Being back in Alice Springs means that
we are back in the real world and have many things to organise.
So on Monday morning, September 26 2007, the first and
most important thing is getting a date for the 10'000 km
service on the OKA.
We will have this done by Don Kyatt, the official OKA dealer
in Alice Springs. Rob Clarke, himself an OKA owner, is please
to at last have a chance to have a close look at the first
vehicle of the new series.
He missed out on his chance last year, when the transport
of the OKA to Alice Springs went wrong because the wrong
truck had been ordered.
As it is the first service of our OKA Rob inspects the vehicle
before we clean it so he can have a look at traces of oil
or other liquids that could be important.
Then we give the OKA a good wash. With day-temperatures close
to 40°C it is nice to get a bit of a sprinkle of water every
Once the work is done we visit the Alice Springs train station
to have a look at "The Ghan".
From previous visits to Alice Springs we know that the train
on Saturdays arrives in town at around 12 PM and leaves town
again at around 4 PM.
We study the timetables to have the exact departure time
to be ready for some "train spotting" from the
James Orr bridge, situated approx. 20 km north of Alice Springs.
In 1878, work started on a planned 1800 mile railway between
the southern and northern shores.
Slowly, the line was pushed up from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta,
where it stopped for nearly 40 years.
In that time, camel trains run by hardy Afghan worked the
country to Alice Springs, ferrying passengers and freight
up from Oodnadatta.
When the railway reached Alice Springs in 1929, the train
became known as "The Ghan".
The story of how the train received its nickname is in doubt.
Throughout its long service the train has been known as The
Afghan Express, The Afghan Special, the Royal Ghan and
The Flash Ghan.
All stories have one thing in common: the name derives from
the Afghans who ran the old camel communications network
in the Australian Outback.
We liked the small booths for the tour-operators and car
As the train can carry passengers and their cars at the
same time we look at the prices .... but it is way off our
We are a bit surprised about the high prices because coming
from Switzerland and being used to the trains over there
we wouldn't call the Ghan spectacular.
Still, we enjoy having a good look around and soon we head
of to the James Orr bridge.
That long stretch of railroad tracks is quiet impressive.
The Ghan leaves Alice Springs at 4:10 PM but only arrives
at the bridge at 4:35 PM.
We head back to our site in the "Stuart Caravan Park" and
settle down for the night.
We had decided to check out other caravan parks in Alice
Springs and this one is the closest to town.
But we don't like it because the amenities block is a bit
run down and the traffic can be heard all night.
Luckily it is a cool night with 16°C and we can close the
On Tuesday morning the OKA is inspected.
Besides the leaking axles the mechanic finds some more things
that need to be fixed and will have to be claimed under
We decide that best is to take pictures of all and send a
mail to OKA asking them on how to proceed.
The sunny afternoon is filled with shopping ... "Mitre
for material ... "Broken Spoke" for bicycle spares
We find that we can get almost all the material that we require
in Alice Springs, not too much has to be postponed to Perth.
This is good news as Alice Springs will be one of the places
we will visit on regular bases to stock up before heading
out bush again.
We enjoy the afternoon with pleasant 29°C, quite a difference
to yesterday's heat.
In Alice Springs the temperature depends a lot on the wind
direction; wind from the north makes it hot, wind from the
But in both cases it never really gets sticky as the humidity
in Alice is extremely low, usually only 25 % during the day.
On Wednesday we check out of the "Stuart Caravan Park"
and go back to the "MacDonnell Range Holiday Park (Big4)" where
we feel more at "home".
Even though the caravan park is at least 3 dollars per night
more expensive than the other ones its little things that
just make the difference and we appreciate that.
But it is one of the few luxuries we allow ourselves.
We are planning to cross over to Western Australia on the
Great Central Road.
We have seen on the map and also read in the guide books
that we have to organise some permits.
Some Aboriginal communities reserve the right to know who
is crossing over their land and therefore request people
to get a permit before travelling there.
Theoretically any Aborigine can stop you on the community
land and ask for this permit.
As we have not yet done this and don't really know how
to do it we are a bit nervous when we visit the Land Council
in Alice Springs.
What if they don't like our faces and say "no"?
We are surprised about the friendly and efficient staff.
Within a few minutes they have checked all and hand the permit
over to us to access the Northern Territory part of the Great
They also explain to us that for the Western Australian
permits we have to go to the web.
But again all is explained and even for first time users
like us it is understandable.
Just a few hours later we receive the permit per email.
In the afternoon some clouds start showing up and the temperature
over night stays up at 20°C.
