On a stormy day I visited The Gap and Natural Bridge in Torndirrup National Park near Albany, Western Australia. The cold, wet weather enhanced the dramatically stark and beautiful views. Here you look over the Southern Ocean towards Antarctica, 6,915km (4,296miles) away.
A purpose built lookout cantilevers out over rocks, 37 metres above sea level. It is only once you step foot on this solid creation and are able to see The Gap from above that you hold your breath with the beauty and powerful force of nature.
The white foamy waters crash into the rocks below and send the spray high. The waves pound into the rocks and have slowly worn them away over time to create this incredible natural landmark.
The lookout was designed to reflect the natural features here and is anchored securely to the rock, as well placed signs nearby informed me. Built of stainless steel, the lookout can withstand the weight of 27 tonne. I had to remind myself of this as I looked through the floor directly above The Gap.
Some of the other visitors were fearful to step onto the meshed platform, out over the abyss. It is mesmerising to watch the ocean waves come thundering into The Gap, rising high, then slowly ebbing away. Only to repeat the action again and again forever, the endless loud roar of the waves overpowering all other noises. The smell of the ocean salt and the chilling embracing breeze reminds you of the power of nature.
At the same site is the Natural Bridge. This large span of granite has been eroded by the waves to form an archway. As I stood and looked at it, I pondered, "how long before the motion of the waves cause the bridge to collapse into the sea?" Definitely not in my lifetime.
The Mirnang people are the traditional owners of this country. Their dreamtime story-telling confirms their deep spiritual connection they have to the land and the sea. The following story is from an information board at The Gap.
Two Mirnang brothers had their differences and were fighting over a young woman. The elders became tired of their squabbling and sent them to a place near The Gap. They made one stand on one side of The Gap and one on the other side. One brother was good at throwing spears, while the other was good at throwing boomerangs. As the first brother threw a boomerang, the second threw his spear. The first brother was struck by the spear. The other brother was struck in the back by the boomerang. Both warriors fell into the sea. The brother who was struck in the back by the boomerang turned into a shark. The fin on the shark is the boomerang. The brother who was hit by the spear turned into a stingray.
The powerful natural forces of wind and waves have taken people's lives along this coast. They cannot be brought back as happened with the Mirnang brothers in the story.
It is best to stay on the well navigated paths that have been built for the safety of visitors. In the past people were able to access the top of the natural bridge, however it is now fenced off. The views of the nearby shoreline show how rough and dangerous nature can be.
The Gap and Natural Bridge are roughly a 15 minute drive from Albany. They are in a national park, and fees apply to visit here. Paved paths from the bitumen carpark make this site accessible for people of all abilities.
I spend around two enjoyable hours visiting here. The forces of nature are something to be admired while reminding yourself to respectfully be aware of their destructive power and beauty.
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