Saturday, July 5, 2008

Invasion of the Termites (Pinnacles, Western Australia)

Around three hours drive north of Perth (Australia) is a weird travel wonder with thousands of limestone pillars poking out of an arid, sandy desert floor. The Pinnacles are a striking sight especially on sunrise and sunset as thousands of mounds protrude from a sweeping desert of arid Western Australian sands.

The geological story goes something like this. Many millions of years ago, shells from marine life broke down into lime-rich sand which blew inland into this area. Over time, rainwater leached the limestone from the sand and hardened below into a material called calcrete. Roots of local vegetation exploited cracks which developed in the calcrete, and which grew as water seeped in. These cracks kept widening and filled with quartz sand while the softer limestone continued to erode. Some of the sand cleared with the winds and the strongest parts of the calcrete remained as a sea of pointed rocks jutting from the sandy floor, some as tall as five metres.

Whether the geology is of interest or not, it has left a truly remarkable sight – what appears to be a camp ground for white ants - an ocean of termite nests over an area of many barren square miles. A loop road circles this main area where it is easy to stop and enjoy the eerie scene.

Nearby, stray emus (the native Australian flightless bird and second largest bird in the world after the ostrich) can be seen battling the elements and using the occasional waterhole to stay refreshed. A bit like an ostrich in appearance, these durable birds are one half of the Australian coat of arms (the other being the kangaroos), both sharing the unusual characteristic of not being able to go backwards.

Sunset approaches and the show really starts. Yellow by day, the unusual pinnacled rocks cast silhouettes against the dusty dusk air creating an ever-changing mesmerising scene of pinks, oranges and mauves. An eeries silence settles over the desert scene as the Pinnacles see the end to another day and rests for another evening - the temperature dropping to a refreshing cool. Settle into a comfortable spot, open a bottle of wine and enjoy the sinking sun and its orchestra of hues cast across this haunting travel wonder.


jasperjugan said...

wow! you must have travelled a whole lot already! nice pictures! i'm keeping a link of you!

Nomadic Matt said...

I loved the pinaccles. If you head to the about me section in my profile, i took a picture of a huge termite mound!!

our guide even damged the mound a bit so the termites would come out and repair photos...

eunice said...

I miss the Pinnacles when I was traveling in Western Australia. Instead, I visited Waverock in Hyden. Have you been there before? It was very very hot when I was there during January, summer time right?


Mark H said...

@nomadicmatt: Fantastic termite mound in your profile

@eunice: I haven't been to Wave Rock but it looks superb from the photos. It is about 350km east of Perth so it is a long journey. WA is hot in Jan and Feb as that is the middle of summer. Beaches in WA are superb this time of year.

Pinnacles desert tour said...

It is really a nice pictures out there. Thanks for the post ..

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