The town they took off the map

A few years ago whilst travelling in Western Australia we got talking to a local in Karratha who told us about this town called Wittenoom. The more we spoke, the more intrigued we were about this remote town in the Pilbara region of WA and we wanted to find out more. We were given directions and decided to visit after leaving our camp in the Millstream National Park.

img_7291

For those that don’t know of Wittenoom’s history, it was where they used to mine the deadly blue asbestos from the 1930’s to mid 1960’s. Wittenoom was a town that literally lived and breathed blue asbestos.  A huge portion of those who worked in the area have subsequently died from asbestos related illnesses.  A town was built near the mine to house and service workers and their families and by the mid 1950’s it was the largest town in the Pilbara.  At the time no one knew of the hazards of asbestos, miners would return home covered in the deadly dust and the asbestos tailings were even being used in construction of gardens and roads all around the town.

Prior to mining beginning around Wittenoom in the 1930’s, the area was predominantly pastoral.  Mining in Wittenoom Gorge commenced in the mid 1940’s.  From 1950 until the early 1960s Wittenoom was Australia’s only supplier of asbestos. The mine closed in 1966.

After leaving Milstream National Park we were on our way to stay in the mining town of Tom Price and had already decided to drive the Rio Tinto rail access road, which required us to sit through an induction video, complete a short training module and acquire our driving permits. This is a privately owned road that runs parallel to the train network throughout the Pilbara, providing maintenance access to the railway.

Rio Tinto do allow the public to drive on the rail access roads as long as all drivers hold a valid permit.

img_7311

This road is an unsealed road, but as we have generally found, most roads owned by mining companies are pretty well maintained and in good condition for a dirt road. It was actually quite a pretty drive, but very secluded, we saw very few cars all day.

img_7284

Generally the only car we passed was a mining vehicle, but for the majority of the day it was just us and our surroundings…… and lots of dust!

img_7294

Eventually we arrived at the town that used to be called Wittenoom. We say used to be called because in 2007 the State Government wiped this town from the map, the town was degazetted, their electricity and postal services were taken away and all reference to the town has been deleted (as shown on the photo below), it simply doesn’t exist anymore.

img_7306

All road signs and maps have had all reference of the town removed and access to the area has been limited, it’s now like the town never existed.

img_7303

It is a shame that this town has such a tragic history as it is situated in an absolutely beautiful location. The backdrop of the town is stunning and such a contrast to the town itself. The signs that greet you as you reach the town tell of a not so beautiful story, a stark reminder of how not everything is as it seems on face value.

img_7310

img_7305

It’s hard to imagine now that this was once a big thriving town with shops and schools and many houses. It’s now like you are walking into a real life ghost town. Doc Holidays Cafe is boarded up, houses are abandoned and the whole town lays in a derelict state.

As you drive around you really feel like you are in another world …. one you should be in. It’s a very strange and eerie feeling being there. It’s hard to explain, I’m not sure if it’s that you know you are somewhere you probably shouldn’t be, or that you feel like you are encroaching on someone’s space, or that you can feel the bad spirits of a town with such a tragic past …. whatever it is, it’s hard to explain and even thinking about it now it’s taking me back to that day we were there.

img_7307

Although the town is no longer and all services have been stripped away, apparently there are 3 or 4 people who remain living in the town. Such a shame as it’s in such a beautiful location.

img_7293

img_7309

Many of you would know Midnight Oil’s song ‘Blue Sky Mine‘, but did you know that this song was inspired by the experiences of workers at the Wittenoom mine. If you listen to the words in the song, the “blue” refers to blue asbestos, and the “sugar refining company” refers to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd (CSR), the owner of the mines.

img_7283

Asbestos fibres and dust are said to still be all around the town and the gorge itself still contains piles of the mine tailings.

Now we aren’t going to tell everyone to go and visit as the signs are pretty direct as to the health risks ….. but we were so intrigued we wanted to have a closer look. Were we concerned? … of course we were, those signs do make you think!

But we didn’t stay long, although we do regret that a little now and would love to go back and explore a little further. Although filled with asbestos mine tailings, from photos we have seen, the Wittenoom Gorge is absolutely stunning. It’s such a tragic, yet interesting story of yet another stunning area of Australia.

img_7304

Advertisements

Exploring the ranges

You could quite easily spend a few weeks exploring the Flinders Ranges and surrounding areas, particularly if you are going to do any of the bushwalks.

Below are just a few of the places we visited while in the area.

img_6944

The Great Wall of China

Just outside the Flinders Ranges on the road between Wilpena and Blinman you’ll find the unusual formation which is named the Great Wall of China.  This is made up of lines of rocks which are topped with ironstone.

