Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Alternatively, simply click on the following link to jump right there:
http://theblackstump.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/.

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Monday, 11 January 2021

Kalgoorlie - What a big hole!

 

DATE:
05-07/06/2017
LOCATION:
Kalgoorie [via Southern Cross] (Western Australia)
DISTANCE TRAVELLED:
748 km
TEMPERATURE:
Min:
0.5
 
Max:
16.3
massive holes in the ground
1
 

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.

 


Whoa, that's a bit chilly!!

 

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. 



Dump Truck crushes ute in Kalgoorlie - [YouTube]

 

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.

 





Big Truck, Big Wheels, Big Balls, Uh oh...

 

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






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,

 

Gregg

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Cervantes and the Pinnacles


 

Date:
01-03/06/2017
Location:
Cervantes (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
529 km
Temperature:
Min:
7.5
 
Max:
18.5
people feeling duped out of a bag of chips
4
 

Having polished off our breakfast of ham and cheese toasties, cooked over the dying embers of a still cosy fire, we hopped back into out trusty car and chugged off down the road. To be honest, most of the day was a bit of a blur, we had a lot of distance to cover and we knew that daylight would be fading on us before long. Ultimately, we were heading for Kalgoorlie, a famous mining town in WA – with a pit so large that it could almost fit a small city inside. But, between Hamelin station and Kalgoorlie, there was a whopping 1277km to cover – and only a couple of days to do it in. To put it plainly, we were strapping ourselves in for a hell of a ride!


Rather than simply break up the trip into evenly spaced, bite-sized chunks, we were keen to make as much of the remaining time on the road count for as cool of an experience as possible. And so, with that in mind, we set our GPS for the next destination: Cervantes, Western Australia.
 

From all the other backwater towns in which we could have pulled up for night, why did we choose this little backwater town to stop at? Indeed, if we’d decided to forego this minor detour, we’d have saved ourselves just shy of 100km. Well, what drew us here was the geological site that lies about 20km outside of this township: The Pinnacles. These rocky formations really have to be experienced in order to fully appreciate the magnificence of this place.
 

…and so, we trundled down the road, as fast as our little trailer would allow us. Stopping here and there to stretch our legs and empty our bladders, we pushed on like four little troopers. For the most part, we followed the coast and watched as the Indian Ocean fade in an out of view. Other than that, nothing particularly remarkable happened on the journey, and we completely neglected to take any photos of it either…

 
Just after midday, we arrived at Geraldton, the second largest city in WA – situated about 4 – 5 hours north of Perth. Sadly, we weren’t destined to make it to Perth on this trip, so we had to make ourselves content with visiting its northern cousin. Unfortunately, in order to make Cervantes before dark, we didn’t have time to explore Geraldton. So, pulling out the cut lunch we’d made for the journey, we powered on. We did, however, make one much needed stop in Geraldton. Pulled our trailer into a parking lot in the retail factory district on the outskirts of the city, we picked up what has now become one of our most prized possessions. Indeed, we purchased a little something that we never dreamed we would need for most of our trip into the far north, so we had simply left it home. But now, as the winds had begun to turn chilly and the nights brought a touch of frost, so the trusty little heater we purchased in Geraldton is something I’m sure will always have a place in our trailer while travelling around Victoria in the months and years to come.
 

With newly purchased heater in hand, we pushed on for the remaining 220km to Cervantes. We followed the coast much of the way and continued to enjoy the grand vistas looking out over the Indian Ocean.
 

As the sun began to head towards the horizon, we finally began to descend into the township of Cervantes. The GPS took us directly to the caravan park, which we had booked into for the night. To be honest, we weren’t spoiled for choice for places to stop in this neck of the woods. But we had a place to park up, plug in our newly purchased heater, and cook some food.

 
…However, although we quickly set up the trailer, food would have to wait! We had about an hour remining before sunset and we were gripped by a desperate push to get to the Pinnacles before the sun faded entirely. So, back in the car again, we hurtled down the last 22km of road to the Nambung National Park, to drive and wander amongst the natural standing stones that dotted this patch of the earth.
 

What can I tell you about the Pinnacles? Well, according to the Nambung National Park website, the Pinnacles are described, somewhat laconically, as:
 

Thousands of huge limestone pillars rise from the shifting yellow sands of the Pinnacles Desert, resembling a landscape from a science fiction movie.”

