Monthly Archives: October 2014

Kalgoorlie

We are in Kalgoorlie where gold is still being mined on a grand scale.  Paddy Hannan and two of his mates, who are less feted, discovered gold here in June 1893.  In the 1890’s provisions were in short supply, prostitution was rife (many of the women from China & Japan), and housing was a 6×8 hessian tent erected with forked sticks, an oat bag for a mattress and billy cans and kerosene tins to cook with. It must have been a wild, old town. The engineer, CY O’Connor, developed a project to pump water the 600 km from Mundaring Resevoir, in the Perth hills, to Kalgoorlie and the first of the eight pumping stations was officially started, with great pomp and ceremony, in 1903.  This, of course, changed everything, and it is extraordinary to see the pipeline today, often following the road, as you travel between Perth and Kalgoorlie.  Some of the original pipes are still in use although the pumping stations have been replaced.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder has some lovely, old buildings and we have visited a couple of museums and the Arboretum and the Karlkurla Bushland Park.  We also had lunch at the historic Ora Banda pub, which has a colourful history involving arson, bombings, murder and The Gypsy Jokers.  The food wasn’t great! but it is a lovely, little outback pub with a very pleasant beer garden.

We have travelled 12,200 kms in 11 1/2 weeks and tomorrow we head for the Nullabor.  It will take us two days to cross, and we will free camp so, probably, no internet/phone access. Home in two weeks.

Arboretum - Coral Gum

Arboretum – Coral Gum

Arboretum - Coral Gum

Arboretum – Coral Gum

Karlkurla Bushland Park - Silver Gimlet Trees

Karlkurla Bushland Park – Silver Gimlet Trees

Geoff and his mate Paddy - hope some of his luck rubs off!

Geoff and his mate Paddy – hope some of his luck rubs off!

The Super Pit - produces 800,000 ops of gold per year

The Super Pit – produces 800,000 ozs of gold per year

The Super Pit - mine trucks weigh 22 tonnes and carry just under 4,000 l of fuel.

The Super Pit – mine trucks weigh 22 tonnes and carry just under 4,000 l of fuel.

It's Jacaranda Season

It’s Jacaranda Season

View of the town

Charlotte’s Lookout

Charlotte's Loolout

Charlotte’s Lookout

The Super Pit - Face Shovels weigh a mighty 685 tonnes, carry 11,000 l of fuel. Unsurprisingly, max speed is 2.1 km/hr

The Super Pit – Face Shovels weigh a mighty 685 tonnes, carry 11,000 l of fuel. Unsurprisingly, max speed is 2.1 km/hr

Ora Banda Cemetery - someone has been moved to put artificial flowers on the few identifiable graves.  They look quite bizarre.

Ora Banda Cemetery – someone has been moved to put artificial flowers on the few identifiable graves. They look quite bizarre.

The Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park

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These photos were all taken in an extraordinary area of Nambung National Park – The Pinnacles Desert.  Thousands of limestone pillars, which range in size up to 5m tall and 2m thick at the base, rise up out of the sand and heath.  They were formed thousands of years ago when ancient plant roots formed a weak cementation of calcite within the dunes and have been exposed by wind and shifting sands.  It is difficult to convey how dramatic and unexpected this spectacle is.  The stone pillars resemble a stone army on the march – rather like a scene from Lord of The Rings!  They are beautiful and eerie at the same time.

Beautiful Kalbarri

A lovely afternoon in the Kalbarri National Park East of Kalbarri.  These are the inland gorges on the Murchison River with rock formations as old as 400 million years.  The Murchison River starts its journey in the ancient range lands near Meekathara before feeding into the Indian Ocean at Kalbarri.

The Z-Bend Lookout gives views of the 150m plunge to the river below and highlights the red river gums against the striking colours of the Tumblagooda sandstone.  Nature’s Window is a rock arch which frames the section of the river called The Loop.  We didn’t leave the area until after five so had the opportunity to greet a couple of kangaroos on the road on the way back.  Like all of their brethren, they have suicidal tendencies.

The Z-Bend

The Z-Bend

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The Loop

The Loop

Climbing around to Nature's Window

Climbing around to Nature’s Window

Shades of the old Cleo centrefold

Shades of the old Cleo centrefold

Beautiful sandstone formations at The Loop

Beautiful sandstone formations at The Loop

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Nature's Window from the other side

Nature’s Window from the other side

At the Blue Holes. Morning coffee with my feet in the Indian Ocean - what could be better

At the Blue Holes. Morning coffee with my feet in the Indian Ocean – what could be better

Kalbarri

Kalbarri

Shark Bay (Denham), Shell Beach, Kalbarri

Shell Beach

Shell Beach

Jelly Fish at Shell Beach

Jelly Fish at Shell Beach

We stopped at Shell Beach on our way to Kalbarri.  The same hyper saline waters that allow the Stromatolites to grow in Hamelin Pool, also provide the right environment for other unique creatures like the Coquina Shell.  Trillions of tiny shells have accumulated up to 10m deep and 1 km wide forming a beach made of glaringly- white shells, stretching 120 km in the L’Haridon Bight.  By contrast, the water is crystal-clear and of the most intense greens and blues.

