Summary …… Our Trip to WA

We are back from our holiday and we had the most amazing time, Western Australia is beautiful and just as you think it can’t get any better, it does!

We know that the thought of driving 17,290 km in 2 months across Australia, locked in a car together 24 hours a day isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but we couldn’t think of a better holiday. The lack of toilets and showers, the millions of flies, eating bugs in your dinner, constantly being covered in red dirt, doesn’t bother us at all. If that’s the price you pay to see the amazing places we’ve experienced, then we can deal with that!dddd

Below is our basic itinerary

  • Balranald
  • Port Augusta
  • Marla
  • Tilmouth Well
  • Tanami Track
  • Halls Creek
  • Bungle Bungle National Park (Purnululu)
  • Kununurra
  • El Questro
  • Mt Elizabeth Station
  • Bell Gorge
  • Windjana Gorge
  • Fitzroy Crossing
  • Derby
  • Broome
  • Eighty Mile Beach
  • Port Hedland
  • Karratha
  • Millstream Chichester National Park
  • Tom Price
  • Karijini National Park
  • Nanutarra
  • Exmouth
  • Coral Bay
  • Carnarvan
  • Denham
  • Kalbarri National Park
  • Geraldton
  • Sandstone
  • Kalgoorlie
  • Great Central Road
  • Yulara
  • Oodnadatta Track
  • Orroroo
  • Hay

fdsds

What a blessing it is to be able to travel this country, we are so privileged to have the opportunity to see our amazing land. It’s a big world out there and it’s totally different, the people you meet are genuinely good kind-hearted people, it’s a pleasant change!

To say we visited some wonderful places is an understatement. Western Australia is amazing, so many beautiful places and we experienced so much in such a relatively short period of time.

We stood on the western most point of Australia, Steep Point. This was pretty special for us as it meant that we now only have the southernmost point to visit. The day we visited was actually only a week or two short of being exactly 3 years since we stood on the northern most point of Australia at Cape York. Most people probably think, ‘what’s the big deal, it’s just a sign’, but it’s a great feeling to reach the tip and stand there knowing that we’ve marked another thing off our bucket list, we’ve conquered another place that most Australian’s haven’t, and probably never will, visit.

ggg

Karijini National Park and the Horizontal Falls were the definite highlights for us. A visit to Karijini National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list. We had seen many photos over the years and had always wanted to visit, but wow, the photos are nothing compared to being there and seeing this with your own eyes. There are so many gorges to see and each is better than the last. They aren’t all easy to get to though, they require bushwalks of at least a couple of kilometers and some basically require feats of acrobatics to get there, clambering over rocks, wading through water, squeezing along narrow ledges ….. but it’s all an adventure!

The Horizontal Falls tour was the best day. You can’t explain what it’s like to fly in and land on the calm tranquil waters of Talbot Bay and then the next minute be flying through the falls in a high-powered jet boat! The adrenaline rush is like nothing else, this whole day was full of adventure. It wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every cent.

Travelling the Gibb River Road had been something we’d wanted to do for a while and we loved every minute of it, could have easily spent a month exploring this area. The gorges are just beautiful, although it’s a miracle we saw them as 2km or more bushwalks is not really our idea of fun, but it was so worth it! To walk through the pitch black Tunnel Creek, trying not to run into crocodiles that live in there was an experience! We loved getting up close with the crocodiles at Windjana Gorge, it’s amazing how many live there.

As for our new Cub Camper, we couldn’t have been happier with this. We weren’t sure it was even going to make it on the trip with us, but it ended up finally being ready, we picked it up on the Friday before we left! Obviously we didn’t get any time to do any test runs as we should have, so it was thrown straight into it. Just over 2 months old and it’s already due for its first service! It certainly made life so much easier than using a tent, it was like our little bit of luxury! Couldn’t fault it, it was made to do what we do and loved being off-road!

IMG_4870

Below is a summary of our trip.

Total KM travelled 17,290 km

Total time away 58 days (2 months)

Total amount of money spent on fuel $3,539

Most expensive fuel $2.20 per litre at Yuendumu

Cheapest fuel $1.17 per litre at Mildura

What we missed the most while away Gelly & Charli (and the rest of our pets) and our family

Best meal Port View Restaurant, Geraldton (the service and the food was amazing, can’t thank them enough for accommodating us, see here)

Biggest surprise How much we loved Broome, could have easily spent more time there.  It’s got a great mix of a larger type town, with the casual relaxed outback style of life.

