Monday, 28 November 2011

Kalgoorlie, The Nullabor & The Eyre Peninsula to Streaky Bay

We arrived in Kalgoorlie 3hrs after leaving Cape Le Grand Nat Pk & day time temps of 20 - 23* with gusty winds to 35*. What  a shock to the system. The aircon got a good  work out that evening :)

Kalgoorlie actually has a twin - a town called Boulder, where gold was discovered in 1892.
Hence the current name of Kalgoorlie - Boulder.
Within wks of the 1st discovery of gold, men, some with families, arrived in Kalgoorlie - Boulder from places up to 600 km away & lived in harsh conditions. There was little to no water supply, shacks were made of hessian, canvas, old packing cases or corrugated iron in searing summer temps of up to 45*.
Many died of starvation, thirst or disease from drinking contaminated water. (We were surprised how large the town cemetery was.)  
Within a few short years the alluvial prospecting had given way to mine shafts & full scale underground mines. Many shafts went down over 600 mtrs. The area was known as the 'Golden Mile'.
Water supply came in 1903 by way of the world's 1st  pipe line from Mundaring Weir near Perth - 563 kms away. The region continued to prosper as rail lines were built & food supplies being shipped in  via Afghan Camel Teams - Ships of the Desert'.
For more than 100 yrs, the mines of the Kalgoorlie Goldfields have produced the majority of Australia's
 'golden' wealth.

As was the case in those early days, the dirt & rock from the under /ground has to be stored somewhere - fields of tailings - many now with regenerated trees & shrubs.

Today the 'Golden Mile' is the famous 'The Super Pit', one of the largest open cut gold mining operations in the world. Taken from the air (& a pic of a brochure), the Super Pit measures approximately 3.7 km long 1.55km wide & more than 460 m deep. Long term the pit will grow to 660 m deep.

Visitors have a covered viewing platform high above the 'pit'  to watch the goings on in The Super Pit. We watched in amazement the slow motion of "big" machinery in action. This mining operation is 24/7, 12 hr shifts. Most mines (iron ore & gold) in Western Australia work 12 hr shifts, many 14 days on & 7 days off   (7 day shifts & then 7 night shifts). The Super Pit isn't that far from Boulder town. 

I have no idea the length of the current 'road' system to take the haul out, but it winds out of the deep pit gradually.
Down on the base of the pit, drillers are 'drilling' more holes for the placement of 'shots' - explosives to break up more rock.
In an earlier pic these huge Caterpillar 793 mining trucks look small, deep down in the pit. This pic shows a comparison of its size to a 4WD truck. Each Cat 793 carries a load of 225 tonnes, at a speed of just 12.5 km / hr & each return trip takes approx 45 mins.
The 'cats' costs $4.4 million each & have a fuel tank of 3,790 litres at a cost of $6,000 to fill every 12 hrs.

These 2 pics show a Face Shovel ($18.5 million & a fuel tank of 13,500 litres)  filling a Cat truck. It takes 3 buckets of 68.5 tonne to fill 1 Cat. In the pic below there's a Track Dozer ($1.6 million) that levels the ground to make the work place flat & safe.
A 4WD vehicle roof barely comes up to the top of the roller tracks of  the Face shovel!!!

We didn't see a Blast that day, cancelled due to wrong wind direction. This is what a blast would look like when the 'shots' are set to explode the solid rock into manageable sized pieces.
The Shovel from the loader that places the rock into the Caterpillar trucks. Each 1 of these holds 68.5 tonnes of rock.

We went to the Mining Museum just out of town. There's a decommissioned Cat 793C for tourists to look at. They're massive big babies. Apparently for each 6 loads of  rock, only 1 load will be of any worth producing a golf ball sized of gold. (remembering an oz of gold is currently worth US $1,700)  The rest is rubble that gets taken to the 'tailings' section.
 Apparently the mines prefer 'women' drivers as they are considered 'safer drivers' !!!
 A few 'stats'! Big $$$ operation.

This old mine truck was out the back of the Mining Hall of Fame amongst the other old mining memorabilia.  Goes to show how small they used to be in the 1970's.

