Trip Leader: Glenn Bignell
When: Easter 6th – 14th April
Location: Mundaring via Pipeline to Charlotte Hill, Kalgoorlie.
Kalgoorlie via Goldfields to Biliburning Rock and Perth
Participants: Malcolm and Trish Harrison, Lynn and John Byworth, Guy and Wendy Lehman, Ian and Robin Took (and Emma), Bob and Theresa Gigenjack, Pat O’Dowd and son Kyle, Yanna and Trevor Josephs, Jan and Roger Freegard and UK friends Pam and Knocker!
Golden Pipeline Trip Part A – The Pipeline
Day 1 Good Friday.
Meet up for 9:00am Good Friday in Mundaring. Some of us would be wondering if it was a Friday 13th. When Lynn and John finally got on the road after several returns to pick up essential forgotten items, they remembered they hadn’t put the burglar alarm on – but a quick call to a son put right to that, then they experienced a blow out in one of the caravan tyres a fair bit of damage but a good Samaritan gave them a helping hand. They arrived not too late. After all the meet and greets, coffees, etc and several staggered trips across the busy road to check out the Dome’s ‘facilities’ we agreed upon our order of travel – non-towing vehicles at the front, then camper trailers followed by caravans. All good intentions, but within 5 minutes Glenn had overshot the first turn off and our neat order was shuffled up. At the next roundabout we all went every which way and the deck was shuffled again. I think we managed one more major shuffle before we discovered that Ian knew the lay of the land quite well, having previously lived here, so he took up temporary trip leadership. A few others were quite informed with local historical knowledge so we enjoyed quite a lot of running commentary all the way through to Bakers Hill where we found none of us could resist the thought of a fresh pie from the well known bakery.
Stomachs comforted by an assortment of the bakery’s fare we set off for Northam with a quick stop at Poole St Bridge over the Avon River, and then on to Meckering. Guy and Wendy took over the commentary having grown up in and around the Northam area. We were regaled with tales of their youth, and all places of interest pointed out to us, including the Meckering fault line.
The Cunderdin museum (pump station No 3) was already closed so we continued on to our campsite at Kokabin Rock, guided by Wendy’s navigation. Being Easter we weren’t surprised to find we weren’t the only happy campers, but we found plenty of space around the far side of the rock. We proceeded to set our up ‘abodes’ and it wasn’t long before we heard the beer calling out from the Waeco, begging to be let out. We set up chairs to enjoy watching our delightful English visitors set up their tent for the first time – how mean is that? They patiently endured the odd instruction from the spectators, but we all realised they were true Pommies, when they required a cup of tea and a biscuit once the tent was up. I’m sure they will be educated in the Aussie way by the end of the week, and find a beer is far more refreshing after a hard task.
Unfortunately a local farmer informed us no fires yet, so we had to imagine we were sat around the warming flames. It was a full moon and clear skies, so it cooled down very quickly, but I believe we had all brought enough blankets and sleeping bags and once snuggled up in our beds were toasty warm. The only complaint I heard in the morning was from Kyle about his Dad’s snoring!
Day 2 Saturday.
A walk up to the top of Kokabin Rock was a must. The 360 views were lovely, company pleasant and breeze cooling. Flies unwelcome but we can’t have it all, can we? After finding Lynn who had got herself lost wandering around on the outcrop (picnic at Hanging Rock?) we drove off to Hunt’s Well – one of nearly 30. Amazing history. Kyle demonstrated how high he could jump when he nearly trod on a sleeping bobtail lizard. We then retraced our steps to Cunderdin to look around the museum (pump station 3). It was very large, lots to see, including a replica earthquake shaking house. Picnic lunch in a shady spot outside then we retraced our tracks through to Tammin and on to Merridin via pump station 4. Having run out of local knowledge, our commentators have resorted to clogging up our airwaves with BS and what started as Pat’s infamous Drop Bear stories to scare/impress our Pommie visitors has been added to by Ian’s kangawallafox. We now all know where they do and don’t live, what they eat (any one under 100 kgs) and what they taste like.
Lots of interesting historical sites to stop at and lots of cameras clicking away. Found our campsite at Baladjie Rock. Relieved to find fewer flies, and plenty of wood for a fire. A nice circle and plenty of camaraderie. Not cold, but fire still nice and with a full moon, clear skies so the rock was brilliantly silhouetted, just awesome.