Most Scenic Karijini National Park and all the gorges on the Gibb River Road

Favourite campground (remote) Our second night of ‘free camp’ on the Great Central Road. Views of the ranges, surrounded by bush, the clear sky full of stars and not another person in sight.

Favourite campground (city) Belair Gardens Caravan Park, Geraldton (huge sites, good amenities and excellent service)

Most expensive place in general El Questro and Ayers Rock Resort

Most expensive campsite El Questro ($62 per day)

Cheapest Campsite Can’t get any cheaper than our ‘free camping’ nights in the bush! Otherwise, Balranald, Marla, Nanutarra and Millstream National Park were all $20 per night.

Biggest Adrenalin Rush Horizontal Falls jet boat rides

4WD Tracks driven Tanami Track, Gibb River Road, Great Central Road, Oodnadatta Track.

States travelled to NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory, Western Australia

What exceeded our expectations Horizontal Falls, Broome, Geraldton (in particular the HMAS Sydney II memorial)

Strangest place Province of Hutt River! We still can’t explain this one, read our blog here if you missed it!

Biggest disappointment That we weren’t able to drive to Steep Point ourselves, but happy we found a work around, even if it cost us a lot of money! That we didn’t have time to swim with the Whale Sharks in Exmouth or ride camels on Cable Beach.  Oh and the fact that the Pentecost River basically had no water in it, so disappointed with that water crossing!

What we wouldn’t take with us again Drill, second battery pack, one less sleeping bag and blanket

Best Purchase before the trip Our camper trailer!

Tips for travelling to WA Time your visit to see the ‘Staircase to the Moon’ phenomenon, visit the Horizontal Falls, look out for 24hour unmanned refuelling stations (generally there is a significant saving from filling up at the servo).  Buy the National Parks yearly pass (if you look around you can actually get this cheaper – we joined RAC and then purchased the parks pass for 1/2 price and overall still saved money! Plus with RAC you get a discount on fuel at some servos)

IMG_4873

We do need to thank our wonderful house sitter, Hannah who looked after the house and our mini zoo! It was scary getting a stranger in for the first time, but it all worked out well, she sent us update photos of the pups and looked after all the issues Charli created! The dogs clearly loved her and were well looked after.  They even kept going to her room looking for her after we got back!

Also thanks to Kylie & Ben for reluctantly taking Sam the snake to the vet while we were gone. It was unfortunate timing that he got sick just before we left, but were happy to hear that he was on the road to recovery and started eating again while we were away.

As usual we need to thank our mechanic, Adam, who always does a great job on our cars.  The Prado had no issues at all (well not mechanical anyway!)  We know you aren’t a fan of working on our dirty 4WD’s, but we do appreciate it!

And lastly thanks to our mate Vic from Great Divide Tours who again prepared our trip plan for us, we couldn’t live without your trip notes now! Anyone planning a trip like ours needs someone like Vic and his knowledge to help!IMG_7940

 

We are home!

We arrived home last Saturday afternoon and spent a few days cleaning, unpacking, cleaning, washing, cleaning, before heading back to work mid week.  Anyone who’s done outback travel will understand what it’s like to clean the car upon return, there is red dust that seeps out from every possible place ….. and this happens forever after!  I’m sure we still have dirt and dust in the old Prado from our first Simpson Desert visit years ago!

So our last two days coming back into Sydney really prepared us for the weather and adjusting back into Sydney life!  After basically spending 2 months in 25-35 degree days, wearing shorts and swimming, we were quickly brought back down to reality when we arrived in Orroroo.  It was freezing, we both slept in beanies and gloves and layers and layers of clothes, George even slept in his jeans!  We packed up the next morning in 1 degree and had to wipe the ice off the winch and strap as we went along.  It was by far the coldest we had experienced!

In the coming weeks we will still be publishing blogs about the trip, as there is still so much more to share, but just wanted to touch base and let everyone know we have safely arrived home.

We will expand more on this later, but we travelled 17,290km in 2 months.  Our cheapest fuel (diesel) was $1.17 per litre in Mildura and our most expensive was $2.20 per litre in Yuendumu.

Our cheapest accommodation was our ‘free camping’ nights in the bush, our most expensive was at El Questro, at $62 per night for a powered camping site!

The picture above is an updated version of our travels around Australia.  Still so much more to do, but at least we’ve covered part of every state now!

