Thursday, August 6, 2009

Exploring the Western Coast of the Eyre Peninsula

This past weekend Mark and I headed over to the Eyer Peninsula. For all us Yanks, Eyer is pronounced air. Triangle shaped and over 300 km in length, The Eyer Peninsula is located on the coast of Southern Australia between the Spencer Gulf and the Southern Ocean.
This was actually our second visit to the peninsula. Last March we spent a long weekend hiking the
National Park in the lower portion of the peninsula. We spent one day hiking in Coffin Bay National Park, and the other at Port Lincoln National Park. Each park boasts good trails, magnificent scenery, and an abundance of wildlife. Not only did we see a Death Adler, an Orange Spider Wasp, a Skink, and several ‘roos, but we actually saw a mob of over 30 Emus! It was really a breathtaking experience.
Mob of Emus

Our decision to return to the peninsula was based on Mark having to report to a job site out at Port Lincoln. We decided to head over early, and continue exploring the western coast. With the flight to Port Lincoln being less than an hour, we arrived just after 8 am. We stopped in town to pick up some tucker for the day, a cuppa joe and hit the road. Our final destination for the day was Streaky Bay, and we would be following the coastal road. Our map indicated lots of little brown cameras (photo ops) along the route, but our guidebooks provided no descriptions of what each of these sites had to offer. With so many options and so little information we would have to pick and choose, relying on our intuition.
As we drove along the Flinders Highway we had an occasional glimpse of the Southern Ocean, and could tell that we were gradually climbing above sea level. I had read that the wind carved cliffs in the area were amazing and at Locks Well, I made the decision that we needed to stop and have a look. We took the small side road that began to zig-zag down to the beach. It abruptly stopped about 1/2 way down, and left us with 298 stairs to climb down to the sand. We walked about halfway down, admired the surf, the color of the water and the surrounding cliffs. We took a few pictures and headed back to the car. Perhaps instead of car I should say monster. The reason I point out the size of our rental is because rather than gently sitting down to get in, I had to use a step combined with a complicated twist to get into the seat. As I did this, I looked back out over the ocean, and to my surprise in the water far below me there was a Whale. I shouted this to Mark, and got the usual…”It is not….”. I will admit I have been known to see boulder ‘roos, bush emus and mistletoe koalas, but I was sure that it was a whale in the water below us. I was frantically looking for the binoculars, when all of a sudden my sighting was confirmed with “It is a Whale, she just blew!” So for the next 15 minutes we watched 2 Southern Right Whales frolic in the surf.
We then continued on our way with stops at: Murphy’s Haystacks to stroll amongst the strange granite formations called Inselbergs,Venus Bay for coastal leg stretched that included some very rugged cliffs and a pod of dolphins, and Point Labatt to view the only permanent colony of Sea Lions on the Continent. Our drive was concluded with a “vuelta” around Streaky Bay in search of fresh Oysters—Mark’s reward for being such a good chauffeur.

Murphy's Haystacks

Cliffs at Venus Bay

Our second day of exploring would be taking us inland to the Gawler Range, but we decided to do one last scenic loop along the coast. Once again the magnificent Southern Ocean provided us with a truly amazing experience. However, this time it was not Whales, but rather Blow Holes. Maybe because we don’t have a lot of ocean experience we had never heard of or seen a geological Blow Hole before. The sign at car park described them as “Vertical fractures in the limestone enlarged by solution (limestone reacts with water H2O + CO2 → HCO3 a weekly acidulated solution) to form pipes and shafts. If connected at the base with open air, waves force air and water through narrow openings-blow holes.” Even though the explanation sounded a bit technical for 8 am, we decided to go and check them out. As we approached the cliffs, we began to hear a strange sound. It was not the crashing of the waves on the rocks, but rather an expulsion of air--the same sound that a whale or dolphin makes when breathing! Closer inspection took us to various holes in the ground. Not only was the sound coming from the holes, but you could also see a spray of water each time they blew. It was like watching Mother Nature let out a deep sigh. It was at this point that we truly understood why the motto for the Eyer Peninsula is: "A breath of fresh Eyer."

Blow Hole

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