24 September 2012

25th September, Kalgoorlie

Having just spent nearly three weeks travelling across the southern portion of Western Australia, we are totally entranced by the glorious beauty of it. Admittedly, it is dominated by seaside views, and that whenever they exist, it is taken for granted that they will look really good. However, these seaside views are outstanding. From the colour of the water, thru the rugged cliffs, to the numerous islands the areas ability to extract moments of awe from you is never ending.
As we had explored the Bunbury, Busselton, and Margaret River areas a few years ago, we went directly from Perth to Albany, and yes, the route was ‘wildflower nirvana’ – everywhere is!
Albany has many more really big hills than we had imagined – everywhere you go it seems to be up or down, with even the main street being a quite descent hill. This idea of going “Up” allows me to raise the issue of town names down here in the south. A good number of towns end in “up” – Dwellingup, Amelup, Burngup, Pingrup, Ongerup, Boyup, Burekup, Cowaramup, Manjimup, Quinniup, and I suspect that if we travelled wide and far enough we'd find a Stuffup. It was so bad that when we were looking at a grain lift, we expected the control buttons to be marked as “Up Up” and “Down Up”.
 Panorama of Albany.
 King Sound from the beach
Dog Rock within the town.

Way back in the early 1950s a whaling station was established at Albany, and it continued until 1976 when it closed as Australia’s last such place. These days they run a really good tourist facility with most of the original plant still in place. It is quite an eye opener to do the tour and learn just how brutal, and how smelly, and how tough the labour was to harvest the oil, meat, and baleen. Such was the volume of blood and guts that ran down into the sea from the slaughter slipway, huge numbers of sharks congregated in the small adjoining bay. The numbers were so great that men in small boats were sent among them to kill them by use of rifles! They also have a real whale chaser ship up on a slipway so that you can climb aboard and wander around. I certainly wouldn’t want to live on one – the rooms and facilities make a caravan look like a palace.
 Skeleton of a Blue Whale - all 72 feet of it.
 Harpoon gun on bow of Whale Chaser boat.
Engine Room - they only employed short guys.

 We did a day trip to Denmark - this is the local river.
And again

As we moved on towards Esperance, we deviated to Hyden to see the famous Wave Rock. It was good to see it in real life (as opposed to photos), as it is larger than expected, and that it’s a relatively small part of a huge rock ridge that extends to cover a vast area.
 Beside the road to Hyden - bloody wildflowers everywhere.
 Okay, I'm lookin at it.
 I'll try swimming up it....
 Hey, this is great. Ya don't get wet if you fall off your board.
Another rocky feature - Hippo's Yawn.
Our next stop was at Ravensthorpe where our little deviation ended as we got back onto the Esperance route. While there we popped in to see the annual Ravensthorpe Wildflower show and were duly stunned by the enormous range, variety and number of flowers on display. No longer as we drive along at 85kph will we assume that all the yellow flowers consist of three or four plants. We now know that just within the Ravensthorpe alone, area there are at least 30 to 50 different yellow plants! Plus a similar number of red/orange/plum coloured types. Astounding: but we are becoming a bit “Wildflowered out”.
 Ravensthorpe Wildflower display
There's more than one Yellow out there!

 I’m sure that everyone has seen photos of wild kangaroos lying on the vivid white sands of Lucky Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park. Well, it isn’t a simple distortion of facts, nor even a bit of spin – we day tripped from Esperance and were quite taken while walking hand in hand along the squeaky white sand (ain’t love grand?) to see Kangaroos hop out onto the beach and munch on the seaweed that had washed up. This activity was clearly strenuous as once they had eaten, they needed to lay and rest awhile. Winter storms have created quite a bit of beach seaweed and thus the ‘roos have a smorgasbord of fodder. Note the larger roo in the photo – she is carrying a Joey in her pouch.

Lucky Bay - 60km east of Esperance in Cape Le Grand Nat Park
Reputed to be the whitest beach in Australia.
 It's very Kangaroo friendly
 Dead seaweed washed up during winter storms.

Other beaches within the park are just as breathtaking, eg: Thistle and Hellfire beaches with water that is just soooooo blue. However, the coves and bays to the west of the town are also drop dead gorgeous too. I could live here (but not in winter).