Oodnadatta Track

The famous Oodnadatta Track runs for 618km through outback South Australia. It’s a rugged track which varies in conditions. Some parts we were doing 80km/hour, another part it took us 50 min to travel 15km!​

​It has a lot of history and it’s probably the most historical track in Australia. While travelling this track you are driving alongside the old Ghan Railway, with many opportunities to see the rails and sleepers, old bridges and the ruins of the old sidings. The Old Ghan Railway line closed in 1980. The track also has Artesian mound springs which supply water to the region and Aborigines relied on this water source to live. As did the European explorers who used the route to build the Overland Telegraph and the Old Ghan railway lines in the late 19th century. 

The Pink Roadhouse is what most people know about Oodnadatta, and to be honest there isn’t too much else there! It’s your one stop place for food, fuel, groceries, souvineers, postal services etc. It’s a unique little place and everything is pink! They’ve done a little work inside since our last visit and it’s looking good.The Algebuckina Bridge is Shelly’s favourite bridge to photograph and of course we had to come back for more photos! Shelly got plenty of photo and exploring time while George rewired the trailer brakes again! This bridge opened in January 1892 and was the longest bridge in South Australia until recently. The bridge is one of the old Ghan Railway’s bridges and it crosses the floodplain of the Neales River.After a major flood in the mid 1970’s, the water almost reached the bridge decks and the line was subequently closed and a new route built to the west.This car below is apparently the remains of a 1948 FJ Holden that was hit by a train half way across the bridge, after the driver attempted to drive across the rail bridge during a flood, luckily he survived. Our visit to William Creek this time saw us stay for a little longer than last and we actually made it into the William Creek Hotel for a beer this time round!William Creek is a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere, they actually say William Creek is in the middle of nowhere, on the way to somewhere, outback South Australia.  With a permanent population of about 10, this is the smallest settlement in South Australia. It’s basically halfway along the Oodnadatta Track and it sits in the centre of Australia’s, and the world’s, largest cattle station, Anna Creek Station (SK Kidman).

Inside the William Creek Hotel

We spent 2 nights camped on the Oodnadatta Track, the first night was a lovely free camping spot and the second night we stayed at Coward Springs.There is a lot of history to this area aswell and the current owners have preserved a lot of this for visitors to see.  They have also created a great little campground with showers and toilets and fire pits for each campsite. It was quite busy the night we were there but each camp area is hidden between trees so it’s actually quite private.The picture above is of the warm bore spa on the grounds, if only we’d arrived a bit earlier in the day when it was warmer!The Coward Springs property is actually currently for sale ….. wonder if Gelly & Charli want to move to the outback with mummy and daddy and be farm dogs😛There are ruins all along this track and if you like history, you’ll love it! .Some of the old buildings you can walk around inside which can be a little creepy at times! There are plenty of ruins of old sidings, but also complete old villages, it’s great to see. As you can imagine, given the age, some of these buildings aren’t in the best condition and some are unfortunately no more than a pile of rubble. Quite a few though are being restored to their former glory, or at least stabilised so they remain for people to see.Lake Eyre is the 3rd largest salt lake in the world and the largest in Australia. It is also the lowest point in Australia, at about 15m below sea level. This lake is huge and we only saw a little of the southern end. At 1.2 million square kilometers, the Lake Eyre Basin covers almost one-sixth of Australia and is one of the world’s largest internally draining river systems. In saying this though, as the catchment area is fully within the desert areas of Central Australia it very rarely fills with water.When it does flood though it’s amazing, we’ve seen photos and heard the stories and it would be a sight to see. We believe there is currently some water in sections of the lake, but it’s certainly not full. The last really big flood was back in 2010 or 2011 and this actually saw the Cooper Creek car ferry running, that would have been an experience to travel on that! Hopefully next time it is full we will arrange a flight over it to see this amazing sight.The Oodnadatta Track is a great drive and there is heaps to see, particularly if you pull off to see Coober Pedy and the Painted Desert and surrounds. We’ve done that before but would love to go back and spend some more time exploring.

George maybe pretended to be a train!

Our last adventure

Our last adventure on our journey home is the Oodnadatta Track. We’ve explored part of this area before but have never driven the track in full from start to finish so decided now was the time! We left Uluru for the drive to Marla in South Australia for the start of the track. On our first night we ended up camping in a great spot on the track about 100km or so from Marla.This spot was on the edge of a dry riverbed, there were budgerigars everywhere and it was great to wake up to them chirping away. There were plenty of flies too which was the downside, the fly veil did make an appearance! There were a few other people camped in the area that arrived after us, but far enough away on the other side of the road. Perfect spot and the night temperatures weren’t as cold either.We had our open fire and had bush tomato damper for dinner, followed by marshmallows!mmmm, toasted marshmallows, the perfect way to top off the night!Earlier in the day after leaving Uluru we had come across a nasty rollover on the Lasster Highway. We stopped to see if they needed our sat phone or any help, but there were already a few people there helping out and they had called emergency services. Given the location of the accident I’m guessing it was going to be quite a wait for emergency services to arrive, hope the people are ok as they didn’t look too good. We had a big drive ahead of us so left after we knew they had it sorted, but it really does make you realise just how quickly things can happen. This was on a sealed, straight piece of road and one small mistake and this 4WD rolled 2 times. It could happen to anyone, but what a tragic end to someone’s holiday.

