The dunes experience 1



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I can still remember the day, my friend Bob and I had been to the Pinnacles. We had not been inspired to dance naked around them as had been the case in the famous Billy Connolly clip. They were okay but the hype way exceeded the reality from where we were standing and our hoped-for sunset shots never eventuated, the low bulbous clouds unsuited to reflect the sun’s dying rays.

Nambung National Park The Pinnacles (55)SP

The weathering in the pillar remnants from an ancient ocean has left a variety of shapes and those that are pitted deserve the status of sculpture. However, it was the eroded bits that got Bob and I interested the next day at nearby Jurien Bay Marine Park where we watched the soft pastel hues over the ocean as the sun rose behind us.

The rarely visited sand dunes of this secluded spot caught our eyes so we alighted from the motorhome.

The ripples left by the winds; the sparse vegetation, often only charred remnants of what once was and casting dynamic shadows over the sands; the promise of things to come over the other side of each rise all teased the artistic side of my brain and we spent more time wandering here than we had at the Pinnacles.

Jurien Bay Marine Park (72)sp

When you’re in dunes there’s a tranquility that envelops you, a soothing feeling, because there is no goal, no object other than to simply be there. Your footsteps are your only real concern as the soft sand rolls away from your imprint. There’s no rush to be anywhere in particular, only the next photo opportunity.

Further north, this time of Carnarvon, we’d gone past the Blowholes and headed in to Quobba Station, a remote and beguiling place where we spent several days, one of which was when we ascended the hill behind us and headed south past the wild goats who paid us scant heed as we fended off the flies. It’s the only place I’ve ever worn one of those fly screens that wrap around your head.

We scouted the rim of the cliff, walking over the low sand hills capped by spinifex searching for the Grouper Hole until we reached the end of the bluff and were gazing down a seriously steep slope that was so dangerous we retreated and started back.

Cliff face between Red Bluff and the Groper Hole

Eventually saw another way down, wandering past an echidna intent on finding a meal. I instantly recalled seeing one “racing” along the beach at Wilsons Promontory once and, when I questioned a ranger, she told me it’s like a highway to them, allows them to get from point A to point B more quickly.

Our track downhill took us to a much larger dune; framed by a stunning royal blue ocean and soft green vegetation its meandering lines led us to a bizarre landscape. Massive sandhills were resting on steep cliffs, seemingly defying gravity and treacherous to walk on at times as the possibility of ending up on a coral outcrop and being smashed by a moderate sea was a distinct one. I’d never been frightened trudging across sand until now and when Bob started slip-sliding behind me, just 5 metres above a drop from which there seemed no return, I momentarily pondered what I could possibly do if he went all the way.

Fortunately, we made it onto the lower coral flats of Red Bluff. These exposed embedded corals from millennia ago are the forebears of tomorrow’s grains of sand and it is an extraordinary thing to see their patterns and be able to walk among them.

The Odyssey - Road to Point Sinclair (24)SP

Back at the motorhome we recalled our first trip away when we’d travelled to the extremities of the Eyre Peninsula on a fishing trip and reached Point Avoid. It’s an awe-inspiring place, powerful waves wrapped around either end of the island and then smashed into each other. The eastern side has one of Australia’s epic, but rarely ridden surfing waves.  I tried to imagine just getting out there; apparently trawler workers jump off their boats to have a wave but the thought of white pointers would deter only the bravest or most foolhardy.

Off to the east were dunes; as far as the eye could see there were dunes. Bob gazed in wonderment and said, “It’s the scale of the place that gets you.” We imagined people walking over the small hills on an endless journey. Where would they go, how did you get there? It beckoned like some grand adventure but we merely pulled out our lazy chairs and soaked up the atmosphere, unlike our time at Whalers Way, south of Port Lincoln, where we tarried awhile at Redbanks and strode through the grainy carpet and looked across in the distance to the wind farm beyond. In our day and a half at Whalers Way, we saw no other living soul. I found it one of the most mesmerising places I’d ever visited.

Then I remember the outback trips; the classic red dunes that contrast with just about everything and where wildflowers miraculously grow in spring. Many are the times I would stop and walk among them, scattering grasshoppers and seeing lizards scuttle into hiding but always transfixed with the beauty of the scene. If you’ve never done it, you really must stop and view the myriad of colour that exists in what should be a barren landscape.

Deep Creek lagoon (80)

Closer to home base, at Deep Creek Lagoon adjacent to Valla Beach, the locals love nothing more than walking across the footbridge for some exercise by the seaside.

Though it’s named “lagoon”, sometimes, when conditions are right, Deep Creek bursts through the dunes and exits to the sea. It was on one such occasion, after heavy rain and then a heavy swell, that a 24 year old French kayaker tragically got caught up in the maelstrom where tannin stained estuary meets ocean and met an untimely end.

When I was there I gazed out through the louvres and was transfixed by a solid swell climbing behind the dunes and then pounding the shore with a resounding roar. The sands were a solid yet flexible barrier to a great force yet they often appear so fragile to us. Whipped by the wind that can sting your ankles as you traverse the slopes, their bulk remains, a place for sea birds to rest, for dogs to cavort, for crabs and pippies to hide, for flotsam to be trapped and humans to walk in order to be entertained by the rhythms of the seas. A soft place to sit and contemplate the meaning of life when time is on your side, I’ve found dunes to have a remarkable calming effect on the soul, why don’t you try them?

Who knows, you too might come to appreciate yourself and nature more amidst the solitude of the sands.
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Ian Smith

I have written for 3 different motorcycling magazines, soccer publications and, latterly, travel. It has been apparent that I write and photograph from a different perspective to others and have a leaning towards humour as well. My next birthday will be my 70th (scary) but I still love bushwalking and photography and play golf once a week while dreaming about my next trip in my motorhome.

  1. Seeing the ‘Pinnacles’ is one surreal experience!
    Sunrise or sunset is magic!

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