On Thursday morning it is cloudy and raindrops fall on
and off during the whole day.
As the weather forecast announces nice weather for the rest
of the week Ruedi starts working on an anchoring system for
our sunshade. The wind is a bit of a problem for the large
Ruedi also installs some strong cables at the wind visor.
This will in the future prevent tree branches being caught
there and will important on narrow tracks like the Holland
Track that we intend to travel in the future.
In the afternoon Fredy and Monika announce their arrival
at the Big4 and we reserve the neighbouring site for them.
This is unexpected but pleasant surprise as after the last
get-together at the Butterfly Springs they were heading north.
As forecasted the Friday morning is a sunny one, the temperatures
soon rise into the thirties.
Ruedi sets up the sunshade to test his installation.
It works, the setup holds the sunshade in place even with
strong wind gusts.
The ladies enjoy two days of working on photos, chatting,
having fun ...
It's always the same, as soon as Fredy shows up Ruedi gets
the urge to get into technical things ...
The old grease gun is taken out and both men crawl under
the trucks greasing points.
Then the men need a bit more excitement and decide to take
a wheel apart and exchange a valve that Ruedi had bent with
This is a challenge as the OKA has bolt-together rims with
bead-locks fitted, and both men have no previous experience.
But they manage.
The evenings are passed with good food, vine and more talking.
Time flies when you are having fun!
During that time we also receive a mail from OKA, saying
that they would like to do all warranty work at the factory
in Perth so they can analyse what is wrong.
This does only leave the regular service work to be done
We inform Rob and confirm the service for next week.
On Sunday mornings the free pancake breakfast is a MUST
at the Big4.
The pancakes are so yummy we virtually stuff our faces with
On Monday Fredy and Monika head south. It is already October
2nd and they soon will be flying out to Switzerland from
Adelaide for their Christmas break.
We also clean up our act, get all the spares organised and
get the washing done.
The weather changes and it rains again but the temperature
stay in the high thirties.
We are surprised that it rains that often in Alice Springs.
When we ask the locals about the weather they just say
"We take the rain when it comes".
We just hope that the rain does not ruin our plans to travel
the Great Central Road ....
On Tuesday we pack up and move to the "Wintersun Caravan
Park" that is close to OKA garage.
Should the service take all day we can return here and work
on our PCs.
This is the disadvantage when your vehicle is also your home.
You have to find a place to stay during a service.
But on Wednesday we can stay at the garage and work there
which makes life so much easier.
Thursday October 5th is departure day.
We collect our mail that has been sent post restante to Alice
Springs by our mail service in Queensland (
Then it's time to upload the web page, do the last shopping
and head down south to Owen Springs Nation Park.
We had been here earlier to explore the park and found that
the camps sites close to the south entrance are quite convenient
to stay for a while and work on the computers.
As there are no facilities provided it is free.
On the way to the National Park we see some clouds hanging
around and some rain fall out of them. But the rain never
reaches the ground ....
We also realise that the MacDonnell Ranges seem to be blurred,
out of focus.
We wonder if it is because of the rain or what.
At the Owen Springs Nation Park we find
ourselves a spot in the sun.
The first thing we realise is the huge amount of flies ....
unreal! We have never experienced something like that.
But with our fly-screens on the windows we are pretty save
from the friendly crowd and if we have to leave the OKA we
just wear our hats and fly-nets.
Ruedi realises that on the corrugation on the way in (only
5 km!) the tighteners for the "anti-tree-wires" had
loosened and one had fallen off.
He walked a long way back in hope to find it but had no luck.
So he fixes it as good as he can and secures the other one
so it can not loosen itself anymore.
We learn every day ....
A strong wind is blowing, which is good against the flies
but also blows very fine sand into the cabin.
Now we understand why we could not see the Ranges clearly
earlier on the way in: this is sand being transported from
the desert and being dumped here!
Susi is busy pre-cooking all the food. Especially the vegetables
don't last long in these high temperatures.
Also with the temperatures in the high 30s every day we eat
mostly salads and cold meats.
The flies go completely nuts at the kitchen fly-screen .....
We set up camp as we want to stay for a few days.
Ruedi has a few things to be fixed on the OKA and then we
want to take pictures of the
Once this has been done we will inform the Overlander 4WD
magazine, the largest 4WD magazine in Australia (
) and work on an article with them.
Taking all those pictures takes a few days as we have to
take them a few times until we content with the light, colours,
etc. of them.
In between Susi wonders off to have a look at the local
It seems that the recent rainfalls have not been enough to
get the river flowing but enough to start a blooming cycle
with the flowers ....