 
For those that have read our blog to this point, you will know very well that I can spend half a paragraph describing the simple act of purchasing a heater. So, ‘Thousands of limestone pillars’ to describe the Pinnacles just simply doesn’t cut it in my books!
 

 
 
Welcome to the Pinnacles - We have some ules to follow...
 

We made it to the entrance of Nambung National Park with about 45 minutes before the sun was due to sink below the horizon. Already the dying light made this place seem magical. There were, as the blurb suggested, thousands of limestone pillars jutting out of the sandy earth – but the scale of these protrusions was something to behold. As we entered the one-way track, we caught our first glimpse of these formations. Reminiscent of tombstones, or perhaps rows of crooked teeth from a giant’s lower jaw, we simply couldn’t prepare ourselves for the scale of the rocky structures awaiting us around the first bend.

 
 
First glimpse at the limestone towers of the Pinnacles


The standing stones came in all manner of shapes and sizes. From squat and flat, to tremendous columns and sharp pointy spires.

 



Jagged tooth like protrusions from the desert
 

Many were clustered together, seemingly huddled in conversation, or turning their collective backs to the desert winds. Others stood alone, solitary sentinels against the sand elements.

 

 
 
Great place for a game of hide-and-seek

 
We drove along the sandy trail, amidst a small collection of other explorers, taking in the vast quantity of limestone pillars stretching out to the horizon. The trail snaked its way through sand dunes, hills of rock, wizened old trees and patches of desert scrub. Here and there we would park up and head out on foot, to get up close and personal with the great monoliths of the desert.

 


 

 
Unfortunately, the light was fading fast, so we had to make it through the last few twists and turns in the dark. Emerging around the last bend, we pulled out of the desert and back on to the highway. Heading back to town, our bodies were covered in a fine patina of desert sand and we had a camera full of under exposed images from the lack of light. Still, the ones we did manage to capture were pretty cool.

 
On the way back into Cervantes, we spied a fish and chippery – much to our collective delight. “Awesome”, we thought, knowing that dinner would still be some time away. Who doesn’t like a late snack after a day on the road and an evening traipsing around the desert? So, we pulled in to the car park and promptly ordered a bag of chips to go.

 
But, when they were served…. Oh, the disappointment! Expecting a bag of hot, tasty potato goodness, wrapped in brown paper and covered with salt, our heart sank when the lady behind the counter unceremoniously handed over a paper cup of French fries – the sort you might get from a van at a sporting event or at an over-priced fair. As we eyed the paltry cup of chips, we could see the same knowing expression creeping over everyone’s face: “Bugger, we’re only going to get half a dozen chips each, if we’re lucky!”.

 
With an unsated feeling in our stomachs and a steely determination “never to return to this wretched excuse for a chip shop ever again in our lives”, we pulled into our caravan park and headed for the kitchen to cook something to fill our bellies.

 
With dinner done, we called it a night. We still had a long way to drive tomorrow to make it to Kalgoorlie and, with luck, be able to fit in mine tour in the afternoon…
 

Bye ‘d bye,

 

Gregg

 

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Hamelin Station (3): Shells, security and sharks!



Our final day at Hamelin station was spent slowly meandering up the coast to Denham. We stopped at a number of places along the way – spending some time at each and searching the crystal-clear waters for any elusive signs of life.

The first stop for the day was Shell Beach (Wulgada). This place was both aptly named and very informative. Wandering slowly down to the beach from the car park, we stopped at each of the information stations that had been dotted along the path to learn about how this fascinating region was formed, as well as a little about the wildlife which calls this place home.


 
Shell Beach (Wulgada) - an amazing hidden gem!
 
 
But, before we went too far, we came across an information station which talked about the feral animal fence that had been erected to cut off this peninsular from the mainland. The fence stretched up high and had been dug deep into the ground. The fence was also electrified, to further deter the most persistent of cats, wild dogs, and foxes from entering the area. The weakest point in the fence was, of course, the gaping hole where the road that we had driven down passes through. Before continuing down to explore Shelly Beach, we decided to take a detour and check out this fence. As we approached the area of the fence that the road ran through, we found to our surprise that this gaping hole was not as unprotected as we had first thought. Wandering back across the cattle grid and over the road between the two halves of the fence, we were startled when a dog suddenly started barking at us – seemingly from nowhere. 
 
