At last at last! Stromatolites! Sure, I'd made two trips down south of Perth to visit the thrombolites in their lake colony, hoping against hope to see a bubble of oxygen emerge from the watery depths, but those are sort of wanna be stromatolites. I was thrilled to finally get to see the real thing and determined to test my theory about their nocturnal nature (it's a long story involving an extremely high nerd factor).
As much as we'd enjoyed our overnight and delicious meal in Coral Bay we were ready to go the next day. I think once we'd pointed the van back south again, and since it's essentially the same road up and back, there wasn't much sense of excitement about covering another 450-500kms of road we'd already seen. The thought of stromatolites kept my spirits high though! I think this photo taken at the Overlander Roadhouse about 30 km from Hamelin Pool gives some idea of the distances involved:
And then at last we were there. We pulled into the Hamelin Pool Caravan Park and at first glance pretty much wondered just what the heck we had gotten ourselves in for. Unprepossessing is the word that springs to the lips. Mike gave me the gimlet eyeball but we pressed on, parked at the office and wandered in to check the lay of the land. Inside was a veritable universe of stromatolite and Hamelin Pool history and kitsch. You need your glossy stromatolite poster? Postcards? Shirts? You got 'em. The proprietor was very friendly and welcoming and soon arranged for us to be ushered to our caravan site by the caretaker who looked as if he'd just emerged from 3 months hard going in the outback. He handed us a key to the shower/toilet block and told us to head up the shell dune for sunset.
We got organized and then decided to take a walk down to greet the stromatolites in person. Squee! But, we quickly discovered we were back in the land of the flies. Our walk became necessarily a bit rushed as we moved along as fast as possible to keep the flies off our heads, out of our ears, and away from our noses and mouths. Not fun. The stromatolites, once we got to the lovely wooden boardwalk fulfilled all my wildest expectations. In other words, they pretty much sat there :-) Because the water was rough due to wind I didn't even get to see the slightest air bubble make it's way to the surface, but regardless I felt as if somehow I had accomplished a long term personal goal. So yay.
Walking back to camp we saw kangaroos and a mother emu with two babies. She was down on her knees having a drink of water...when she stood up I pretty much instinctively backed away. Those are LARGE birds. We made a quick foray back to the gift shop to purchase post cards and a pink stromatolite polo shirt for my daughter - the proprietor was extra lovely and when he found out about her geology studies he generously threw in a few extra stromatolite glitter stickers for us to send to her. We retreated to the camper to escape the flies and play cribbage until it was time to watch the sun set.
Sunset over Hamelin Pool was as pretty as billed and the flies disappeared the moment the sun went down and a cool breeze sprang up. We met a couple from the UK who had been touring for nearly two weeks without seeing a single wild kangaroo...they wandered off for a couple of minutes and by the time they returned I was able to point and say "shhh...there's a kangaroo right over there". It hopped off as soon as they made a move towards it and I sure hope it wasn't the last kangaroo they saw on their trip...probably not because I heard them thumping around in the darkness when I had to make a 2AM excursion to the shower block - which in an act of real consideration was wired with speakers so you had soothing music all night long. It would have been totally scary and creepy in there otherwise I guarantee. Hard to feel scared when you've got the Monkees on the Last Train to Clarksville in the potties.
Looking back over Hamelin Pool Caravan Park from the dune on the foreshore
Hamelin Pool is very saline which allows the colony to grow and also discourages other sea creatures. While we were told that they do see all kinds of fish and marine mammals in the area the impression is that they don't stay long.
All in all I'm vastly pleased that we finally got up to see the area but unless you're a total geoscience and natural history nerd it may not make the top of your list of must see destinations in Western Australia :-)