Monthly Archives: September 2016
We have come to the end of the Golden Pipeline route to Kalgoorlie and settled into a park in Kalgoorlie at Boulder. Kalgoorlie’s real name is Kalgoorlie-Boulder the two former little cities merging into one a few years ago. There are about 25,000 people here today. 1000 of whom are employed at the Super Pit, 600 men and 400 women. All have to live in K-B and they work 12 hours on 12 off for 7 days , 7 days off and then rotate through a night shift. Currently, the Super Pit has 3 years left of mining. When Alan Bond got the Super Pit started in the early 1980s by amalgamating and taking over a lot of small leases and miners they gave it 5 or 6 years. So things can change with these estimates of mine lives! There is also a big pile of low-grade waste rock being built up which will take 13 years to process once the mine closes. So there is a bit left to do yet.
Allthego learnt all this useful information by doing a Super Pit tour, Homealone thought she could better occupy herself on the main street in the frock shops. The tour takes you in a small bus down into the Pit, only about 70 of the 600 metres to the bottom. Eventually the pit will be 3.9 km long,1.6 km wide and 700 metres deep. There are some big machines working away down in the Pit, all very organised and controlled. The big haul trucks carry 225 tonnes at a time and the contained gold in that lot is about the size of a golf ball! 1 in 7 trucks carries this material the other 6 go to the waste dump. A lot of waste for a golf ball size bit of gold. Witnessed a blast in the bottom of the Pit at 5 pm one day. A big bang with a lot of rock being broken up and a cloud of dust growing a bit like an atom bomb, eventually filling part of the Pit and coming out over the top.
It is race week here in Kalgoorlie, the main sponsor being XXXX Gold. Feels like you are in Queensland. The Kalgoorlie Gold Cup runs on the Sunday as does a lot of XXXX.
Have had a wander around town and drink in the old Exchange Hotel and dinner in the Albion Hotel out our way at Boulder. It has been a relatively quiet time for us around town.
Allthego completed the first two holes of the Nullarbor Links Golf Course at the Kalgoorlie Golf Club. The 18 hole course finishes on the other side of the Nullarbor at Ceduna. There will be a more fulsome report on progress through the course in a later blog.
We now head off south down to Norseman before turning west along the 300 km Granite and Woodlands Trail to Hyden, home of Wave Rock.
The GEH (Great Eastern Highway) winds its way across the central wheat belt of WA. There is a lot of wheat grown out here, the fields just go on and on for ever. So do the grain trains at night. Rumble , rumble, rumble.
After leaving Jurien Bay we headed eastwards and then south to New Norcia. This is an old monastic town founded by Spanish Benedictine monks in the mid 1800s. They set up an entire community which at its peak numbered over 100 monks, today there are 11. The town now specialises in ‘hospitality’, which is a Benedictine tradition. So there are various sorts of live in accommodation, hotel, road house, education and training facilities etc. They also make some great hot bread each morning in their old bakery, olive oil (from 100 plus old trees) and a range of wines . Their port was quite good! We stayed overnight behind the road house. It was a good price too, $10 the night and $2.50 each for the showers!
Continuing on we reached Toodyay (pronounced Too-j) on the banks of the Avon River, we are now about 80 km east of Perth. Stayed here for a night, great little town. But, it was cold and got down to 6 in the morning with an accompanying morning mist……
We were off east. But not before getting some buns from the hot bread shop and some new lamb from the local butcher. It looked to be good stuff too, the butcher had his own lamb flock! This is the sort of town you could spend a few days in. But we needed to continue the journey east!
The GEH starts from Toodyay in earnest. We passed through Meckering, our most severe earthquake event back in 1968 when this whole town was virtually flattened by a 6.8 quake.The land in parts rose by a metre and half. Lots of memorabilia of the time is still around, including a ruined stone homestead. Then it was on to Cunderin. Here we wandered around one of the restored pump houses for the water pipeline. There were 8 of these along the route of the pipeline from Perth to Kalgoorlie. The pump stations were driven by steam power and operated as such up until 1970 when they were phased out and replaced by electrical stations. The one at Cunderin acts as a Museum piece telling the story of the pipe line construction.