.... Will's desert fuchsia or Sandhill native fuchsia (Eremophila
willsii), Broad-leaf parakeelya (Calandrinia balonensis),
Native or wild hops also known as Rosy or Ruby dock (Rumex
vesicarius), billibutton (Calocephalus knappii) ...
... Poached egg daisy (Myriocephalus stuartii), white paper
daisy (Helipterum floribundum), small yellow button (Helichrysum
apiculatum) and a hard to identify daisy ...
Interesting is also to watch the re-growth of paddy melons
(Cucumis myriocarpus) in the dry riverbed.
It must have a much deeper root system than the surrounding
Ruedi feels sorry with the thirsty insects and creates an "insect
Soon we realise that the bees have taken full control of
It us unbelievable how many bees come, most likely to carry
water away to the beehive.
Ruedi constantly tops up their water supply.
On Sunday, October 8th, we wake up to a very windy day.
Dust gets blown into the cabin as soon as one opens doors
As the temperature warms up to 32°C during the day we
decide to keep the windows open and live with all the surfaces
being dusted with red sand.
We are making good progress with the pictures for the web-page.
But it is lots of frustrating work. It is difficult to get
the correct light because the incredible strong sunlight
spoils many pictures.
The storm continues through the night and into Monday.
For us it is time to hit the road again as our permits to
cross the Great Central Road will expire soon.
On the way back to the bitumen we search the dirt track for
our lost equipment ... we don't find it but find a spanner,
and some parts of a shackle ... looks like we are not the
only ones that have suffered loss of equipment because of
Because of the strong wind lots of sand is in the air.
Even though the sun is shining Uluru can hardly be seen,
it looks like hidden behind a curtain.
We stay at Yulara over night and stock up with diesel, water
On Tuesday morning we leave towards the border.
At the Uluru National Park entrance we have
to show our permits to get free passage.
Shortly before the Olgas we leave the bitumen
and turn into Tjukaruru (Peterman) Road towards Docker River.
The corrugation is pretty bad but all the flowers compensate
for that. Spring has started and Susi is busy looking at
... the country is very pretty too.
We find this grass so interesting.
We pass the Peterman Ranges.
Reading in the guide books we are reminded of all the ill-fated
people that lost their lives out here ... Lasseter's Cave
being one of the reminders .....
When Harold Lassiter explored the area between the Gibson
Desert and Blackstone Range in 1900 he claimed to have discovered
a 23km-long gold reef.
It was not until 1930 that an exploration company was formed,
with Lasseter as a guide.
The expedition was well equipped with an aero plane, trucks
and wireless, but the plane crashed near Uluru and Lasseter,
after arguments in the team, went out on his own, heading
west through the Peterman and Rawlinson Ranges.
Lasseter states in his dairy that he found and pegged the
reef on 23 December. On the way back to the Uluru, his camel
bolted when he was about 50 km east of the present-day Docker
River Aboriginal community, running away with all his water
Realising he couldn't make it back to the Olgas and safety,
he stayed in a cave on the edge of Hull River for a few weeks,
waiting in vain for a rescue party.
Despairing, he finally set out on the impossible task with
only 2 lt of water, assisted by a local Aboriginal family,
but he collapsed and died a few days later besides Irving
Lassiter's body and diary were later recovered and the legend
of Lasseter's Reef was born.
In his diary Lasseter states that the reef is less than five
days on horseback away in western direction from the cave.
Many prospectors have since attempted to locate the fabled
reef, but to no avail.
Getting closer to Docker River the corrugation gets so bad
that we turn off the navigation PC. We don't want to risk
In Docker River we refuel the last time.
With two full 110 lt tanks of diesel we should have enough
fuel to reach Leonora.
We are a bit nervous to drive into the Great Central
It will be at least 3 days before we reach Laverton.
We ask ourselves if we are really prepared like we should
be but decide that having 200 lt of drinking water and food
for 4 weeks with us should be plenty.
And besides that, there are roadhouses on the way.
And should we break down on the road we can always call for
help on the satellite-phone, all relevant numbers are on
the Hema Desert Tracks map.
So we hit the road again.
One thing comes to our attention as soon as we cross the
border into Western Australia: the road is freshly graded!
We pass the Beadell Tree, a tree that was blazed by Len
Beadell when he came through here while building the Gunbarrel
As the Great Central Road and Gunbarrel Road start at the
same location we have the chance to follow Len's steps a
Len Beadell must be one of the unsung Australian heroes
and probably one of the last true explorers of the Australian
outback. He died a few years ago.
