Welcome back to the third instalment of our WA 2015 Trip Blog
5 Sept 2015
Found one of Janet’s long hairs in my breakfast Weet-Bix.
Have I not been punished enough in the hair department already that she has to flaunt her surplus hair at me???
Shrieks from Janet this morning, she found a long hair in her own Weet-Bix today.
Oh, such blessed irony!
For the past few days we’ve been using our reserve drinking water tank which still had good old Adelaide water in it. The reason being that while at Yardie Caravan Park, we (I) accidentally filled up both main tanks with less than savoury bore water (it wasn’t a health risk, it just tasted like liquid paraffin and tainted the tea). So today we had to transfer water out of the drinking water tank to the shower/washing water tank today to make room from some fresh drinking water available at the Exmouth visitor centre.
Having been spotted by Rick and Sue yesterday at Oyster Stacks, today we spotted their Oka in the shopping centre car park in Exmouth.
That done and the laundrying, shopping and a visit to the bottle shop (for we don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to get 5 litre casks of wine), we set off south to go east and then north if you understand, Exmouth being at the top of a peninsular.
If I said the landscape south of Exmouth was totally boring, it would be a major understatement. 100’s km of scrubby, dry grassland over low sand dunes suitable only for sheep. No trees, no flowering shrubs like in the National Park, no features of any kind except the occasional termite mound. Here’s a drawing of the landscape:
We found a small track into a clear area between 2 sand dunes which was a perfect campsite (see below), apart from the boringness of the view.
6 Sept 2015
Today, being father’s day we had a special Father’s Day treat, a flat tyre, the first of this trip and only the 5th in 10 years and 170,000km of touring.
It was between Exmouth and Karratha on the North West Coastal Highway. We were quietly motoring along enjoying a Father’s Day drive when Janet said “Should the Oka be weaving back and forth like that?"
Well actually, no it should not. So we stopped to have a look and the left rear tyre was almost flat.
So my mechanic and I got out jacks and wheel braces and blowing up thingees and set to replacing the wheel on the side of the road with road trains whizzing past and blowing dust and stones all over us.
In little more than an hour, we replaced the wheel (they weigh over 80kg each), plugged the sidewall hole in the offending tyre (which had also lost a block of tread), blew it up again as a workable spare and put everything away (which was the biggest job).
Number of vehicles who passed by >100. Number of vehicles who stopped to help <1.
With a replaced wheel we travelled on circumspectly, if there is such a word, noting that both our spares now have plugged sidewalls and even 2 of the other 4 have nasty gashes in their sidewalls.
Due to our diminishing stocks of safe and useable tyres, if we can't get any new ones in Karratha, we'll have to retrace our steps carefully down to Perth where we would be able to get some and come home across the Nullarbor. If we kept going north and then east and then south, there would be bugga of a chance of getting any tyres the right size along the way and I doubt we could get home with the tyres we have.
Ironically I have 3 almost new tyres at home but considered that the 6 we took with us had plenty of life left in them for one more trip.
In the words of me, on my Oka blog: "You wouldn't leave home on a trip with tyres more than half worn, would you?".
Well they weren't half worn then, but they certainly are now. I shall have to amend my saying to: "You wouldn't leave home on a trip with tyres more than 0.001% worn, would you?".
Experience is a great teacher but why does it conduct its lessons when you're 4000km from home?
We crossed the Ashburton River at the Nanutara Roadhouse but needing nothing we didn't stop. Last time we called in they didn't have any diesel anyway and the manager was very rude about it. ("Well, could we have some water instead then?" "No"). Excellent customer relations.
We are camped tonight in the Cane River Conservation Park. There is a rest area marked on maps but in practice it does not exist. If it ever did, it's now completely invisible and anyway a recently constructed causeway over the river precludes any chance of reaching it.
Not to be outdone, we located a small track which led about 1km off the highway to a beautiful area of red gravel and green spinifex clumps.
Tomorrow we should complete our journey to Karratha, which is the residential area for the Port of Dampier, where Rio Tinto export their iron ore from.
Hopefully we'll meet up with fellow site administrator James who lives in Karratha.