A little further on we chose to stay the night at Merredin, a major wheat town. Some huge grain silos around these parts. Daytime weather continues to be great, blue skies but mid teens temperatures. Makes for great days but chilly nights and mornings!
Our next stopover along the GEH was Boondi Rock in the midst of the Goldfields-Woodlands NP. This is a special sort of place because we camped right up against the walls of a dam constructed in the late 1800s as a water supply point for steam trains travelling out to Kalgoorlie from Perth. The large granite rock formation acts as the water catchment area for the dam. Granite slabs line channels that divert the run off into the dam. Quite some engineering work here!
Had a nice fire going here and BBQ’d some Too-j lamb sausages for dinner! These got our vote so far for best sausages, even if they were lamb!
Next morning, the journey continued to Coolgardie, where we had a short stopover for morning tea at the Way Out West cafe and then onto Kalgoorlie in the mid afternoon.
After Geraldton we have continued south along the coast to Jurien Bay. This is the heart of the Rock Lobster territory or though it seems most places along the coast claim this title. Of more import though is that this is also a good place to base oneself for exploring Lesueur NP and Nambung NP
Lesueur is a remote park and involves a one way drive of about 18 km. It winds its way through some diverse country that is rich in flora types. Of course there are more wildflowers. Many we have seen before but there are a few new ones!
Nambung is home to the Pinnacles. Some amazing landscapes. A photographer could get lost! It looks like a great big old grave yard with headstones of all shape sand sizes. No inscriptions though, just the sands of time……..
We spent an afternoon here after indulging in a half lobster at the Lobster Shack in Cervantes, south of Jurien (but still on the Bay). It seems that all our Asian visitor friends come here on day trips from Perth……to eat the lobsters and then gaze at the Pinnacles. They are also real terriers in the NP shop. All coming out with hands full helping our national debt! Stuffed kangaroos, koalas, lizards and dolphins etc etc………
We are now going to head away from the coast and go back east to Kalgoorlie along the Great Eastern Highway. This will take us down through New Norcia and then east through Northam, Meckering (the big earthquake town), Merriden and Southern Cross to Kalgoorlie. The highway traces the route of the great water pipeline that was built from Perth to Kalgoorlie in the early 1900s. The pipeline provided and continues to provide the water resources that led to the development of the great wheat field and wool districts through which we will pass. It is going to take 3 or 4 days to get to Kalgoorlie and we will be off the air until then!
Our stop in Geraldton was a bit of an eye opener. We have seen a traffic light for the first time in about a month! Geraldton is a major wheat export terminal and our camping ground is not far away from the port railway line. It seems the Port comes to life in the early hours of the morning and the odd long train comes through. So there is a bit of a racket. But we are sound asleep and only awake to the calls of nature!
The major attraction here in Geraldton is the Cathedral. The architect being none other than Monsignor Hawes. It is certainly a grand building for Geraldton. It gets lit up at night and makes quite a spectacle.
Also up on a hill is the memorial to HMAS Sydney. There was a cruise ship in town the day we went up here so the memorial was maned by volunteers and we got a few snippets of the layout and meaning of the memorial items. The major one being the big dome. It is constructed from steel doves each one representing one of the men who died when the Sydney was sunk off the Geraldton coast during WW11. Originally built before the Sydney wreck was discovered there has since been an update with a remembrance pool and directional pointer to the wrecks location. Have also dropped by the Point Moore Point lighthouse which is the tallest steel lighthouse in Australia. It has distinctive red stripes and stands out against the blue sky and waters of the port.
Not far from Geraldton is the old rural town of Greenough. The famous leaning trees of Greenough are here. They bend against the prevailing south-west winds and lie close to the ground, mostly de-foliated on the windward side.
