Posted by: Malpass Oz Adventure | December 1, 2011

Whales and a Wave of Rock

The beautiful beaches and blue waters along the south coast of Western Australia Emu Point, Albanycontinue to surprise me as we make our way east.  I’m not really sure why I hadn’t expected this type of scenery here, but I hadn’t and every turn in the coast to another beautiful scene is an unexpected delight.

We checked into a caravan park in Albany to get on top of a little washing and have the luxury of a few long, hot showers after five nights of tepid showers at Parry’s beach – the kids even soaked in a gigantic bath tub until they had granny fingers, which was an absolute treat!  Albany was the first European settlement in WA, so it has an enormous amount of Anzac memorial on Mt Clarencehistory associated with the town. The town is situated on the edge of King George Sound which makes a brilliant sheltered harbour from the wild Southern Ocean. It is easy to see why this location was chosen as WA’s first base.

The Whaling station was the main industry in Albany for many years but in 1978 Albany’s whaling station ceased operations due to the reduction in the value of whale products, the increase the the price of crude oil (which was used extensively in the steam operated machinery in the station) and of course because of the pressure on eliminating the international practice of whale hunting.  The whaling station was very soon converted into a museum after it’s commercial operations closed and we spent 3 or 4 hours looking around the old buildings and gaining an understanding of what was involved in whaling.  It was all very educational and portrayed a fairly balanced view of whether it was the right or wrong thing to be doing, killing these beautiful creatures of the sea.

Aboard the "Cheynes IV" whalechaserSkeleton of a Pygmy WhaleWP_000302

We learnt some amazing facts at the whaling museum, but for Jake the most memorable would have to be seeing the size of a sperm whale’s penis and learning that there are times when they get snapped off… ouch!

The whaling museum is expanding it’s operations into a wildlife and flora park (rather odd complementary attractions, but there you go), the wildlife area is in it’s initial stages and we were able to wander through, right into many of the enclosures that the animals were in.  It’s the closest we have ever been to a koala which was pretty special and there were the mandatory kangaroos, plenty of natives to WA and one of Indianna’s favourites – the pademelon from Tasmania.

Super toothy KoalaHanging out with the 'roos

Albany has a brilliant network of cycle tracks, many of them are Albany cycle trackcompletely off the road, away from all traffic.  We took a ride one day from the caravan park at Middleton Beach down to Emu Point with speedy Indianna leading for much of the way and when her little legs got a bit tired good old Dad would give her a push along.

After a few days in Albany we were ready to get going again, although the children could have stayed in the caravan park with swimming and spa pool and recreation room for the rest of our time on Dog Rock - ALbanythe road.  We have a couple more months until we have to be settled again and I think that the children will be pleased to finally get there.  They are getting more and more reluctant to move on each time, getting a little road-weary I think, so we are tending to spend a little longer in each spot before travelling on.

We had had many recommendations for Bremer Bay, so even though it’s 60kmsLunch at Bremer Bay off the South Coast Highway we decided to make that our next stop and we were not disappointed. Bremer Bay is a long way from much, so to think that in the mid 1880’s there was a grazier based here with his family is quite amazing. The town later became a holiday spot for the grazing families of the area but the roads out to the coast here were not upgraded and sealed until the 1990’s, making it far more accessible now.  There is a lot of property for sale in the area, some beautiful coastal blocks in amongst bush settings and with magnificent views over the Southern Ocean.  Bremer Bay is likely to be a very different place the next time we are able to visit here.

Bremer Bay

Unfortunately some of the roads in the Fitzgerald River National Park There's a happy fishermanwere closed from the Bremer Bay end so we were not able to make it through to Point Ann which is supposedly a highlight, so we set up camp in the caravan park.  We bumped into Mark and Sue again who we’d first met in Cape Karaudren on the Northern WA coast and who we keep running into. Mark and Sue are mad keen fisher-people so are always pointing us in the right direction of the elusive finned creatures. Ben managed to get the boat in at Fishery Beach for a short period one day before the wind blew the sea into an unpleasant chop and he had to come in… with dinner!!!

We were at a bit of a cross-roads after Bremer Bay… do we continue along this glorious coast or head inland to check A few hitchhikers - look closelyout the famous Wave Rock and the golden town of Kalgoorlie? We’d always intended to do the inland route and as the coastal winds were still buffeting we decided to take a break from those.  Winds are one thing, but you know what you get in inland Australia if there is little wind – flies – and plenty of them! The relief of being out of the wind was quickly replaced by the frustration of the flies everywhere, we soon perfected the good old Aussie wave!