Having calmed our nerves, we realised there was in fact no dog, but the sound was coming from speaker at the side of the road. There was an array of sensors attached to the speaker, which triggered a recording of a dog’s bark in the hopes of scaring away would be intruding animals from crossing into the park. “How very clever”, we thought while the boys took great pleasure in setting off the sensor over and over again. And to think, unless one gets out of one’s car and takes a walk over the cattle grid, you would never know this was here. Very cool!

 


Feral animal deterrent - Shell Beach
 

Feral animal deterrents aside, we continued our journey down the path to Shelly Beach. This place got its name from the abundance of tiny cockle shells that were strewn along this stretch of coastline. These little Fragum Cockles are one of the few forms of life that can live in this area. Due to the hydrology of this area, the lagoon in front of Shelly Bay is twice as salty as normal sea water. Because of this, nothing else can comfortably live here. So, these little cockles (the size of the nail on my index finger) were free to grow with abandon. Millions upon millions of their tiny shells lined the beach. According to one informative sign, we learned that in some places they were up to nine metres deep. So, we spent a bit of time combing the beach for shells, and came up with handfuls that were all different shapes and sizes.

 




So many, many beautiful white shells...
 
 
Moving on, we pulled in at Eagle Bluff to wander another boardwalk in the hopes of seeing a dolphin, turtle or shark. Despite a few false starts (there were a several bunches of sea grass floating passed that looked suspiciously like sharks and dugongs), we did eventually spot a couple of sharks cruising along in the waters far below.

 

 Eagle bluff and an elusive Reef Shark...


 
Nope, not a shark, dugong or porpoise... just MORE kelp.


 

Farwell Eagle bluff
 
 
Having spent time gawping at the reef sharks, we continued our journey to Denham, where the boys spent a chunk of the afternoon throwing themselves around an awesome playground in the heart of this small town. Over the next hour or two sandcastles were built, swings were swung, and most of importantly the grand slide in the middle of the park was plummeted down.  





 Denham - what a playground!
 

In the end, we made our way back to the campsite, where we had a third great night in front of the roaring fire. Up early the next day, we braved the early morning chill and huddled around the dying embers of the communal campfire to make ham, egg and cheese toasted sandwiches over the still hot coals. With breakfast done, we packed up and said goodbye to Hamelin station. It was a lot of fun around the station, but the road towards Victoria was starting to call us home. So, let’s make a start.

 
 Marshmallow treats on our last night in Hamelin Station
 

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Hamelin Station (2): Bumpity, bumpity...



So, here we go… Francois Peron National park – strap in, it’s a bumpy ride!

Having packed our lunch and other necessities for the day, we left the comforts of Hamelin station and belted up the highway towards Cape Peron. Soon we passed through the little township of Denham, before quickly turning off the main road towards the cape.

For the uninitiated, Cape Peron is a narrow stretch of land heading up a thin peninsular through some magnificent scenery. Our first stop was at the homestead at the base of Francois Peron National Park. Here we pulled over and duly let down our tyres down to a lowly 18psi, before heading off the main road into the park itself.





 
Francois Peron National Park... here we come!
 
 
The road was sandy… Oh my, was it ever sandy! Over the course of our adventure to date, I’ve had a been able to learn a few things about driving on some pretty rugged 4X4 tracks. But, mostly, what I’ve learned is that I don’t much care for driving on sand… Oh no, give me a nice rocky track to navigate at my leisure and I’m happy as Larry. Sure, there’s every chance that you could burst a tyre on a shard of rock; but, no matter how sharp the rocks are, at least you can go at your own pace. On sand, however, you need to keep up the speed enough to sail over the surface – but not too much, as you’re likely to lose control of the car. Oh man, the head miles you do while driving over sand are countless… although the passengers do seem to have a good time (freeloaders!!)

 
 

The road to Francois Peron - starts of good... but quickly turns nasty! 


For the first part of the track, the road was just heavily corrugated. But, sadly, this didn’t last long. Eventually, the hard, tyre-gripping, corrugated road gave way to stretches of soft, drifty sand. Revving and braking, turning and straightening – often all within seconds of each other – I followed whatever trail had been left by previous drivers, who had already made an attempt to cut through the unforgivingly soft sand. For a short while, the sand did give way to a hard, potholed clay pan – but, here, the fear went from not getting the car bogged in the sand, to avoiding a tyre being blown out on the great gouges in the track. In the end, we finally made it to the end of Cape Peron, at the very tip of the Francois Peron peninsular.

Turning off the car’s hard-working engine, everyone piled out. However, I sat there for a few minutes, in stunned silence – thanking my lucky stars that we had made it.  As I sat there in my quiet contemplation, the realisation suddenly hit me… this was a one-way road… we still had to make it back the way we came (oh pooh!)