Blinman

The historic town of Blinman is actually the highest town in South Australia.  Copper was discovered here in 1859 and mining began soon afterwards.  What was once a popular busy town in the mining boom is now a quiet little town home to just 22 residents.

The Blinman Hotel, known as ‘The Pub in the Scrub’, first opened in 1869.

Sacred Canyon

The site is a place where the Adnyamanthanha people gathered to tell stories.  It’s believed that the engravings are up to 40 thousand years old.

It’s quite an easy and picturesque walk into the canyon along a dry river bed, lined with ancient river red gums.  What makes this place different to other Aboriginal artworks is that they are actually engravings carved into the rocks, not paintings.

It is unknown who actually made these artworks as the memory of these people has been lost to the local Adnyamanthanha community.

Nuccaleena Mine Ruins

Copper was discovered at Nuccaleena by William Finke in the mid 1850’s.  The mine became partly operational in early 1860 when 100 tons of copper ore were mined in 5 weeks by 16 men.  By March 1861, 88 men were working at Nuccaleena, including six miners, five masons, four sawyers, two cooks and a medical officer.

The Great Northern Mining Company built a small town around the mine site, where the miners and mechanics of the company resided. Of course, the township also had the Bushman’s Hotel, as well as Captains apartments, office, stone stables, a goods store, smith’s shop, a workshop, general store, doctor’s house and huts for the miners.

You can walk around this old mine site and we would have loved to have done so, but it was unbelievably hot the day we were there and walking from the car to the information sign and taking the photos below nearly killed me (George stayed in the comfort of the air-conditioned car!)

img_1662

img_1663

Kanyaka Homestead Ruins

We both love exploring old ruins, learning the history and imagining what these places must have been like …. filled with people and chatter.  Walking around some of these ruins we come across, you are the only ones there and it’s hard to imagine what life must had been like.

The Kanyaka ruins consists of various buildings, the main homestead and various other outbuildings.   There is also the woolshed, which was one of the largest in the state.

This was our second visit to these ruins and this time we also noticed that there is a small cemetery across the creek bed …. we all know Shelly loves a cemetery and had it not been over 43 degrees she would have taken the walk over to check it out!

img_1713

img_6967

img_1717

img_1710

img_1707

img_1704

Old Moxans’ Hut

You will find this hut on the SkyTrek Track on Willow Spring Station property.  Old Moxans’ Hut was built around the turn of the century and was actually occupied permanently by a station employee until the early 1960’s.

img_1697

img_1702

img_1699

img_1698

Prairie Hotel

Located at Parachilna, the Prairie Hotel is one of those places that everyone wants to visit, why?  To try their ‘FMG’ – Feral Mixed Grill ….. a dish consisting of kangaroo, camel and emu.  Apparently this is listed as one of the top 100 Gourmet experiences in Australia!  We would have liked to try this (well George would have), but the hotel was closed for the summer so we will have to visit next time, but we did take a drive out to the town anyway.

The Parachilna Hotel was first licensed in 1876 and changed its name to the Prairie Hotel when Ross and Jane Fargher purchased the hotel in 1991.

Now Parachilna is one of those blink and you’ll miss it type of places …. it’s literally nothing more than a railway station, the hotel and a few other buildings.  It’s a strange little place, there was no one around (that we could see!) and to be honest it felt pretty eerie.  Would we stay there ….. NO, would we go back when the pub is open …. Probably, did we feel like someone was going to jump out and kidnap us and chop us up into a million pieces …. YES!

Friendly locals!

This friendly little guy was a constant visitor at our campsite during our stay.  He was very inquisitive and was never far away.  We are always very careful about not leaving food or rubbish around while we are camping, but we did come back one day and find the grease tray from our Webber lying on the floor ….. we have a feeling maybe this little guy had something to do with that!

Plenty of 4WD Tracks

As previously posted, there are plenty of 4WD tracks available and the Flinders Ranges are centrally located should you wish to extended your holiday into another area …. there was a part of us that wanted to jump on the Strzelecki Track and head off to Innamincka for another visit ….. the hotel sells awesome chips!

img_6963

Wilpena Pound Welcome Talk

One of the highlights of the trip was attending the welcome talk at the resort.  Each night they hold a free informal talk where you are welcomed to the area in Yura Ngawarla, the language of the Adnyamathanha people, the traditional owners of Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges area.  The talk included the welcome, as well as stories and beliefs of the Adnyamathanha people as to the creation of the pound and surrounding areas.  To hear of stories passed down from generation to generation and to feel their passion and spiritual connection is something we love to be a part of.  To visit places like this and see that many of the staff are of Aboriginal background makes it just feel right.  We love hearing the Dreamtime stories, knowing that they have carried these beliefs down the generations, it’s a privilege to be a part of that.  If you are visiting the Wilpena Pound Resort, this welcome talk is a must-do activity.

img_6977

We basically spent 5 days driving around and exploring.  We generally left camp by 8am and we were lucky to be back before 7pm most days.  During our whole trip we drove 5,136km.  Above is a screenshot of our hema map app of where we drove in the Flinders Ranges.


