Lake Mason Station and Goldfields Trip

There were 5 vehicles on the trip - Sue and John B. John and Rosalie K. Richard K. Terry & Teresa K. Tony and Stella W.

Wednesday April 16th, we all met up and spent the night at Dalwallinu Caravan Park, a sweet little park with excellent showers. We all sat together before dinner for Stella and Tony's 20th wedding anniversary. Stella had bought some superb champagne with REAL gold flakes in it. This was an appropriate start for our Goldfields trip! Rosalie had also bought champagne along and a cake with sparklers for the happy couple.

Thursday April 17th.

We set off at 9.30am and stopped in Dalwallinu for supplies - who mentioned there was a BAKERY there? The weather was a dream - sunny and clear after a very heavy early morning fog. We went through Wubin and were soon held up by very long road works. We stoppped for morning tea on the side of the road and it was extremely hot. We had taken umbrellas, warm clothes and raincoats!!

Soon we arrived at Paynes Find and queued up for Petrol. Tony, the owner of the garage took us on a tour of the outbuildings, where there was an old Bakery and Butcher's. Inside the petrol station there was an underground cellar which had a skeleton in it (only a sheep!) Tony, the owner is trying to get Paynes Find on the map and has owned the garage for three years. He deserves to do well. Petrol is open 24 hours and there is a caravan park but with a noisy generator, it could be a nuisance. There had been a tragic car accident just up the road the previous evening and two people had been killed. We saw the camper van involved later as we drove past.
We took the long dusty road to Sandstone, all keeping our distance to be clear of dust. Again stopped by the side of the road for lunch and it was very hot. We saw a dead goat next to the road. Later on we saw a huge Monitor crossing the road.

We arrived in Sandstone around 4.30pm - some arrived at 5.00pm having overshot the turning and being on Radio Channel 24 did not help! We all settled into our spots but John just tried to see which spot he wanted first, and then decided to park somewhere else! This reversing game takes a bit of practice! Then Happy Hour followed by a communial dinner.

  Friday April 18th

Having agreed on a 10 am departure the previous night,  the morning breakfast and pack-up was carried out in a reasonably leisurely manner.   Some (eg Broms) enjoyed a delightful sit-down brekky.   We could already feel the heat of the day closing in.   I took the children for a quick perusal of the local school, having previously visited it in the early eighties when taking a group of Kalgoorlie children on a camp.  Apparently there are twenty children and two teachers; the building having been modernized while retaining the external historical appeal.

A brief Sandstone history:

*As early as 1894 gold was discovered around the area, but the first rush was caused by a rich alluvial find by an Aborigine in March 1903.    As a result, the town of Nunngarra (an Aboriginal name meaning ‘barb of the spear’ was proclaimed December 1903.  However, it was the rich reefs found by prospectors Tom Payne, George Dent and the Hacks brothers in 1902 and 1903 that led to the establishment of large profitable mines and the foundling of Sandstone in September 1906.

The town grew rapidly and by 1907 had a hospital, state school, post and telegraph office, telephone connection, a well-staffed police station, two banks, four hotels, many cafes, stores and business houses and was populated by 6000 to 8000 people.

Sandstone was the centre for the area known as the Black Range District, a part of the East Murchison Goldfields.  This included a number of smaller towns (most now forgotten) such as Barrambee, Birrigrin, Maninga Marley, Paynesville and Montague, each with its own mines.  The area was rich in payable reef gold and a number of important and well-paying mines were established in the close vicinity of Sandstone, including the Black Range and Oroya gold mines.

By the time the First World War broke out in August 1914, however, the major gold reserves in Sandstone were seriously depleted.  The town declined rapidly and by

1919 only 200 people remained. *

The manager of the general store opened up especially for those of us who needed fuel and other supplies.

The bitumen in the main street  had been put down just prior to Christmas.   It really transformed the appearance of the town; my main memory being the red dust roads and the historical buildings, to me a much more attractive picture but I guess ‘progress’ is inevitable.

The road to Lake Mason Station was a well-graded dirt road and it wasn’t long before the station sign appeared; an easy day’s drive to be sure!

After passing the Gidgie Gold Mine at about 11am we crossed the station’s grid,  discouraging unauthorized entry.

We set up camp not far from the homestead itself, attempting to position our campsites under the sparse shade, the temperature  somewhere in the thirties. The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing, touring the homestead (more details in Saturday’s notes) and station itself .   The nearby windmill and its abundant water supply provided a welcome relief for  Liam and Kelly who revelled in the water and (otherwise prohibited) mud play.   Thank goodness for our shower tent facilities but the mud colour still remains in the bathers! 

A wonderful happy hour was enjoyed at the Brombergers’  and this continued while some attended the 7pm meeting which outlined the working day ahead.

Some of us remaining were intrigued by a dingo call but doubted its authenticity; a possible defector from the meeting???

We all retired early in anticipation of another hot day.

