The plan was to leave bright and early, but ten slightly hungover and exhausted students will never wake up at 6.30, no matter how hard they try! We squirmed out of our sleeping bags between 7.30 and 8, and were suddenly spurred into action by the idea of breakfast at the local bakery. The pastries there were gargantuan and reasonably priced (very rare for Australia!), and we wolfed them down hungrily. I immediately regretted eating two pastries which were half my size, but soon fell asleep (a recurring theme of the trip) and forgot all about it.
We finally managed to get everyone together, and hit the road. We were travelling from Coral Bay to Shark Bay, a mere distance of 310km (in the grand scale of Australia!), and arrived around 11. We’d planned two pit stops: Hamelin Pool Stromatolites, and Shell Beach. My geologist friend was incredibly excited about the Stromatolites, and proceeded to explain to us that the stromatolites were formed up to 3.5 billion years ago by the trapping and binding of sedimentary grains by Cyanobacteria. These, over million of years, form elaborate structures which exist only in hyper saline water. Apparently, Hamelin Pool is one of only two locations in the world where stromatolites are still living.
Hamelin Pool Stromatolites
We were at the hottest part of the day and slowly dying, but my enthusiastic friend still wanted to go hiking. We let him down gently, and had an ice cream in a café instead (definitely a good decision!) Seeing as we already there, we figured that we may as well venture to the ‘famous’ shell quarry, which was incredibly disappointing. I left after ten seconds, and headed back to the air conditioned café.
Attempts at an arty photo, yet again
I continued to drive, and had great fun overtaking a series of cars at once, reaching hair raising speeds of up to 200km/h. Yikes! Forty exhilarating minutes later, we reached Shell Beach. I know I’ve mentioned paradise several times before (I need to be more discerning, evidently), but this was by far my favourite few hours of the trip. As you can imagine, the beach is made up entirely of shells, which crunch satisfyingly as you walk. What I was not prepared for was the endless expanse of dazzlingly clear water that stretched out before us, forming an infinite horizon as the sea merged into the sky. The swathe of duck egg blue was breath taking, and we waded into the unknown…and carried on walking for what seemed like forever, until we were rewarded with waist high, blissfully refreshing water. I was out ahead, with nothing beyond me except water as still as glass, when I heard a scream behind me. I whirled around (as fast as the water would let me), just in time to glimpse my friends manically trying to half swim, half wade through the never ending water. I was slightly panicked, but I was so much further out that I didn’t even see the point in rushing back- my floundering would probably only serve to attract the evil sea predator. My friends realised (a fair bit later, I might add) that I was out there, and shouted ‘snake!’ at me. So much for looking out for me, eh?! I’d reached a total state of calm by now, and waded at my own speed back to the (hopefully) snakeless shallows. The water was wonderfully lukewarm, and we wallowed for hours.
The “highly venomous” snake I thought was harmless…That’ll teach me
The evening brought with it a ‘typical’ Australian experience- ‘shrimp on the barbie’. Ironically, Australians call them ‘prawns’ and don’t even tend to have them on the barbie! Have we got our stereotypes completely wrong?! We were all rather glum because it was our last day, and first hit the beach to stargaze, before submerging ourselves in the hot tub to get bitten by insects and languish in lukewarm water.
My final attempt at being a hipster
We left hideously early the following morning, and drove on more dirt framed roads. The landscape gradually became more and more civilised, and we passed multiple cars on the roads. The endless outback turned to cultivated fields and actual houses, and soon we even hit some traffic lights! All very unfamiliar. All too soon (well , ten hours later), we saw the comforting skyline of Perth. We glumly said goodbye to each other, and I collapsed into a deep, happy sleep. What a trip.