A couple of weeks ago I was staring at an empty weekend in despair. The dolphin tour was filled up, and I wanted to get out of the city. I wanted to *do* something with this limited time I have in Australia, but I didn't know what.
Australia is a great place to live, it is, but it just seems my life here would be easier to experience if I had a car. Or a driver's license.
I poked around online until I found a tour group that would be doing something on Sunday, and signed up as quickly as I could. I didn't care what it was, I was just going to go out and do stuff and have fun, and damn the consequences.
"Stuff" turned out to be going to see the Pinnacles, checking out some beaches, going 4X4ing in the desert, seeing koalas and kangaroos in something approaching their natural habitat, and finishing off with sandboarding. Sandboarding! Like snowboarding, but entirely different! The whole thing sounded like exactly the sort of adventure I'd moved to Aus to experience. I gave them my credit card number and remembered to pack lots of water. And sun screen. And my camera.
Oh, my poor camera.
My camera started out the day in a bad mood and ended the day in an even worse mood, so if my photos seem odd, that's why. Cameras, as you may not know, do not like sandboarding.
But first, the tour. I once again got that marvellous disconnect of being the only white person (other than the tour guide) on the trip, everyone else being from various places in Japan. (This happens a lot on trips in Australia, apparently.) I feel kinda bad for being amused by hearing kangaroos described as "kawaii!" by the two school girls behind me, having previously only heard the word used to describe characters on Sailor Moon.
But kangaroos really are cute! And tasty! Mmm... kangaroo.
Kangaroos, I have learned, come in two sizes: Wee (as they are in Western Aus) and Really Really Big. They are also considered pests here by farmers, and are regularly shot and then eaten. I have no idea if there's a kangaroo hunting season. I do know I have to remember to buy some kangaroo meat next time I'm in the store, because them's good eatin'. Even if they are terribly cute.
Anyway, at way too early in the morning we headed out to a place where you can walk amongst the trees and check out koalas. It was great - you could just barely see koalas curled up in their trees, deeply wanting everyone to go away so they could continue to sleep. I was told that koalas spend most of their days drowsing, and tend to be stoned. The infamous "drop bears" are just koalas that got stoned and forgot to hold on.
Hey, I don't make up the stories, I just repeat them.
After checking out the koalas and the wee kangaroos, we got back on the bus and proceeded to drive through the Aussie countryside. And drive. And drive. And then drive some more. Something I wasn't really prepared for when moving here, even after growing up in Canada, was how long it takes to get anywhere outside of the cities. I got kinda used to Scotland, where "getting there" is usually a short trip and you can be home by lunch time. It took quite a while to get out to the Pinnacles, and along the way we saw Emus, and Windmills (that came with Emus), and a Wind farm, and lots and lots and lots of countryside.
I may have fallen asleep.
But! We were on our way to an adventure! To the Pinnacles! That sounded exciting!
These are the things I know about the Pinnacles: They're a natural rock formation that's caused by... limestone being blown away? Sand? Something? I don't know. We have something a bit similar in Canada called Hoo Doos. I have to admit, although I love looking at natural rock phenomena, I just don't know a lot about them. They look cool.
Basically, they didn't used to be a tourist attraction at all, since they're just a bunch of nifty looking pillars of rock in the middle of a desert. The area is considered cursed by the Aboriginal people. This is it, this is all I know. I wish they'd told us why it's considered cursed, what the story behind it is. None of my digging around on the internet has told me anything about it. I can only imagine.
They are, however, very nifty looking pillars of rock. (I really like this photo, mostly because of the background. Gives you a bit of an idea of what you're looking at.) We got to walk amongst them, and I took off my sandals and let the sand rush over my feet. It was windy, and I had trouble keeping my hat on. I chased it through the sand three or four times, I think, dodging limestone pillars and attempting to keep my balance. Even though there were other people with me, the whole experience was a bit eerie. I described it in a postcard as "feeling surrounded by an army that had turned into stone, worn away by centuries of wind and no rain." For all that I don't know the story, I can suspect why the area is considered cursed.
The sand there is a very odd colour, and I knew when I looked back that my footprints wouldn't last long. There would be nothing left to say I'd ever been there at all.
I think that's the thing about Australia, that makes it so different than anywhere else I've travelled to. Rome and Paris and Scotland and China have all been about looking at the marks that people leave behind - castles and temples and statues. But Australia, as I keep saying, seems to be about nature, and the way we as people don't seem to matter much to it. The Pinnacles are there. They don't care about my footprints or my hat or my words. They just exist, and to them, I'm nothing but something to blow away with with the wind.
We ended up next at a beach where the water was many shades of blue and just watched the tide come in. The tour guide looked at me and smiled.
"This is my typical day at the office."
When I tell you my heart is lost to this country, remember that. To some, a typical day at the office is staring at every shade of blue.
I have lots more to write, as the trip was outstanding. I have 92 more photos to shuffle through and attempt to find the best of. I have a camera to be sad about.
For now, check out the current batch of photos, and I'll tell you about the beach, and the sandboarding, and the way my camera was destroyed soon.