mercredi 25 avril 2012

The goldfields - Kalgoorlie Boulder

Back on the road again! This time heading north into the golden outback to discover the goldfields and its mines.

The landscape changed drastically. Red dry land with afew euycalyptus here and there. We drove for miles along long straight roads, that never seemed to end, only crossing a road train here or there (enourmous trucks that can mesure up to 54m long).
Massive road train!

The ajoing towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder were at the heart of an incredible Gold Rush in the late 19th century, which has left a wonderful repository of gloriously extravagant architecture, which sits cheek by jowl with the scale and innovation of 21st century miningfter Paddy Hannan stuck gold here in 1893 in WA’s vast Outback, one area soon became known as the ‘Golden Mile’, the richest square mile of gold-bearing earth in the world, and the entire state was transformed.

Streets paved with … gold?
In Kalgoorlie’s early days, its streets were paved with a blackish spoil from the mining process called ‘tellurides’. When someone realized tellurides contain up to 40% gold and 10% silver, those streets were ripped up in a big hurry. The city fathers had paved the streets with gold and didn’t know it!

The O’Connor Legacy
Charles Yelverton (C.Y) O’Connor is one of WA’s heroes. He was appointed Engineer-in-Chief for WA in 1891, a position he held until his death in 1902. His first significant success was the creation of Fremantle Harbour at the mouth of the Swan River. This was against all current advice, including that of England’s top marine engineers, who recommended the building of an offshore jetty. O’Connor knew this would be subject to damaging storms, and instead took the option of blasting the rock bar at the river mouth, opening up what had remained WA’s main port for over 100 years.
The project for which he is justly most famous is the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. Gold had been discovered in the 1890’s in the arid hinterland of WA around Kalgoorlie, where the lack of water was a major problem – whisky was said to be cheaper than fresh water. C.Y. devised a daring and challenging scheme to build a reservoir neat the coast and then pipe the water some 560km inland. It would be one of the world’s greatest engineering schemes of the era, and required new techniques for the construction and laying of the pipes, as well as the building of eight pumping stations in mostly remote, uninhabited locations.
The sceme, and C.Y., were subjected to massive criticism and doubt, which finally wore him down: he committed suicide a year before water finally flowed into Kalgoorlie. The Goldfields Pipeline has celebrated its centenary and has been expanded so that it now feeds some 8000km of pipe throughout the interior.

Today, the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder (pop. 32000) has lost none of its zing, nickel mining is important here, and gold still holds great appeal.
We spent the day wandering around the town. The city had retained most of it’s original gold-fueled architectural extravagances, such as towers and turrets, and wrought-iron lace verandas and balconies. 
It’s like stumbling onto a Western movie set: the broad streets are large enough to turn a camel train, and countless bars (some with skimpy dressed barmaids) enjoy a roaring trade as they did in the 1890’s, serving young miners with often more money than sens. 
We did go to have a drink in one of these saloons, but as it was early afternoon we saw no skimpies!

In the evening we went to visit the Superpit.
Just outside Kalgoorlie, where dozens of head frames and chimneys were once starkly silhouettes against the skyline earlier in the 20th century, there is now an enourmous terraced hole: the Super Pit. Australia’s biggest open-cut gold mine, it is unbelievably massive: 3.5km long, 1.5km wide and 360m deep. The empire state building would almost disappear inside it! 
It makes giant dump trucks (which carry 225 tons of ore apiece) look like ants!

For the night we drove 15km to sleep at a free campiste next to Lake Douglas. Very peaceful and calm (exept for someones caravan’s generator).
Having fun with flash lights!

Le Carnet de Voyage
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Esperance - National Park Cape Le Grand - Lucky Bay

24-25 mars 2012
Back on the road, heading east towards Esperance!

History of Esperance
Aboriginal people have been in the Esperance area for over 20 000 years and their descendants still live here today. The local Aboriginal people are the most eastern of the Noongar Nation whose country extends out to Israelite Bay, 200k, east of Esperance. The Aboriginal name for this area is ‘Kepa Kurl’, ‘the place where the waters lay down like a boomerang’.
Esperance’s European history began in 1627 when the Dutch vessel, Gulde Zeepaard, under the command of Pieter Nuyts, passed through the Archipelago.
Unfortunately he did not sight land at this time. Discovery, however, is generally credited to the French when two ships, l’Esperance and Recherche, were forced to seek shelter from a storm in the Archipelago in 1792. In 1802, Matthew Flinders and crew sailed through the area while carefully mapping the south coast. Lucky Bay and Thistle Cove were named by this explorer (the ships had to seek shelter from a summer storm and chose these bays).
The first foreign inhabitants of these shores during the 19th century were sealers from the penal settlement at Van Dieman’s Land and American and French whalers. Subsistence was mainly from kangaroo, geese and fish, which were bountifully supplied by nature.
Edward John Eyre was the most famous overland explorer to visit having come from Adelaide in 1841 en route to Albany.
In 1863n the Dempster brothers drove sheep, cattle and horses from Northam to Esperance to take up the first land holding. Andrew Dempster was granted a lease of 100 000 acres in 1866.
In 1895, with the discovery of gold in Dundas, Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, Esperance began an incredible transformation. Fortune seekers from Australia and around the world began to flood into this sleepy little port on their way to the goldfields.
By 1897, there were 2 newspapers, one brewery and 4 hotels. There were many rows of tents and the less fortunate slept on seaweed on the beach.
Development hopes next centred on farming the mallee country. Could this be made into the next wheat belt? Land was opened for selection in 1912 and nearly 60 farms were started. Progress was slow and hindered by a severe drought in 1914. The next year Professor John Patterson reported ‘one half of the area contains too much salt for profitable farming.’

Today Esperance is romantically dubbed the ‘Bay of isles’ and has had its beaches declared Australia’s whitest.
We stayed for a couple of nights at Lucky Bay. This beach is in the Cape le Grand National Park, about 56km from Esperance.

The weather wasn’t that good, definitely not warm enough to got for a swim, but the beach was beautiful all the same. 
Turquoise water and white sand. Squeaky sand! So strange, when you walk on it, it makes a weird squeaking noise!

Lucky Bay is also renown for its kangaroos that come out to feed at night on the beach. They also hang around the campsite, hoping to be fed or find scraps (they are apparently becoming a bit of a nuisance, stealing food and being aggressive towards people).
They are not scared of people at all. You can even pet them.

One evening we forgot to shut the boot of the van. The next morning all my apples had disappeared! Devoured by kangaroos! Evil beasts!

A walk from Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove

It was also at Lucky bay that we got an ‘unwanted visitor’ come and live in the van…some sort of mouse that comes out at night to eat our bread and make a right noise!

When leaving Esperance we stopped to climb up to the top of Frenchman’s peak. It was a really hard steep walk, about 3km. The view from up there was amazing. You could see all the little islands out at sea and the white sandy beaches on the shore. It was just a shame that the weather wasn’t any better!

Le Carnet de Voyage
(cliquez sur les images pour agrandir)