7 Sept 2015
An auspicious day, my LXX birthday and now I'm officially a septicuglerion, or something similar. (I don't have the confidence to face numerical realities yet while I can still speak fluent Roman. What have they ever done for us? Not simple mathematics, that's for sure.)
Several Happy Birthday messages on my Facebook page and emails, many thanks to all, and the usual computer generated messages from websites I have visited.
And I had a nice breakfast of bacon, eggs, mushrooms and fried tomatoes on toast surrounded by my birthday cards:
Fings wot I have Supa-Glued today:
A broken towel rail rail. I can't believe it, it's only 10 years old too:
A couple of minor points where the soles of Janet's sandals had come adrift.
I can believe that, not so cheap but definitely nasty ladies sandals made to look at not for clambering over rocks, sand dunes, squashing bugs etc.:
We are now in Dampier in mid west WA, a major exporting port for Rio Tinto's iron ore, but you wouldn't guess it from the photos of the bay (from the bar in the pub):
Unlike Port Hedland which is covered in BHP's red dust, Dampier is a very pretty area with all the nasty port-y type things kept very low key and out of sight.
We celebrated my birthday at the Dampier Mermaid Hotel, carefully chosen due to the fact that it's the only one open on a Monday, but the food was good and they had an SA wine on the wine list (only one) plus a free shuttle bus to our campsite.
Sadly no mermaids were on show, although Alex the wine waitress was a good approximation.
We don't look very happy in the photo but we'd had a long hot drive today and it was still very hot (mid 30's) and we hadn't had a drink yet:
Once the wine bottle could be upended without spillage, all seemed much better.
Here's the Mermaid Hotel as it was in 1968. The views over Dampier Bay are still the same except they are now in colour:
The Mermaid was the name of Lt Philip King's ship when he first surveyed the Dampier area in 1818. He also named Mermaid Sound in the Dampier Archipelago.
8 Sept 2015
Today somewhat refreshed and with only a minor hangover we went to visit James, my fellow Oka website administrator at his home in Karratha.
We had a very congenial chat about life, the universe and Oka websites and a cup of tea.
In the course of discussions we talked about tyres. I'd previously asked James if he knew of any available in the Karratha area but we both really knew tyres of an Oka size were difficult to come by and we were resigned to spending a few days here while we arranged for some to be trucked up from Perth.
James then said he had a few old ones lying around his yard which were used as supports for boats, trailer covers etc and would we be interested if that would help? So yes, we said and had a look at what he had. There were a couple of brand new Toyo M608Z's but a few years old and some part worn tyres, all still on original Oka wheels, which he had no further use for since he had moved on to 17 inch alloys and larger tyres imported from the US (partly due to the difficulty in sourcing 19.5 inch tyres).
After some discussions on price, we agreed the simplest course of action was to simply swap over wheels with tyres still on them. So we moved across the road to a piece of hard standing gravel and changed all 4 wheels. It was hot grinding work in the Karratha heat which is starting to wind up to summer.
New front tyres
In the end we took 3 of the 4 tyres available since the 4th one we found had a long Tek screw buried in the tread. After removing it, air came out so I plugged it up but its remaining tread wasn't any better than one of mine, and replacing the wheel on the rear gate is a real drag, so we didn't change that one over.
Now we were the proud owners of some new and part used tyres which should see us home. As luck would further have it I have a couple of similar part-worn tyres of the same type at home, part of a job lot I bought a couple of years ago.
Problems solved we thought, but fate was about to play another dastardly hand.
While outside James' place, we had the air conditioning on full blast since it was hot and humid, when we heard a loud hissing sound from under the Oka, similar to that you get when a radiator boils over. This was followed by a gurgling noise and green liquid spewed on to the ground, which also looked like green radiator coolant.
However, it was nothing quite so simple. The green fluid was actually oily, of the kind used in air-conditioning systems. A high pressure hose from the compressor had ruptured.
Green fluid spewed out of the 2 black hoses
Bugga, another problem to solve.