Day 3 Easter Sunday
The bunny missed our camp! Then, Easter Wendy filled in for him! The athletic ones climbed the rock for the view; the rest of us ambled around the base for our morning constitutional! Back to camp we pushed on with a slow drive through the very characterful historical town of Westonia. I noticed an old sign on what must have been the original hotel “good clean 5′ beds”! We stopped for lunch at the park in Southern Cross. Being Easter, everything was very quiet and deserted. Camped at Karalee Rock and were pleasantly surprised to find OUR camp spot nicely reserved for us. The dam had plenty of water and those of us who ventured in we’re nicely refreshed. The fire again drew us in to a social circle, and even without Sam to entertain us the stories flowed. Ian and Pat demonstrated they were still kids and couldn’t resist playing pranks on the ‘grown ups’. On hearing blood curdling screams most of us had leapt to our feet, torches in hand, before we realised it was just the ‘kids’ on camp with us who thought they could fool us the drop bears were on the prowl – not even Kyle was impressed by the ketchup on the knife!
Day 4 Easter Monday
Cool enough that none of us felt we needed another wash/swim, but a walk around the dam and over the rock was lovely. We are down 2 vehicles now as Guy and Wendy and Bob and Theresa had to go back home. Before we could leave we had to give Trevor a jump start, battery totally flat, but the boys got it sorted.
Back to Great Eastern Highway, before turning off to Woolgangie Rock and then No 8 pump station. We have all been quite impressed with the historical plaques, it really helps bring aspects of ‘the then’ day to day life to reality. One quote in particular amused me. There was a photo of children outside their school house, “the children laughed when they saw their teacher “Flo” coming out from Kalgoorlie on the rail cart, pumping the handles up and down along with the workers”. I can just see teachers today being prepared to get to work (over 100 Kms) that way. They also said that the government would only provide a teacher if there were enough children, so littlies as young as 3 were enrolled!
On the road again pressing on to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. Never a dull moment, tail end Charlie keeping us informed and entertained on channel 25, which only stirs up our Kiwi 😉 Quick refuel in Kalgoorlie and up to Charlotte Hill, the official end of the Golden Pipeline. Still 175 Kms to our camp at Niagara Dam so we didn’t stay too long. There was a “pipe” water feature at the top with sign ‘non-potable and no washing’!! However, the water was cool and not one of us could resist scooping up a handful or 2 to rinse a bit of dust off our faces. Roger, being of the height he is, actually managed to dunk his head in – serves him right for then having a bad hair day! I couldn’t help feeling for our pioneers and what the pipeline would have meant for them if we with our comfortable camping with plenty of fresh water on board felt the need to rinse off a bit. One of the quotes from info plaque ” water a bit insipid, with a galvanized iron taste and a few other favours including smoke”.
John and Lynn stayed overnight in Kalgoorlie to replace their blown out tyre and the rest of happy campers headed north to the dam. Almost uneventful trip until a young roo decided to check out the underside of Ian’s Topaz camper. Needless to say the airwaves were full with everyone ‘offering’ up their thoughts on Ian ‘s callous act. Later that evening sitting around a blazing fire, Pat was dragging a large log off the back of his ute, Roger thought he had picked up the ‘road kill’ and was going to roast it for dinner! You could have heard the roars of laughter up at the Kookynie Pub!
Golden Pipeline Trip Part B – The Goldfields
Day 5 Tuesday April 10
Most of us were happy to a stay at the camp and have a ‘rest’ day. Trevor and Yanna were leaving us the next day (damn work!) so decided to explore north towards Laverton. Pat and Kyle, Ian and Robin also joined them. Those of us in camp used our time swimming in the very full dam or walking around it – only to discover it was so full the trail markers and info plaques were under water! Feeling refreshed in the afternoon we thought a social visit up to the Kookynie Pub was a good idea. Glen is well known to the owners Margaret and Kevin so he called ahead to let them know we were coming (to get the red carpet out? 😉 Whilst Kevin appears to be lugubrious, Margaret is very cheerful and chatty, despite going in to Perth for shoulder surgery the following morning. We also found the rest of our campers had beaten us there and were already tucking into the lemonades.
Back to Niagara Dam to get dressed up for our Mexican night. I think there must have been a run at the op shops for stripey blankets and fake mustaches. Malcolm found his fake black whiskers wouldn’t stick to the real one, so I volunteered to wear it for him! We all put our Mexican food buffet style for everyone to share. Knock and Roger excelled and provided beautifully presented and very tasty chicken wraps – good enough to serve at a restaurant! After the dishes we hung up a Piñata and took turns to bash it down – after Malcolm blindfolded and turned us round to confuse our sense of direction. Eventually it broke and all could partake of the chocolates, along with a snifter of Tequila.
