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Fields of Pillars

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 7 September 2007 | Views [947]

Here’s a classic that I haven’t read yet: Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. From what I know about the story, Don Quixote has something against windmills. So, as I was approaching the town called Cervantes, I couldn’t help but wonder why this name had been chosen. Was I about to find some windmills? Or a statue of the famous Don? After stopping before town at the information bay to have a look at the city plan, I even started to think the town was created by Spanish immigrants, since all the street names are Spanish.

The truth is a bit different, and I’m sure you can guess what prompted that choice. You’re right, a ship who got wrecked off the coast in 1844. And it wasn’t even Spanish, but American. The town in itself offers nothing special but a base to visit neighbouring Nambung National Park, famous for its Pinnacles, sort of limestone pillars surging by the hundreds out of the yellow sand of the desert. The limestone was formed from seashells slowly broken down to sand. When the ancient sea receded, rain water leached the lime from this sand, cementing the grains together. Vegetation grew, creating a layer of acidic soil and humus called calcrete. It eventually formed a sort of protective layer. Through its cracks, roots from the vegetation infiltrated themselves, creating channels. Water followed and continued the leaching process of the limestone, progressively filling those channels with quartz sand. When the vegetation died, the wind cleaned the sand, leaving the most resilient column standing – the Pinnacles. Some actually look like pillars, but others have really tortured forms, where you could almost see where the roots and the water ran.

I’m really closing in on Perth now, catching up with a winter that has not found the exit yet. It’s its own right after all, since I suppose spring in the southern hemisphere starts at the same time fall does up north, which is normally around September 20th. I have taken just north of Cervantes what was certainly my last dip in the sea for a while. I can put the bathing suit back at the bottom of the backpack, and take out the warm jacket. In the middle of the day, the temperature is still decent, but the omnipresent wind chills everything. If it was only a matter of temperature, it still would be fine, but I also caught up with the clouds and the rain. The clouds can make a beautiful background to the yellow Pinnacles, but the uniform grey of a shower like I had flattens everything. I was still lucky enough to have holes in the cloud cover for the first half of the visit, but I recorded the best images in my memory, and those one I cannot share with you. There was no point in lingering around here any longer. Rainy days are best spent in museums, and there are heaps of them around Perth.

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Tags: ambassador van, the great outdoors

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