9 Sept 2015
So this morning, after the aches and pains of changing 4 wheels had subsided, we took the Oka to an air conditioning place in Karratha called "Jolly Good Auto Electrics", owned somewhat surprisingly by a Mr Trevor Jolly. They had the Oka for most of the day with the news getting progressively worse as we wandered around and sat and waited in Karratha City, a nearby shopping centre which was mercifully cool.
At first the hose replacement was an easy fix, but then they found that the condenser cooling fan had failed which had allowed the system to overheat which caused the hose to fail in the first place. Then they found a leak in the condenser itself, which is why we needed the system regassed in Alice Springs 3 weeks ago.
So to make a long story almost as long, we had to have a new condenser, new cooling fan, sundry pipes replaced, the system leak tested again and regassed, the total cost being northwards of $1300.
New high pressure "Tee" piece after Trevor was scathing about Oka's original brass joiner
Shiny new condenser, fan, filter and pipework
However, I (and Trevor) are now pretty confident that the air conditioning woes we've had over the past few years should be behind us. Trevor was surprised that the previous "experts" we had consulted hadn't been able to spot these problems before and I should tell them of the real situation.
Sadly, air conditioning systems are one of the few areas of car maintenance that I'm not able to work on due to legal restrictions on the use of refrigerant gases, because the plumbing work is no different fundamentally to compressed air, bottled gas or water piping.
10 Sept 2015
Today at last we had a free day to see some of Dampier's delights.
We start with our small, volunteer-run and therefore cheap but adequate caravan park, right on the bay:
Right across the road from the caravan park is Dampier Bay, a very quiet picturesque bay dotted with islands, yachts and other small craft:
Of course, being an iron ore exporting port, you'd expect some industry to be evident, but it is fairly discrete, up the other end of the bay:
Surt Desert Peas are almost weeds in these parts and grow everywhere, even on the edge of the shore:
This is Tidepole Island, a private island with a castle built by a recluse in the 1960's:
There is quite a nice beach nearby:
With proof of at least one swimmer:
From the bay we went up to a lookout overlooking East Intercourse Island (yes, that's its real name the origins of will be explained later), the site of another loading facility:
From there it's only 20km to the North West Shelf gas processing plant, one of the biggest in the world and its statistics are staggering:
$42bn of investment, including 4 offshore extraction platforms, 135km of undersea 1m diameter high pressure gas pipelines, a huge gas processing plant (which is the only part of the project visible) and dock facilities despatching 1 LNG tanker every 1.5 days.
The view of the round domes of the underground LNG storage tanks from the visitors centre. These 4 tanks each hold 60,000 tonnes of liquified natural gas cooled to -161ºC while awaiting delivery, a very large potential time bomb:
The Karratha gas plant can produce 52,000 tonnes of LNG a day.
This is an aerial view of the processing plant, which surprisingly does not interfere much with the natural beauty of the surrounding environment:
This is us at Whitnel Bay, right next to the gas processing plant and it's nice enough to camp there:
But right behind us, fairly well hidden, is the processing plant:
Even a white bellied sea eagle is at home in this environment:
Nearly every part of Dampier and the nearby Burrup Peninsular is built on huge piles of naturally occurring brown boulders.
And in Deep Gorge in Murujuga National Park on the Burrup Peninsular, literally every rock has ancient aboriginal artwork on them. Here is a selection (yes, close up with the sun on them, the rocks were this red!):
The artworks are fairly faded because they are believed to be between 25 and 30,000 years old, that's 5 time as old as the pyramids. And there are estimated to be around 1,000,000 of these petroglyphs in the Burrup Peninsular and surrounding areas.
There are some nice waterholes along the gorge and it was pretty hot when we visited the gorges (mid 30's), so it's easy to see why ancient indigenous people would live in this area, water, shelter and plenty of sea food.
11 Sept 2015
Time to leave Dampier. Although we've had and are still having a trying time with a plethora of technical problems, it ws still sad to leave Dampier. Despite it's industrial fundamentals, it is a very attractive and tranquil place to be.
Yes, it has huge iron ore loading facility and gas processing plant and all the infrastructure that goes with them but it is still on a beautiful bay, with very little industrial traffic, a small but adequate shopping centre and plenty of special things and places to visit. It was only occasionally noisy when an ore train arrived or a ship left port.