Mining vehicles are occasionally shifted around & require a massive 'operation' just transporting them.

The discovery of gold in the goldfields resulted in the influx of thousands of men, who poured into the flats & gullies & brought the red earth alive in a frenzied search for alluvial gold. All those men worked under dreadfully harsh conditions & of course were thirsty blokes at the end of the day. Kalgoorlie - Boulder had over 72 pubs. I don't know how many are left, but in the middle of town, there's still a pub on almost every corner in the main street. Most of these beautiful buildings were built in the early 1900's. Some burnt down & were rebuilt. These few have been beautifully restored.
The Yorke Hotel built 1901 is my favourite.

There's no date on The Exchange Hotel.
The Palace Hotel was built in 1897
The Australian was built in 1898 with beautiful wrought iron .

 We're not sure which order this came, the pub or the mine - a pub in Boulder has an old mine under it's main bar floor boards - this section is covered in thick glass.
The old Town Hall (& information centre) was built in 1908.

With the influx of so many single men, so too came the demand for goods & services. One such notorious service was provided by the local brothels. at one time there were at least 25 brothels in the Hay Street area. (They purposely were kept away from residential areas - & under the watchful eye of the local constabulary)
Today there are only 3 surviving brothels left in Kalgoorlie - Questa Casa - although they still open their doors for the original form of service, Questa Casa opens its doors for tourists to take part in a brothel tour to learn about this colourful part of Kalgoorlie - Boulder history.
Each pink door was the doorway that each girl stood in when open for work. If she didn't like the 'look' of any customer who came her way, she'd hurriedly shut her door or say she 'wasn't open for business' & quickly let all the other girls know down the line. Each door lead to a room.

We were taken into many of the rooms - set up for the customers different tastes :)

What do you think - Do I look sexy enough??

Norseman is the 'gateway' to the Nullabor - Eyre Highway. Norseman history also came from gold prospecting. The 1st gold was found accidentally when a horse named 'Norseman' had kicked a rock containing gold. The Eyre Hwy across the Nullabor is over 1200 kms to Ceduna in SA
The tin camels is a tribute to the early camel trains which carried freight.

The Nullabor Links is the longest golf game in the world - Kalgoorlie to Ceduna - all 1365kms worth.
Two holes are played at the desert course in Kalgoorlie - rated as 1 of the top 10 desert courses in the world. This was to be to 1st & last time we would see a 'green' golf course for this game :) (unfortunately I didn't have the foresight to take a pic of how green the course is.)
I've included a  few pics of Rod's golf game - some unusual courses..... this 1 was at Fraser Range Station - a sheep station a few kms off the hwy, 100kms east of Norseman. Sweeping the tee off area was mandatory as there was plenty of twigs & weed on the artificial grass.
Fraser Range Station also has caravan / camping accommodation for those who like 'electricity' for their living needs. This set up was along the road into the station. (we have facility to free camp if / when we want.)

Each roadhouse (at least 10 ) along the Nullabor (WA & SA) participates in the game. The 'holes' were near or behind the 'servo'.
Some of the golf courses had obstacles from tee off to putting. This par 4 hole wasn't that long, but beyond the trees to the left & right are large piles of dead timber. Of course Rod's tee off ball went to the left & largest pile of timber & yours truly also helped in finding the ball.  (I helped in most of the holes throughout each hole)

There were some interesting signs along the Nullabor - we saw maybe a few roos & emus further out from the road - but no camels.
Even the road is an airstrip for the RFDS planes when the Dr & nurse visit the area. The 'zebra crossing' for each end is the airstrip. The road verge is also deliberately widened. We saw a few of these across our travels in NT & WA.

The longest & straightest stretch of road in Oz was there to be crossed if going across the Nullabor. It was certainly straight & mostly flat.

We free camped 100 mtrs off the road at the beginning of the '90 mile straight section' - sunset was pretty with some high cloud around.
The Nullabor is predominately limestone with a few caves & blowholes as part of the weathering over eons.

Just a hole in the ground!!! I didn't feel / hear any wind blowing from the hole.