We are enjoying Kalbarri and have spent the afternoon walking the red cliffs along the coast to the south.  the Natural Bridge resembles the London Bridge in Vic., now collapsed, and, in fact, a lot of the coastline is reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road.  Here, there is a great, sealed path along the cliff tops with lookouts at various vantage points.  It is wonderful to watch the great waves crashing in and the foam boiling around the rocks, and this is on a calm day.  Watching the waves is as mesmerising as watching an open fire.  I could do it for hours.

Looking back towards Kalbarri from Red Bluff

Looking back towards Kalbarri from Red Bluff

South view from Red Bluff

South view from Red Bluff

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The Island

The Island

The maelstrom

The maelstrom

The Natural Bridge

The Natural Bridge

Shellhouse Grandstand

Shellhouse Grandstand

Mushroom Rock

Mushroom Rock

Shark Bay & Monkey Mia

imageimageI am The Chosen One! We were at Monkey Mia early this morning for the first of a possible three ‘dolphin experiences’,( depending on how often the dolphins choose to come into the beach). Interaction with the dolphins is strictly controlled and the faithful gather at the water’s edge, in ankle-deep water, looking hopeful. The dolphins cruise up and down along the row of spectators and are remarkably relaxed. Volunteer staff stand in the water with a bucket, each containing 5 small fish, and people are randomly selected to feed a fish to a dolphin. I was thrilled to be picked out. It was a wonderful experience to be so close to such a beautiful creature. No-one is allowed to touch them and only 5 or 6 specific females are fed, and they are only fed a small amount to ensure that they continue to hunt fish for themselves and thath they don’t neglect their calves. Three generations of dolphins have visited, and continue to visit, Monkey Mia and they are all identifiable (by their dorsal fins), and are the subject of ongoing research. If it all sounds stage-managed, it is done very well, and it is far better than the free access of the 60’s and 70’s, when many dolphins died, or were killed or injured as a result of their interaction with visitors. We stayed on for the second dolphin feeding session and we were within a couple of feet of them, because there were fewer people. Weather was perfect and we had a great morning.

This afternoon we drove out to Eagle Bluff for an expansive view of Shark Bay and the long, thin shadow of Dirk Hartog Island, named for the first white man to arrive on Australian soil in October 1616, 154 years before Captain Cook. Shark Bay is shallow and very sheltered and its vast seagrass m

Not a dolphin

Not a dolphin

eadows feed and shelter globally endangered species. The common shark in the area is the Nervous Shark, which probably accounts for us not seeing any! We did see a stingray, but from a conhsiderable distance.j

This is a marvellous region, where the desert meets the sea, and it is as far north as we intend to go. We had hoped to reach Ningaloo Reef but we are a bit late in the season, having dilly dallied here and there, and it is getting very hot in the north. Apparently National Park camp sites are also hard to get, because many were washed out in a huge storm (600mm rain in 24 hrs), and there is a lot of redevelopment taking place.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our journey home, as we head south to Kalbarri. We have travelled 9,000 km so far.image

Flora Park, Geraldton, Hamelin Station

We spent a couple of days at Geraldton, which is quite a big town, right on the shore. It was incredibly windy while we were there (thought our washing might end up in the desert) and it is just a beach holiday place so I wasn’t very taken with it. I have become accustomed to the wild and unspoilt beauty of the south-west coast and don’t relish being back in suburbia. However, at some point we do have to return to Springvale South!

We left Geraldton yesterday and quickly found ourselves in outback country similar to Central Australia – vast, cloudless skies, low scrub and red, red earth. We disturbed a flock of Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos which must have settled in a tree close to the road. Our first sight of them was as they wheeled in front of the car (heart in mouth) and then up and away. A stunning sight.

We spent a night at Hamelin Station, on a red dirt plain dotted with stunted vegetation. Once the sun had gone down,the silence was absolute and the blackness only relieved when you looked up at the stars which were clear and bright. It is an amazing landscape which, unfortunately has become home to huge numbers of feral goats which decimate the vegetation. The station corrals some to grain-feed and send to markets in Perth, and many are rounded up and sent to the USA and Malaysia. Apparently, goat is the most commonly consumed meat in the world. Who knew!

This morning, on our way to Denham, we stopped at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites – living fossils which contain microbes (Cyanobacteria) similar to those found in 3,500 million year old rocks. Even David Attenborough thought they warranted a spot on his show! The stromatolites, which can take a 100 years to grow 5 cm, are found in the shallows of Hamelin Pool, which is extremely salty ( twice as salty as water in the open ocean). Swimming is not permitted so we couldn’t try floating in it a la the Dead Sea. The stromatolites resemble fairly ordinary rocks but they represent a major stage in Earth’s evolutionary history and are one of the reasons for Shark Bay’s World Heritage Listing.

Hamelin Station

Hamelin Station

Hamelin Station - home for the night

Hamelin Station – home for the night

Another old fossil

Another old fossil

Housing options are limited in the desert

Housing options are limited in the desert

Stromatolites at Hamlin Pool

Stromatolites at Hamlin Pool

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