Rock of Ages
Trip Start Oct 31, 2013
14Trip End May 01, 2014
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We've had a busy week travelling across the Wheatbelt to the Goldfields; a week when we seem to have been more or less travelling the roads on our own. The distances are reasonably long and the roads amazingly straight. Much of the land is agricultural – the crops have been cut and there are sheep grazing on the stubble. The towns are small and serve the farming community but what they have in common are wonderful amenities; nearly all have a pool and/or recreational facilities and they are all making an effort to attract visitors to their communities. We were made to feel welcome everywhere and no one batted an eyelid when we went to the swimming pool and said we just wanted the showers – that will be $1 thanks!! (It was communal and cold water – or as cold as it gets in 30+ degrees!) One little town – Westonia – had less than 100 inhabitants (about the same as the road we live on in Minehead?) yet had a swimming pool, bowling green, golfccourse, gym and sports hall – but the Primary School had just closed
Part of the journey followed the Golden Pipeline which has it’s very own Heritage Trail! The pipeline was opened in 1903 taking fresh water from Mundaring – just outside Perth – to Kalgoorlie, nearly 600Km away. It’s still used today.
Then we passed through the 'Great Western Woodlands’ which covers almost 16 million hectares and includes the Goldfields of WA. Dotted along the way we visited a few of the many granite outcrops, among which is Kokerbin Rock, allegedly the 3rd largest monolith in Australia. The water catchment potential of these rocks was always known by the Aboriginals – gnammas (the depressions in the rocks) and soaks (literally at the base of the rocks where the water gathered) provided them with fresh water and attracted wildlife, and the rocks also held great cultural significance. The Europeans took this a leap further and made rock walls, aqueducts and dams to service the railways. We found them beautiful places – peaceful, apart from the whispering of the wind through the She-Oaks, lovely walks and fabulous views
There was more rock on the long drives, courtesy of our iPod! The roads are straight enough to do a reasonable air guitar accompaniment to Priddy, Dave and Bob, drum with Brian and sing along with Joey. We are talking about the amazing Cutting Edge – apologies to non-West Somersetonians – our favourite travelling music. We do have other stuff, though our listening is curtailed a bit by the old radio which has a tendency to make the some stuff sound a bit like Sean Connery with a lisp.
Then to Kalgoorlie, born in the Goldrush of the 1890s and home of the Superpit; Kalgoorlie-Boulder’s famous landmark. The famous Golden Mile was owned by small operations until WA businessman Alan Bond started buying up the individual leases to create one big company and one big pit, from which gold could be extracted more cheaply. Bond's company failed to complete the takeover but, in 1989, the entire area was combined and Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines was formed to manage the assets. The Superpit is 3.5km long, 1.6km wide and 620m deep. Standing on the lookout, in the heat, with the drone of the machines and looking deep, deep down at the tiny trucks – which are actually monsters – was quite overwhelming! The trucks go up and down endlessly with their loads of rock heading for the grinders. It produces up to 850,000 ounces of gold every year! Did you know - the chemical symbol for gold is Au, derived from the Latin word for gold – aurum – meaning shining dawn. And I’ve just noticed that Australian internet domain names end in .au! There’s no conspicuous wealth here as there is in the Pilbarra. There are some wonderful historic buildings from the height of it’s success in the early C20. And…….. It does have a couple of brothels which still operate and we went on a tour of one – supposedly the oldest in town! Yes, Kalgoorlie was interesting!!