Back to Perth
Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
241Trip End Mar 15, 2007
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We stopped off at the Western Operations Base for the Royal Flying Doctor Services at Kalgoorlie. This is an agency I have heard about and been fascinated by since I was a small child. Their website (http://www.flyingdoctor.net/)tells me that: "The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia is a not-for-profit charitable service providing aero medical emergency and primary health care services together with communication and education assistance to people who live, work and travel in regional and remote Australia.
The RFDS was the first comprehensive aerial medical organization in the world and to this day remains unique for the range of primary health care and emergency services it provides and for the huge area of sparse population and climatic extremes over which it operates - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
That sounds a pretty cut and dried description of what they do. On our visit we were given a tour of a bit of the base and shown a very moving video of the work they do. Outback stations (mines, cattle or sheep stations) are each provided with medicine chests (now costing about $150 each) which contain numbered drugs, bandages and other first aid materials. In 1951, one of the nursing sisters in Broome developed a "body chart" which is still included in all medical chests and remains a vital tool in assisting with a patient's diagnosis via remote consultations. A doctor speaking from anywhere, including an aircraft, can ask, by number, where pain is being felt, and then instruct the caller to use medication or treatment by referring to numbered items on the lid list of the chest. Based on the judgment of the doctor authorizing the flight, up to 80% of medical evacuations are made with only the flight nurse and pilot on board.
A portion of the assistance they have to provide relates to travelers. As their website says ""It is surprising how many emergency calls we get from people unprepared for the rigours of outback travel. It is hard to imagine how vast the Outback is, and how easily emergencies can happen, until it is too late."
The service is funded by the Commonwealth government but have to entirely fund, maintain, repair and replace the aircraft independently
After this visit, we started heading out west again towards Perth where the weather reports said today would be fine but with deteriorating conditions tomorrow. It would be a very long drive, the longest of the circuit. First of all we passed through Coolgardie, which is also an old mining town; however, we saw nothing there we had not seen in a variety of forms in the last couple of days so pushed on.
There is a water pipeline which runs between Kalgoorlie and Perth and we followed that al the way there. It was the design of a rather creative engineer (C.Y.O'Connor) who, unfortunately, was felt to be quite mad for suggesting the scheme in the late 1800s. He survived the taunts and backtalk for a number of years until shortly before the pipeline was to open with great fanfare, he rode his horse all the way along the route of the pipeline to Perth, into the ocean at, I think, Scarborough Beach, where he shot himself
We whizzed through places like Bullabulling, Boorabbin, Koorarawalyee and finally to Southern Cross. While this sounds like a very romantic spot, it is another very hot country mining town. The weather was very hot indeed. I would say about 37 degrees or so. Hot, dry, dusty. I did take a photo of the rather quaint hotel before we pushed on. While it was originally my intent to stay in a hotel/motel somewhere along the way about an hour outside of Perth, it soon became apparent that we were making good enough time that we would make it to Perth that evening. We stopped for a quick lunch at Merridin (ham and cheese sandwich with beetroot and salad, fast becoming a favorite of mine) where the owner had caged parrots and cockatoos, one of which was a gorgeous white with a pink crest on it (I later found this was a Major Mitchell's Cockatoo). The place was all decorated up for Christmas including an iguana or lizard with Santa beard and hat.
We stopped briefly at Meckering where, in 1968 there was an earthquake which destroyed a farm home and left a still visible fault line or escarpment. We then pushed on to Northam where, as it was clear we would make it to Perth, I called Helen (who could, thank goodness, take me in a day early) and Erica called a Backpackers in Perth (who could take her) and in we went to Perth. Helen had given me directions as far as Midlands and Erica was able to guide me from there through Guildford, Bassendean, Ashfield, Maylands and into Perth itself. We saw the most magnificent sunset which I was not able to take a photo of unfortunately. I was a bit worried about the getting into Perth end of things but she was a good guide and told me simply to "follow highway 51 until it turns into Wellington Street" where the Backpackers was. There was a lot of construction on the street but we made it without incident and parted company with a hug and best wishes.
I needed a bit of guidance to get back to Helen's house after that but it was really quite easy. I was somewhat tired from the long drive but had no problems finding it with her good directions. A beer or two and comfortable chat was very welcome, as was an early night.