Don’t forget to Share and Follow us on

Facebook   Instagram   YouTube   Blog    www.georgeandshelly.com

cropped-untitled

The magnificent Boab Tree

If you want to see a Boab Tree, head to the Kimberley region of Western Australia.  This unusual looking tree is found everywhere across the region, from around Kununurra all the way down to Broome you will see these incredible trees.  They are quite the sight to see and we really love these beautiful ancient trees.

img_4244

Boabs are a very slow-growing tree and it takes many hundreds of years for these to grow.  They love well-drained sandy soil and the Kimberley region is the perfect growing environment for Boab’s as they receive plenty of warmth and water during their growing season (which happens to be the wet season) and then during their dormant period (the winter months / dry season) they prefer the drier conditions.

The boab tree is deciduous and loses all its leaves during dormancy in winter.   As these winter months are the ‘dry season’ this is the time most travellers are in the area.  Therefore, it’s generally a bare brown skeleton of a tree that is seen.   The new flowers usually start to open around November.

img_4112

Every boab tree is unique and some of them are said to be over 1500 years old.  As for the history of the trees, the Aborigines used them for shelter, food and medicine.  Once the white settlers arrived they were more commonly used as meeting points, or as described later, prison cells.

We’ve heard a few stories of why the boab tree looks the way it does, but one such story is that, initially the boab was one of the most beautiful majestic trees ever created.  After a while it began to boast of its beauty to the other trees.  It was after this that a higher being decided to punish it and turned it upside down to expose its roots and hide its beauty forever.

img_4212


Food

Boab trees have a ‘nut’ which grows and inside the nut are seeds.  As mentioned previously, the indigenous people used this tree as a food source as most parts of the tree are edible.  Apparently parts of the tree are very high in Vitamin C content.

Nowadays boabs are grown commercially and the boab roots are sold and make their way into many gourmet foods.  We actually purchased the most amazing mango and boab chutney while we were in WA.


Art & Craft

The nuts themselves are covered in a fine hair which, once scraped off, reveals the dark brown boab nut.  In many of the art galleries and craft stores around the Kimberly you will see the most amazing carvings that have been carved out on these nuts.


Boab Prison Tree

While on our Western Australian trip a few years ago we visited to Boab Prison Tree in Derby (pictured below).  This tree is said to be around 1,500 years old and has a girth of 14.7 metres.  It was used as staging point for prisoners being walked into Derby in the early days.  This tree is now a registered Aboriginal Site.

IMG_6811

As the trees age, their trunks become hollow.  It was said that this tree was used as a “prison cell” in the 1890s by the local police to lock up Aboriginal prisoners over night, on their way to Derby for sentencing.  It’s recently been reported that there is no evidence that this particular tree was ever used as a prison, but there was also another similar one at Wyndham.

IMG_6812

We really do love these trees, there is just something about them.  At the end of the day it is just a tree, but they are all so different and there is something slightly magical about these ancient creatures.  We even brought our own boab home with us which sits proudly on our front entrance.

img_4168

A day of tragedy … and the luckiest Monaro around

This story starts on Sunday 5th January 1975 and it details the incredible life and death situation that one family found themselves in.  This was definitely one lucky family, someone was certainly watching over them that night.

On this fateful night the Lake Illawarra cargo ship lost control and collided with the pylons of the Tasman Bridge in Hobart, Tasmania and this resulted in a large section of bridge collapsing into the river, taking the ship down with it.  Unfortunately a number of cars that were travelling on the bridge at the time were also sent crashing down into the Derwent River.

img_0546-e1521281911193.jpg

Frank & Sylvia Manley and their young children were returning home from a day out and were unfortunately crossing the bridge at that exact moment.  They were travelling along the bridge when Sylvia noticed the lights disappear in front of the car and then realised that the bridge was gone and she screamed for Frank to stop.  The car slid towards the edge of the bridge, coming to a halt with the car swinging and front wheels dangling over the edge.  As the car teetered on the edge of the bridge, they slowly made their way out of the vehicle.  All this while, the Manley’s had no idea what had even happened as this emergency situation was unfolding around them.

img_3391

According to Frank, the only thing that stopped their car from tipping over the edge of the bridge was the casing of the automatic transmission, which gripped into the surface of the bridge.

From stories we’ve read, Frank has joked that he was glad he purchased an automatic as if he’d purchased a four speed manual they would have all died that night!

Little did the Manley’s know that what started out as a family day out would end in such tragedy and their car would be splashed across news screens and newspapers across the country …. and would ultimately make this probably the most famous and photographed HQ GTS Monaro of all time.

img_3389

Another vehicle, a Holden station wagon was also left stranded on the edge of the bridge and is seen in all the photographs from that night, but this vehicle did not receive the same publicity.  Although, the owners of the wagon were also very fortunate that night as they were hit from behind by another vehicle that couldn’t stop and luckily they too came to rest safely at the edge of the bridge.

This exact car is on display at the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania in Launceston

img_05461.jpg

Click here to see a video about this unfortunate event and an interview with Frank & Sylvia Manley.

IMG_0548

Sadly, 12 people died that night, seven crew from the cargo ship and five people from within the cars that went over the bridge.

The bridge collapse had a huge impact on the residents of Hobart as the city was suddenly cut in two.  As most schools, hospitals and businesses were located on the western side, the eastern residents were severely affected.   The bridge was subsequently repaired and reopened in late 1977.

On the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, a plaque was unveiled that simply read ….

In memory of those who died

In recognition of those who were affected

In acknowledgement of those who assisted

The Tasmanian Community remembers the Tasman Bridge disaster of 5th January 1975.

Another plaque was unveiled for the 40th anniversary and at 9.27pm, the exact time of the event 40 years earlier, the lights were dimmed, traffic was stopped and there was a minute’s silence to remember and pay respects.

A very interesting story, one of tragedy and of luck but one that has been firmly placed into the history of Tasmania forever.

Tassie Trip Day 5:  Richmond

What a beautiful old town Richmond is, you can see why this is one of Tasmania’s most popular destinations for tourists.  This town is steeped in history and as you take a drive through the village your eyes can’t help but be drawn to the beautiful architecture of the old buildings, some dating back to the early 1820’s.

IMG_0238

You’ll find Richmond about a 20 min drive from Hobart, in the Coal River Valley.  The town itself is home to many cafes, restaurants and galleries, each operating out of resorted Georgian buildings that line the streets.  Visiting this town is like taking a step back in time, there is so much to learn and the buildings are like a work of art.

IMG_0236

Many of the homes are restored to their original standing, whilst the newer style homes are built to fit in with the surrounding architecture.  It’s hard to explain just how picture perfect Richmond is.  Even the surrounding towns are filled with beautiful wineries, it simply is one of the most spectacular areas of Tasmania.

IMG_0233

In the 1820’s, the gaol and courthouse were built, as Richmond had become an important convict station and a military post.  Built in 1825, the Richmond Gaol is the oldest gaol in Australia.

IMG_0234

Unfortunately both times we drove through Richmond were outside the opening hours of the gaol, so we were unable to stand inside the stone walls.

IMG_0235

The most famous landmark of Richmond (and our initial main reason for visiting) is the Richmond Bridge.  Building of the bridge commenced in 1823 and the bridge was officially opened in April 1825.

IMG_0237

This Heritage Listed sandstone bridge spans the Coal River and it is now the oldest bridge in Australia.  This amazing structure was built by convict labour and the design was an engineering achievement at the time.  In fact, for 10 years after it was built it had the longest span of any bridge in Australia.

IMG_0246

Now I’m sure that this isn’t the only one in the area, but the ghost of George Grover reportedly haunts the bridge.  Legend has it that Mr Grover was not a nice man by any means and often whipped the convicts as they quarried sandstone from nearby Butchers Hill.  One night he was attacked by the work gang pushing the cart and they threw his body onto the rocks below the bridge and his ghost is said to have haunted the arches of the bridge ever since.

IMG_0254

Never one to pass up the chance to visit a cemetery or photograph a church, next on our stop was St John’s Catholic Church.  Built in 1836, this is Australia’s oldest existing Catholic Church.

IMG_0249.JPG

Should you pay a visit to Richmond?  ……. for sure!  This area is beautiful beyond words.  I don’t think either of us could live in Tasmania as we like our hot sunny days too much (definitely couldn’t survive a winter in Tasmania!), BUT if we were to move there, we both agreed that this was the perfect place.

Tassie Trip Day 3: Woolmers Estate & Brickendon

Whilst driving to Launceston we passed a turnoff to Woolmers Estate & Brickendon and decided to go and check them out and we are so glad we did.

Both of these places are World Heritage Listed Convict Sites.

Four Archer brothers emigrated from Hertford, UK between 1811 and 1833 and all settled close to one another, in fact William and Thomas farmed side by side.  Thomas Archer settled on Woolmers Estate which was a pastoral operation running sheep and cattle, while William Archer settled on Brickendon, an agricultural property.  Both estates were run independently of each other, but they did share their assigned convicts.

Both Woolmers Estate and Brickendon took part in the convict Assignment System which operated in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) until 1840.  Under the Assignment System, convicts were assigned to free settlers.  They were responsible for feeding, clothing and housing the convicts in return for their labour.  This helped convicts as they could then have skills or a trade when they received their ‘ticket of leave’ and were then free to leave and obtain paid employment anywhere.  It’s understood that they were so well looked after at these two properties that many stayed on for years or decades after receiving their ticket of leave.

 


Woolmers Estate

IMG_0273

Woolmers was owned by six generations of Thomas Archers.  The first Thomas founded the property in 1817 and the final Thomas passed away in 1994.  He did not have any heirs and left the property and it’s contents to the Archer Historical Foundation.

The property has numerous buildings where convicts once worked and lived.  It’s the perfect place to reflect on colonial life and look back at the heritage that has been preserved over the years.

IMG_0274

IMG_0276

IMG_0279

IMG_0282

IMG_0284

IMG_0287

The Rose Garden was created in 2001 on the site of the original apple orchard.

IMG_0307

Attraction Information:  There is an entry fee applicable and you are provided with a booklet that allows a self guided tour around the property, except the main house.  There is an extra fee if you would like to see and go on the tour of the main house.

Address:  658 Woolmers Lane, Longford

Telephone:  03 6391 2230

Website:  www.woolmers.com.au


Brickendon

IMG_0311

Much like the Woolmers Estate, there are numerous buildings to view and walk through in the farm village area.  There is a lot of information on the history of the property and the convicts that lived and worked there.  After walking around the village, it’s then time to explore the estate garden which is beautiful.

Brickendon has remained the same 1150 acres (465 hectares) as originally granted in 1824.

IMG_0325

IMG_0320

IMG_0316

IMG_0313

It’s amazing to see the crimes that these poor souls were sentenced for …… 7 years for stealing some handkerchiefs or life for stealing a pair of trousers, wow!  It really starts to put things into perspective doesn’t it, we really do have it easy nowadays.

IMG_0321

The photo below was taken in the estate garden.  There was a wedding just finishing up the day we were there and its no wonder they hold so many weddings here, the backdrop is spectacular.

IMG_0344

Attraction Information:  There is an entry fee and you can take yourself on a self-guided tour, maps supplied.  This also gives you entry to the gardens which are across the road.

address:  Woolmers Lane, Longford

Telephone:  03 6391 1383

Website:  www.brickendon.com.au


 

Autumn Harvest at Rouse Hill House & Farm

2015-05-31 11.01.092015-05-31 11.00.582015-05-31 10.59.26

This morning we headed out for a taste of country life ….. 10 minutes from home!  We have been talking about going to Rouse Hill House & Farm for years and now we will definitely be back, what a beautiful place!  Today we went to the Autumn Harvest.  This featured markets, which had local produce such as chutneys, honey, oils and vinegars, fruit and vegetables and yummy scones, jam & cream!

2015-05-31 11.37.06 HDR

Rouse Hill House & Farm is a 19th century sandstone house set on 13 acres of rural property, including lots of barns and outbuildings.  The views from here are great, surrounded by lush green paddocks and bush.  You wouldn’t think you are that close to the city ……. until you look across the road through the trees and see the big ‘bunnings’ sign!!

2015-05-31 11.35.09 HDR2015-05-31 11.02.19 HDR

Richard Rouse and his wife, Elizabeth, were granted the land and built the house in the early 1800’s.  Six generations of the Rouse family then occupied the house consecutively from the 1800’s until the late 1990’s, how amazing is that.  It was then opened as a museum to share it’s amazing history with the public.

2015-05-31 11.36.20 2015-05-31 11.36.48 2015-05-31 11.34.44

 We will be back to tour the house itself, so much more history to learn.   You tend to take your local surroundings for granted, but you’d be amazed at how much history surrounds us, get out there and find out about your local areas too!

2015-05-31 11.04.41

2015-05-31 11.37.24