Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Bridgewater Bay and Cape Bridgewater
Bridgewater Bay is a beautiful sweep of sand between the hook of Cape Bridgewater to the west and Cape Nelson to the east. You reach it by driving through grazing country remarkable only for the large number of bold, chocolate-brown bunnies that feed at the roadside in the middle of the day.
The bay was previously thought to have formed when the sea breached the rims of two volcanoes but its origin is probably more complex, involving eruptions, erosion, faults and changing sea levels. Nothing is ever simple.
At the eastern end of the bay, Shelly Beach is mantled in sea-milled molluscs. I didn't get the chance to inspect it but it's on my list for next time. At the western end is a thriving metropolis of ... oh ... six or seven guest houses and a beachfront cafe. Because the rain had held off and the wind was only moderate, I drank my coffee and ate my egg and bacon muffin at one of the outside tables. I was the only one there (apart from the birds) for half an hour or so, until a convoy of grey nomads arrived. At that point, the crested terns, pied oystercatchers and I went our separate ways.
From Bridgewater Bay, the road climbs steeply and curves through more grazing land. Some of the land has been set aside for a wind farm. They won't be running short. The meagre roadside vegetation is packed with yellow-rumped thornbills, which haven't quite got the hang of traffic. The magpies and ravens have better road sense.
Cape Bridgewater was once a volcanic island but is now connected to the mainland by an infill of dune calcarenite. The Great South West Walk passes along the cliff tops with a couple of detours — to the Blowholes and the Petrified Forest.
The Blowholes are much more entertaining in stormy weather, when the spray comes over the cliff top. (Not that I wanted to be out there with a gale blowing.) But even on a calm day, the surf sounds like a cannonade and you can almost feel the concussion through the rock.
The Petrified Forest is an unusual formation on the cliff top. One explanation suggests it is the remains of a moonah (Melaleuca lanceolata) forest that was smothered by wind-blown sand. The trees died and decayed, leaving trunk-shaped sandstone crusts. It's a nice story but isn't true.
The tubes are solution pipes. They are thought to have been formed when water seeped down through the dunes, dissolving the lime in it. The water moved laterally and cemented the sand into a pipe. Over time the surrounding material was eroded but the more resistant pipes remained.
The Great South West Walk takes intrepid walkers to Discovery Bay, which extends into South Australia. I didn't wander too far along the track because I had to get back to Melbourne that afternoon. But Discovery Bay is another location on my list, although I'll probably drive there rather than walk.