WHERE ARE WE NOW
We left Coolgardie on the south road to Victoria Rocks a lovely road to travel with lots of beautiful yellow sand. Climbed up Victoria Rock which John Holland explored in 1893 at which time he built a cairn as the highest point for many miles. We certainly had a 360 degree view and also enjoyed listening to the birds here unlike other granite rocks that we’ve climbed which have been silent except for the incessant wind.
The road deteriorated once we got into the Dundas Shire but before too long we reached the Norseman-Hyden Road which is clay based with stones so almost like bumpy bitumen. We turned left to Lake Johnston a huge dry lake bed (or according to the sign a playa) a good lunch stop and time for a walk to check out a couple of salt water pools. Both Victoria Rock & Lake Johnston are set up for overnight camping with information and toilets.
Turning round we head west toward Hyden still 193km away, first stop is another granite rock McDermid which surprisingly has a interpretive walk up, over and round. Great to get views and information. We drive through the woodlands pass a couple of nickel mines that are fairly new and still operating – Emily Ann & Maggie Hays. A couple we’d chatted to at the lake suggested we stop at Breakaways, a good stop for the night with most unusual sand, slate and granite formations. Unsurprisingly we are on our own here, there are very few travellers and we can go hours without seeing another vehicle.
Another early start from Breakaways for a couple of reasons firstly I got up early to get pics of the sunrise and then an even greater motivator the wind was really cold and it’s warmer when we drive. It was nice driving early such pretty light on the woodland flowers and here there was some lovely grevillea. In no time we were arriving at Hyden with first stop Hump Rock and Mulkas Caves good walks here although we opted out as we’ve done so many granite rocks but we did go into the cave and checked out the hand prints. Next was Hippo and Wave Rocks this is the big draw card for the tourists and yes there was a bus load here. Impressive but honestly we enjoyed some of the rocks further north more.
Hyden is a lovely little town with some great junk art that we lunched beside enjoying our treats from the bakery and also the free sausages from the polling booth. Kulin had drawn my attention as it has the Tin Horse Highway and free camping right in town (with hot showers woohoo). Great drive through the beautiful wheat farming country and a good laugh seeing all the horses. Arriving in town we had a good wander round and called into the car museum where Rob talked cars and tractors with one of the fellows who does the restoration. Popped into the pub for a beer and watched Wallabies play the All Blacks nice to have a change of scenery and entertainment.
Woke to a thunder storm after rain all night such a change from what we are used to but didn’t stop us from exploring many small towns as we head west taking small roads through Jitarning, Wickepin, Narrogin (did laundry here wow) and Dwellingup before stopping at a free camp in Pinjara. Slightly larger than the previous night but just as enjoyable to wander round reading the well placed signs on the history of the town. Spoiled ourselves yet again with dinner at the pub Sunday night special. Our one disappointment of the day driving through the beautiful country starting with wheat farms then paddocks of sheep and the occasional cattle then forest was to suddenly see bare earth at first we were bemused but then with a conveyer across the road we realised this is an area that has bauxite mines, very noisy and smelly in such beautiful country so sad seeing the area cut up. Fingers crossed they have a good restoration program.
WHERE ARE WE NOW
Kulin (and it’s storming)
We were undecided whether to go direct to Menzies and then Kalgoorlie from Lake Ballard or whether to take the longer route round the north of the lake. Woke early and caught the sunrise so decision made to head north.
Well worth the extra kilometres great gravel, sand and clay roads and interesting things to see such as the derelict Copperfield Mine where gold and tin were mined until the decision was made to close the mine and 100 or so men left the area. There are many other mines currently in operation and other areas where they have the drills in for exploration. The small town of Leonora was worth a stop there is a large open cast mine right near where the old Gold Mine of Gwalia once stood. Gwalia is now a ghost town and very well preserved we spent over an hour here wandering around imagining how life must have been for Herbert Hoover (later to be American President) and his Italian workers.
Next stop was the Niagara Dam we stopped for lunch but would have been happy to stay the night as there was heaps of room and the dam is good for yabbies. The dam has an unusual history being built in great haste in the 1890’s to service all the mining settlements in the area but never actually used as a permanent water source was discovered nearby.
About 100 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie we stopped for the night at the Goongarrie Station we expected maybe a host and some others would be here but not a soul in sight. Great spot though with buildings ready to be occupied with bunks and other furniture. Went for a self guided walk round the property before enjoying our first fire in a few weeks.