The National Trust have acquired a group of old stone buildings from the mid to late 1800s and are in the process of preserving them (not restoring them). We had a wander through the building precinct and reflected on rural life in those times. The Monsignor Hawes story continues in Greenhaugh. It was to the little church here that he was posted after leaving Mullewa and before he left Australia to live in the Bahamas as a hermit, he died there in the mid 1950s. He was certainly an interesting person. Seems to have been pretty determined in everything he did.
We have restocked the van’s pantry here in Geraldton. It was severely run down after nearly six weeks on the road and short of some necessities. The journey continues further south to Jurien Bay, home of the Western Red Rock Lobster.
We set off for Geraldton, continuing our southward journey down the WA coast. It is starting to get a little cooler now. We had started to get used to the warm airs at Shark Bay. Weather though is still good, clear and blue skies with a little cloud in the mornings.
Before leaving Kalbarri NP we pulled in and had lunch in the easterly section of the Park at Hawk’s Head and Ross Graham Lookout. At Ross Graham you re able to easily walk down to the River banks at the bottom of the gorge. It says it’s a 200 m stroll, but its more like 200 m down. Plenty of steps but great at the bottom beside the river. Plenty of bird life, including an Australian Ringneck parrot (there is a little yellow band around its neck) standing guard over its nest in a tree trunk. Breeding season is in full swing it seems.
It was hard to leave this Park but we needed to get on the road. Along the way south we stopped briefly at Northampton to see another of Monsignor Hawes Churches. It was totally different to those seen so far. The farm lands here are predominantly wheat with sheep occupying the in between stretches. These pastures are filled with yellow daisy like flowers stretching as far as the eye can see. The sheep seem to be submerged in them at times. Must be a great taste!
We arrived in Geraldton and settled into the Belair Van Park out near the port, near the beach, and close to the central town area.
A short hop and a step from Kalbarri is the Principality of Hutt River. It makes for a half day drive around and you can loop back to Kalbarri. So we did it. Now you might be scratching your head about this Principality. If you were around in the mid 70s early 80s it was in the news quite a bit. Leonard crowned himself as a prince and seceded from Australia. Originally, it was all over wheat quotas and land repossession. The Principality is quite a big wheat and sheep farm and he had his quota slashed to almost nothing. Got a bit upset and started court battles and then seceded from Australia. Seems to have got away with something from being an utter difficult customer and persistent litigant. Has a bit of money too! He has quite a nice property, there is a Government Office including the Post Office.
Voluntary visas are issued for $4. The Principality has its own currency (parity with $A) and postage stamps ( these are not recognised by Australia Post and have to go on the back of an envelope, the envelope is then franked with Australian postage). There is a nice inter-denominational chapel and camping facilities are available. Prince Leonard is now 91 and sits in one of his buildings enjoying the sunshine. He has a number of sons and daughters, all princes and duchesses. They are all involved in working the property and administering the Principality. Prince Graeme showed us the ropes in the Government Offices; mainly commemorative booklets, gem displays, bank notes from around the world and postcards etc etc. He was most respectful towards his father’s work but also a little wry grin appeared from time to time in talking about the Principality and the services available, including knighthoods by application. It was a bit of fun!
Along the way we had called in at Pink Lake. The colouring is caused by some algae that is rich in vitamin A. There is also a large processing plant here that produces food concentrate from brine shrimp for fish farming and the aquarium industry.
We have seen the ongoing display of wild flowers but have also been shocked to see some wild life. The well-known Bob Tail Skink and Echidna have put in appearances.
The skink showed its blue tongue when Homealone got down close to it and seemed to aggravate it. The Echidnas, well there were three of them making their way out of the scrub, across the road and into the wheat fields. Quite a procession.
We now head south to Geraldton.
