Saturday, June 26, 2010

A heartbreaking place of staggering beauty

I should really backtrack a bit. I should have started this blog at the beginning.  Before I bore you with my house-hunt woes and tell you about my quest to find interesting and amusing things here, I should really tell you about the most obvious thing about Mandurah.

This wee beauty queen of a city is set in a staggeringly gorgeous natural setting.  It is not just "Could win Miss Mt Maunganui after a few days at the beauty clinic" kind of beautiful.  It is "Could win Miss World with wet hair and borrowed togs after a hard night on the turps" kind of beautiful. Unnaturally naturally gifted you could say.

The everyday views here are amazing and I doubt I'll ever tire of them. Mandurah is nestled between the Indian Ocean and two linked bodies of water; the Peel Inlet and the Harvey Estuary.  Three rivers - the Murray, the Serpentine and the Harvey (yes, yes, I know) - flow into them and together their waters are two and a half times the size of Sydney Harbour.

While the rich and fortunate of Mandurah get to look at stunning beach or estuary views from their patios, the rest of us everyday folk can also enjoy them from many accessible vantage points. The inner city shopping, business and cultural precinct is on Mandurah Estuary which is where the Peel Inlet joins the sea.  Wide strips of land along both sides of this area have been reserved as public space with walking and cycling tracks, playgrounds, a skate park, spaces for picnics, kayak hire, a fun park, safe swimming areas, barbecues and spaces for just hanging out. There are also numerous reserves and conservation parks dotted along other parts of the estuary and the beaches. Merely driving my partner to work on a cold, rainy morning is an "Eyes on the road!" occasion as the view from the bridge is so jaw-droppingly, gob-smackingly and potentially car-crashingly, lovely.

So why "a heartbreaking place"?  Well is it just me who has noticed that when places of immense natural beauty that also have amazing climates get discovered and "developed" by humans, they very often become, well, stuffed?  Numerous places I've visited around the world were probably stunning once but their natural charms are either destroyed by over-population and environmental degradation, or obscured by crass developments.  All too often they become Grimsvilles full of ill-placed high-rise towers, tacky souvenir shops, tragic gambling pits and unappealing restaurants.

I'm not saying that Mandurah is like that but I can already see that it is at a turning point.  This wee city has grown enormously in the past two decades and is predicted to continue down that path - obviously my family and I are contributing to that.  Many long-time locals I've spoken to here think the "developments" have gone too far.  Other people have far greater, grander plans for the place.  Last night I read of the fierce battles that were fought - and sometimes won and sometimes lost - to preserve the many nature reserves I love here.

I hope that whatever path developments in Mandurah take that they are done sensitively, with style and with consideration to the natural environment.  I hope it ages gracefully. I would hate to return here in a few decades and find this once-lovely place like a heartbreakingly tragic old former beauty queen: over-tanned, draped in tacky gold jewellery, the victim of numerous plastic surgeries and jet-skiing her way from her crumbling pink mansion to the casino for the pensioners all-you-can-eat lunch special.

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