Teresa Keesing

Saturday 19 April 2003

After a solid good nights sleep I was woken by certain other members of the group, wanting to know what was on the menu for breakfast. John, my Dad, was hanging out for meat having kept his Good Friday discipline. Mum wanted to see if I really could prepare a breakfast. So it was a fryup of bacon, sausage, egg and other breakfast delicacies, preceded by fruit and yoghurt and followed up with a piece of fried bread and a cup of tea. It all went down a treat.

We knew we were in for a hot day, the sunrise I am told was absolutely spectacular. I have no reason to believe other wise. By the time we set off at about 8.30 to start work at the station homestead the temperature was on the way up.

We had been told of all the work that needed to be done around the homestead at a meeting the night before. When we fronted up and saw it in the daylight the fears we held were confirmed. The building was in a terrible condition, inside and out. Some kangaroo shooters had occupied it for some months and their housekeeping left a lot to be desired. The stench from a decaying kangaroo carcass was still evident in the building. However the members of the Mitsubishi Club got stuck into their allotted tasks, along with many other 4Wdrivers, and the transformation that took place was amazing. By the end of the day the building looked really quite habitable.

In the evening, following our ‘happy hour’ and a meeting to discuss the next days programme, we all attended a barbeque in the grounds of the homestead. A local gold mine had provided the food and the meat and salads. We heard from the CALM officers of their plans for the future management of this property and the possibilities of involvement by members of the 4WD Association.  

Richard K

Easter Sunday, 20 April 2003

The sunrise this morning was something to see, the colours on the horizon as the morning dawned changed from pink, to blue and then orange. It was a beautiful sight.

After breakfast some of our group joined in an Easter service that was conducted by a Pastor from the Inland Mission, He is a member of the National 4WD radio network and was attending their jamboree at Lake Mason.  After the service it was back to the camp site to see what the Easter bunny had left for us. Kelly and Liam had done well. One other happy camper opened his box of chocolate eggs, intending to share them around, only to find they had all melted in the heat of the previous day.

Because of the difficulty some of us were having with batteries and fridges, it had been decided we would leave Lake Mason this morning rather that stay around for the day.  Before leaving the homestead, we drove out to find Lake Mason. We did find the lake but no water, just a huge salt area. We continued on around the station and viewed the country and a stone well. On the way back to the homestead Richard decided to take everyone on, we took off across the salt lake, the winner was John B.

We left Lake Mason station and set off for Sandstone where we met up with Terry and Teresa, who had left earlier in the morning. After a visit to the store, housed in the old Post and Telegraph office, Tony led the group out to follow the Heritage Trail. This took us past Mt. Sandstone to an area known as the brewery, the site where in earlier days beer was brewed and stored. Excellent views of the surrounding country. From there we viewed ‘London Bridge’, a natural bridge in a breakaway area. Quite spectacular. Further on the heritage trail took us past the old battery before we joined the road to Menzies.

Rosalie was driving, camper in tow, when there was a blowout of a rear tyre. For a first timer trailer driver she did well to keep vehicle and camper under control. Wheel replaced the convoy continued on and was joined by the driver of a mining company vehicle needing the support of a group. He had also blown a tyre and stayed with us until we called a halt for the day.

Camp was make at Snake Hill lookout, (site 20 on the Goldfields tour). From this high vantage point we had excellent views over Lake Ballard and after setting up camp enjoyed a pleasant happy hour watching kangaroos on the hills across the valley as the sun set. Dinner was followed by a damper made by Richard and chocolate to celebrate Easter. Two ladies, traveling alone, were welcomed and shared their home made  rocky road with us.

 From this vantage point we saw an orange glow in the east and in our front row seats watched a magnificent moon rise. With eager anticipation of the next day, we all made off to our beds, tired but well satisfied.

John and Rosalie    

Easter Monday, April 21st.

The camp awoke to a beautiful sunrise and the noise created by the Bromberger's leaving without the caravan to see the sun rise on the Inside Australia installation. When they returned a few hours later, Sue stood in the back of the caravan to form a counterweight while the men lifted the front to allow John to put the jockey wheel in position. No damage to man or van fortunately occurred in this incident. Terry and family were also up at an early hour to walk on the dry lake. Remembering this was a holiday, we went with the King family after breakfast . We spent an hour walking from one sculpture to the next and decided it was too hot to complete seeing to the rest of these interesting features. There are fifty- one sculptures, each 300 metres apart. The installation represents the space and isolation of Australians. The sculpture were created by Antony Gormley and paid for by the Perth International Arts Festival.

Information from the storyboard near the shelter on Snake Hill reads; “Lake Ballard is on the register of the National Estate with Lake Barlee, Lake Marmion and other lakes in the Goongarrie area. It is a nationally significant ecosystem to be protected. Lake Ballard is a short-lived sumpland, irregularly shaped and has many islands of various sizes and shapes. Having a flat shallow lake bed an and estimated rainfall of 240 millilitres per year, less than 11 inches, the area is usually dry and any rain is quickly absorbed or evaporated. It is only if there is major cyclonic rain that the lake holds water for any significant period”.

