Monthly Archives: August 2016
We have been here in Mullewa for 3 days and have enjoyed it greatly. A very neat caravan park close to town and amonst the wildflowers. Homealone has bought a couple of wildflower booklets and is busily ticking off the flowers as the photos are taken. Quite a process of identification, sometimes the actual flower doesn’t quite look like the book’s photo. The bush is alive with everlastings of all types and colours, wattles and a few bottle brushes and grevilleas.
Apart from wildflowers, Mullewa is also famous for the work of a Roman Catholic priest in the early 20th century. Monsignor John Hawes, an architect by profession, was based here for 20 odd years and in this time designed and built with his own hands a number of churches in the Murchison region, including the Geraldton Cathedral. They have been described as architectural gems reflecting the natural environment in which they are situated. He left Australia before WW2 and died in the Bahamas, a Franciscon hermit. A strange end for such an active real world person. He might have just worn himself out, the energy all gone?
A highlight of our time here has been a day trip out into the country to the Coalseam Conservation Park . The park was ablaze with yellow pom poms, a total contrast with the white pom poms closer to Mullewa.
The wreath flower is a special of this area. People go hunting to find them, which isn’t hard because there are sign posts all the way to their location , about 35 km from Mullewa. They seem to be in an isolated patch of country beside the road side. They do look great. A circular green plant which flowers at the edges. Looks just like a wreath!
The weather so far has been great, sunny blue skies. Except for last night. The wind got up and the rain came down. It continued this morning putting a bit of a dampener on the opening of the Mullewa Agricultural Show. But by lunch time the sun was out and the Show’s activities were successfully underway. Some interesting displays of local produce,craft, photography and artwork were on display. Lots of prizes being given out, a very large deformed carrot secured a first place. As the day wore on the storm clouds gathered and the rain came down.
We now move on over the next few days to Yalgoo, Cue and Murchison Junction. The internet is a bit slow out here so we may be off the air for this time. we’ll see!
Well, Sandstone seems to have two main attractions. London Bridge and Lady Di. London Bridge is the rock formation a few kilometres from town and Lady Di is the pie lady and she is right in town. We were in Sandstone for two nights . On arrival the town was blacked out for some unknown reason. No power in the caravan park and no water. It came on sometime after midnight. The local pub was serving under candle light.
Sandstone is an interesting little place on the edge of the goldfields. There are about 50 residents, 100 fly in fly out mine workers and perhaps 40 people in the caravan park. Now a lot of the caravan park people have longish white beards, craggy features and a limited vocabulary…….they talk about gold prospecting and how many grams they found today but never where. It is quite a booming thing, this gold prospecting. People seem to come on holidays to do it and will come back next year as well. Mostly men, not a lot of women. They also play golf.
Traveled out on the heritage trail around town. The main attraction is London Bridge, the rock formation. This has been a gathering place for townsfolk since the late 1800s and for the aborigines, many generations before. It is not yet falling down but is getting thinner.
The other attraction is Lady Di. She cooks pies on the street corner in one of those Breville pie makers. Supposed to be pretty good pies. She also sells bush dukkha, which is also pretty good. Allthego had some sprinkled on scrambled eggs. Two packets are coming home with us along with some special hot sauce. But back to the pies. Allthego was on the go and had a chat with Lady Di about the pies. A customer was also on hand and said the pies were excellent. They posed for a photo for the blog. She makes the pies each morning and does a good trade, particularly with the fly in fly outs coming on and off shift. She reckons she is known all over Australia.
A more conventional pie can be had in the hotel. But we had schnitzles. They have a fire going in the bar and you can eat there as well. A cosy spot. Chloe, the current bar attendant, is from Norwich in England. She has been in Sandstone for 12 weeks, with another two to go before heading to Perth. Backpacking by her self around Australia, brave girl. Having a great time though chatting to all us nomads.
We have had a fairly quiet time here after a busy of couple of days on the road. Will now be heading towards Mullewa for the wildflowers and the annual Mullewa wild flower and Agricultural shows. Homealone is looking forward to seeing the farm machinery, discussing fertilizers and pest control solutions with product agents.
Until next time.
Now dear reader you might ask why “Inside Australia”. Well this is because we have had a cultural experience out here 51km from Menzies beside and on Lake Ballard. In 2003 the Australian taxpayer (perhaps there were some sponsors as well) appears to have funded Antony Gormley, a renowned British sculptor, to install 51 figures on the salt encrusted lake surface. Now it takes about a day to wander around the lake and see them all. We didn’t do this, saw about 7 of them in an hour or so; they are about 200 metres apart, or so it seems.
Now these 51 figures are all derived from laser scans of Menzies inhabitants. They are reduced , cross sectioned and played around with to finish up with what the sculptor has called “insiders”. I suppose they have been reduced to their bones and not much more. Males are distinguishable from females.