We are on the very southern edge of the WA wheat belt as we drove to Wave Rock and passed some truly huge grain fields and storage facilities. Grain storage near RavensthorpeMany of the storage areas seem pretty open to anyone walking in, so we stopped to take a look at where our weet-bix come from.

We’d made a fairly significant detour to visit Wave Rock, lets face it, any visit to Wave Rock involves a reasonable detour and we did question whether it was worth all those miles, but hey – been there, done that now! The town of Hyden relies very heavily on tourism to Wave Rock and the surrounding granite outcrops to complement the wheat industry after the decline of the Sandlewood cutters and I have to say they do a pretty good job of getting you there.  There are quite a few interesting things to see and do in the area, but in my opinion Wave Rock itself is less impressive than I imagined, still we took the obligatory “hang 10” shot.  More impressive for me were Lake Magic, the views from the top of the rock and the walls built along the edges to catch every single drop of water run-off for the town water supply.  We are certainly getting into dry country through this area and are starting to learn about some of the ways that the early settlements dealt with having next to no water, but more about that later when we approach Kalgoorlie.

Wave Rock, HydenThe great wall of Hyden - for water catchmentHyden street sculptureDSC_0058Tobey with Nana on Wave RockFlowers everywhereL1000796Indianna soaking up the serenity of Wave ROckWhile around Hyden we also checked out Hippo’s Yawn and Mulka’s cave.  Hippo’s Yawn named for obvious reasons and Mulka’s cave was the legendary hideout for a disgraced Mulka, the illegitimate son of a woman who fell in love with a man for whom marriage was forbidden according to Aboriginal kinship laws.  There are some fairly basic hand rock paintings in the cave, but nothing to compare to the rock art of the Kimberley and Kakadu regions. At Mulka’s cave we also saw one of Mother Nature’s water storage devices.  These “Gnamma Holes” are holes in the granite rock formed from a crack or split in the rock. The one that Ben has his arm in in the picture below went about 40cms deeper than his hand.  The aboriginals used to cover the holes to keep the water a little cleaner and to slow the rate of evaporation. In this bone-dry part of the country these holes were obviously a vital water supply for both the aboriginal people and the local wildlife.

Hippos YawnMulka's CaveGnamma holes - Mulka's Cave area

 Moving on from Hyden we headed towards Kalgoorlie.  We have been pretty good this year with timing our fuel refills and One thirsty car!have never been close to running out of diesel, although often running very low because we’ve been too lazy to stop and  top up with the jerry can, but the drive from Hyden would have to rate as the closest call yet! Still with 15kms to the next fuel station the car started showing 0kms of fuel remaining, the car lost power within sight of the service station, but thanks to our weight we managed to literally roll into the station… whew, for a minute there we thought we’d have to get the jerry can out across the road!

Kalgoorlie is the city of HUGE mining operations.  Gold fever hitThe water pipeline into Kalgoorlie ‘Kal’ in the mid 1890’s and at the height of the rush there were around 30,000 people living in the town.  This many people here with the sole purpose of looking for gold and without a good water supply! The early settlers of the town relied on saline or brackish water that they would condense to make it drinkable for around a decade.  A grand scheme of piping water 560kms from the Mundaring Dam near Perth was suggested by theHaving a drink of water on Mt Charlotte, 560 kms from where it originated in Mundaring Dam engineer CY O’Connor and the rest, as they say, is history!  Since 1903 the goldfields have had their water piped from the Mundaring Dam, the water taking one to two weeks to reach the reservoir at the top of Mt Charlotte in Kalgoorlie. It’s still one of the great engineering feats in Australian history.

Gold of course is the main industry for Kalgoorlie and for us the main attraction was for the kids to see the Super Pit.  Alan Bond was the driving force behind creating the Super Pit, buying up the individual leases during the late 1980’s to allow this large scale cost effective operation to be formed. Everything is big around the Super Pit, there’s the eye-boggling pit itself, the massive trucks and diggers and (on our very rough estimations) the approximately $400,000 of gold going out in each truck. The pit will eventually be 3.7km long, 1.5km wide and 660m deep (it’s currently just as wide and long, but only 460m deep), the final pit dimensions will make it almost twice as deep as Uluru is high and three times as long as the Sydney Harbour Bridge! We were fortunate enough to be in Kal on an explosion day in the pit so we went to see what Tobey’s dream job looked like.

