Day 20 – Trains, Grain and Jet Planes


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Today was the second last day of this epic roadtrip and to be honest, it doesn’t really feel like I’ve been away for three weeks.
Much of todays driving did seem to be going through grain country again although that turned into pasture and then fruit tree and vine.

First detour today was up to Quorn, heading through the Pichi Richi Pass beside the Pichi Richi Railway. I did go on the railway many years ago, but can’t remember much accept for Woolshed Flat where the engine is turned around using a triangle. (think triangle but with inward curving sides)
I’d forgotten how beautiful the terrain is through the pass. I guess that’s the whole Flinders Ranges. I’ll have to get that into another trip and next time when the train is running.

vlcsnap-2011-03-24-23h43m42s44Back south, we headed into the Mount Remarkable National Park to check out the Alligator Gorge. A dull day for gorge visiting and absolutely no-one else there. It also seems to be the park of upside-down speed bumps.

 

 

 

 

I thought we might be heading down through the Barossa Valley today on mission to find big things but didn’t get that far. We did however journey through the Clare Valley which is also wine country (Although Annie’s Lane is the only winery I recognised).
I was surprised to see an F/A 18 Super Hornet fly over (it certainly looked like the super hornet) as we drove through the valley. I assume it was flying out of RAAF Edinburgh as part of the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) based there.

Todays primary big or giant object was the Big Miner in Kapunda. We found him and also found out that Kapunda is claimed to be Australia’s first mining town with the copper being mined there from 1842 until 1879.

From the Clare Valley all the way up to Morgan we seemed to be following old railway lines in various states from just the reservation existing to rails still existing. I get the impression this area used to be very rail heavy with three different gauge railways operating.

In Morgan we met the mighty Murray River and I must say I’m impressed at how high it is (certainly the highest I can ever remember seeing it).
We crossed the river by car ferry at Cadell and continued following the river through Ramco and Waikerie where we joined the Sturt Highway. Here we unexpectedly found another big object in the form of a giant Orange Tree. From a distance, my first comment was “the big diseased fruit”.

Driving onwards, we were really in fruit country, driving through endless landscapes of fruit trees. This lead us into Berri, known for its fruit juice company but also evidently Australia’s biggest winery, Berri Estate. (on their sign) ? I’ve never heard of them.
Our primary mission in Berri was to find the Big Orange. Once again using vague directions and knowing that the fabled orange was now closed, we set about looking anyway. Success!

We’re now in Renmark for the night, a town (probably like many on the Murray) that has lots of houseboats.

Tomorrow onto more of the Murray and finally home.

Day 17 – 19 – Rock-eting along the road.

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The last three days have seen us cover over 2000km on our journey towards home. That’s the problem when you travel so far, you have to travel back.
Day 18 was the longest by far at over 1000km.

Day 17, we did a two and a half hour tour of the KCGM Superpit which was very interesting. Although we didn’t get right into the superpit, we did get to some of the internal lookouts and get to see the vehicles and buildings up close.

CAT 793F Truck

After hanging around for the disappointing 1pm blast in the superpit, we got on the, largely boring, road to Balladonia.
One very pleasant place we detoured into is Newman Rock. If I drove back to Perth, I’d definitely camp here. I could have happily stayed a while longer watching the two ducks in the pond.

a pond at Newman Rock

Day 18 was just driving. We did detour about 20km along the old road (now a track) into Eucla before arriving in Ceduna for the night.

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View from Eucla over the plain.

Sunset along the Ceduna jetty. (for a better shot, see Stephen’s photo here)
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Day 19, we drove down around Thevenard and then headed back to the Eyre Highway. After some km’s we detoured back on the dirt down south to Murphy’s Haystacks and then back north-east to the Eyre again.

We detoured north from Minnipa to a bunch of rocks, namely Pildappa Rock.

IMG_1178This seems to be Wave Rock’s lesser know cousin and although not quiet as impressive, it is still pretty interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

View from the top.
Pildappa Rock

The other rock we went to was Mt Wudinna which is claimed to be the second largest rock in Australia.

