The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

14 June, 2017

Karijini National Park

Karijini National Park set in the Hamersley Range in the heart of the Pilbra, is one of my favourite places in Australia. It was great to revisit some of the gorges and appreciate the spectacular scenery. Karijinj is WA second largest National Park, approx 627,000 hectares and offers breathtaking gorges and stoney tree-lined water courses.

After coffee at Oxer Lookout we ventured down to walk Weano gorge to Handrail pool. What more can I say but enjoy the photos.

Oxer Junction Pool Lookout 

First obstacle was this water crossing - we watched with interest as the backpacker group waded to the other side.

Had to cling to the rock wall to avoid falling into the neck deep water - we did witness a few slip in!

A few trees in the wider part of the gorge

Gorge narrows as we go further in towards Handrail Pool

Foot placement was critical as we transversed the slippery rocks

Handrail Pool

Handrail Pool - note handrail on right hand side of photo which guides you down the rocks to the pool level.

Helen having a rest - note the white legs!!

Helen was not alone while resting - this little fella blended nicely into the rocks.

Circular Pool from the Lookout - Dales Gorge

Looking across Dales Gorge

Fortesque Falls - Dales Gorge
The next day we travelled past Wittenoom, a ghost town where asbestosis was originally mined and closed in 1966, to Hamersley Gorge. This gorge has magnificent colours and in some areas the rock appears wave like.

Scenery as we approach Hamersley Gorge

Having coffee overlooking the gorge - need caffeine before venturing down into the gorge!

Colours in the rocks and looking down on a pool

Half way down the steps into Hamersley Gorge

In the gorge

At the top of the gorge looking back at Spa Pool - unfortunately access to this pool is restricted
Beautiful spot in Hamersley Gorge

12 June, 2017

Great Northern Hwy

After lunch we continued onto Mt Magnet then towards Meekatharra on the Great Northern Hwy - we are now out of the area known as the Northern Goldfields. Heading north has made me smile with antisipation of warmer weather and less layers of clothing.  Had a stop at Cue (gold discovered in 1892) to stretch the legs and "water the horse" and was facinated by the grand buildings in the town. Built in the main street between 1895 and 1897 from locally quarried limestone, the buildings were and are still among the most impressive in the region. Approx 20kms north of Cue we stopped and camped at Lake Nallan where we witnessed a stunning sunset. I was happy taking heaps of sunset photos!

Sunset at Lake Nallan

And the sunset continues its display 

An example of the limestone buildings in Cue - Post Office, Courthouse and Police Station

The next day was pretty much a day of travel and watching the scenery change. We stopped at Meekatharra for fuel and lunch. It was cold and overcast not what I had expected at all! I thought I would have been out of the jeans and into the sorts by now, how wrong was I! That night found a bush camp about 60km from Newman. I'd run the generator that night as I had suspect batteries and wanted to have them fully charged before hopping into bed. My suspicions were correct and about 3am the power in the van shut down.

We stayed in Newman the next night on power to keep the batteries on charge. This also gave me the opportunity to ring around for prices on some new batteries and do some shopping in Newman.  We decided that we would get new batteries in Port Hedland, but this meant we needed to stay on powered sites overnight to keep the batteries on charge. Rather than stay in Karajini NP we opted to stay at the Auski Roadhouse CP, Munjina and do day trips into Karajini.

As we travelled into the Hamersley Range the scenery changed as only the Pilbera offers, deep red cliffs and escarpments against the yellowish green of the spinifex, which covers most of the landscape, and the white bark of the snappy gums.

One other thing that we noticed about the Great Northern Hwy as we entered into the Pilbera area was the number of road trains taking iron ore from various mines into Port Hedland, they all seemed to stop at Auski roadhouse which made it quite a dust bowl in the front parking area. Surprising enough staying behind the roadhouse proved better than expected - we had green grass, power and water and although the generator ran constantly the noise did not interfere with our sleep.

Great Northern Highway heading into Hamersley Range

Munjina east gorge

Roadtrain travelling into the sunrise (mulla mulla bush in foreground)

Roadtrain in Auski roadhouse at sunrise 

After two days of touring Karijini, we continued on the Great Northern Highway to Pt Headland, picking up 3 new batteries before booking into Port Tourist Park where we'll stay for 2 nights. This will enable me to replace the batteries before we continue on our journey.

09 June, 2017

Northern Gold Fields

From Kalgoorlie we travelled on the Goldfields Highway to Menzies and were looking forward to the northern direction in anticipation of blue skies and sunshine. However the days were sunny but the northerly wind was chilling and played havoc with the fuel consumption.

Menzies Town Hall - for almost 100 years it had a blank-faced clock tower. Apparently the original clock was aboard a ship from England which sank en-route in 1905. A replacement clock was eventually installed.
From Menzies we turned onto the Menzies Sandstone Rd to Lake Ballard where we camped the night. Lake Ballard is the setting for Antony Gormley's Inside Australia cultural display. The salt lake has 51 sculptures all derived from lazer scans of Menzies inhabitants - they are cast in alloy containing minerals that are found in the achaean rock of WA. Went for a walk around coming up close and personal with 7 or 8 sculpures .....................interesting!!!!!

