Monday, March 07, 2005

Meet The Ancestors

From Cervantes I've been hitch-hiking up the coastal highway. Even though I've been told by pretty much everyone I meet not to hitch it has been quite entertaining (and let's not forget, cheap) as I've met some interesting characters. At the moment I'm travelling with a couple of backpackers who have their own car, and tent, and are going in my general direction, which makes life a lot easier for me as it is very difficult to see much in this vast and barren continent without your own means of transport.

My first stop was at Hutt River Province Principality, which is Australia's second largest country (complete with its own money, post office, army and even a navy, even though it's landlocked). It was founded by an irate farmer in 1970 who was annoyed at Australia's wheat quotas and since then Hutt River has been recognised by a number of countries including Spain, although Australia still doesn't. This hasn't stopped HRH Prince Leonard (who I have met and shaken hands with) declaring war on Australia! Even though Hutt River isn't much to look at (some fields and farm sheds) the audacity of Prince Len just has to be admired and the visit has definitely been one of my highlights here in Australia.

Further up the coast is the Shark Bay peninsula, which is a haven for many endangered species such as dugongs, bilbies, and several turtles, as well as being one of only two places in the world where one can see living stromatolites. Stromatolites are photosynthetic bacteria that live in colonies forming living rock clumps and they live in shallow sea water. As you can see from the picture they aren't much to look at, but they are living specimens of the oldest fossils found on earth, examples of which have been dated back to 3.5 billion years ago. Which means that in all probability all life forms on earth are descended from them. I therefore thought it only fair that I should pay a visit to my ancestors. Another attraction at Shark Bay is the group of wild bottlenose dolphins that come in almost regularly to the beach at Monkey Mia to be fed (if they so choose). The dolphins come incredibly close to shore and sometimes even swim amongst the bathers in the shallows. That was a very special experience and I hope it won't be the last in the series as I'm heading off towards Ningaloo reef, which is supposed to be as spectacular than the Great Barrier Reef.

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