Now in Port Augusta for the second last night of the trip.

Day 16 – a lazy Kalgoorlie Sunday


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Today really was a lazy day. We left the motel around midday and went down to Boulder to look at the monthly market day.

Doing some research last night, we found out that many of the museums in Boulder are currently closed due to earthquake damage. Evidently there was an earthquake on the 20th April 2010 that caused damaged to many historic buildings. (we had wondered why we saw so many with scaffolding around them)
This did make it a pretty short stroll around town and was disappointing as I was hoping to see the historic Philip Goatcher Curtain in the town hall.

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The art deco styled Palace Theatre and the Boulder Town Hall.

Some of the classic cars offering rides to raise money for the local cancer charity.
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The other item on list for the lazy day was the Mining Hall of Fame, but before that, the superpit lookout once again.

KCGM Superpit

Mining Hall of Fame
The Mining Hall of Fame attraction in Kalgoorlie.

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The huge CAT 793C dump truck on display. We did a guided tour up onto the cab deck. Some of the wear marks and bends in the steel were impressive. The rocks in the mine must be incredibly heavy to cause the damage.

 

The other attraction that we primary went for was the gold pour. A KCGM employee who also works at the Hall of Fame, talked about the process to extract the gold out of the rock and then performed a gold pour into an ingot. In this case, it was only 35% gold (65% copper) as insurance companies won’t let them do a higher percentage.

Gold pourGold! well 35% gold.

The actual Mining Hall of Fame building must still be a work in progress as it had some large areas basically empty.

Tomorrow morning we go on a 2.5 hour tour of the Superpit and associated areas.

Day 15 – Gold country

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Today’s journey was a relatively short trip to Kalgoorlie, however in our usual style, we found plenty of detours to make the journey take a little longer.

We headed via another huge rock formation called The Humps and up the 170km road to Marvel Loch. This is basically a small mining town with plenty of old abandoned mines around along with a few decent sized open cut mines that are still active.
After Marvel Loch, we took a track out to the abandoned May Queen Mine and on the track drove through a large spider web, with large spider included. (I moment I wish I had the video running at 60 fps.)

After a fuel stop (for us, not the car) in Southern Cross, we headed along the Great Eastern Highway to Pumping Station number 6. This is the ruins of one of the historic pumping stations that was part of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. This scheme delivered water via a huge pipeline to the towns of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. It’s still in use today but utilizing modern pumping stations.

Goldfields Water Scheme, Pumping Station No.6Stumpy tail lizard
The pumping station and one of the locals.

From the pumping station, we followed the pipeline for about 5km before getting back down to the main road. Next side trip was the Karalee Dam and Rock.
Once again, this rock had been used to collect water and this time a long iron aqueduct had been constructed between the rock and dam.

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Following on from this, we detoured beside the pipeline again between Woolgangie and the No.8 pumping station along the Golden Pipeline Trail.

Getting to Coolgardie, we stopped past the old railway station and an abandoned opencut mine.

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We are now in Kalgoorlie for the next two nights where we’ll be checking out the Boulder Market Day and then doing a tour of the KCGM Superpit gold mine (Largest opencut in Australia). We did stop by the lookout and take few shots just after sunset. Absolutely huge.

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Day 14 – out to the wave

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Day 14 took us down to the Perth coast. There was a sculpture thing on at Cottesloe beach all of March but we didn’t see more than what on the foreshore. The coffee in Cottesloe was horrible, as expected, and I’m now convinced the best coffee in Australian is in Melbourne (and probably Fabric in Southbank).
We travelled up the coast as far as Scarborough which was still pretty much as I remember it with only a few alterations to the carpark layout.

We decided we’d seen enough coast for a while and jumped onto the Reid Highway to head out of town. The Reid Highway is much like the Monash Freeway was in Melbourne when it was the South Eastern Arterial, originally built without overpasses. Now it must be getting the traffic volumes as they are now being built causing a few slow patches of traffic.
I am convinced that it is impossible to get a green light on that road as we stopped at every set of traffic lights on the highway.