Along this stretch of road - approx 250 kms at least - there were thousands of Budgerigar s - feeding on the plentiful grass seeds. This is just 1 flock at this golf hole of many flocks seen. Many budgies darted in front of us whilst driving 95km / hr. There's no swerving for anything that comes in front of our moving vehicle towing a 3 tonne van.

Fortunately for us we didn't hit any that flew kamikaze in front of us, but sadly we drove over several large flocks that had already been hit by the numerous road trains that travel the Nullabor :(((((((((((

I guess I'll do any thing to relieve the boredom :)

Nullabor means tree less - just f few along the way -  not sure what type of trees these are, but they were certainly shaped by the windy conditions whipped up from the Southern Ocean.  (There were a couple of  sections of low growing mallee trees.)
Another stop, another  hole. Artificial grass for the greens.
Says it all really - the quarantine for going into SA is at Ceduna due to the remoteness of the area - just a few hundred kms more to eat our vegies.

This sign is just inside the SA border says we are still 2,750 kms from Brisbane.
This golf hole was 1 of those holes that was short & par 3, but Rod had to place the ball past those group of trees on each side of the course.
Did you notice - the emu has been replaced by a wombat :)

This marine park starts just past the border & continues for 330kms to the east.
11 kms from the border we free camped 100 mtrs from this cliff lookout with these views for the evening & next morning. The wind was close to a gale though.

 A little further along the road is another free camp & lookout - Bunda Cliffs are probably the most photographed Great Australian Bight cliffs. The view was simply stunning. The waves from the Southern Ocean certainly carve the cliffs.

Says it all :)

I got lucky again here with this photo. Fast action of getting the camera turned on & zoomed in a little before this wedge tailed eagle disappeared in the distance.

The Nullabor has a roadhouse called Nullabor - of course - about 15 kms east of Nullabor roadhouse there's a turn off  towards the ocean - called Head of Bight, with an entry fee to walk along  2  long whale watching platforms to view the Southern Right Whales from May - October. Out of season the entry fee is less ($5) for some stunning views of more of the southern ocean crashing into the Great Aust Bight. The sand dunes in the distance are said to be thousands of yrs old.

I'm always fascinated by creatures with lots of colour & appear different :)

Another golf hole - this time @ Nundroo roadhouse - that hole was 520m & par 5. There was little high vegetation to content with, just a hill & the ground was very stoney. These 2 very cute little goat kids are obviously the mowers of the grass for this hole.

We've lost the camel & emu along the way - by this stage we have travelled approx 1280kms of the Nullabor Links golf course.

Penong is just 75 kms from Ceduna & 2nd last stop of Rod's 18 holes of golf across the Nullabor. Penong is a town famed for its grain silos & 100 windmills.
Bit of a novelty set up by someone I guess & the idea caught on - not a bad idea to get tourists to stop for a while. This pic shows just a few of the up to 100 windmills around the town. I'm not sure how many are working windmills.

Rod's last 2 holes were in Ceduna. Nothing spectacular about this golf course apart from the odd flower (fringed lilly) & weed in the field :)  ..... oh & the putting green wasn't artificial grass this time - just sand blackened with oil. The golf player needs to smoothe / rake out the 'wrinkles' in the sand to putt the ball. 
Rod's score card for the par 72 - 18 hole course was 100. He feels ashamed of this score - his 1st golf game in over 7 mths. He had to present his score card at each roadhouse (or information centre at Norseman & Ceduna)  along the way to get it stamped. This was to prove that he played each hole. His reward at the end of the game was a lovely certificate saying he'd completed the longest golf game in the world & with the fellow behind the counter informing Rod that his score was great compared to most players who score mostly around 120.
We took 3 days & nights to cross the >1000 km Nullabor / Eyre Hwy from Norseman to Ceduna.The journey wasn't totally boring with the changing scenery & with a few opportunities to stop & soak up the beauty of the Great Australian Bight. Since the introduction of the longest golf game in the world in 2009, there has been no fatalities on the road across the Nullabor.

We didn't stay long in Ceduna & headed for Streaky Bay instead - another 107 kms further down the Eyre Peninsula. The western side of the Eyre Peninsula  is still considered part of the Great Australian Bight. Streaky Bay is nestled inside a  10 km long narrow bay, protected from the ravages of the Southern Ocean.
The town of < 1,000 permanent people, swells to double that during the summer months to this picturesque setting.