People who live in Dampier say they wold never live in Karratha, but when you need it, Karratha is a fairly large town of 20,000 people only 15km away, with all the shops, suppliers and facilities you could need.
For example, just before arriving in Dampier, I found a grey spot on my leg which I worried could have been a skin cancer. So passing by Karratha Medical Centre, I popped in and checked on the availability of doctor. I waited about 10 minutes and then saw a nice Indian doctor who checked me over and assured me that the spot was nothing to worry about, but a rough area on my face could be a worry if it didn't heal up in a few months so "See your GP".
It was surprisingly efficient (it took longer to fill in those stupid forms than the time I had to wait), and better still there was no cost, he must have liked me or maybe it was due to my recent birthday.
Dampier was named after William Dampier, the English buccaneer who was given carte blanche to plunder Spanish ships wherever he found them and go forth and explore new lands on behalf of the Crown. All of this was 80 years before James Cook did much the same thing.
Dampier mapped the west coast of Australia as commissioned by the British government in 1699, but didn't recognise Australia as a major new continent so he failed to plant a British flag here.
His exploits surrounding the abandonment of Alexander Selkirk on a desert island inspired Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe (claimed to be the first ever novel in English).
After leaving Dampier (the town), we called in at Point Sampson just up the coast which is a very pretty small seaside resort and has some nice beaches.
The layered rock formations on the way down to Honeymoon Cove were quite contorted and lifted to the vertical position.
We went for a paddle in Honeymoon Cove but the sun was getting too hot and burning our legs so we retreated to the Oka.
We drove around to Cossack, a very early settlement nearby where a leprosarium was once established due to to its isolated location.
We had lunch on a headland overlooking Cossack and decided that if we had leprosy, Cossack would be a very nice place to have it in.
The town's old buildings are being restored by local volunteers and provide a wealth of understanding abut life in the early days of colonisation in a very remote part of the fledgling colony. There's an Ice Cream Shoppe there now but I bet there wasn't when lepers came to visit.
While we were parked for lunch a flock of Zebra Finches came to check out the Oka as potential nesting sites...
From Cossack , we backtracked through the Shire town of Roebourne and it was very sad to see local aboriginals sitting under almost every lamp post waiting for something to happen. It never will until they recognise that they must do something themselves to improve their own lifestyle.
We are camped in the Peawah Rest Area off the NWCH and fixed one of the a/c fan units which failed yesterday with a stalled motor which dragged the voltage down and did all sorts of unspeakable things to the electrics.
When I say "fixed", what I actually meant was that I removed the offending fan unit, cleaned out the grunged up evaporator fins and blanked off the opening so we are now operating on only one fan unit, which is surprisingly about the same as 2 of them were with blocked up fins.
The NW Coastal Highway from Roebourne to Port Hedland is pretty boring, away from the coast and across endless plains of grassy scrubland, punctuated by a number of sharp booby shaped hillocks in the Tabba Tabba Range.
Port Hedland is our least favourite western coastal town. It's covered in fine red dust, it's hot and therefore dusty and it's huge, spread out over 50 or more km. They have built a vast new road system including American stye freeways with loop back interconnectors between them, but with huge empty spaces between them.
You could easily spend a fortnight's vacation in Dampier, but even an overnight stay in Port Hedland would be too long.
South Hedland, about 20km south of the port, has quite a good shopping centre and they have tried to provide all the essential community services and facilities that residents could require, sports arenas, green spaces and the like, but it still seemed to us to be a fairly dismal, hot, flat, and dusty place to eke out a living. No wonder BHP has to pay its workers so much just to live there. Karratha and Dampier, 250km further west, seems to have a much better living environment with pretty much the same industries and industrial infrastructure. (However see later note regarding the new Roy Hill iron ore mine south of Nullagine, which is even worse).
Having enjoyed all that South Hedland could offer (shopping, gas refills and fuel), we headed up the boring coastal highway for 50km and turned south towards Marble Bar and Nullagine.