A whole network of tracks was built by Len and his Gunbarrel
Construction Party during Len's time at the Department of
Supply, carrying out surveys for the establishment of the
Woomera Rocket Range.
One of the reasons for these tracks was nuclear research
and later on nuclear tests.
To be able to perform nuclear tests a whole lot of weather
stations are required to ensure the weather is fine and the
wind blows in the correct direction.
That way any radioactive fallout would come down in the desert.
First Len studied maps and defined the base route (his
aim always was to make the tracks as straight as possible
...which proved to be theory and did not always work out
that way ...).
Then he conducted a reconnaissance survey of the proposed
Once he was happy about it he had his crew bringing the heavy
machines in, bulldoze the scrub and few trees out of the
way and the grader finishing the track.
This way Len and his crew over the years have opened up some
2.5 mio km2 of the Gibson-, Great Sandy- and Great Victoria
Desert, building some 6'000 km of tracks.
Many of these tracks have names of Len Beadell's family members:
the Anne Beadell Highway was named after his wife, the Connie
Sue Highway after his oldest daughter, the Gary Highway after
his son and Jackie Junction after his youngest daughter.
We find ourselves a spot for the night close to Gilles
Creek. We always try to find a spot that is not
visible from kilometres away. That's sometimes quite difficult
in these wide, flat plains.
After another balmy night with 16°C we continue along
the Schwerin Mural Crescent.
The country looks very pretty in the morning sun. It looks
like it will be another perfect but hot day.
Because we did not read the Lonely Planet before driving
through this area we miss the Giles Meteorological Station
built by Len.
Well, we will have to visit next time we come through.
We start seeing wild camels. They, like many of the wild
animals (e.g. kangaroos, emus), have the strange behaviour
of running along the car and trying to cross in front of
This makes them very dangerous as hitting them with the truck
would be rather unhealthy for us, the truck and the animal.
So we slow down until the camels make up their minds and
On the map Susi sees Kutjurntari Rockhole on a side-track
just some 1,5 km off the main-road.
Curious as we are we try to find. Even though it is only
approx. 500 m off the track, we cannot see anything.
As it is inside the Warburton Aboriginal Reserve we don't
dare to explore by foot and decide to try our luck later
Then we can't really believe what we see .... bicycles-riders
in the desert ... and that with day-temperatures in the mid-30s!
But we are informed that this is the Gunbarrel Challenge
and they only ride the bikes in the early hours of the day
and relax for the rest of it.
Still, that is quite a challenge!
The scenery between Warakurna and Warburton is
very barren and dry.
Elber Creek near Warburton still has water
but it is not flowing anymore.
Shortly before the turn-off to Mitika we find this nicely
decorated rest area.
After Steptoe´s Corner where the
Heather Highway joins the Great Central Road we reach an
area where there seems to have been some recent rainfall.
The country is covered with flowers.
And we also find this .... we hope that the trainee has
been able to continue his retirement training ....
Endlessly the road goes on and on and on through this dry
and flat country.
Well, we are after all travelling through the Gibson Desert!
Like many places the Gibson Desert has a rather sad story
behind its name.
After being defeated many times by nature in 1874 Ernest
Giles tried to explore the area west of the Peterman Ranges
one last time.
He left with a young stockman named Alf Gibson.
About 140 km west on Gibson's horse broke down. Giles gave
him his own horse and, knowing that is was impossible to
continue, sent Gibson back to get help.
Gibson lost his way and never made it. Giles, alone and on
foot, with hardly a drop of water, did!
Giles named the desert in memory of the stockman.
We find a good spot for the night close to Parallel Road
On Thursday morning there is not much change in scenery ....
flat, dry, there is no end in sight ......
Then we reach the next waterhole that according to our maps
is "close" to the road: Muggun Rockholes
We drive up to it as close as we can.
We take a GPS position of the position of the waterhole on
the not too accurate 250'000 map and hope that it will
lead us close enough to the waterhole that we can spot
it and find it from there.
It should be some 400 m away form the track into the bush
As it is only some 400 m we don't take the hiking gear along,
just a GPS with a waypoint with the position of the OKA,
spare batteries for the GPS, hat, sunnies and the cameras.
We hit the bush and follow animal tracks (especially camel
tracks) hoping that they lead us to the waterhole.
Like animals do, the tracks go all over the place, following
grass here and flowers there.