Back to Uluru

Our last visit to Uluru was just under 3 years ago and who knew we’d be back so soon!

Last time we visited was as part of our honeymoon which saw us travel up to Cape York and then across the Northern Territory.  It wasn’t long after Shelly’s mum had passed away so Shelly’s dad and her sister flew in to Alice Springs and joined us on our visit to Kings Canyon and Uluru.  It was the first visit to NT for all of us and it was great to be able to share it together after the not so great year beforehand. At the time we remember how we were all amazed at the sheer size of this huge rock sitting in isolation in the middle of nowhere.  From that first glimpse, to us actually visiting the rock, we were awe-struck.

Well I can tell you that it doesn’t change just because you’ve seen it before! When we arrived a few days ago and caught our first glimpse of Uluru again, it was still amazing, it really is something else.Once you actually drive into the park and get close up, you really see how large Uluru is, it’s quite overwhelming.  To see the caves and holes and ridges all around the rock is also quite something, you don’t really understand what it’s like from photos as they tend to show it as a relatively smooth rock.Uluru is 348m high, but more than 860m above sea level. It is over 9km in circumference and also apparently continues up to 5km or so down into the ground.

Uluru was actually formed by a type of sandstone, which came from compressed sediments laid down on the sea floor about 600 million years ago. Many years ago the Peterman Ranges to the west of Kata Tjuta were much taller than they are now. Over time sand and rock was eroded away and deposited into the surrounding plain. Later the whole area became part of an inland sea and sand and mud fell to the bottom of the sea, the weight of the water turning the ground beneath it into rock.About 400 million years ago, after the sea had disappeared, the area was subjected to massive forces and earthquakes. This caused some rocks to fold and tilt and you can see this through the sandstone layers of Uluru. The whole rock basically uplifted and tilted on its side.   Over the years, millions of years, the softer parts of the rock has eroded away, leaving caves and holes all over it. This time we did the guided Mala walk with one of the Rangers. This is a free 2km tour which went for about 2 hours. Our guide was great, he was of Aboriginal heritage and it was interesting to hear his stories. We learned the story of the Mala people and the history and traditions associated with Uluru. We saw some aboriginal rock art and heard all about Tjukurpa (pronounced chook-orr-pa), which is their creation time. These are stories passed down through generations to teach the way of life or law.We learned of the Anangu culture and the significance of Uluru to them. To Anangu this isn’t just one huge rock, it’s a lifetime of creation stories, it’s where they lived and learned their ways of life and laws, it’s home to creation beings which have left their mark around the area. Anangu have cared for the land for thousands and thousands of years and it’s a very spiritual and significant place to them.To Anangu, the holes and valleys and caves etc are as a result of the journeys and actions of ancestral beings across the landscape.  These creation stories tell the travels and actions of Kuniya (Woma python), Liru (poisonous snake), Mala (rufous hare-wallaby) and Lungkata (Centralian blue-tongue lizard).  We were shown a couple of places where you can see the evidence of their activities and actions.

On 26 October 1985, the title deeds to Uluru and Kata Tjuta were handed back to the traditional owners, the Anangu (meaning Aborignal people of western desert). It was then leased back to the  federal government for 99 years. The park is now jointly run by Anangu and National Parks and both work together to preserve the heritage and also educate people on the area.Clearly the place is very important and spiritual to Anangu and they have requested that people do not climb the rock, but unfortunately at this stage the ultimate decision on that comes down to the government and for that reason it is still open for climbing. Hopefully this will change at some point in the future. Last time we were there it was closed for climbing due to high winds and high temperature but this time it was open and there were plenty of people climbing. That’s their decision and they currently have every right to do so, but personally we wouldn’t purely out of respect to the traditional owners (and the fact that it’s one hell of a steep climb and I doubt we’d make it!)We were talking to the ranger about the climb and he told us a few stories of rescues he’s attended and also told of how people leave rubbish up the top or go to the toilet up there, cannot believe people could be so disrespectful. Of course then when it rains all of this is washed down into the waterholes in and around the base of Uluru that are a source of water for many animals in the area. It never ceases to amaze you to see the different colours of the rock. Last time we did the sunrise tour and it looked almost pink, but by later in the day it was a dirty rusty colour. Sunset turns it this really red colour which is like a scorching red. This time it was a little cloudy at times and this too added its own twist onto the colour.