Frankly it was getting too hot and sticky in both Dampier and Port Hedland, and the reports we got was that it was even hotter up north across from Broome to Kunnunnurra, so heading south and across the Nullarbor seemed to be the best route back to Adelaide rather than across the top and down the Stuart Highway, and it would be a bit more scenic as well.
The Marble Bar road started just as boring as the coastal highway but with a plethora of long road trains, until we reached the area where the Gorge Range of hills met the Coongan River, when it all became very attractive and we camped (where we had a few times before) in Doolena Gap, a huge gap in the Gorge Range caused by the Coongan River. Being late in the season there was only a small water hole and a few birds making the most of the dwindling resources. In other years, there has been a wealth of birdlife to watch.
Traveling though the Coongan Gorge the next morning revealed this broken down road train trailer.
Marble Bar is always a delight to visit, even though it is a very small town. There's the jasper bar across the Coongan River, after which the town is named, a brand new but not yet completed War Memorial with an international war related signpost (Marble bar is closer to Singapore than it is to Melbourne or Sydney, the Iron Clad Hotel and a one stop fits all shop/fuel depot/post office. That plus some small council offices, a handful of houses and a few small mining ventures is about it.
The Iron Clad hotel on the left of the main (and only) street
The Post Office/Shop/Fuel Outlet
The War Memorial
Closer to Singapore than to Melbourne or Sydney
A beautiful chunk of jasper in the Memorial
A warm day in Australia's hottest town
But it's also in a very scenic part of the country, and it's not always hot, it can be very hot however and has a history of extremes which give it its legendary status as Australia's hottest town, but not at this time of year. Dry, sunny and mid 30's, the perfect time for a wander around Chinaman's Pool (the early Chinese veggie garden) which always has water in it. Further out is the Comet Gold Mine museum and the WW11 Corunna Downs secret airbase that we've visited a few times for a nostalgic reminder.
"The" Jasper Bar
The good bitumen road ends just after Marble Bar when the Rippon Hills road to the Woody Woody and Telfer Gold mines branches off and the rough track to Nullagine starts, so I dropped my tyre pressures to make the ride more comfortable.
Nullagaine is an even smaller town than Marble Bar but it still has a Telstra service so we could check our emails and catch up on the Canberra goings on. ("Rumours of a leadership challenge are just a media beat up" - Abbot. Yeah, right).
Nullagine, pretty much all of it
From Nullagine there is a very scenic track heading 150km east which leads to Eel Pool (great swimming) and Carrawine Gorge (good camping), but we've done that several times before and it's still pretty warm so we continued south to Roy Hill.
That name has become synonymous with a new iron ore mine being built near there and the road/tracks south is a mish-mash of rough tracks and brand new freeway style roads, bridges and rail crossings.
Reaching the iron ore mine site is a revelation, with a huge workers village being established with streets and streetlights, landscaped and manicured verges and rows of temporary looking Dongas, all set in a dusty outback environment.
The mine site itself is a hive of activity even though no ore has yet been extracted. A new rail link to Port Hedland is being built for this purpose, criss-crossing the new road system.
A bit further on is a new airport (called Ginbata, possible an acronym from Gina Reinhart and other consortium members) and we were amazed by its huge car park with 20-30 brand new buses parked ready to collect/deposit FIFO workers.
But what really peed me off was that after 40km of superb bitumen highway, and just after I'd raised my tyre pressures again for the expected bitumen road conditions to continue, it all suddenly ended and we were back to a rough desert track for the next 100km towards Newman.
There was no way the new shiny buses could have driven into the mine site so they must all have been trucked in, along with all the other vehicles and equipment to construct the mine.
We camped just south of Roy Hill in an area just off the "highway".
Today we continued to Newman, completing the circuit we started when we reached Newman from the Talawana Track 4 weeks ago, and lest you think Australia is a small place...
At least these are the wildlife on our Coat of Arms, the rest can obviously go to buggery.
A lot of large mining equipment was moving up the highway...
We refilled our water tanks at the visitor centre, and seeing the scones and jam that the people on the mine tour were enjoying made us hungry so we also stopped for a decadent Tea/Coffee/Scones/Jam and Cream interlude.
Headed south past the famous Capricorn Roadhouse and the pretty grotty Kumarina Roadhouse.
