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OZ BEYOND TOURISTY.

Australian and Indian lensmen discover Pilbara, which shares with India the common past of Gondwanaland

Blood red soil. Blue ocean.

Silver white trees. And the vibrantly changing shades of an otherwise blue sky. These bold dashes of colour, generously splashed across the topographical palate of the Pilbara region in the state of Western Australia, have been brought to India through the ongoing photography exhibition, The Pilbara Project. Clicked by Australian photographers as well as Indian lensman Bharat Sikka, it explores the many facets of the area, its people and natural landscape.

Once a part of the ancient Gondwana supercontinent that connected Australia with India, the Pilbara region stretches for more than 500,000 square kilometres and includes some of the hottest regions of Australia. The Pilbara Craton, one of the oldest parts the continental lithosphere was joined to the Deccan Plateau of India through the Indo- Australian tectonic plate.

Surrounded by the Little Sandy Desert, the Gibson and the Great Sandy Desert, the natural landscapes are some of the oldest on the planet, dating back two billion years. Made up of diverse topography, ranging from deep rocky canyons to beaches and waterfalls, Pilbara surprisingly colourful for an arid tropical desert with slight vegetation.

This awe- inspiringly beautiful yet isolated stretch of land is also home to some of the country's richest mineral, natural gas, salt and crude oil ores. The biggest settlements in the area are Port Hedland ( 1,322km from Perth) and Marble Bar ( 1,476km from Perth). While Port Hedland is Pilbara's largest town and a thriving iron ore mining district, Marble Bar is famous for its gold mining industry.

The two primary regions constituting Western Australia -- Kimberly and Pilbara -- are the country's last remaining wilderness areas. The Kimberly, which served as the inspiration for Baz Luhrmann's Australia is the better known part of Western Australia. Till the 1980s much of Pilbara remained unexplored by the European settlers, who landed in the country in the 17th century. Most areas of Pilbara were inhabited by the nomadic Aboriginals and it is primarily these natives who make Pilbara a rich destination for tourists willing to explore beyond the known and the familiar.

In fact, aboriginal tourism is being increasingly promoted by the Australian government.

There are several tours available from Perth, the capital of Western Australia ( 1,636 km away from Port Hedland), which offer sneak peeks into the lives of the natives. Once there, you can enjoy a day on the beach and feast on Aboriginal cuisine.

The rugged landscape also offers excellent opportunities for safari tours, eco- camps, river cruises and kayaking tours with the natives as guides. One such destination for adventures sport is the Karijini National Park.

There are several archaeological sites scattered over Australia and at least 700 are to be found in the Burrup Peninsula.

Tourists can explore over 10,000 rock engravings depicting anthropomorphic figures, fauna, animal tracks and abstract symbols, considered among the earliest examples of art on the planet. The adjoining Dampier Peninsula also boasts of fossilised footprints of seven species of dinosaurs.

The Staircase to the Moon is a beautiful natural phenomena, which can be observed along the country's northwestern coast between March and October.

It is an optical illusion of a staircase reaching up to the moon, caused by the reflection of a full moon on the exposed mudflats during a low tide. Go to Cooke Point in Port Hedland to sight it best.

Such nights are usually accompanied by fares and entertainment on the beaches.

The oceans of Australia are rich in marine life. Many a dugong and bottlenose dolphin and humpback whale can be sighted in the waters of the Dampier Archipelago ( named after William Dampier, who visited the place in 1688). The Archipelago ( 20km from the nearest town of Karratha), a string of 42 islands, is one of Western Australia's best diving and snorkelling spots. Interested ones can also take a walk around the Dampier Salt flats at Nelson Point.

There are daily flights operating to Karratha and Port Hedland from Perth.

-- The Pilbara Project is on at the Lalit Kala Akademi, Ferozeshah Road, till November 11.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 4, 2012
Words:707
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