Big bucketsBig, but not the biggest tyresBig pitsBig explosions

           The museum in Kalgoorlie was really interesting, showing the complete history of the area, not only the mining, although to be fair most of the white history of the area is about mining.  To put this massive industry a little into perspective there is an information panel there entitled “The True Cost of Gold”:

Gold is not vital for human life. Yet, we continue to search for new gold. For all its attraction, gold comes with social and environmental costs. It produces more waste rock per gram of metal than mining for any other metal…. Gold mining has bought wealth and jobs to Western Australia. It has also meant the loss of traditional indigenous lands and the pollution of local environment. In other parts of the world, poorly regulated gold mining still sees hazardous conditions and the use of child labour.

Think about the process involved from mining gold to wearing a wedding ring and weigh the costs and benefits. The gold produced for a single gold wedding ring may require the removal of over 20 tonnes of rock.

Now there’s something to think about.

Anyone home!?With all those mining men there has been a long running profession in Kalgoorlie of a totally different kind. The services offered by the ladies on Hay Street are legendary themselves! Unfortunately for Ben he missed seeing what was on offer as we cruised down the street in the middle of the day – office hours start at 6pm!  There was nobody answering the door when he went knocking.

We head off back to the coast now, hopefully away from these relentless flies – can’t wait for that!

We always intended this year away to be a chance to reassess what to do in the future and after months of thinking about the possibility of a change we have decided not to return to Sydney to live.  We are going to try a move to the Glass House Mountains area north of Brisbane.  We have no precise plan at this stage, but by the time early February rolls around we will hopefully have found somewhere to live, somewhere to go to school and somewhere to work!  It all sounds like a little too much to organise in two months… especially at our current work rate! Once we have a base we’ll head back to Sydney to sort out our belongings and catch up with all our wonderful friends there.

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Responses

  1. Hi Maria

    Sounds as if you’ll be very busy for a while! The Glasshouse Mountains area is beautiful, and the trip in to Brisbane is much faster these days.

    We’re now down in the Yorke Peninsula, but heading back to Sydney for Christmas. Where are you now?

    Happy travels
    Melinda & Greg

  2. Hey sounds great that you are going to settle on the Sunshine Coast – will hopefully catch up there if not before – I will be in S.A. until 1st January so if you get this way by then drop me a line 🙂

    • Hi Cathy, where in SA are you? We’re on the Eyre Peninsula now, heading towards Wyalla over the next couple of days. Will go to Flinders Ranges then start heading towards QLD. So not going as east as Adelaide now. Would be great to catch up if it works. Maria

      • Hi Guys,

        I have done the Eyre & Yorke Peninsulars & am now in a little town called Burra – lovely little historical town could be on your way to Flinders not sure as there are so many ways to take – Burra is about 40 km from Clare – I am house sitting here & will be here until 14th December then I will head to Adelaide before taking up another house sitting position on the 22nd December near Mt Gambier – Hey it would be great if we could catch up – have you got my phone number?? 040 1300 428

      • Hi Cathy, We’ll be very near you just before the 14th. Will go straight to Flinders from Port Augusta and then spend a few nights at Mt Remarkable from the 12th. I think that’s pretty close to you. After that we’ll head straight through NSW to Yamba for Xmas (in Yamba from the 20th). Would be great to see you – any chance of popping up to Mt Remarkable for a visit? Maria

        Follow us… https://malpassadventures.wordpress.com/

        ________________________________

      • Hi Guys,
        Hope you are enjoying the Peninsulars 🙂 Would be great to catch up but Mt Remarkable is a little out of way as I will be heading down to Adelaide on the 15th as have a friend from the coast I am catching up with then will head along the coast to Mt Gambier. Depends where you are at the weekend if you are near me give me a call. If I don’t catch up have a lovely xmas & look forward to hearing from you when you settle on the Sunshine Coast 🙂

        Happy travels – Cathy

  3. Best of luck with all the plans for your move. So exciting!

  4. Hi Cathy

    We were in Burra today. Lovely little town, and I even managed to get the bulk of my Christmas shopping done!

    It’s express back to Sydney via Broken Hill now for us, before heading off again in the New Year.

    Happy and safe travels everyone 🙂

    Best wishes
    Melinda, Greg and Buffy

  5. Those blue waters look like paradise Maria. Incredible! Sad to hear that you’ll be moving north, but I’m not surprised that you have reevaluated everything after seeing so much this year. Enjoy the rest of the journey!

    Tonja 🙂


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