I was up at sunrise in the chilling 6 degrees with beanie and camera in hand to take some photos of the sculpures (Helen slept!), making the most of the early morning light effect.

Sunrise on the sculptures 

A late afternoon photo.

At sunrise looking back across the lake to the campground. 
After leaving Lake Ballard we headed back to Menzies to continue on the Goldfields Highway towards Leonora.  About 5km before Leonora we called into Gwalia, which at its peak in 1911, had a population of 1,114 and dropped to about 40 when the Sons of Gwalia Mine (gold) closed in 1963. Herbert Hoover was Mine Manager and later became the 31st President of the United States of America. A large proportion of the residents and Mine Workers were from Italy and Hoover encouraged employment of Italians for their work ethics. Today about a dozen houses are occupied making Gwalia one of Australia's living ghost towns.  We wandered around the old miners cottages which appeared as they had been left, with most of them still housing original fixtures and evidence of the hessian walls.
The old car outside the workshop, still had a lot of equipment in the workshop.

Helen thought this house was quaint, but I couldn't stand up inside.

We had lunch at Gwalia but no, Helen didn't cook on the stove!

A magnificent building, the Gwalia Pub not in use today.
Called into Leonora for fuel and continued heading north staying the night at Leinster in the town Caravan park which is run by the Mining Community.

Next day we headed towards Mt Magnet passing through Sandstone around midday. Just before Sandstone we detoured to look at London Bridge on the Heritage Trail, which is a form of weathered basalt and the rock is believed to be 350 million years old. In the early days London Bridge was a social focal point for the people of Sandstone - the scene of many large and happy outings.
On the Heritage Trail we also stopped at the Brewery, established in 1907 by an Irishman, for the drinking needs of local people for many years!! Water was pumped to equipment on the upper level for brewing and then stored in the cellars below which had been carved in solid rock ensuring that the beer was kept cool.

London Bridge
Couldn't get Helen out the cellar, even though there was no grog!

Sandstone to us is a very clean and tidy town with a central park showcasing its history with information and machinery displays and always an interest to me, a few old cars. Walking the street we turned the corner by the Information centre and saw what looked like a Bunnings sausage sizzle (without the Bunnings!).  This definitely needed further investigation and as we approached, the lady running the stall with apron and purple hat, greeted us with a recital of her menu which did not include any sausages but rather home made pies laced with her bush spices. We could not resist this option and ordered two vegetable pies which were full of freshly cooked vegetables and quite large in size.  Did take a while to eat, but were entertained by Di explaining how she prepares the pies and uses her secret bush spices (which she was also selling). Di's sales technique was unique to say the least and Helen did walk away with a sachet of secret bush spices! Di was certainly one of those wonderful outback characters and would definitely recommend a visit if passing through the town.
The Sandstone Post Office

Di and her home made pies.

One of the old cars on display, I think this is a Vauxhall, 1950s
After lunch we continued onto Mt Magnet, which takes us out of what we understand to be the Northern Goldfields.

03 June, 2017


We arrived just after lunch and booked into the Kalgoorlie Discovery park for 4 nights. We had some mail to pick up and not until we arrived on Saturday did we realise that Monday was a public holiday, WA Day!
This actually worked out ok as Helen had caught a cold and was in need of some rest to recover, so while Helen rested I ventured out.
I did the Super Pit mine tour and on the Monday went to the museum.  Monday was not the best choice as the WA Day celebrations were also being held at the museum, so there was lots of activities for the local children, painting, best dog parade, jumping castle and face painting. I did manage to have a look around and dodge the occasional child playing chasey!

The Town Hall, note the gold plating at the top of the tower.

The Exchange Hotel - Kalgoorlie had 91 hotels during it's peak.

The York Hotel

The super pit.

The Super pit mine tour took 1.5 hours and we went around the site in a small bus, particularly compared to the dump trucks working. Dan the tour guide was most entertaining and knew a lot about the mine as he was a 2nd generation miner and driven dump trucks and loaders during his career.

The super pit is expected to reach 3.5 km in lenght and 1.6 km wide and 700 m deep by 2029. It comprises of more than 35,000 hectares of lease and is made up of around 250 individual mining leases joined together.  Alan Bond was one of the brains behind the forming a single large scale operation which eventually became the super pit.
The Super Pit - a VERY big hole in the ground!

Face shovel loads a haul truck at the bottom of the pit, each bucket is 68 tonne.

Now thats how to change a tyre!
Through the bus window

The 225 tonne Haul trucks look so small in the mine

The museum showed some of the history of Kalgoorlie and had displays of gold, some which had been made into braclets and watches owned by some of the Kalgoorlie early "elite"

I couldn't believe this wooden bike

The entrance to the museum with the dominant head frame.