Now for the culture bit:
“The Insider reveals an attitude in a taut abstract shape formed by the passage of the person’s life. Out on the salt lake they become antennae in space in relationship with each other but also with the land and the limit of our perception: the horizon,” says Antony Gormley.
Now that is interesting stuff. Allthego took his camp stool out on the Lake and sat down and had a brief chat with one of these “insiders”. She didn’t have much to say. Went on about how wet it had recently been and how she always got a thrill out of seeing people out here on the Lake. She wondered why I was sitting on a chair. I said this was because she and her 50 mates were all standing up. Maybe Antony should have had one of them sitting down, would have added a talking point to the whole thing.
The whole installation left one a bit mesmerised, particularly as away in the distance a mirage gave the appearance of water in the lake. Allthego thinks that maybe the message is about stripping away the trappings of life, engaging with the natural environment, rejuvenating the soul and moving to a higher plane and level of consciousness.
Or something like that.
An interesting day out and a long drive back to Leonora.
Since leaving the Great Central Road we have spent our time in Laverton and Leonora, in WA’s north-east goldfields to the north of Kalgoorlie. One of things that is good about this is that we have returned to something like normal diesel prices. Along the GCR the top price paid was at Warakurna, $2.40 l. On the Plenty Highway the Station owners got plenty at $2.00 l. We are now down around $1.40 l.
It’s all about gold out here, with nickel thrown in for good measure. Laverton is famous for the Windarra Nickel Mine. For those old enough Windarra is the nickel mine that Poseidon NL promoted in 1969-70 and went from almost nothing to $280 a share within a few weeks. As with a lot off these situations Poseidon did not ultimately develop the mine as it went broke, others did. It is now almost 25 years since the mine closed and the area rehabilitated. Some of the old equipment has been left in place, but the whole site is now returning to a ‘natural state’. Many tons of seeds were planted and the landscape ‘moulded’ back to its ‘original’ form. It does look good. A bit of new exploration is going on in the area, maybe a new mine will emerge.
Laverton, like Leonora, is a bit of a shadow of its former self. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s there were thousands of people on the gold fields. The town around the nearby old Mt Morgan’s Mine (not to be confused with Mt Morgan in Queensland) had 3,500 people there, only one building remains today, the Council Chambers. The old railway platforms are there also, leading off to Perth 550 km away.
The town of Menzies, where we went a couple of days ago had over 10,000 inhabitants in the early 1900s. The whole Shire of Menzies today number a little over 400.
Back in Leonora the main street is very quiet. But there are three pubs to keep the locals amused. In a sister town nearby Gwalia, there is a large gold mine, Sons of Gwalia. This is a famous old mine dating back to the late 1800s. It shut up shop in 1963 a few days before Christmas and the population left almost immediately, several hundred people. They left a ghost town, the remnants of which have been preserved.
The butcher in Leonora, Neil Biggs, lived in the early 1950s as a young boy in one of these shanty type houses. He is known as Niggy, it took Allthego a bit of time to work that one out. We spent an hour so wandering around looking at this amazing little human landscape.
Up overlooking the open cut mine is the grand Mine Manager’s House. It was built by Herbert Hoover in 1898 when he was the Mine Manager at Gwalia. He later went on to become the 31 st President of the USA in 1931. Today it is a B & B.
In recent years the mine has reopened. The old open cut mine pit is also one of those postcards you see from time to time. Deep. The mine today goes further underground to a bit over a kilometre, it takes an hour and half for trucks to come to the surface.
We now move on to Sandstone, a little bit further north and west and on the edge of the eastern goldfields, fields and heading for wheat and sheep areas. The wild flowers are also starting to emerge as we come into Spring.
All 1100 km of it, along mostly gravel roads, from Yulara to Laverton in Western Australia. We have had two stops along the way at roadhouses and have enjoyed the remoteness of location, the clear night skies and, yes, the rather chilly nights. The hot water bottles have remained in mothballs though. Campfires have warmed the bones before retiring under the donnas.
The road has not been nearly as bad as the guide books paint. We have been lucky it seems. A manager at one of the roadhouses says they have never been better, usually not as good as this and certainly a lot better than 5 years ago (when the guide books were written maybe). Long stretches of smooth gravel and clay, not quite a snooker table, some corrugations and wash outs. The Isuzu and van have handled it well. Couple of minor problems with our rear vision mirror camera and the road just shakes the clip on mirrors, making them next to useless. This is not really a problem because there is not exactly a lot of traffic to worry about in these parts.