The trip east took us out to Northam where the train station looked like Spencer Street in the 80’s and then onto York.

Mount Brown
Mount Brown lookout above York.

On the way into a town called Corrigin we came across a dog cemetery. The seem to love their dogs and set a world record for the most number of dogs in a ute in 2002 with 1527.


Scooby Doo? We now know where you are.

We got into Hyden reasonably early so checked in before heading down to wave rock. It’s just an incredible natural sculpture and the rock itself is absolutely huge.

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I wasn’t aware beforehand that they built a small wall around the top of the rock to collect water and funnel it into a dam for drinking water. (now used for cattle only)

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Wall visible above the wave.
(the photo of me taking this photo is here)

On the way back to the carpark I came across a tree that reminded me of the one Horton the Elephant sat in.

Horton the Elephant's tree

Day 12 – 13 – Perth


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Day 12 and 13 were spent getting to Perth and around Perth.

The trip up saw us zigzagin inland and back to the coast. We went into Donnybrook, the apple capital of WA where they have streetlights in the shape of apples. There was supposed to be a big apple in the town but we failed to find it following the vague ‘6km north’ instructions we could find.

We headed back to the coast, going through Bunbury and Australind before heading back inland once again.

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Bunbury from the lookout tower.

Inland, we went by road and forest track (love it) to find Lake Brockman, North Dandalup Dam and Serpentine Dam and, not surprisingly, found them not particularly full.
Just like in Victoria, they had picnic areas and  and public facilities, and like Victoria, they looked like they had seen better times. I’m sure these places when they were first built, were summer lunch spots by a public that were interested in getting out and about, marvelling at the great engineering feats enabling them to have a city life.
The Serpentine Dam even had even has a cafe / restaurant, but not many people must still visit as the business is for sale.

We probably could have spent the entire day exploring the hills and trails but wanted to get into Fremantle at the reasonable time for dinner at Little Creatures.

Day 13 was the laziest day yet. I caught up with a friend (that now lives in Perth) for lunch and then met Stephen back at the Motel.

Now, then motel. I think I managed to pick the dodgiest motel in town. Red Castle Motel. Avoid it.
There were the ruins of a revolving restaurant out the back along with a heap of rubbish and phone books. There were chalk room number written outside the doors and handrail bannisters with broken welds wired into place.
Best of all, the was a pimp and his prostitute working out of a ground floor room.h

Oh well, I did well with my other accommodation picks.

Day 11 – up and down the Margaret River region


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We started the morning with a jaunt down to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse to climb its 186 steps to the top.
This is the most south-westerly point of mainland Australia and is where the Southern Ocean meets meets the Indian Ocean.

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A few interesting notes about this lighthouse:
– It’s Australia’s tallest lighthouse (about sea level)
– It wasn’t electrified until 1982 and wasn’t automated until 1992
– It’s light can be seen up to 25 Nautical Miles away
– The stone walls are 2m thick at its base and 1m thick at the top

Back on the road, Stephen had a morning nap in the car as we headed along Caves Road to the Mammoth Cave where we did a self-guided tour of the cave (mp3 playing units). Mammoth Cave is one of many caves in the region that are open to visitors to wander down and see the spectacular formations.

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It was good to go through another cave to refresh my memory as the next show I’m doing, Floyd Collins, is about the American caver Floyd Collins.

Moving on, we dropped past the Leeuwin Estate & Flying Fish Cove wineries and squeezed in lunch overlooking the sea.

Next planned stop was the Cap Naturaliste lighthouse but we were disappointed to find it was closed and we couldn’t get anywhere near the lighthouse. It seemed to be a very small lighthouse as the bluff / cliff is very high above the ocean already.

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Sugarloaf rock near Cap Naturaliste lighthouse (look for the three people on top)

Final destination for the day was Busselton, to catch the sunset at the jetty and stay the night.

Busselton JettyBusselton Jetty

Day 10 – Tree climbing and Denmark


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Today was a reasonably leisurely day.
We left Albany via the scenic road, stopping by the coast a few times before arriving at the Denmark Chocolate Company.

