We had the Orange 2008 pulsar conference in Perth in 2009, somewhat late and geographically confused. The conference was hosted at Curtin university. Megan is now at Curtin and it was great to be able to catch up again.
Mike, George, Alberto and I had decided to take a few days extra at the end of the conference to go and see a bit of Western Australia. On Friday afternoon, after the conference ended we took a ferry to down the river to Freo. We arrived as the sun was setting and made our way to a lighthouse near the entrance to the port. We watched the sun set over the Indian ocean and it was pretty spectacular. We had dinner and a few beers before heading home. The train ride from Freo to Perth was surprisingly remanisient of the movie 'The last train from Freo' but with a couple of transport cops on-board there was no trouble.
The next day we checked out and headed north from Perth towards the pinnacles. None of us had had breakfast, planning to stop on the way. But places to stop are pretty few and far between once you leave Perth, so we kept driving through the bush into dark skies and lightening strikes. Just as the rain hit we saw a sign to the AIGO visitor's centre (the Australian gravitational wave detector). Since there was likely to be food and coffee there we followed the sign down a small road that's not on my GPS. We ordered some food and drinks and sat down. Moments later the power went out. As they couldn't open the till or make our orders we had to choose the cost equivalent in soft drinks and ice cream. So we sat in a gravitational wave visitor centre in the middle of nowhere, in the dark eating our breakfast of ice cream and Coke as the storm raged around us.
After breakfast we continued up to the coastal town of Lancelin. The weather was clearing and we took a walk along the beach. As we did we saw several dolphins swimming very close to the beach catching fish. We followed them up the beach we found a pub which was very reminiscent of an English country pub. George was feeling wealthy and had half a lobster. We had lunch in the garden looking out to sea before getting back on the road.
That evening we finally made it to the pinnacles. It was an amazing sight, a forest of rocks poking out of the sand. The first people to find it must have thought they'd landed on another world. We wandered around for ages taking more photos of pointy rocks that anyone could possibly want. Then we took our hire car on the driving route through the site. We weren't sure if we had pinnacle-damage cover but decided we'd probably be alright. We stayed and watched the sunset over the ocean before going to Cervantes to find somewhere to stay. Alberto, jelous of George's lunch-time lobster, had an enormous seafood platter for dinner. After after more beers we ended up lying on the beach looking at the stars.
On the last day George wanted to go and see the stromatolites, rock formations formed by bacteria over hundreds and thousands of years. So we headed off down a (very) corrugated road to a little lake where there were some short round rock formations. George was very excited by these and we walked around the whole lake to make sure we'd seen them all! After the exhilaration of stromatolite watching Alberto was in the mood for a swim so a final trip back to the beach before the long drive back to Perth.