Mula Mulla's near Kumarina...
Camped south of Kumarina just off the highway to do washing, always an exciting concept.
This morning, the washing having dried overnight and successfully harvested, I topped up the rear diff because the pinion seal is leaking, and greased the rear UJ. I would have done more but my grease cartridge expired and I didn't have a spare (left home in too much a rush).
I also adjusted the front wheel alignment to toe-out more (or rather not toe-in so much) and the steering is quite a bit more stable now. So, on the basis that if some is good, then more must be better, in a day or two I'll adjust the tracking a bit more, to achieve perfection in the steering department with our new front tyres.
Then on to Meekathara for a grease cartridge and water.
The public loos required a key from the shire offices but I can't think why, maybe to keep people in, not out. They were not the best by far.
Then down the smooth and lonely gravel road towards Sandstone (only 1 car seen on it). Camped just off the deserted highway in the bush, so silent you can hear the curvature of the earth.
Camped just off a deserted highway in the bush,
so silent you can hear the curvature of the earth.
The track south to Sandstone had some interesting features:
The sides of the road were carpeted in pink flowers which looked like but weren't pigface:
Barlangi Rock, which contrary to appearances was actually created by a huge meteor strike about a billion years ago, give or take a few. According to the interpretative plaque, the 10km wide meteor hit the earth causing the surface rock under ground zero to melt under the "incredible energy of the impact" and a mammoth crater to be formed.
The molten rock solidified and over eons of time, certainly more than a weekend, erosion of the surrounding landscape has left the hard core still standing. The surrounding area is covered in "shatter stones", remnants of the original melted rock which as their name suggests shatter under the internal stresses still remaining within them.
Further along is a rather more recent development: an 1800km vermin proof fence one of the few which is still in use and properly maintained. Originally it was built to keep rabbits out but that was a dismal failure so now it's only a dog fence to keep out dingoes. It's wires are strung so tight you could play music on them.
Later we happened upon this large perentie ambling across the road. Normally they race off when alarmed but this one just crouched down and declined to move, so we had to blink first and move on. Had we been of a different culture, it would have made a superb meal.
When we reached the quiet, almost silent small town of Sandstone, something was different. A loudly dressed and voiced lady stood in the road and entreated us to taste her wares. She was Lady Di (no, not the original one) and her business was Lady Di's Pies. She claimed they were the best pies we would ever taste and even quoted Trip Advisor as a source of support.
So we had a pie and cup of tea and whilst they were OK, they weren't the best we'd tasted, rather greasy actually. But Lady Di was certainly a character and and definitely brightened up a quiet Wednesday morning.
We had a look around Sandstone's other attractions:
The pub-cum-store International Hotel:
The memorial to Snowy Lewis, a local military character and base operator from our radio network who ran the Sandstone base for several years. We first heard Snowy on the radio in 2002.
The fine local historical park :
After our lunch we drove on to Leinster for some fuel, just in case, and then down the Old Agnew Road, the original highway connecting several small gold mines in the area. These days the track and the small communities are now deserted and disintegrating.
We camped just of the busy highway after seeing no one for hours, or overnight either.
I raised my big Yagi antenna to get a network signal from Leinster 50 km away. As a result of concerns on the Oka website, regarding Universal Joint failures, this morning I greased all 4 UJs and ensured grease was purged from all 4 caps on each.
It was a biting cold wind so I donned my cold weather maintenance gear, despite the sunny, clear blue sky.
We stopped for lunch at Doyles Well, the location of an olden day hotel complex. There's very little left now, but in its heyday, they had bands and dances, cricket and footy matches and a swimming pool. But with the demise of the local gold industry and difficulties in establishing pastoral industries in the area, the hotel waned and completed closed down in the 1950's.
Along the track lower down, Sturt Desert Peas cover the sides of the sides of the road.
The gravel road surprised us with an unusual section of divided road over a small rise. However, there was a bigger surprise over the top.
Part way up a large scratch mark on the road suggested something had happened.
Over the top at the end of the scratch mark was a large mine drilling truck parked wonkily.