Yikes!


When I eventually scrapped myself out of the car and found my legs once more, I trailed after the rest of the family who were gambolling merrily towards the toilets and picnic area. I grabbed the sandwiches and drinks from the boot of the car and trundled off after them. Lunch was eaten as we looked out across the ocean, keeping an eye out for any marine life that might happen to wander by. Eventually, with bellies full and bladders emptied, we took a stroll down the track to the beach.






 
The truly spectacular Francois Peron National Park.


To be honest, it was nice… spectacular, really… but, after the harrowing journey to get here, I must admit part of me thought that it didn’t really seem worth the effort… Besides, having been to Cape Range only a week before, Francois Peron just seemed a ‘nice place to spend an hour or so’ before moving on.  

We wandered along the rocky shoreline, where we had a chat to a family who were fishing. They had been at it for a while and had a bucket full of fish – most of which seemed to be staring out at us quite forlornly. I asked them if they were going to eat the fish, but they said “Nah, we’ll tip ‘em back in when we’re done”. As I looked at the fish, in a bucket that was warming up steadily in bright sunlight, I thought to myself once again “don’t Aussies know how to fish responsibly?” Why bother keeping them in a hot bucket of water, if they’re going to chuck them back in the water anyway?

As we wandered down the beach, watching large stingrays frolicking in the waves along the water’s edge, I was glad to see a Ranger and an officer of the WA Parks and Wildlife dept coming over a sand dune. The Ranger greeted us in a friendly way and we had a chat about the area (after checking that we had paid the national park entry fee – thanks again to our All Park Annual pass for that). As we were chatting to the Ranger, I watched his Parks and Wildlife counterpart wander up to the fishing family and talk with them for a while. Soon the hot bucket and its fishy cargo were poured back into the ocean. I swear that I could almost hear a gleeful ‘yippee’ amongst the slightly strained fishy gasps slurping in fresh water from the sea. With that small mercy done, the officer quickly took off down the beach to talk to the next family a few hundred meters away…
 




There be stingrays in them th'are waters!

 
We took a stroll along the cliff between Francois Peron and Skipjack Point (the next bay along). With our eyes keenly peeled, we scanned the water in the hope of seeing a dugong (manatee), shark, turtle or whale. But, unfortunately, none of the usually abundant sea life came out to play today. So, we turned back and headed towards the car.
 



 Board walk between Francois Peron to Skipjack Point


Heart in my mouth, we began the homeward journey…

At least I now had the lay of the land and knew that we would encounter the boggiest patches of sand on the first half of this journey home. But, to be honest, that was small comfort. I did, however, take some reassurance from knowing there were at least four or five cars behind me – which, gleefully, I thought to myself, would not be able to get passed us if we became irretrievably bogged on this narrow sandy road back to the highway.

In the end, we made it back to the entrance of the park and, luckily, didn’t get bogged once. After such an arduous journey, it seemed only right to stop in at the homestead, at the base of Francois Peron peninsular, to reinflate our tyres and take a dip in the natural hot springs that were tucked away behind the homestead. The boys played for a good hour in the hot springs – while I uncoiled my nerves.

 
 




 Relaxing in the hot tub after a hard day sitting in the back seat...

 

Heading back to the homestead, we gathered our supplies from our trailer for tonight’s dinner and made our way to the kitchen/dining room.

Walking toward the communal kitchen, we heard the now familiar sounds of Jo’s acoustic guitar belting out an Irish Ballard; "Oh, I've been a wild rover for many a year". As we walked into the kitchen, a few of the travellers from last night raised their glasses and called out to see if we were in fine voice tonight. I’m not sure about fine voice – but the second night in Hamelin station was spent in song and laughter once more.

 Inspired by the welcoming bon ami and musical comradery of the night before, Ben was also keen to play a song tonight on the Uke. So, gathering his nerve, he brandished this diminutive instrument like a shield and gave a sterling rendition of Rip Tide (accompanied by a couple of old hacks on our guitars). Having never played in front of an audience before, I think he did a brilliant job!

 


Encore, encore!
 

And with that, our joyous ending to an otherwise harrowing day came to an end. We tucked ourselves into bed and drifted off to a well earned night of slumber. Tomorrow would be our final day at Hamelin station, and we wanted to make the most of it!
 

Bye ‘d bye,

 
Gregg