We’ve been told that when it rains, there are waterfalls all over the rock and colour wise it can be purple or even a greenish colour. Would love to see it in full rain or storm one day, but of course rain is pretty scarce in that part of the country!The one thing we have noticed on both of our visits is just how many foreigners there are there in comparison to Australian’s. They are so excited to be seeing this icon and taking home the memories, yet most Australian’s haven’t even visited. It really is sad that Uluru is the most recognisable icon for outback Australia, yet majority of us are happy to just see it in photos. We are both so glad we have the opportunity to explore our great land.We didn’t have time for camel rides this visit but we did pay a visit to the camel farm. They’ve done a lot of work on this since our last visit and it’s looking great. We chatted with some of the workers and animals! They have a water buffalo and emu living there now aswell.All of the camels in this farm are wild animals that they catch and tame up. Every now and then they go out on camel hunts and catch some to bring back. It takes about 8 months to train them up and ones that aren’t trainable are let back free into the wild!

At present there are a few wild camels hanging around the place that they are trying to catch, the day before we were there they had caught the baby one. 
When we first saw her we thought she was just grumpy as she kept crying out, but after we heard the story we felt really sorry for her, she’s obviously calling out to mum, so sad😞​​

​​

A Night at Field of Light

After visiting Uluru only three years ago, we never thought we’d be back so soon.  But we somehow came across information on this ‘Field of Light’ installation and it was something we didn’t want to miss, so we detoured via Uluru on our way home!

 

The Field of Light art installation is a global phenomenon by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro.  He has done this in numerous places across the world, but it was a visit to Uluru in 1992 that inspired him to undertake it, so it’s only fitting that it’s now on display at Uluru.It really is such an amazing sight to see, more than 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres that appear to bloom as darkness falls.  Taking a walk through the dainty colourful lights under a sky full of stars at such a spiritual place is like nothing else we have ever experienced.

The installation is named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku by the local community and this means ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara language and that’s exactly what this installation is all about.

There are numerous packages available to look at the lights, ranging from viewing from above on a dune, walking around amongst the lights, sunset viewing etc.  We chose the ‘A Night at Field of Light’ experience.  Yes it wasn’t cheap, but it was an experience we won’t undertake again and we like to make the most of the locations we are in and immerse ourselves into the surroundings.Our ‘A Night at Field of Light’ experience began with us being picked up from the caravan park at 5.40pm and driven to a remote desert location with unbelievable views of Uluru, which would have been about 15km away.   We were led from the bus up onto the dune to watch the sunset with a glass of sparkling wine and beautiful canapés of Kangaroo and bush tomato crostini, Balsamic roasted onion and Australian feta filo cup, Paperbark smoked crocodile frittata & Poached prawn, native finger lime. 

 

Watching the sun set over Kata Tjuta and seeing the colours changing on Uluru is a sight we were more than happy to experience again ….. on our last visit we experienced this from atop of a camel!

Just as darkness fell we were led to another area where our tables were set up for dinner and as we sat down we were served an entre of Pumpkin and lemon myrtle soup, which was amazing and I don’t even like pumpkin!

 

By now the coloured lights were starting to come to life and it was truly a sight to see.  We could look down over the field of lights as they started to sparkle and change colour in the night sky.

Dinner was a buffet of the following:- Moroccan chickpea salad, Rigatoni and bush tomato pasta salad, Garden salad, Chilled prawns, Smoked salmon platters, Native thyme roasted beef porterhouse medallions, roasted root vegetables, red wine jus, Dukkha seared kangaroo loin on Quandong cous cous, native mint yoghurt, Atlantic Salmon on bok choy and seasonal greens, creamy lemon myrtle sauce, Mushroom and Warrigal Green Risoni & Glazed seasonal vegetables.By the time dessert arrived we were all full from dinner, but managed to fit in a little!  Dessert was also a buffet of Warm flourless chocolate and wattleseed slice, Warm pear and lemon myrtle pudding, Desert lime curd tartlet, Davidson plum baked cheesecake  & Seasonal fruit platter.Of course all of this was topped off with tea/coffee/hot chocolate and a glass of port.

 

During the meal we were also treated to Aboriginal dancers, a didgeridoo performance and an informative talk on the stars and the night sky.  We couldn’t fault the meal, the entertainment or the staff.