 Hellfire Bay - also at Cape Le Grand
 Looking out to sea from Hellfire Bay
Twilight Bay - 5 km West of Esperance

Our caravan park was right on the beach and as we stepped from the van we looked out over the beach and bluuuuuue water to the archipelago. Clearly we aren’t the only ones who like the area, as living below the very long “Tanker Jetty” is Sammy the sea lion – a resident for over 15 years. It seems that he is not silly because he often swims out to the end of the jetty where the majority of fisher folk are, and as they throw the undersized or unwanted fish back, Sammy comes zooming from under the jetty to get a cheap feed. However, a chat to some of these folk reveals that none of them recall him ever taking a fish that was still on the hook – smart guy, eh?
 Squid - like most jetties, one of the more regular catches (Sammy prefers fish)
 Come on, chuck me a fish, you won't eat all them anyway.
 What a hard day I've had.
The Esperance Tanker Jetty taken from the far end.

After a week in this blue heaven, we left the coast, heading inland to Kalgoorlie-Boulder (Yep, that’s the correct name of this city of 38,000 people). At about the half-way mark is the rough and ready town of Norseman where we decided to swing into the town proper to have a look. Much to our surprise we found our intrepid cyclists (see previous posts) who had (a) lost one of their original members, (b) picked up two others. During a chat and laugh we found that they were staying there overnight, then starting the Nullarbor and after some quick calculations, agreed that we will most likely catch them somewhere around the SA/WA border.
 The round-a-bout at the main intersection of Norseman
And we stopped here for lunch - great place names they have here.

The cyclist’s timetable will be slowed a bit because they are playing the “Nullarbor Link” which is the longest golf course in the World at 1365 km. The course starts at Kalgoorlie, where each of the two local clubs has a designated hole, and then each town along the way has a hole. However, there are not enough golf courses between Kalgoorlie and Ceduna to offer 18 holes, so they have made a few extra holes at the roadhouses. It is these that provide the real fun as they are but an artificial turf (or oiled dirt, thus a 'black') Tee and putting area joined by whatever nature has created – one fairway is all sand, the next saltbush, and another rocky gibbers. Hazards are also whatever nature offers – at the Mundrabilla hole, local crows steal the balls (about 200 per year). So, I guess you’re wondering what you do about a set of golf clubs if you are not a regular golfer? Not a worry as at either end (Kalgoorlie or Ceduna) an array of used – make that very used clubs can be bought for $5. Our intrepid cyclists are doing the course armed with a putter and a 7 iron. And they are expecting to do it under par of 72!!!!!!
We are now in Kal (as the locals call it) and love all the old buildings. Originally there were two different towns – Kalgoorlie and Boulder, but about twenty years ago they decided to formally merge into a single city. The government called for nominations for a new name under which the city would jointly march forward, and the winner was ...... Kalgoorlie-Boulder.  They may be weak on coming up with a name, but their grip on heritage is very strong. All the old shops have signs above the verandas identifying what the shops original function or purpose.

We were also so impressed by the very big hole that they have dug on the edge of town that we did a tour of it. We now know what an ant feels like among a World of humans, as we travelled in a standard 50 seat coach among some of the largest trucks on the planet. They carry over 225 tonne of ore, and use 140 litres of diesel each time they climb out of the pit and then return: lucky that they hold 3800 litres in the fuel tank! Should you ever feel the need to complain about the cost of your car tyres or service charges, consider that the tyres for these monsters are $40,000, and a service is in the vicinity of $2,500,000?  The ‘super Pit’ is 3.5 km long and 1.5 km wide and has a depth of 360 metres. 28 tonnes of gold per year are recovered from the 15 million tonnes of ore that they dig out. Everything about this hole is really really big.
Note the guy standing near the front wheel.

Driving around this site can be dangerous
It's deep, make that real deep.
Those big trucks look like matchbox toys
Look at the line of big trucks crawling up from the pit - it goes on like that 24/7.
One of the interesting oddities of Kal, is that the city is home to Australia’s oldest continually operating legal brothel! And, they run tours of it!! (I understand that they don’t offer any free samples or titbits).
 From across the road (Shirl wouldn't let me get closer)
I really didn't go up too close - I used a zoom lens.

On a similar focus, the magnificent old pubs have for many decades had female bar staff dressed (if that be the best word) in attire known as ‘skimpies’, and that for a suitable tip or donation they will reduce the level of clothing. Shirl won’t let me go for a beer.

Tomorrow we leave to cross the Nullarbor, so we will have very sporadic TV, Internet, and phone coverage for some 1365 km (until we get beyond Ceduna). Our expectation is that we will hit Ceduna around the beginning of October.  

1 comment: