Kalgoorie [via Southern Cross] (Western Australia)
massive holes in the ground
With our one-night stopover in Cervantes done, we had very little packing up to do and were able to hit the road pretty quickly. The next two days were fairly mundane, as we simply had a lot of driving to do in order to cover the vast distance between Cervantes and Kalgoorlie. With nearly 750 kilometres remaining, we needed to break up the journey into two parts. So, we set our sights on the little truck stop village of Southern Cross. The journey to Southern Cross was spent staring out the window, watching the rain fall in intermittent showers, and followed the Golden Pipeline for hours all the way to Southern Cross.
The campsite itself was nice and tidy, lacking many other people at this time of year. However, the boys did make friends with a young lady who was nursing a wallaby joey, whose mother-roo had been killed on the road. The first glimpse the boys had of this was watching the lady walk past our campsite, closely followed by the Joey, which hopped along in a cumbersome way behind her. At one point the joey stopped to stare back at the boys, until the lady chirped out to her young charge, saying “Come on then”. To which the joey hopped off after her (closely followed by the boys). We found them 20 minutes later sitting outside one of the cabins with the joey wrapped in a blanket, feeding it a bottle.
The other noteworthy thing from this part of the journey was the sudden plummet in temperature – particularly overnight. We woke the next morning to find a layer of ice covering the car. Fortunately, our little heater had worked like a champ the previous evening and we stayed nice and toasty, snuggled up in our trailer.
Waking up the next morning, we packed up, had breakfast and hit the road. If our calculations were correct, we should be pulling into Kalgoorlie by early afternoon.
The kilometres passed by like the day before. However, today, the sun came out again and things didn’t feel quite so miserable.
We arrived at Kalgoorlie right on schedule – all exhausted from the three long days in the car. With all those kilometres under our belt, we really couldn’t face sitting on a tour bus and heading down to the Big Pit for a mine tour. So, we decided to extend out our time in Kalgoorlie and spend an extra night. We had washing to do and legs to stretch, so that plan suited everyone just fine. While I set up the trailer, Nat went to battle it out with the other travellers who were lined up with their dirty clothes to use the washing machines. It seemed that everyone was using this day of fine weather to get all of their stinky travelling clothes washed before heading on the next leg of their journey. Not one to spend her day queueing up for something as mundane as laundry, Nat managed to wrangle a secret code to a separate laundry usually reserved for permanent guests. Having bypassed the queues and availing herself of the multiple machines that were on offer for the rarefied few, within the hour every piece of clothing had been washed and hung up.
We took a wander into town to pick up some supplies for dinner and booked ourselves onto a mine tour for the morning. The rest of the day was spent wandering the streets, cleaning the trailer and cooking dinner.
Kalgoorlie - info sheet
The next morning was COLD! More Ice had appeared on the car and a nippy wind blew through the campsite. Donning our warmest clothing, we drove to the visitor’s centre in the middle of town. Here we met the ‘Super Pit Tour Company’ to begin our exploration of Australia’s biggest open cast mine. Safety specs and high viz vests were handed out and a briefing given by the driver. Then, soon enough, we hopped aboard a nice warm tour bus and rattled off towards the mine site.
Super Pit Tour Van and the High-Vis family
At the entrance to the mine site there was a billboard proclaiming “Too FLAT out to think about safety? Think Again”, with a very squashed ute hauled up underneath. This was a reminder of the sheer scale of the machines that were used in this mine site, with tyres fatter and taller than the bus we were travelling in.
The tour took us on an informative and interesting meandering journey through this enormous mine site. From the mechanics shed (the size of an aircraft hangar) and clean down area, to the deep cut of the big pit, passing by the gold processing plant on the way out (“sorry, no free samples…” giggled the tour guide with a jocular, yet slightly menacing tone). The scale of the operation was astronomical! Like a town itself, the mine site was a living, breathing machine; with a very complicated system of traffic management to avoid collisions between the gargantuan trucks, bull dozers and diggers.
The highlight of the tour was visiting the ‘Big Pit’. Stretching over a kilometre from one end to the other, this massive canyon was hundreds of meters deep. From our safe vantage point at the top of the pit, the earth moving machines really did look like toy Tonka Trucks. It was only when one emerged from the snaking road that led out of the mine site and drove passed us, that we were reminded of their true scale.
VIDEO: The BIG Pit
VIDEO: The BIG Pit
More of the BIG pit
With our trip around the site done, we headed back to town. With the majority of the day still to go, we decided to take in the Kalgoorlie Museum to learn a little about the history of this place. The museum itself was a curious mix of mining memorabilia, nick knacks and curiosities, and Egyptian archaeology. All in all, we passed a pleasant afternoon fossicking through the various rooms and riding the lift to the top of a reconstructed drill platform that towered over the town, providing spectacular views of the surrounding area.
The Kalgoorlie Museum... more than you'd expect
Heading back to trailer for the night, we rugged up warm, popped on our heater (best purchase ever!) and got ready for the next leg of our homewards journey.
Bye ‘d bye,