The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

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.

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