After dinner it was time to take a walk down amongst the lights.  We can’t explain what this was like and no photos can do it justice, it was just beautiful.

The lights changed colour from red to blue to yellow and other colours in between, we understand that Bruce Munro had tried to capture the vibrant, rustic colours of the Australian outback and Uluru.

As we walked along set pathways between the lights, it was almost a magical experience. After about 20 minutes or so of exploring the lights, we made our way back to the coaches to drive us back to our accommodation.  What an amazing night full of great food, great company, laughs and just an overall amazing experience. The art installation is on display at Uluru for 12 months and closes on 31st March 2017.  Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area or looking for a mini holiday.

 

Great Central Road

IMG_8345
The Great Central Road is known as “Australia’s longest shortcut” and runs from Laverton in WA to Winton in QLD.

We have done the other half of it so this time we traveled from Laverton to Uluru over the past 3 days. You do need permits to travel this road as it runs through Aboriginal land, we had to get a permit to travel on the WA side and another one to travel the NT side!

This road also happens to be home to the worlds longest geocacheing trail.

Condition wise, the road on the WA side wasn’t too bad at all, but the Northern Territory side was pretty bad, very corrugated and holes and dips everywhere! The Prado and Cub just took it in its stride though, they were both made for this!There are a few points of interest along the GCR and one of them is Lasseter’s Cave. Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter was a gold prospector in the area and became stranded when his camels deserted him in January 1931, leaving him with no provisions. He sheltered in the cave alongside the river for 25 days waiting for his rescue party, but no one came. When we crossed back over the Northern Territory border, we knew we were officially on our way home 😞The last two nights we had free camps on the side off the road. Nothing beats a good camp like this, peaceful, quiet and free! There are always plenty of places to camp, you just need to find them. We used our WikiCamps app to find these two and we were happy with both.

Free camping day 1 – This was a nice quiet spot but basically just a rest area.  There was one other vehicle already there when we arrived but there was plenty of room for the both of us.

Free camping Day 2 – this spot was perfect! The view was amazing and the colours changing on the ranges as the sun set was beautiful. There wasn’t too much firewood around but we managed to make a small campfire. There was no one else around, except some dingos! We had the whole area to ourselves from when we arrived about 4pm until we left the next morning.​Below is a view of our amazing campsite!

​Who says you can’t eat well while camping, this was our dinner in the bush, chilli and garlic scollaps and prawns, with mango chilli chutney! 

Side trip to Kalgoorlie 

After surviving our night in Sandstone with the gale force winds, we packed up early to head to Laverton. On the way out we went to visit “Lady Di” of Sandstone! Now Lady Di is a unique character and you can’t miss her, she even yelled out to us as we were driving past and told us we had to try her pies!

She is set up in the main street just near the information centre and sells the most yummy pies and pasties cooked to order. Her dukkah is equally as good, made from bush ingredients collected locally by Lady Di and indigenous woman. Of course we bought a pie and some dukkah!IMG_8279Next to Lady Di is an Asian guy selling fresh homemade bread and sauces, as well as fresh veggies. The bread was yum (and huge!) and so was the BBQ sauce.IMG_8294Before leaving for the day we went to visit ‘London Bridge’, an attraction just out of Sandstone.IMG_8285Now this is when the plans changed a little, when we saw a sign for Kalgoorlie. We had both wanted to go so we quickly got out the maps and saw that it wasn’t that far out of our way so decided to detour there for the night! We found an off-road shortcut and set out on our way.

Being a quick overnight stop we didn’t have too long to explore but it at least gave us an idea of what it was like, more than you see on Kalgoorlie Cops!!IMG_8299The one thing we wanted to do was check out The Super Pit. This is the biggest open pit gold mine in Australia and it is HUGE! Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to do a tour so had to settle for the lookout.IMG_8297IMG_8298IMG_8300IMG_8303IMG_8305IMG_8307IMG_8312IMG_8317The other tour we would have loved to do was of Questa Casa, the oldest working brothel in Western Australia! It is known to have been operational in the early 1900’s and has had a working life of at least 115 years as a brothel….. next time! And yes they do actual tours of the joint, we weren’t intending on ‘visiting’!

Kalgoorlie is quite a large town with some lovely old buildings, particularly some of the pubs, which are basically on every corner!IMG_8325After a freezing cold night in Kalgoorlie, our coldest night yet, we packed up in 1 degree temperatures and headed off to start our return journey home via the Great Central Road (GCR).

