Sunday, 26 February 2012

Day 5 Kalbarri-Perth continued

We stopped in the Kalbarri National Park at the coastline and looked at the amazing cliffs facing the sea.  This time the rock was white, presumably limestone.  It was quite surprising, when only a mile or so inland the river had carved a gorge through red sandstone, such a short distance away. 

We drove along the side of a shallow lake in Karatha.  This lake was an astonishing colour - from a distance it was a purple/pink colour, but on getting closer it was bright terracotta red/orange.  This lake was full of a marine algae - dunaliella salina - which creates beta-carotene.  This is part of the A vitamin group.  Carotene is the substance that makes carrots and cantaloupe melons orange.  Also flamingoes that feed on lakes with this algae, have a pink colour to their feathers, and those that do not ingest this, are white.  The company BASF use this lake to produce beta-carotene, and export it commercially.  It was an astonishing sight.

Beta carotene being produced by algae in the lake

Alongside the road there were round gourd like objects growing.  The leaves had withered away.  We were told that these were paddy melons.  They grow freely along the roadside and are a very, very bitter fruit.  So bitter that even the ants won't eat them. 

Our final stop of the day was for a walk around the Pinnacles.  These were in a large sandy desert area. Some spires of stone protruding up from the ground were about 2 feet high, but others were 7/8 feet high.  There are a variety of complicated theories about how these stones were formed, but basically it is thought that limestone has eroded to form spires, then sand has blown in to cover them, and now the wind is blowing the sand away again, to expose these astonishing forms.  We walked around this area for about 90 minutes, and saw hundreds, and hundreds of pinnacle stones.  We also saw kangaroo footprints, although no animals in the desert area.  We saw kangaroos from the coach when we left, and they had found shaded areas under big shrubs where they could easily overlook the surrounding scrub.  The information centre had displays on how different types of limestone were formed, and typical animals that came out after dark, including snakes, emu and bats.

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