After two weeks in Perth, during which time we explored the city and its environs well, we decided to take a day trip. Opening our tourist guide map, Naumi and I saw a rather big circle north of Perth, a place called Cervantes, and we decided to go there. Knowing of Miguel de Cervantes, whose novel Don Quixote I had read with great enjoyment as a child, I was glad to have this opportunity to visit a city named after him.
I must begin by saying that I didn’t quite enjoy driving in Australia. That the driving is on the left of the road, rather than the right of the United States, was a problem for a week or so, and I had made the mistake of not renting a car with GPS and lost my way on more than one occasion. More seriously, traffic lanes in Australia are much narrower to those in the United States and from time to time the road switches between 4-lanes to 2-lanes and I hate drivers pushing at me from behind. Fortunately, my rental car was a small Ford and, therefore, the narrowness of the lanes was not as big a cognitive problem as I had feared.
We first drove along the Indian Ocean Drive and in about an hour were at Yanchep National Park, which is famous for koalas and kangaroos. It so turned out that the few koalas we saw were mostly sleepy and the kangaroos were quite scrawny. But the scenery was superb and we took couple of trails to explore the flora of the park. Naumi bought some keepsakes at the park shop.
Next we drove two hours along sandhills with wonderful vistas of the Indian Ocean stopping a couple of times to appreciate spring blooms (it was late July). As we exited the ramp leading to the destination, a big billboard announced, “Welcome to Cervantes, Population 732.” The size of the circle next on the map should not have misled us for the entire population of Western Australia (which is about 40 percent of the continent) is only 2.6 million, of which 2.1 million are residents of Perth, but I had not paid attention to this fact.
I must also say a couple of things about Perth. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is situated on the Swan River, which actually looks like a swan with narrow neck that opens into a broad expanse of water at the city. This river is also famous for black swans, which are an official symbol of the State of Western Australia. Upstream a few miles are many vineyards that are a great place to visit over the weekend. On one side is the wonderful Kings Park on the hill with its magnificent 750-year old boab tree that I make a point to visit on each trip to the city. The residents of Perth like to remind visitors that they live in the most isolated city in the world for it is closer to Bali in Indonesia than any of the large Australian cities.
It was past lunch at the famous lobster shack of Cervantes, but we found a small café that served superb tea and biscuits. Behind the café was the beach and we got to walk up and down on it although we were the only souls there. The charming lady at the café shop told us that the name of the village was only indirectly after the great Spanish writer; it was named after a ship that was wrecked here and not all know of the origin of the ship’s name.
The Pinnacles Desert, which is part of the Nambung National Park, is less than half-hour drive from Cervantes. The Park was full of visitors and after visiting the Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre where we learnt new facts about the geology of the region, we followed other visitors on tracks and trails leading through thousands of limestone spires formed over millions of years. I was surprised when told that the limestone of the Pinnacles came from seashells from an earlier era rich in marine life. The spires are of different shapes and sizes and the landscape looks out of this world. On our way back, we skirted Lake Thetis, which is well known for its stromatolites, watched the sun set into the Indian Ocean, and returned to Perth without incident.