On the way back up the freeway to join the GCR we stumbled across a little ghost town called Gwalia. IMG_8329This living ghost town is the remains of a small settlement around the Sons of Gwalia Mine that flourished in the 1890s until 28 December 1963 when it closed and put 250 men out of work. Gwalia’s population of approx. 1200 fell to just 40 in less than 3 weeks.IMG_8332IMG_8333Today, you can walk through the  abandoned homes and businesses of the once thriving town.IMG_8336Apparently back in the day people weren’t as tall as George!  He would have struggled in there houses!

HMAS Sydney II

A lot of you will know this story, but for those who don’t we will give you a brief overview.  

The loss of HMAS Sydney II and it’s 645 crew members on the night of 19th November 1941 is still regarded as Australia’s greatest naval tragedy. 

HMAS Sydney II was the pride of the Australian Navy Fleet and, although only 6 years old, she had already had many successful battles, including famously sinking the Italian cruiser, Bartolomeo Colleoni. After a heros welcome back to Australia in February 1941, she was then given the job of escorting troop ships to South East Asia, following an Indian Ocean route along the west coast of Western Australia.

Photo taken in Alexandria, Egypt after sinking the Italian cruiser, Bartolomeo Colleoni in July 1940.


It was on the return from one of these trips that the Sydney encountered the German Raider HSK Kormoran.  To hide their identity, the Kormoran was disguised as a Dutch merchant vessel.  When the Sydney tried to signal them and ask them to identify themselves, they purposely got it wrong and stalled in an attempt to appear that they didn’t know what was going on, as it was a widely held belief that merchant seamen were poorly trained.

During this time the Sydney had cruised so close to the Kormoran that it had lost its advantage of heavy armour and gun range.  The Kormoran on the other hand was able to now catch them by surprise and at 5.30pm was said to have hoisted the German flag, dropped its disguise and begun firing, all within 10 seconds.  Their first shots basically took out the bridge and command posts on the Sydney.

Within 5 minutes of battle both ships were mortally wounded, but the battle continued.  The Kormoran ceased firing around 6.30pm and they watched the wounded and ablaze Sydney head off to the south, until it was seen as just a glow on the horizon.  The Kormoran was also severely wounded and the captain  ordered his crew to abandon ship and it sank about 12.30am.

Although neither ship survived, the Sydney lost all its men, but the Kormoran (a much smaller ship) had more than half of their men survive. Their men were subsequently picked up and kept in prison here until after the war, when they were sent home.

At the time of the sinking, the Australian Government apparently kept it a secret for 12 days before the Prime Minister finally made they announcement and the nation went into mourning.

For years the only people who knew the true story were the survivors from the Kormoran, but generally they were dismissed as being unreliable.  Finally years after the battle, in 2008 the Sydney and Kormoran wrecks were found just off the coast of WA, 120 nautical miles west of Shark Bay in 2468 meters of water.  It was found that these wrecks laid exactly within the area told by the Germans.  The Sydney was found just over 12 nautical miles south east of the Kormoran.

Finding the wrecks would have brought  closure to the families who never knew exactly how or where their loved ones had died.  On 16 April the HMAS ANZAC took up position over the wreck of the HMAS Sydney II, carrying relatives of the lost crew members, for a special dawn service.

HMAS SYDNEY II MEMORIAL (Geraldton) 

This memorial was constructed in honour of all the lives lost on that fateful night. The Sydney was very special to the people of Geraldton, having visited a few times during her career. The last visit to Geraldton was for R&R from 18-20 October 1941, just a month before she was lost.

IMG_8204

These cleats had been used to tie the Sydney to during her visits to Geraldton.


This whole memorial is probably the best we have ever seen. The thought that has gone into the structure and the eerie set of circumstances surrounding a few things is very fitting for such an important part of Australian history. You can’t help but get emotional when you visit this place.

The memorial is set in a circular plan, symbolising totality, wholeness, infinity and eternity. It is set out in separate sections, all with their own meaning as shown below.

The Wall of Remembrance – These two walls are at the front of the memorial where you walk through. They are engraved with the names of all 645 men who lost their lives. This is a semi-circular shaped wall to symbolise the ‘encircling arms of the Nation’ welcoming home it’s lost loved ones.IMG_8192IMG_8213The Sanctuary & Dome of Souls This is the heart of the entire memorial. The dome is formed by 645 stainless steel gulls, one for each person who was lost.  Each gull touches at least 2 other gulls, to symbolise mateship and ensure that no one is left alone. They all point upwards to symbolise that they are headed for a better place. These birds traditionally represent spirits of those lost at sea.  It was actually at the dedication ceremony for the memorial that, as The Last Post was playing, a large formation of silver gulls flew over the crowd.IMG_8197The Podium The circular sanctuary floor is constructed using WA granite (and we believe small pieces from all over Australia to honour that the men came from all over our country).