These areas are important for the continued biodiversity of the region. Apart from being a breeding ground for Banded Stilts, Lake Ballard also supports four breeding colonies: red capped plovers, red necked avocets, green teal and grey teal. Hooded plovers, rare in Australia also breed here. Before the lake becomes too salt and dries out it provides adequate food for waterfowl and protected areas for breeding. Significant rain is such a rare event in the inland that banded stilts have only been recorded as nesting about 20 times in 200 years of European settlement

There is no vegetation on the lake floor but there is samphire on the lake edges and on the islands. The gypsum dunes and islands have some vegetation. Mulga and low growing acacia trees and saltbush and other low growing shrubs grow on the northern perimeter of the lake.

Near two rainwater tanks and a toilet, a large sign warns people about the care needed visiting this site. Some of this advice includes not driving on the lake, taking 5 litres of water per person if walking to all the sculptures, wearing long sleeves, sunglasses and sun protection and suitable footwear. The walking trails should be followed and remember to take all your rubbish with you; open fires are not allowed.

The best walking time is early morning or late afternoon and it is advisable to go in parties of at least two people. This is sensible as the surface had a salty crust on slippery mud.  It appears dry but is deceptive. Visitors are asked to sign the Visitors book at Menzies when reaching the town. We wore Wellington boots which became heavy with mud and needed to be scraped on our return.

There is little shade and after morning tea the convoy moved off to Menzies to refuel before calling at the Ora Banda pub. The road continued in excellent condition.  Menzies looks a sad town now as several mines have halted their production and the population has dwindled since the Club’s last visit. Fuel in Menzies was $1.17 a litre for diesel.

  We stopped for lunch in a clearing not far from Davyhurst historic townsite; here Sue Brom had more excitement discovering ants in the caravan and then her chair broke as she sat down to eat. Not her day. We passed the Battery Dam and the abandoned pits of the Siberia Gold Project. Billy Frost and  Bob Bonner found gold here in 1893. A noticeboard at the cemetery tells some of the history of the site. The town was gazetted as Waverley but soon became known as Siberia because of its isolation. The people buried here died naturally and were not gold mining accident victims.

We set up camp at Rowles Lagoon in the late afternoon. Since we were last there the area for camping has been expanded and there are pit toilets, sheltered tables and benches and BBQ pits. It was warm at night and although an open fire was not needed, we lit one the first night for good company.

Tuesday, April 22nd.

A red sunrise with a cooler morning. We were glad of the fly nets, as these insects were too friendly. Terry was up early with the children and saw a feral peacock, much to his amazement and that of two women from Birds Australia who told me it seemed to be a lone bird and it foraged near their camp. During the night we heard the honk of swans as they move about the lagoon and we saw many Welcome Swallows. The Pied Butcher-bird with its singular call was heard at each of our campsites including this morning.  The bushland became silent as the humidity rose. A game of boules occupied some time and the children enjoyed games brought from home until it became cooler. Terry cooked a very nice damper later in the afternoon to end a lazy day.

There is less water in the lagoon than we had seen before and so fewer birds. The star filled nights have delighted us all and up till now the moon had been full but was on the wane.

Wednesday April 23rd

After a group photo beside the lagoon we set off to refuel at Coolgardie before the drive to Hyden. We stopped at Kunanalling to see the remains of the Premier Hotel; an early building fenced off for its preservation. Coolgardie is a tidy town and the signage in the main street signifies historic sites. The General Store is licensed has been used for over a century. We bought some “just in case” supplies there before leaving town.

John and Sue left the convoy after visiting Victoria Rock as they had appointments in Kalgoorlie. What were the best three things about this trip? Sue summed it up with, the call of the pied butcher-bird early in the morning, the campsite at Snake Hill overlooking Lake Ballard, and the sunrise on the sculptures of Inside Australia. The sun's rays lighting on these was magical. Rosalie agreed and added the company has been great and her confidence in the bush and camping had increased.  Richard, Terry and both John’s said they enjoyed the whole trip and were especially impressed with the results of the work done on the homestead at Lake Mason.

As we continued towards the Hyden / Norseman Road, there were many muddy areas to be avoided. We were unsuccessful in finding Bank Rock as the signage was missing and spaghetti tracks created some confusion. We noted good campsites around here for another trip, perhaps to Norseman in the Spring.

Spent an hour at McDermid Rock looking at the wave formation and the rock pools before going on to visit The Breakaways about 100 km east of Hyden, both are suitable campsites. We arrived at the Hyden Caravan Park about 5.30 that afternoon and enjoyed refreshing showers after the humid conditions of the day. In the evening we enjoyed the Bistro meal (huge steaks!) at the Hyden Hotel before an early night. A southern Boobook owl in the Caravan Park gave a double hoot for a good nights sleep.

Some light rain overnight and in the morning there was threat of this continuing. We packed up and had a look at Wave Rock before setting off on the four-hour journey to Perth. Terry and Teresa went directly home after the visit to the Dog Cemetery at Corrigin.

The King’s and Weldon’s stopped off at Brookton for home-made pies and vanilla slice at the deli before reaching Perth. No rush and no fuss as when we reached Roleystone we were driving in drizzly rain and fog.

Thanks to all of you who trusted us not to lead you astray, did hard work at Lake Mason and were such good company on the Trip.

Stella and Tony