Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kalgoorlie 23 – 26 January 2007

We have a special feeling about iconic Ozzy places, so coming to Kalgoorlie was a unique experience. It is that first moment when you drive in and your mind starts comparing it to other places and to the impressions that you have in your mind. Kalgoorlie was larger than we thought and still has a strong sense of history with many fine, majestic buildings dominating the main street. The wide streets are very powerful in creating a spacious scene. Modern major chain stores are getting a foothold, as everywhere, and are changing the streetscape, though we did see a few examples of sympathetic signage in keeping with the old buildings. The best was the ANZ which used gold lettering for its name on the façade rather than the modern jarring blue. This town seems to be the winner for the most old hotels and pubs we had seen - one on nearly every corner!
The city is still dominated by gold fever – however rather than the small mines that operated up to 30 years ago - is now subjugated by The Super Pit, a 3km long, 330m deep hole in the ground that resulted from the amalgamation of 100 small mines. The mighty dump trucks, which are as tall as a 3 story building, seemed dwarfed by the size of the chasm. This pit felt double the size of Mt Tom Price! Most of the people you see seem to be working for the mines or associated businesses.
Boulder is a suburb of Kalgoorlie, but a poor cousin despite being a grand town in its own right in those early heady days. It has a rather shabby atmosphere with many vacant shops and is very close to the every expanding super pit. The lady in the art gallery has to constantly straighten the paintings after the daily mine blasts. The Town Hall is stunning and was a highlight of our trip, with a rare intact theatre curtain by Paul Goatcher, who has another curtain in a Melbourne Theatre. This one is of a scene of the Bay of Naples with a few sets of opulent curtains painted around the edges. The interior is all original and you can easily transport yourself to the excitement of the gold fields. Toured Questa Casa, which gave us an unusual insight into early Kalgoorlie entertainment that we shall not go in to!
Mt Charlotte, right on the edge of town, has a great view of Kalgoorlie but is more importantly, the town reservoir and terminus for the water supply piped from the Mundaring Weir. We have followed the route marked as The Golden Pipeline that traces the 650 km water pipeline from the coast to Kalgoorlie. The pipe line has many outlets to numerous towns along the way. They have a reservoir tanks nearby with a couple of days supply. This results in all these tiny villages having green parks surrounded by dust! The pipe follows the road very closely and seems to be never out of sight. There are 8 pumping stations along the way and the relics of the old stations make you marvel at this engineering feat. The pipe is the longest freshwater supply in the world and still working! The project was completed in 1904 and must have been a real wonder then. Prior to that, water was supplied from elaborate condensers at 2/6 (25c) per gallon in late 1890s.
Kalgoorlie Museum was great and featured a mine derrick rig that you were able to ascend in a lift. It had fantastic views of the local area from the top of the derrick. The museum also featured an impressive gold display that featured a number of large nuggets as well as the first gold ingot from Kalgoorlie.
We listened with interest to the new Howard initiatives for the water crisis. Hopefully this will alleviate problems along the Murray/Darling Rivers. One of the abiding features we have encountered through our trip was the lack of water for towns, as well agriculture. Except for Darwin and the Kimberly, the water crisis permeates all areas we have visited and is forever in our minds. Read about a serious water production model in WA that condenses water from cold air drawn from high atmosphere with windmills. It is an exciting concept because water could be obtained from any atmosphere however we will not hold our breath waiting for it to happen.
On Australia Day we went to Breakfast in the Park, and watched the Mayor naturalise some new citizens. The rest of the celebrations for the day reflected the unrefined nature of Kalgoorlie – wet shirt competitions and jelly wrestling that surprised all and delighted some - could not happen any where else in Australia?Australia’s National Mining Museum at the old North Hannah Mine was our next education stop that included an underground tour. It was sobering to see how tough and dangerous it was down the mines and Peter thought of his father who worked in the mines in Mt Isa. We also saw a gold pouring demonstration with a 500gm ingot that would have been worth $180,000 if it had been pure. The huts and early shacks that have been preserved on the site were fascinating in displaying their stark essentials. It was a tough life!


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