We have decided to head north from Perth to see some real Australia and I go down to Budget to get a rental car. I take the wheel of the V6 Magna and within a minute I have somehow got myself onto the southbound freeway out of town, and have also managed to lose my street map. But I keep a cool head and despite some strange lane changes (not used to automatics) I manage to find my way back to Northbridge within ten minutes.
Perth takes a long time to escape through interminable suburbs on the Great Northern Motorway. It’s not particularly great, nor a motorway, nor even that big. Once we leave the city it goes down to a modest two lane highway that you’d find back home in South Island NZ. Miles of rolling farmland, I am surprised at how green it is, expecting a desert like environment.
We take the side road to Cervantes and then the Pinnacles National Park on the coast. The Pinnacles are thousands of bizarre limestone rock outcrops rising out of the rich yellow coastal sand. You can drive around them on a rough track for several kilometres; the place resembles a strange alien cemetery, with the light changing on the sand and rock to give an odd ambience. The parks seem to charge entry fees – they’re well worth it, but shouldn’t these kind of things be free to visitors, who are already spending lots of money locally?
We continue north on the coast road, and Julie has to stop driving after being startled by two emus crossing the road in front of us. Other wildlife spotted include kangaroos and much birdlife. Darkness is descending and we are keen to get to the next town. The area is becoming sparsely populated, and traffic is light. Eventually we reach Dongara and find a room at the Priory, a huge rambling converted nunnery. Nice rooms but not many facilities and too expensive. I try my first “Emu” beer in the bar (watery and sour, I prefer Swan instead) and we have an early night.