A few dead moustachios were found near the fire, but only Glenn’s left eyebrow – Ian slapped it on to impersonate Mr T. Set off to Lake Ballard via Menzies. What a difference a bit of rain makes. Most of the Gormly bronze sculptures had their feet in water. It looked spectacular. A slight breeze made it seem as if the tide was coming in, the water was trickling south at a few centimeters every second. Wading out was an experience, beautifully soft red slime on top but you didn’t sink too far. I could not believe the thousands of tadpoles – the water was so salty, how do they survive? I collected my little ziplock bag of salt and was happy. Heading south we drove through Riverina, Mulline and stopping at Ularring Soak for lunch. Perfect for picnics, with shaded table, well, info plaque, toilets and or course the granite outcrop with cairn to add to. We are all having such a nice social time, I think Glenn is having a hard time rounding us all up and getting us on the move again, this time for a quick stop at Siberia (information plaques, graves and mines) then some of us to continue south to Ora Banda. Found a forgotten pair of crocs outside the pub that fitted Kyle, perfect as he has raced around so much the last few days he was wearing his runners a bit thin. I’d be quite proud of a pair of crocs with a history connected to the Ora Banda pub. Whilst the Harrison’s were looking forward to a beer, the O’Dowd’s wanted to be able to claim having a meal at the infamous pub! Everything was enjoyed, beer, burgers and coke, then we decided that being in the neighborhood we had also better visit the Broad Arrow pub as well. I’m told I was there many moons ago before we were resident here (1981). Chauffeur tried to find our signature from then. I am surprised there is any wall space left, the graffiti spreads from floor and across the ceilings.
Hit the road at 5:40 heading back to camp.
Day 7 Thursday April 12th
On the move again. We broke camp at 09:00 with the intention to get to Lake Mason early for a change. We all went into Leonora and filled up with diesel, petrol and fresh groceries. We also made a trip to the tourist bureau to get maps for our trip to Sandstone via The Agnew Loop circuit . This turned out to be a great decision as historical sites along the way well signposted and had very interesting interactive information. We travelled 150km on a good gravel road with only a few rough stretches. Some of the sites visited were: The old telegraph line at Boxer’s Well, Doyel’s Well, The coach road to Agnew, Poison Creek which boasted three tennis courts, a hotel, theatre and a pool, Lawlers Mine and cemetery, and then on to Agnew pub for lunch – another ‘have to go there’ outback pub. After lunch three cars decided to stick to the gravel and make way to Sandstone but were turned back by the dreaded ‘no through road’ sign and the rejoined the rest of us on the bitumen. A quick fuel stop at Sandstone and off to Lake Mason for the night. Lake Mason is a station that has been vacated by the owners and now run by DEC and volunteers. We arrived at 5pm, set up camp, happy hour and again prepared meals and relaxed around our camp fire. Pat set up a ‘public’ hot water shower for all to use if desired – thanks Pat!
Day 8 Friday April 13th To Biliburning Rock
The weather has been absolutely great and today was another perfect day. Up bright and early again, stoke up the fire, billy on with the jaffle iron for bacon and egg toasties – way to go. Today we explored around the homestead, shearing shed and quarters, old sheds, windmill and wells. 10am and off to Sandstone to look around. In 1894 gold was discovered here and a town quickly sprung up and is still with us today. We set off on the Sandstone heritage trail and explored the old brewery, London Bridge, State Battery and Contradiction Well then off to Paynes Find by gravel road. These sites were so interesting that we didn’t reach Sandstone until just on midday! Oops, late again. All of the outback gravel roads have been good condition suitable for comfortable 80-90km/hr travel. We finally pulled into Paynes Find at 15:15 only to find that their generator had run out of diesel – oh well, but hang on, that means no food and what’s worse, the diesel and petrol pumps also don’t work. Ian and Robyn were low on fuel, so Pat comes to the rescue with 40 litres of diesel – problem solved – thanks Pat. At this stage of the trip Pat decided to head off as he was brought up in these parts and was ready to head home. Also John, Lyn, Ian and Robyn had caravans full of dust and also decided to head home. That left just 2 vehicles to continue on – Malcolm and Trish and Glenn! We all departed Paynes Find with three vehicles heading down the Great Northern Highway and two vehicles continuing to Biliburning Rock. By 17:45 our camp was set up, fire going and yes – another happy hour followed by great food and campfire stories.
Day 9 Saturday April 14th
After breakfast we packed up camp, went for the mandatory walk to up Biliburning Rock to the cairne – that’s the exercise out of the way, now time to start heading home. We decided to head for Cunderdin to have lunch at the Ettamogah pub – the route had lots of lefts and rights but we finally got there. After lunch it was time to head for home – for some! Malcolm and Trish decided to head off to yet another rock to extend the trip even further – why not!
Thanks everyone for your company.
Trish Harrison / Glenn Bignell