Have seen some interesting places along the way. Lasseter’s cave, where he holed up for 20 days or so, in the 1930s, before setting out and subsequently dying in the desert. He was still looking for his ‘lost’ gold reef west of Alice Springs and Uluru. He had originally ‘found’ it in the 1890s. The cave was a fascinating spot beside a river bed. Allthego had a dig in the dry river bed sands and about 20 cm down water started to pool. Maybe it was there when Lasseter was , maybe it wasn’t. Who knows now?
Our route has taken us through the Gibson and Great Victoria deserts. The landscape though has been awash with vibrant colours, particularly the yellow flowers of cassias. A small patch of Sturts Desert Pea also jumped out at us, these are quite scarce it seems.
The trees and bushes are also looking in great condition following the rains. Spinifex stretches for miles either side of the road, with their seed stems wafting in the breezes.
We have spotted a camel and a few lizards, nothing much else.
The red dust though has been a bit of a trial in the house keeping duties. It just gets into everything. We are now in Laverton and will tomorrow head north-west towards Mt Magnet, stopping first at Leonora and then Sandstone for a few days.
We have now been at Uluru for a couple of days. After leaving Gemtree we made a quick stop in Alice Springs to replenish the pantry before moving a further 90 km south to stay the night at Stuarts Wells. This place has been around a while but is clean and neat. There were a couple of emus locked up in a cage around one of the wells, a few ducks and chickens as well. We made a reasonably quick getaway from here the next morning after having breaky in the road house, a big plate of bacon and eggs for Allthego and a likewise big plate of scrambled eggs for Homealone. Have to keep our energy up somehow.
Arrived at Uluru around 3 pm and set up camp. The next day was pretty easy, basically wandering around the campsite area and catching sunset over the Rock.
The stop over here was really to see the Field of Light in the evening. This is an installation of light bulbs on stems. The Field was designed by a Englishman, Bruce Munro who has put together a number of these things in Europe and the USA. He visited Australia 25 years ago and from there the idea sprung. It took till now to do it. His biggest one so far. It sits in a shallow depression about 7 km from The Rock. There are 50,000 of these lights which are computer controlled and periodically change colour. It is spread over an area equivalent to nearly seven football fields and is solar powered. Amazing, we wandered around the field for about an hour. There is no particular pattern to it. Makes you wonder about the Min Min Lights.
Tomorrow we head for Western Australia down the Great Central Road 1100 km of mostly gravel to Laverton. This is going to take us three days and we will be off the air for this time.
Leaving Bouila we headed off down the Donohue Highway to Tobermorey.
The road was written up as a pretty terrible, full of corrugations, bull dust holes and other perils. Disappointingly, there were very few of these. It seems that things have been on the improve. There was plenty of bitumen.
But it was still a long and dusty drive to Tobermorey. Here the facilities were a little basic, when the station generator was going the lights were on and the shower water pumped plenty nice and hot. When the generator wasn’t on none of this happened. Allthego was caught short all lathered up when bingo, the generator went out. 10 minutes later it came on again and all was well for Allthego. Now there is a Tobermorey on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. Nothing like this cattle station in western Queensland! But, like in Scotland, there was plenty of green grass to set up on so it was a very pleasant stopover.
Next morning we were off down the road to Jervois cattle station. We crossed into the Northern Territory and joined the Plenty Highway for the 220 km journey. Now this was all gravel with plenty of corrugations, but again not too bad. Wouldn’t like to have the family sedan on it though. A highlight along this stretch was stopping at a turkey mound (hope I have this right) beside the road. Now, in the natural world these so called turkey mounds occur where the water ‘leaks’ out of the artesian basin to the surface and forms ponds.. Graziers have humped these up above the surrounding plain to form mounds, these days adding pumps to assist the natural flow. They are havens for birds. We saw plenty of finches and a few parrots and ducks.
Jervois Station was a little more basic than Tobermorey. How much? Well it was a 300 metre walk to the facilities. And it was plenty dark too! But the showers were plenty hot and there were no generator issues. The highlight here was completing the Census and handing our paper copy to the station people for later collection by census staff moving along the Plenty Highway. Plenty of room for issues here.
The country side has really been great, the bush in plenty good shape but still needing plenty more rain this coming spring/summer.
Next morning, we were off on the final 200 km leg along the Plenty to Gemtree. This took us past the Harts Range community, famous for its annual race day. It also has the only police station along this 800 km stretch of road. Two officers are stationed here to keep control. Enough said!
Gemtree is a camping ground, plenty of facilities. It specialises as a venue for gem fossikers. No grass, just that lovely red dirt surrounded by mulga trees. We were there for two nights. On our first night we enjoyed an absolutely tremendous camp oven dinner put on by our hosts. Plenty of roast beef, potato, pumpkin, onion, cauliflower, brocoli and gravy. Bit of cheese sauce in there too.
