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On Walkabout In: Nambung National Park (The Pinnacles)

A Journey Through the Pinnacles Desert

The next morning we woke up early to eat breakfast and take a quick look around the small village of Cervantes located 250 kilometers north of Perth on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Since we arrived at night we couldn’t really see what the town looked like. Well we didn’t miss much because there is not much to the town. The town has no more then roughly 500 people in it and just offers the basic necessities for tourists such as petrol stations, a few hotels, even fewer restaurants, and the campervan park. I did find out that the town is named after an old Spanish ship that wrecked off the coast from here which was named after Miguel de Cervantes who was the author of Don Quixote.

I don’t think Cervantes would be to impressed with the village named after him, but nevertheless it was a friendly enough place to stay for the night. However, it was time to go to the real reason we came out here and that is to see the incredible Pinnacles of Nambung National Park.

The drive to the Pinnacles Desert was much shorter then I expected, it was only about a ten minute drive to reach the main parking lot at the national park visitor center. There wasn’t a whole lot to see at the visitor center other then explanations of how the Pinnacles were formed. From the visitor center we soon drove down the road into the desert and were quickly greeted by the incredible odd shapes of the Pinnacles:

Nambung National Park 4

The Pinnacles ranged from being very small to being enormous in height:

Nambung National Park 5

The shapes of some of the Pinnacles were truly a work of art:

Nambung National Park 7

Nambung National Park 6

My wife and I parked our campervan and took a walk into the desert to further explore these incredible rocks:

Nambung National Park 14

The first thing we noticed when we stepped out of the campervan was how we were assaulted by legions of flies. The amount of flies here was unexpected and really incredible. We quickly dug through our bags and pulled out our fly nets. This end up being a good thing to bring because we would have been miserable trying to walk through this desert without our fly nets.

While walking through the rock formations I felt like I had been transported to some kind of alien world because of how unusual this terrain looked:

Nambung National Park 2

However, I wasn’t in an alien world, I was in fact walking on the remains of ancient shell beach. I would later go on to see a current shell beach in Western Australia later on in my journey but that is what this area once was. These shells were broken down into lime rich sands which were carried inland to form high mobile dunes. The Pinnacles were formed from lime leaching from the sand and by rain cementing the lower levels of the dune into a soft limestone. Vegetation forms an acidic layer of soil and humus. A hard cap of calcrete develops above the softer limestone. Cracks in the calcrete are exploited by plant roots. The softer limestone continues to dissolve. Quartz sand fills the channels that form. Vegetation dies and winds blow away the sand covering the eroded limestone, thus revealing the Pinnacles.

Here is a graphical depiction of the process I took a picture of at the visitor center:

Nambung National Park 17

These rocks are definitely an incredible freak of nature that even the Aborigines recognized by giving this area the name of Nambung which meant cracked in the local language, and cracked this place is with most of the rock formations reaching only two to three feet in height but others easily dwarfed my 6’3 frame:

Nambung National Park 3

The highest Pinnacle we saw was this one pictured below that easily was over eight feet in height if not more:

Nambung National Park 11

While I was taking the picture of this rock formation I actually got into a conversation with a Korean television crew that was shooting a travel show on this unusual part of Australia. Since I speak passable Korean from my time living there, they were very surprised to find an American speaking to them in their native language in the middle of no where. They were having as much fun as my wife and I were having looking in awe at these incredible rocks:

Nambung National Park 12

The further into the desert my wife and I walked the more desert began to lose its iconic rock formations and instead become overshadowed by large rock bluffs:

Nambung National Park 16

From the top of one of these rock bluffs I could look out into the distance and see that the desert eventually turns into white sand before hitting the great Australian Outback:

Nambung National Park 1

We walked back towards the campervan and while doing so I could understand why the early Dutch sailors that first spotted this area in the late 1600’s thought they had found some lost city when viewed from a far:

Nambung National Park 10

However, when they reached the rock area they were sadly disappointed that what they found was not a lost city but just a bunch of rocks:

Nambung National Park 9

Once we got back to the campervan we then proceeded to drive back out of the desert. Before doing so we stopped once again to walk to the top of another bluff to get a great view of the nearby Indian Ocean:

Nambung National Park 13

From there we drove out of the Pinnacles Desert and decided to have lunch on one of the beaches of the national park:

Nambung National Park 8

The beach was absolutely gorgeous but once again we were assaulted by the hordes of flies that made trying to eat lunch on the beach impossible. So we went back to our campervan and ate lunch inside the vehicle instead.

Overall the Pinnacles were truly incredible and definitely worth the effort to check out. These rock formations are unlike anything else in the world and if you are into photography the images here are really incredible. However, for anyone thinking of visiting the park, or just Western Australia in general, do make sure to bring a fly net you will not regret it.

Next Posting: The Batavia Coast

Prior Posting: The Journey Begins

Return to the Western Australia Holiday Journal Archive

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