Thursday was time to visit Kalgoorlie Boulder (yes these 2 towns become 1 a few years back) and walked the main streets admiring all the old buildings many which have been restored to their original beauty. Easy to see that the building boom was when there was plenty of wealth as buildings are rather opulent. Also went to 2 lookouts the first the oldest reservoir, water is piped over 500km and has been since the late 1890’s. Secondly to the open pit Gold Mine right next to Boulder my goodness this is huge similar in some ways to the Newman iron ore mine but more focused in one area and much of the infrastructure is away from the vast open cast mine. So much history here and well catalogued since the first big gold rush.
We’ve noticed that there is lots of regrowth in the woodlands here and now know why – by 1949 an estimated 27 million tons of timber had been cut equaling 7 million acres of forest to support the mining industry.
Spoilt ourselves with a most delicious morning tea at the old Boulder Fire Station and then had to skip lunch as we were so full. We’d seen as much as we’d wanted to so moved on rather than staying at the free 24 hour campsite near town.
A short drive to Coolgardie where we enjoyed the free wifi – it was available for 3 hours but no didn’t spend that long. Here there is also a 24 hour free to self contained site just a block away from town so took the opportunity to have dinner at the Denver Hotel which opened its doors 120 years ago. Great food and very friendly staff even though they were rushed off their feet with a variety bash passing through.
WHERE ARE WE NOW
We diverted on leaving Bencubbin to check out a meteorite site (Bencubbin was named after the mineral found here) unfortunately like many other places noted in the tourist brochures there wasn’t anything signposted once we were in the right area. We did however enjoy the back roads to Beacon seeing plenty of Bobtail Skinks and a variety of birds even saw our first rabbit on this trip and a large wild cat. Beacon was totally asleep being Sunday but did have a good info board.
We carried on to Datjoin Rock which is actually a group of granite rocks with a great view and a wooden sided old well. Next was the town of Bonnie Rock the only thing standing here was the hall and a children’s playground both which are still used. This once was a thriving town and there were signs all around with the street names and which buildings were where but nothing remains of the buildings so can only assume they were all demolished.
Not far from Bonnie Rock (there isn’t actually a rock) is Beringbooding Rock where we stopped for lunch and ended up staying the night. Interesting place where back in the early 1930’s they recognised that the rock face could be used for water catchment so walls were built to channel the run off into a 2 million litre tank – still the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. This still works today and the water tank, almost at capacity when we visited, is used for stock watering and crops. Also on the rock is some Aboriginal Art and Gnamma hole. We even went up after dark to see how many properties were in the area and at 360 degrees seeing many miles in all directions only 2. The other things to see here are a couple of old wells still holding water perfectly with their rock sides and an old sheep dip.
We woke to gusty wind and the skies darkened as we left for a short drive to Elachbutting Rock, this rock was the largest we’ve seen yet and even had a drive right round and also partway up the rock. Again more than happy that we have the vehicle we do that can go anywhere. We got caught in a heavy downpour here but continued on to check out an old homestead with wells and also a galloping horse created by the men from Mukinbudin. Next stop yes another granite rock by the name of Baladjie this one is beside huge clay pan lakes so some great views. Plenty of room to camp here but the road was a bit chopped up and could have become impassable with more rain so we moved on.
Headed east as far as Bullfinch where we turned north finding a great spot to camp well off the dirt road with a low large granite rock. There is a small waterhole which is used by emu, kangaroo and while we were there plenty of black cockatoo.
Woke to still grey skies but as we progressed up the Bullfinch-Evanston Road the weather improved and the roads remained as good as they’d been all the way. In 24 hours we saw no other cars with the exception of 2 mining vehicles which had their own road. Plenty of mines and mine exploration in this area although all well hidden. Our first stop was Lake Barlee which had a small amount of water very pretty with lovely yellow sand. Next we stopped for a look at Hospital Rock which is a low spreading granite rock perfect for overnight but too early for us.
We arrived at Lake Ballard by about 1.30 which was perfect for going for a walk on the salt pan lake to photograph the scattered sculptures of the people from Menzie, this was the work of Antony Gormley. A great walk although rather sticky from the salt bed we had fun trying to find all 51 pieces but after nearly 3 hours we were back at the start with a count of 38. Great campsite for the night with only a couple of others and best place to wake early and get some sunrise shots.