The next day Allthego undertook a strenuous walk examining the various flora of the region. Homealone was holed up at the van immersed in a cross stitch. The walk took a little longer than estimated. Homealone became concerned as the return time passed, so she called out a posse to search for the lone explorer. The quad bike posse found Allthego striding up the final stages of the walk and transported him to the campsite, despite various minor protestations that it wasn’t really necessary. There was a bit of discussion after this about the necessity of it all. All’s well that ends well, someone said!
The night concluded over a camp fire with some tasty BBQ chicken kebabs and rice.
As the night descended we reflected on the plenty of things we had seen on the Plenty Highway. One of the great Australian road trips. We now head for Uluru.
We have arrived in Bouila. It was a great drive up the Kennedy Development Road. Not the one laned snake we were led to believe, plenty of double laned sections and wide verges. Country was looking good with green grasses and cattle enjoying the sun. They were unaware of their ultimate destination.
Along the way we stopped for lunch at the Middleton Hotel, steak sandwiches and chips. This is the last standing staging stop on the Cobb & Co route between Winton and Bouila. A movie has recently been made here, Goldstone, with Jacqui Weaver among the cast. Lots of sets were set up here , including a brothel next to the pub. All have now gone. Not sure about the movie.
Further along we stopped briefly at the Hamilton Hotel ruins site. A thought had been given to staying overnight here. We didn’t, it was a bit too far out there. Concerns were also had for the Min Min lights. One could sense their presence in the place. Although, later at the Min Min Centre in Bouila we learnt that we couldn’t sense them…………. they could sense us. So we could have stayed there after all!
In Bouila, we have gone to the two attractions the town has to offer. Firstly, the Stonehouse Museum which holds the usual collection of historical memorabilia that country towns have. Its major collection though is fossils from the ancient inland sea. Quite a good display. Secondly, the Min Min Centre. Now this was seriously good. A bit tongue in cheek. Tells the story of the Min Min lights, or Jack O’lanterns. Mysterious orbs that appear as if out of nowhere and follow you around, disappearing as quickly as they appear. We haven’t seen any yet. We keep being told that there is no point looking for them, because they find you!
Bouila is situated on the banks of the Burke River, named by Burke (of Bourke & Wills fame) when he travelled through these parts. Tradition suggests he filled his water bags in the river not far from our camp ground. It is a small town of about 300 people. There seems to be plenty of community energy around with some good facilities, only one pub though……….. the appropriately named Australian Hotel. No banks.
Tomorrow, we leave Bouila and head down the Donohue Highway to the Northern Territory border. There it becomes the Plenty Highway. Near the border we plan to stop for the night at Tobermoray, a cattle station with camping facilities. A further 200 km on is Jervois Station for our next night and then a camp ground at Gem Tree, not far from the Stuart Highway. All gravel it seems.
There is no internet for the next few days. So there will be big update to come.
It is 9 o’clock pm and we are here in Winton, 3 days out from Brisbane and on our way tomorrow to Bouila. It is the start of the meandering over to Western Australia. It is 350km to Bouila along the Kennedy Development Road. This is a highly technical description of a one lane sealed road. We have had an uneventful 3 days so far. Stopping overnight in Roma, Blackall and here in Winton. A rather chilly first day has been followed by clear sunny skies with a little nippy wind from the south. The sun disappears and the temperature drops. Wandering off to the loo at 4 in the morning has been problematic and has required some diligence.
Our route is taking us from Bouila, a bit to the south-west of Winton, across the Donohue and Plenty Highways to the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory; about 650 km of gravel road and no doubt with the odd corrugation or two. From there we head down to Alice Springs and Uluru. From Uluru we head to Waverton in WA across the Great Central Road, another 1,100km of gravel. We should be there about the 18th August. It is then off around the southern half of WA before returning across the Nullarbor to Brisbane.
All up its 91 days, now 88 before we return to Brisbane at the end of October. Homealone is not yet counting.
We have just returned from dinner, splashed out at the Tatts Hotel on a chicken parmie and kiev, absolutely full of nomads spilling out onto the footpath. The publican was having a great night, not to mention the violet haired bux0m bar maid/wench (should’t call her that should I…….perhaps waitress) keeping up with the food orders from the milling nomads. Back at the campground we have had an hour of great bush poetry, plenty of Banjo Patterson as you would expect in Winton.
The countryside out here is showing great signs of recovery from drought, following a rainy 6 months. One suspects follow on summer rains will be needed though to do the job properly. It is green everywhere and the dams are full.
On the way to Bouila we may stop for the night at the Hamilton Hotel ruins. The mysterious and chilling Min Min lights have been seen in these parts. It is one of the compelling reasons to stop there, 80 km short of Bouila, to get a glimpse of them. But. I have been told that ‘one does not go looking and find the Min Min lights, the Min Min lights find you.’