well worth the trip, especially since the $11 entrance fee gets you a day ticket. We made plans to come again in the evening and catch the sunset.

We wiled away the afternoon exploring an isolated beach north of Cervantes – I don’t know if it had a name. Since the beach was so isolated, we were able to find an amazing collection of interesting shells in a very short time – sand dollars the size of my palm and purple snail shells that shops were selling for $3 each in town. Finally, after a rest, it was back to the Pinnacles for some sunset photographs. Now, there’s another thing you don’t get on the bus tours!

The Pinnacles At Sunset

The Pinnacles At Sunset

We stayed at the Pinnacles until it was too dark to see, then headed back to the chalet. Before we turned in, I took the time to admire the night sky.

A clear night sky in Cervantes is a stunning spectacle. Before, the “Milky Way” was a name for a galaxy I knew from textbooks to be our home. In Cervantes, it became a glorious band of cloudy grey, stretched out from horizon to horizon, mottled with black and studded with pinprick diamonds. The sky was like the starry night sky I remember from childhood – something I think I haven’t seen for decades – certainly not in my ten years in Malaysia, never in Perth. It’s something you’ll never see in any large city. I might wish I had the right camera to take a photograph – but a photograh would not have done the experience justice.

Cervantes gets a beautiful night sky simply by being an isolated small town, miles and miles from anywhere else. With almost no human-generated light scattering off the sky, the only lights you see are the lights of the stars (the moon had not yet risen). In cities, perhaps a few hundred nearby stars shine brightly enough to be seen through the glare of our highways and skyscrapers. In Cervantes – or any similarly isolated place – the number of visible stars grows into the thousands, with tens more thousands merging together into a dim grey expanse – a strip of dark carpet stretched across the sky – in the direction parallel to our galactic plane.

I am so, so glad we didn’t take the day trip bus tour!

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