By David Bowden
AS AUSTRALIA is well known for its surfing beaches, I was quite excited about the prospects of hitting the waves on my Western Australian holiday.
Many beaches along the coastline lure surfers from around the world while wannabes can also splash around in the beachside shallows.
However, it was a different style of surfing that captured my imagination while considering a day trip just three hours' drive north of Perth to a destination called the Pinnacles.
Most adventure tour operators here include dune surfing as part of their package to the Nambung National Park.
Pinnacles Desert (above) looks more like something crafted by Salvador Dali than a creation of Mother Nature.
|Spot the koalas at the wildlife park on the outskirts of Perth.
A day trip through wheat fields north of Perth to the Pinnacles and the fishing village of Cervantes and then some dune surfing along the rugged coastline was an adventurous way to appreciate a variety of the Australian landscapes.
I turned in a little earlier than normal the night before, as the Pinnacles tour organised by Western Xposure is a long one that starts at 6.30am and returns to Perth at 7.30pm.
An added bonus along the way was stopping at a wildlife park on the outskirts of Perth to see and photograph some koalas. On the journey through the wheat fields, we also saw kangaroos and emus.
Our driver was one of those larger than life characters from the outback who regaled us with tales of the bush ? no doubt some were true and others stretched the imagination.
However, I believed him when he told us that after the winter rains from August to October, the 250km long road from Perth to Cervantes becomes a kaleidoscope of colour with millions of wildflowers in full bloom.
After a cuddly encounter with the koalas, it was a non-stop ride along a highway to Cervantes. Our driver maintained a banter as smooth as the ride and upon arrival it was obvious why the tourist brochures call this the Turquoise Coast.
While turquoise dominated, every other hue of blue radiated from the Indian Ocean, lapping the shores of the small fishing village of Cervantes. We admired the view from Hangover Bay and postulated numerous theories on just how it was named.
During the fishing season from November to June, lobsters by the hundreds of kilos are hauled in from Ronsard Bay.
Seafood was high on the list of options for lunch before we headed off to the Pinnacles, 30km from Cervantes.
Like the Grand Canyon, I'd seen many images of the Pinnacles but nothing really prepared me for this encounter with nature. Like sentinels in the sand, thousands of erect mounds protruded from the sandy surface.
|A whole load of fun sandboarding near Lancelin.
A new eco-friendly information centre has all the geological details on the mounds that make the Pinnacles so unique. They are actually stromatolites made from calcium deposits that formed around dune tree roots that were later exposed by erosion.
With cameras in hand, we were set loose in the stone forest before taking a grand circuit in our air-conditioned vehicle.
After a welcomed rest at Cataby Roadhouse it was time to head off-road and into the extensive talcum-white sand dunes around Lancelin. One can ride the dunes on a bus or hit the waves on boogie boards provided by Western Xposure.
It was a lot of fun. Be prepared for sand to enter all parts of your body, but dune surfing really is an exhilarating activity.
Photographers know that the magical times of the day for shooting pictures are sunrise and sunset.
If you are really particular about your photography, you need to hire a car and stay overnight in Cervantes to capture the Pinnacles in the right light.
Accommodation ranging from a backpackers' inn, caravan park, motel and serviced apartments are all available in Cervantes.
Visit www.tourism.wa.gov.au, www.westernxposure.com.au or www.mycoralcoast.com.au for details.
This article was first published in The Straits Times Special. It is produced by the Special Projects Unit, Marketing Division, SPH.