Pardon the typo, grammar and sentence structures, it ain’t easy driving, absorbing the scenery and writing about it at the same time. I will edit much later.
We were on the Shark Bay Road when we saw it, a sign providing directions to Stromatolites and Telegraph Station. About a year ago, I had watched a documentary about them. In particular, a Ph.D researcher from the United States had traveled all the way to Western Australia to study these rock like creatures in her quest on understanding evolution. I had learnt that modern day stromatolites are found in only very few places in the world – here in Shark Bay, in Brazil, Mexico and Chile. In essence, apart from Australia, the only other opportunity to see these things will be a journey to South America.
I also learnt that they are made of single cell photosynthesizing microbes. The mere mention of “single cell” awakened in me all the struggle during my secondary school days to understand Amoeba which, like most other elements of learning we had, became of no economic use to me eventually.
Today, I was going to see with my eyes, feel with my hand what a stromatolite is and with that in mind, we took the right turn into the Hamelin Pool Road. 5kms thereafter we arrived at a sign – “End of the Road” and immediately thereafter was a gate leading into a caravan park. We were wondering what a waste of time the drive had been when we saw an unpaved road on our left and branched into it. We had arrived at the Hamelin Pool car park. A little walk to the left leads to the bay and if time had not been of concern, there is another 2hr walk on the right that takes the visitor around the area, delving into the history of the settlement.
The sight of the calm waters of the bay was beautiful and refreshingly therapeutic. There was a marked absence of any human activity on the water – no boats, nothing, except the open waters capsuled by distant mountains. A triangular-like boardwalk had been constructed and it was under these that the stromatolites can be viewed, I guessed I was not going to touch and feel them as I had planned. Ahead of us was a family with two daughters – a teenager and a much younger one. The teenager was grumpy, the sort of grumpiness that asks haven’t we seen enough and should be on our way? Meanwhile her younger sibling was busy absorbing the knowledge about how these stones were part of the evolution story here on earth about three billion years ago. The woods of the boardwalk shows they are well trodden and they give out a creaking sound here and there but they were very stable. We followed the right side of the triangular walk, reading the various postings about the black stones we were seeing below the pristine clear waters of the bay. They were so close that I could touch them if I wanted and I was tempted, really tempted. However, with the presence of so great number of witnesses, especially the grumpy girl, I resisted the temptation. As we walked past the family, we chatted them up in a conversation. I asked, what really is life, if these stones are life giving? The father turned out to be a science buff, who in his very cool and calm voice started explained that in the beginning there was no oxygen on earth and that the stromatolites were the very thing that first secreted oxygen which became utilized by other living beings.
We didn’t want to leave the pool as the views were very lovely but the trip to Denham needed to be completed in daylight so I beckoned to Saf that it was time to go. As we departed the pool and stepped on the sands again, it sort of occurred to me the oddity in where these life giving rocks are found, at the end of the road. 3 billion years was a long time in the past, I wasn’t able to fathom how any human being could owe its current existence to these stromatolites but that is what the great minds in science would like us to take as a truth.
Our day had started much earlier at Kalbarri, that was where we passed the night. This being the third day of our journey, we had planned to set out of the Palm Resort very early but eventually couldn’t. As I opened our doors to get some loads back into the Explorer, I was accosted with the sight of a family of Kangaroos on our lawn, the five members were busy chewing on the green grass. I took a few minutes to observe them and thereafter got back to loading up the vehicle.
We arrived at the Kalbarri National Park a little after 10am only to discover that our decision not to visit the previous day was not a great idea. Despite our early arrival, it was difficult getting a spot to park the Explorer. We made for the Skywalk, a new feature recently opened to the public. It was pleasing to see Aboriginal art on Aboriginal land, on the floor of the little post welcoming visitors to the area. There are two human palms, with four fingers each and a wavy inscription describing the art. Boldly written for all to see was the statement “This story is about people from all walks of life coming together as one”, I felt that was cool and apt, especially in these days. It goes further to explain that “The hands represent the colour of our land, our strength and unity”. Welcome to Kaju Yatka, Nanada’s words for Sky and Walk.
As we took a bend, we came across a craftman working on a n iron thorny devil. I engaged him in a discussion to understand what he was doing and I was enriched from the conversation. Prior to that moment, I had held the belief that only the Camels store water in their humps, I was wrong. Here is another creature, the Thorny Devil, that does same in order to cope with the challenges of the environment in which it lives. Life is constantly evolving.
It was a very short walk from the car park to the skywalk with its imposing exhibition building providing a lot of information to the visitors about the Nanda people. First, we were welcomed to Nanda county and then informed of the long struggle by the Nanda people to get recognised as the traditional owners of the land on which we stood, their land. The exhibit went on to talk about the stolen generation, a term representing the hundreds of Aborigine Children that were yanked away from their parents at tender age in order to “Europeanise” them for future work as cooks, stewards etc for the settlers. Australia has a dark past but it is making some attempts at confronting them and making remedy. Slowly.
The skywalks are cantilevered iron structures, costing $24 million allowing visitors to walk suspended at 100m above the Murchison River Gorge. There are two of them. The first, and the bigger one, extends 25m out over the gorge, something that Australians like to beat their chest as trumping the similar skywalk at the Grand Canyon in the United States. The sights, looking at the gorge from this level, are breath taking. Even the unbeliever will conclude that there is a creator constantly working and sculpting the earth to fulfil his desires. The waters of the Murchison were in puddles, almost stagnant but the gorge shows the force and energy that the water carries, something it had used over millions of years to shape and carve through the sedimentary layers of the mountain to form the gorge.
At this point, my mind skipped back to my geography classroom in Lagelu Grammar School and how the NYSC tutor struggled to explain to my young mind what a gorge was – a narrow valley with steep rocky walls. How was I to comprehend that? Really? There were no known ones within my locality in Ibadan that was pointed out to me to appreciate. I guess a picture speaks more than a thousand words, better yet seeing provides more knowledge than words do. Despite that, I was still able to make a C in my WAEC result for Geography. The words of Christ to Thomas in John 20:29 “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.” I guessed, I am very blessed then to have passed without having seen.
[To be continued]