We have now moved on to Kalbarri about 150 km south of Shark Bay. It is where the Murchison River reaches the sea. My readers will remember the storm scenes from a few blogs back where we crossed the Murchison much higher in its catchment on the way to Murchison Settlement. Well it’s a pretty wild entry to the sea. It’s not a sand bar but a rock bar, a lateral approach along the beach front in between rock platforms, doesn’t seem to be for the faint hearted. Here it is. A Fisheries boat made the crossing.
Kalbarri has two main attractions (fishing is also up there!). The first is the inland gorges, through which the Murchison River passes, and the second is the coastal cliffs, against which the Indian Ocean crashes. The parkland surrounding the river where it enters the sea is also memorable. Remembering the much drier countryside where the river has its source and then finally seeing it pouring into the sea through the rocky bar was a special moment. The Murchison is WA second longest River.
The gorges of Kalbarri NP are also a great sight. The iconic Natures Window attracts lots of tourists. The beautiful people like to sit in the rock window for a photo, as if ignoring the majesty of the Murchison gorge. Then maybe I’ m being unkind? Some of them were beautiful! Homealone couldn’t venture out here so another picture of a beautiful person couldn’t be taken!
The wild flowers are also in abundance. There has been a gradual change from the inland areas as we have moved towards the coast. The wildflowers are now on shrubs and trees as much as on the ground. We have seen a patch of Kangaroo Paw and also the Murchison Rose, all around has been the smoke bush. Truly, a mass of colour. Also a plant called a Verticordia (something ?????) a mass of yellow flowers on a single stem it hasn’t been seen in Kalbarri for 18 years or so, according to a ranger.
The limestone coastal cliffs are also a great spectacle of nature. The sea is certainly eating it’s way inland, leaving all sorts of curious landmarks. One could potter along the coastal cliff trail for ages. It is a bit like the Great Ocean Rd in Victoria.
Another highlight of our time in Kalbarri was a roast beef dinner on the weber,. It was great, we had some roast potatoes, carrots and onions as well. All was accompanied by Homealone’s special gravy. Allthego knocked up some apple pies from IGA and warmed them on the weber for desert. It seems the weber was a bit hot and overcooked the bases of the pies. Timing is everything! Someone said. They were left to eat for another day.
That’s all for now……….
Gutharraguda is a big place over 2.2 m hectares of diverse landscapes, so you can’t possibly see it all in 4 days and also sit around and just enjoy the fresh air. Gutharraguda is aboriginal for Shark Bay and means two waters. The peninsular on which we are based juts out and divides the Bay in two segments. Denham where we are is on the west coast and we see the sun set over water. Monkey Mia is on the other side and faces east towards the mainland and the sun sets over the land behind it.
On one of our drives around we called into Shell Beach. Now this is serious shell stuff. The little Hamelin cockle shells number in their trillions (or just a real lot it seems) and the beach and shoreline was just covered in them. They are up to nine metres deep in places. There used to be a quarrying operation here that cut calcified blocks of these for building purposes.
There are a number of buildings in Denham with walls made from these blocks, including the Old Pearler’s Cottage which now houses a restaurant. We lashed out and had a nice evening meal in here. The camping ground had a number of its retaining walls made out of them. The quarry now only works to produce blocks when repair jobs are needed.
From Shell Beach we made our way down to Hamelin Pool which is right at the bottom of the Bay. Here the water is very shallow and salty. In fact about twice as salty as the rest of the Bay. In this environment Stromatolites have prospered. Sromatolites are microbiological structures that go back to the earliest times of life, about 3,500 m years ago. They look like small black blobs on stalks about the size of a football. Some of them seem to join up and form a maze type pattern. Fascinating place.
After the day long Steep Point trip we decided to have an afternoon on the water at Monkey Mia and went for a sail on Shotover. The objective was to find dugongs, dolphins and turtles. Now there was a fair wind and this whipped the sea up a bit which made sighting the dugongs difficult. It was early in the Dugong season as well which didn’t help. We didn’t see any. One of the highlights was running over the top of a turtle as it surfaced under one of hulls of the boat. Made a super big crack when it hit. One of the crew went below to check for any damage…….to the boat not the turtle. We didn’t see the turtle again and the boat was ok. It was suggested that he/she warned the dugongs off. A few dolphins were also sighted. Though we didn’t see any dugongs it was a great afternoon on the water. We finished off with a complimentary sunset sail and watched the sun drop over the land behind some unusual cloud shapes.