The inscription in the black granite says “IN MEMORY OF THE MEN LOST ON HMAS SYDNEY II 19TH NOVEMBER 1941. LEST WE FORGET”

A ships propeller takes pride of place in the centre and is used as a ceremonial wreath laying altar. Above this hangs the eternal flame, in red and green, representing the ship’s Port and Starboard lights.IMG_8201The Stele This huge structure towers over everything else in the memorial. It is based on the historical symbolisation of standing stones as grave markers. This huge vertical element in steel basically represents the bow of HMAS Sydney II. In a bizarre coincidence, when the wreck was found in 2008, they found that the bow had actually separated from the ship before it sank. IMG_8203Pool of Remembrance This is the only part of the memorial to be added since the wreck was found.  At the centre of the pool is a 2m high silver gull with one wingtip pointing to the exact location of the Sydney’s final resting place. The floor of the pool forms a map, 5 meters across, showing the location of HMAS Sydney II.  Also engraved into the granite are the images of 644 silver gull shadows, with the 645th gull being the one that stands alone in the centre marking the co-ordinates of the wreck site.IMG_8206The Waiting Woman Sculpture This sculpture is fantastic and almost lifelike. This depicts a woman staring into the wind, frozen in time. You can see her  pained look staring into the horizon waiting anxiously for her husband, brother, father, son to come home. You can feel her pain of loss and emptiness, a life of heartache. IMG_8194This statue was installed long before anyone knew what happened to the Sydney. In an eerie coincidence, following the discovery of the wreck it was found that she was looking directly to the position of where the Sydney lays.IMG_8205If you look straight through her arm, that’s where the Sydney lays. IMG_8209

GERALDTON MISEUM 

This museum has a great area dedicated to the HMAS Sydney II.IMG_8253There are many photos on display and information on both ships. They also show video footage, including shots taken from underwater when the wreck was found.

IMG_8255

1:400 scale models of the Sydney (the larger one) and thr Kormoran

 

Some of the stories told in the museum make you realise just how short life is and just how much these brave men sacrificed for our freedom. IMG_8258IMG_8259IMG_8260It’s a very interesting story, one we both knew a little about but have since found out a lot more. There are so many stories and unknowns still out there, but it’s definitely a very sad, but interesting part of our history. This year actually marks the 75th anniversary.

IMG_8261

This was given to families after a loved one was lost

 

IMG_8264

~Lest We Forget~

Geraldton

Tonight we are staying in a little town called Sandstone.  We are both sitting in the camper because it’s so incredibly windy outside! Apparently wind gusts of up to 50km/h and wouldn’t be surprised if they are higher. Camper is going ok, but we have put out some guy ropes as even the chairs were being blown over before.​ Little tip, it you need pegs in the ground here, bring your drill! There is no way you are hammering into this ground!

We’ve just spent the last two days in Geraldton. Geraldton is huge compared to where we’ve been recently, it’s basically a city I guess. All the big department stores and fast food joints etc.

On the way from Kalbarri to Geraldton we visited a couple of towns, Horrocks & Northampton. Horrocks is a small little seaside beach town. It looked like it would be a nice spot to spend a few days, particularly if you like fishing and just wanted some quite time. Northampton was an old town, lots of beautiful old buildings and a fair bit of history. We visited the cemetery (of course we did!) which had a lot of old graves and also the remains of the old church.  

Yesterday morning we went to see the HMAS Sydney II memorial. At 10:30am they have a volunteer guide take you on a tour and explain the memorial and the story of HMAS Sydney II. This was great and we thoroughly enjoyed it. This memorial is probably the best I’ve ever seen, the thought that has gone into every part is amazing. We will do a seperate blog on the HMAS Sydney memorial and the shipwreck.

Looking up towards the memorial

 

After the memorial we went to visit the museum, mainly because they had another section on HMAS Sydney and other shipwrecks in the area.There is no entry fee to the museum as such, they suggest a $5 donation, but it’s a great little museum and we worth it. Went spent a couple of hours there.

Onto other non travel related matters! …… On Monday we were contacted by a reporter from GWN7 News here in WA to ask permission to use some photos from our latest blog. They had seen our photos of Steep Point and wanted to use them in the evenings news bulletin about a missing fisherman in the area.  Secretly a little bit excited that we got contacted😀