We stopped to check that all was OK but the truck was deserted. As I walked around taking a few photos, a smaller truck drew up. It was the youngish owners of the truck who had a mining lease and were moving their drilling truck on to it. However, they had a blowout yesterday which used up their spare wheel and now another tyre had disappeared completely. They'd been into the next "town" to get some help but there was none available.
They really didn't know what to do next and didn't have the equipment or expertise to fix their problem on a 20 tonne vehicle. We helped them strap up the dragging axle to the chassis in the vain hope they could continue with the tyreless wheel off the ground but we knew that wasn't going to work.
They didn't really appreciate our help either so we left them crawling the truck into the bush where they'll have to leave it while they acquire another wheel and tyre, and something big to lift the axle with.
We moved on through the fast disappearing township of Kookynie to Niagara Dam, a largish dam built in the 1890's to service the fast growing township of Kookynie. Sadly as the dam was finished, they found an underground source of water nearer Kookynie so the dam was not needed and never used. And the gold around Kookuynie didn't last long either which accounts for it's slow decline too. All in all a bit of a balls up.
However, Niagara Dam still remains, and is an excellent picnic and free camping spot.
From Niagara Dam we ventured down to the small but not yet disappearing town of Menzies, and its quirky steel plate statutes all around the town. We spent so long checking emails and reading the news that we didn't take any photos but we have done many times before.
From Menzies its an easy 150km drive to Kalgoorlie and our favourite but free rubbish-strewn bush campsite.
The call of the washing machines could not be ignored, even though our usual laundromat had "Closed" emblazoned on the door. Luckily we found another in nearby Boulder, and while that was doing, I refilled a gas bottle and one diesel tank.
It was getting late and we wanted to see if our friend Robin was at home at his Oka Workshop in Coolgardie on a Saturday afternoon. He wasn't, but his grandson was there and we had a chat, left a message and took some photos.
Cruising around the town we discovered Coolgardie is now an RV Friendly town with a free 24 hour RV rest area next to the railway station (which hasn't seen a moving train for many years). We also discovered that tomorrow was "Coolgardie Day", the day of the year when festivities came to town for the young and young at heart. So fitting into one or both of those categories, we stayed in the rest area so as to have an early start.
For a town of only about 1000 people they really put on a big display and hundreds of carloads of people had come from all over. The main street (which is about 100m wide) was blocked off the and by 9.00am this morning it was filled with stalls, scary fairground rides (and I was only watching), eateries, displays of veteran cars, and a 200 tonne ore truck neatly angle parked in the main street, as is the law in this town.
But for a 200 tonne truck, 2 small plastic chocks under the wheels seemed barely adequate...
It was a bright blue sky sunny day but the wind was bitingly cold. Not Afghan cold you understand but enough to keep your hands in your pockets.
I felt very sorry for the 2 girls in skimpy bikinis standing on boxes (their money making plan being to entice people to pay for them to dance around a bit) but not sorry enough to loan them my jumper (or take their photo).
At half time there was a parade including a police band in Scottish kilts (I bet they were cold in parts too) playing the bagpipes, the local girls volunteer firefighters pulling an old fire truck, a pony parade and a drive past of veteran vehicles and Hell's Angels.
Later the emergency services put on a sobering display of freeing 2 trapped people from a crashed car using the jaws of life to cut open the car and remove the doors and roof before carefully freeing the passengers.
The "Avenger" was the favourite ride and we were surprised that there was no vomit trail as the passengers alighted...
There was also wood chopping, bands of varying quality, a Maori song and dance display and a fire eater.
But by mid afternoon we had had enough fun and excitement so we returned to the Oka and left town to beat the rush.
We are camped tonight near Wiggiemooltha, (yes Virginia, there is a place called Wiggiemooltha) halfway between Coolgardie and Norseman.
As we are heading east next on the Eyre Highway, that will be the subject of our next blog entry (or blogentary, a word I thought I'd just made up, but sadly someone got there first, just like "thinkative" and "thingleness" which are 16 century words).
Reports of our 2015 travels are continued in these blog sections:
Home to Ningaloo
Newman to Ningaloo
Ningaloo Northwards and then Southwards
East across the Eyre Highway