We are now heading away from Shark Bay for Kalbarri, about 150 km south.
One of the things to do when you are at Shark Bay is to go out to Steep Point. It’s the most westerly point on mainland Australia and marks one of the entrances to Shark Bay. Dirk Hartog Island lies across the channel. It was a full days drive from Denham, 430 km return. Now the first 85 km on the bitumen takes you almost back to the turnoff from the NW Coastal Hwy and on to what is called Useless Loop Rd. From here it is about another 100 km of gravel as the road loops around the bottom of Shark Bay and then up the coast to Steep Point. This section contained what could only be described as some of the worst corrugated road Allthego has driven on, bone jarring shaking for km after km, even with the tyres down to 20 psi. One stretch of about 8 km was just unbelievably bad, used by trucks going to and from a salt mine operation. Glad to get past it. The last 30 km is along a one lane sandy track that traverses the sand dunes and the shoreline out to Steep Point.
We didn’t see any cars on these tracks and all up saw only half a dozen all day and they were parked at Steep Point. National Parks say to allow 3 hours for the trip along Useless Loop Rd and the final section out to the point. It took us 3 and half. There were quite a few tent campers spread out along the foreshores, mostly fishing I would guess.
It was a great view from the Point, certainly a wild and woolly coastline. A post in front of the Most Westerly Point sign allows you to attach a camera to get the memento photo of the trip’s destination. We sat down here on a rock and had some lunch gazing across the channel to Dirk Hartog Island and the surf crashing against its cliff lined shore.
The return trip to Denham took just as long and it was sunset before we got back along Useless Loop Rd, returning in the dark to Old Farts Lane at the camping ground. A sleep in was forecast for the next morning!
We settled into the Denham Seaside Tourist Village at Shark Bay after the trip along the Butchers Track. Denham is the major town, actually the only town on Shark Bay. We were lucky in getting a site right on the beachfront along a short access way, aptly named Old Farts Lane. The couple next to us have been coming from Perth to the Bay and staying in this spot for the last 22 years for 4 or 5 months at a time, they were in their late 70s or early 80s. Limpets. A few others seemed to know them as well. It was a great spot with a view of white sand and blue water. A bit different to red dirt. It then sunk in that we had crossed the continent from east to west! To greet us the weather gods produced a nice blow that night, the van rocked a bit and the tied down awning held its ground. A little bit of rain. We awoke to a clear sky and much calmer weather.
Off we went for a trip up to Monkey Mia to see the dolphins. Which we did. We have seen dolphins before. There were 3 of them swimming up and down the beach front, we had missed the last of the morning feeds at around 11.30. As if by clockwork they disappeared at midday, almost on the dot. They do this each day and then return again the next morning. All have names and distinctive markings.
On the way to Monkey Mia we stopped for a look at Little Lagoon. It is an almost circular body of shallow crystal clear water. From a distance atop a hill at the golf club it is deep blue fringed by white sand. By accident we came across a small patch of Sturts Desert Pea beside the gravel road into the golf club, the type that has a red pea centre and not the black pea centre that we have seen previously. They were the only Sturts Desert Peas we saw in Shark Bay.
It goes without saying that the wild flowers are profuse yet again. But at the moment we have had enough of wild flowers and are keeping our eyes out for mallee fowl, kangaroos and emus. Emus it is and we have seen two mobs of them running away in the scrub.
We have now moved on to Kalbarri after 4 days at Shark Bay. So the blog is catching up. But there is more yet to come on the Bay including a day trip to Steep Point, the most westerly point of the Australian mainland.