We went on a couple scenic drives. Cape Bauer Loop Drive incorporates a 34 km loop from Streaky Bay that takes in some rugged & spectacular coast line. 
Hallys Beach had some impressive waves pounding the cliffs.

Over millions of yrs the waves are eroding the limestone cliffs & have left a rocky shelf at the water line.There is a crack at the water line & air is forced up to the area above creating a whistle - Whistling Rocks.

Cape Bauer is an impressive outcrop of  limestone - the southern ocean is slowly wearing away the cliff edges. You can see quite a large rocky shelf under the waves.

This Island was once part of the mainland thousands of yrs ago
Yanerbie Sandhills is en route to Point Westall - part of the Westall Way loop along the coast 25 kms south of Cape Bauer. The sandhills are 5 kms inland from the coast & is said to be thousands of yrs old. There is also an old former lake adjacent to the 1 km long sandhill. Sand boarding down the white sand dunes is popular here.
Speeds Point has some great surfing waves when the conditions are right. Surf Bombie's are regularly seen here just off the coast.

That piece of land jutting out into the ocean is Point  Westall. The 1 m waves are at least 150 m off shore.... intriguing. 
A Sooty Oystercatcher.

This area is called Granites - & in the other direction of that area is a safe lagoon style rock pool in the foreground while the surfers catch a wave out the back.

Zoomed in you can just see a couple of surfers - I hope the water temp is warmer than the cold air temp.

Further along the coastal loop are more high cliffs that were impressive to look at.
On the other side of the high cliffs are sea stacks looking out of the southern ocean.

When we crossed the WA /SA border we had to set our clocks forward .... by 2.5 hrs. (we could have set 3/4 hr forward 400 kms earlier, but decided to do it in 1 change.)  SA has daylight saving &consequently the sun sets about  8.20pm. There was a brilliant coloured sunset this evening with the clouds.

Another great area to visit whilst in the Streaky Bay area is Pt Labatt Conservation Park & the Sealion Colony. The area is 50 kms south of Streaky Bay. There's a platform about 50 mtrs above the the 100mtr square rocky area that is Australia's only mainland sea lion colony. They cohabitate with NZ fur seals. The Aust sea lions are one of Australia's most endangered marine mammals & the worlds rarest sea lion.
Up to 50  sea lions & seals can be seen on the rocky outcrop all year round.
Snooze time :)
It's feed time for this not so little pup.

The big daddy lifted himself up on his ...... er flippers .... "now listen up you lot" ..... not a sound is heard, so he flopped back down on the rock from where he'd been just 30 secs earlier.
There's a couple more of pups suckling from their mums.

You can just make out the forms of the sea lions. The NZ fur seals are on the rocks closer to the waves upper left. Conditions were almost gale winds & the camera was difficult to keep still - even on the railing, thus zoom pics of the NZ fur seals came out blurred unfortunately :(

Cliffs to the right of the seal lion colony.

As  seen in these pics there's a rainy squall coming towards us & the waves have been whipped up some more.

The cliffs to the left of the platform.

After leaving the rugged coast, we headed inland through fields of crops. The car park next to our next attraction had a wheat crop almost ready for harvesting. 

That's small snails stuck to the post. They were even up stems of some plants.

Murphy's Haystacks are a group of boulders & pillars in farmer Murphy's wheat field.
Hiltaba Granite is 1,500 million yrs old. Their present form was probably established some 100,000 yrs ago. The granite hills of the district were inundated & all but  buried by calcareous dune sand some 33,600 yrs ago. What we see today as Murphy's Haystacks are the result of erosion of the surrounding landscape to reveal these formations.

The weather was unfortunately cloudy ... again, and the 'haystacks' didn't look as spectacular as they could have. There were far more of these granite formations, but the better formations are shown above.

The Great Australian Bight certainly is living up to my expectations & I can't get enough of the spectacular scenery & watching the amazing waves that crash into the cliffs.

There's more to be seen further south, but that'll be in the next blog :)  

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