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A man on a horse heading to the beach near Torbay Inlet.

Next stop was the Elephant Rocks Brewery and Toffee factory and onto the Valley of the Giants Treetop walk.
This walk goes through the the forest and at it’s highest point 40m above the forest floor. It’s always fun going to such heights but I’ve been on other walks in Victoria and Queensland which I found a little more interesting.

treetop walk

Next stop was Pemberton to visit the Gloucester Tree. This is a 61m tall fire-lookout tree and one of three in the area that still exist. You climb the tree on a series of steel pegs sticking out from the tree trunk. (I’m sure this can’t be OHS compliant)
It’s a little worrying at first, but you get used to it and soon you’re at the top.

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Look carefully for the tower at the top and the steel pegged ‘ladder’ circling the tree.


Looking down the ‘ladder’.

In the carpark, we did a little bit of bird spotting with numerous playful birds.

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On the way back through town we stumbled upon the Pemberton Tramway Co. The track seems to run all the way to Northcliffe but was largely overgrown when we saw it earlier in the drive. I guess it’s another scenic railway that operates as a not-for-profit and needs generous financial support to get the line fully reopened.

Finally in Augusta for the night. The Thai food didn’t totally agree with me.

Day 8 / 9 – Stirling’s Bluff


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Todays primary mission was to climb Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges National Park.
After paying the entry fee, we drove up to the base of the climb only to see the top of Bluff Knoll in cloud. We decided to move on to Albany and return the following day for the climb and the scenic Stirling Range drive.

As per normal, instead of going direct to destination, we went to destination via everywhere else but we did make it for lunch at a hotel on the main street of Albany.

Nanarup Beach
Nanarup Beach.

Having got to Albany earlier than expected, we shuffled the trip to Whale World onto the days schedule.

I was very impressed with the old whaling station, not what happened there whilst it was operating, but with it as a historical place. The guide who showed us around and told us about the place for about 30 minutes seemed very knowledgeable, not just reciting a script. Various pieces of machinery had been restored and, although not powered by steam or fuel, were electrically powered to show how they worked. There were also some very good audio / visual displays and, during the tour, a well designed audio track (cleverly hidden systems).

Too often you go to a museum / historic attraction / tourist attraction and it’s all very static / boring / poorly maintained and it doesn’t allow you to immerse yourself in experience.

Whale World is great and I’d love to come back in whale season when there are actually whales in the sound right near the station and to see new things they do with it.

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The Cheynes IV whale chaser.

On the way back to town, we explored the rest of the Flinders Peninsula including the gap and the natural bridge rock formations on the coast.

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We saw signs to a wind farm on the way to Whale World and so also stopped to look at this. We’ve seen so many of these wind farms around regional WA and SA, from as small as 3 turbines to as large as 12 here in Albany.
I think it’s really fantastic to see towns embracing this modern clean technology.

What we found was a dedicated viewing area and walking paths around the turbines. This is about the closet you’ll ever get to a wind farm to see these incredible pieces of engineering technology and see how big they are. Normally you can’t get anywhere near them. I was amazed to find you could barely hear them operating (I don’t even know why I thought they would be noisy).

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Day 9 started with a lazy breakfast and then the drive back to Stirling Ranges.
The climb up Bluff Knoll took about an hour and forty five minutes and the climb down about an hour and fifteen. It’s a decent climb and we probably should have started it earlier so it was slightly cooler, but nevertheless it was a beautiful day to climb it.

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Panorama from the top.

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Where you start.

After the climb, we did the scenic drive through the park and then headed back to town through Mount Baker.
We grabbed Chicken Treat for dinner (poor mans Red Rooster? but now one and the same company?) and headed up Mount Melville to eat it.

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The view of Albany from the lookout tower.

After dinner we drove around the docks area and then up to Mount Clarence. The view from the top is pretty non existent but there is a a memorial to soldiers from the first world war.

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Albany seems like a nice town. Maybe I’m a little biased as I’ve seen three theatres in the town.