Planet View: S30°58.497′ E116°12.832′ (New Norcia)
Street View: S30°58.497′ E116°12.832′ (New Norcia)
From Geraldton we had our sights set on Stockyard Gulley National Park, a little known expanse of 2000 hectares 50 kilometers north of the seaside enclave of Jurien Bay. We have one theory why it isn’t very well known: there are no directions to the damn place! We horsed around for the better part of an hour, looking down every dirt track and road into the dunes, but to no avail… In the end we decided that we could spend all day looking for Stockyard Gully and instead continued south to take a quick look around Jurien Bay before making our way through Cervantes and onto Nambung National Park, the home of the famous Pinnacles Desert.
When we drove into the Pinnacles we both immediately commented how surreal of a place it is, hundreds of pillars (formed from sand, water, limestone and quartz) standing erect amidst plains of yellow sand. The Department of Environment and Conservation has put a lot of money into the area around the Pinnacles, a brand new visitor centre and newly-paved roads extend throughout Nambung National Park. There Pinnacle Drive, a 4.2 kilometer loop through the rock formations, was a great way to see the extent of the area, we almost squashed this Shingleback Lizard on our way around the loop!
One of our guide books indicated that the road between Nambung and the main highway to Perth had four rest areas available for camping. Upon arrival, however, it seems the local council has decided against camping in its district and we were thus forced to continue on our journey toward Perth during the late afternoon. The closest spot for the night we could find was in New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town run by monks of the Benedictine order. The town is basically a large monastery, a fine museum boasting some of Australia’s most previous religious artifacts, a range of buildings supporting the day-to-day needs of the monks, the elegant New Norcia Hotel and a service station bisected by the highway. About the last place one would expect to find in the bush! The monastery and surrounding 8000 hectare farm was established in 1846 by Spanish Benedictine monks. It was even more of an interesting stop off for us as it was the monks of New Norcia who were responsible for the establishment of the mission at the remote Kimberley Aboriginal community of Kalumburu, where we visited on our recent travels through northern Western Australia. The New Norcia Hotel was quite a trip, maintained in its original style with red-carpeted entryway and brilliantly maintained decor, it has an extensive bar and restaurant as well as room for $95 a night. In the spirit of offering rest to wary travelers the monks allow campers to spend the night free of charge on the monastery property, Lisa and I ventured up from our campsite to the hotel after dark for a gander at the building and had a game of pool in the bar whilst we were there. An enthralling place, we’re glad the council of Cervantes decided to stop camping in their district otherwise we probably would have never ended up in New Norcia for the night!
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