The pure white sand of Preston Beach is beneath me. On my left is the sparkling Indian Ocean and on my right are majestic sand dunes.
And…I’m riding in a very comfortable coach!
The experience of 4x4 adventure in a bus on the beach is an utterly new one and I’m very pleased the folks at Westside Tours thought of doing it. Ten minutes ago, we were in the carpark in front of the sand dunes and our guides Darren and Steve were expertly releasing air pressure in the huge tyres of our custom designed 4x4 coach.
By Mia Lacy
Darren gives us 4x4 beach driving tips. “Let your tyre pressure down to 20psi for firm sand and 15psi for soft sand, always be prepared, have a recovery plan and equipment and plenty of water, and if you’re going somewhere remote always let someone know what time you will be back,” he reminds us.
We have no cares or worries as we bounce gently along the squeaky white sands heading north along the spectacular coastline. The comfy coach has a central video screen with a forward-facing camera and we can see right along the beach. We’re driving at 20kms per hour – the limit on beaches in WA that 4x4 vehicles are allowed to access. The Peel region is lucky to have these beaches and I’m told Preston Beach is one of the closest beaches to Perth you can legally enjoy the bouncy adventures we are having.
Soon, the guides pull up and invite us to alight from the coach and experience the gorgeous beach we have been admiring. We waste no time dipping our toes in the water and posting selfies (@westsidetours) as Darren and Steve unfurl the awning of the bus and our hostess Brianna sets up cold drinks and fruit platters for us beneath it.
Such style is very impressive and we all take more photos!
Suddenly, a bright beach ball shaped like a football appears. Well, we are in WA – home of those passionate AFL supporters! The football gets some action from the gang, and the chilled platters of delicious fruit all disappear.
Reluctantly, we board the bus and turn around, heading south. Steve says ‘buckle up and hold on!’ and we grin as the bus does a slalom style manoeuvre, snaking along the sand. Westside Tour guides Darren and Steve have years of experience driving these style of tourism vehicles, including long haul overland coach driving in countries like Africa so we know we are in good hands. And, it’s just so much fun to drive like this along the beach!
A big flock of terns turn their heads to watch us as we finally exit the beach between the high sand dunes. It’s not unusual to see dolphins here at Preston Beach, and Darren tells us at this time of year there are lots of the large kangaroos around too.
Coach tyres re-inflated, we cruise on to our next destination – the Thrombolites - or ‘living rocks’ - of Lake Clifton.
Thrombolites have existed for over 570 million years and are one of the few life forms still in existence today that can provide the oldest evidence of life on earth. The thrombolite reef at Lake Clifton is the largest non-marine (land-bound) microbialite reef in the southern hemisphere and is over 2,000 years old. The Thrombolites reef at Lake Clifton is over 2,000 years old and is the longest in the southern hemisphere, 15km in length and almost 120m wide in parts and grows less than 1mm a year. Thrombolites have existed for over 570 million years and are one of the few life forms still in existence today that can provide the oldest evidence of life on earth. To view these pre-historic relics, we walk out along the boardwalk at Lake Clifton.
The most striking things about the thrombolites are their limestone colour and rounded shape. The thrombolite-building micro-organisms are too small for the human eye to see. Steve explains the Noongar history of the lakes is closely linked to the thrombolites.
“The name Yalgorup comes from the two Noongar words Yalgor meaning lake and up meaning place of. The Bindjareb people of this region believe that the Waugal, or Dreamtime Serpent, created these waterways and the landforms we see around us and that the thrombolites are the Waugal’s eggs.”
The living rocks are a feature of Yalgorup National Park, an area of over 12,000 hectares containing 11 coastal lakes and wetlands. The park is also part of the Peel-Yalgorup Wetlands System which was declared as Wetlands of International Importance in 1990 by the Ramsar Convention.
It’s a beautiful place to visit, like many we’ve noticed on our tour today. The scenery outside the bus is ever changing, and our guides make the most of their time with us, telling us the history and sharing stories of the towns we pass through. Soon, we are back in Mandurah at the Visitor Centre and saying farewell to our new friends at Westside Tours.
Our memories – of the seven shades of blue of the ocean, the feel of the sand beneath our toes and the sound of the seabirds – and our photos are all we have; we’ve left nothing behind to show where we’ve been (except our tyre-prints!).
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