Its quite funny to look at the track on the GPS, the waypoints
being all over the place, once heading north, once heading
south ... it looks more like a piece of modern art than a
After having ventured approx. 300 m away from the OKA and
into the bush towards the waterhole the GPS complains that
its batteries need replacing.
No problem, Ruedi gets the spares ones out, puts them in
and ..... they are as flat as batteries can be!
Ruedi puts the old ones back in and hopes that they will
last until we are back at the OKA.
He informs Susi about the unexpected change of plans and
we head back, this time in a straight line, no more deviations
We are surprised that we cannot see the OKA, not even as
close as 50 m!
But we make it back to safety before the GPS gives up its
The pictures above are taken 50 m, 45 m, and 40 m distance
from the OKA.
Only on the last one the outline of the OKA is starting to
be visible through the thick Mulga scrub.
One thing was really surprising. Even though Susi was not
thirsty at all, the moment that Ruedi told her about the
small emergency she was thirsty ....
What happened was not really dangerous. Even if the GPS
had given up completely, Ruedi still had his compass and
new in which direction the road was. Once reaching the road
we would have known in wich direction to walk, depending
on if we can see the very distinctive tire tracks of the
OKA on the road or not.
Also it was noon and the sun's position was exactly north,
which would have been our walking direction, as the road
was heading in south-westerly direction.
But we had been pretty thoughtless, almost stupid because:
- we had deviated from the main road in an area where tourists
are not expected to deviate
- we left the vehicle in bush area and had walked into the
bush without leaving a note at the OKA where we had gone
and when we are supposed to return to the vehicle
- we had not told anybody about this "looking for waterholes"-thing
- we had no equipment with us. Even if you go on a short
hike, the Satellite-Phone, some water, emergency and first-aid
kit have to be taken along.
One thing is now very clear to us: Out bush, where all looks
alike, where there are no points of reference and the visibility
is below 100 m because of the scrubb, one looses its bearing
in no time. As in such areas usually no people can be found
for hundreds of kilometres, situations like this can become
We have heared of people getting lost in the bush when they
went for a wee - today we know how quickly this can happen.
Also as a consequence will buy a second GPS to take along
too, as backup for the main one, to ensure the position of
the OKA is always available.
Lessons learned ....
[Note in 2007:
Had we then read the guide "Reise Know-How" from
Otmar Lind and Andrea Niehues "Australien Outback-Handbuch" we
would have found the detailed position of Muggun Rockholes
being 27°00'06'' S - 125°20'00'' E.
Now nothing will stop us from visiting it next time we come
through the Great Central Highway!]
We find this pretty witty "road-sign" ... firstly
it really draws your attention and secondly, one less wreck
lies on the side of the road.
Then we find the GPS position of the Terhan Rockholes in
the guide book and decide to go and look for it.
As we drive towards it the main road starts deviating from
track on the Tracks for Australia GPS maps.
They must have moved the road. So we look for a track to
get to the old road and find one, a bit rough but it works.
Once on the old road it is easy to find the correct position
and we really find the waterhole.
The water in the hole is all green and smells pretty horrible.
Also the twig placed into the waterhole did not prevent animals
of drowning in it.
Still, we feel great having found it.
In the meantime we have learned that Aboriginis, before
using such water, remove the soiled water, clean the waterhole
and finally drink the freshly water entering the waterhole.
In the middle of nothing we find this Royal Flying Doctors
It is amazing where landing strips have been setup for the
RFDS planes to be able to land and pick up passengers.
It is good to know that this organisation exists.
For people like us that like the remote areas this is just
that extra security that allows us to travel where we are
We pass an empty dam and wander what the blue pole on the
side of it could be.
Ruedi thinks that it is a bore or a well but we wonder how
they get the water into the dam.
Looking at the flowers the dam must have been in use not
too long ago.
So when we see one that is working we have to have a closer
The cap is removed from the bore and the water flows into
When the water is needed the generator is turned on and
the pump run to pump water with the red hose.
Then we try to find the next waterhole: Pikul Rockholes
As we don't have the exact GPS position and the map is not
very accurate we cannot find it.
But the views from the little hill are nice ... and we have
had a bit of exercise too.
So we head back to the main road and continue on our way
There is a road sign saying "Pikul Rockholes" right
around the next bend ...
A well maintained track leads to the rockholes, but they
The marks on the rocks indicate that here the water flows
for a long time.
As we get closer to the border to the Cosmo Newberry Aboriginal
Community we encounter a small bus on the side of the road
with an Aboriginal woman and 5 children.
The car had broken down yesterday. The husband was in the
way to Laverton and one daughter was on the way to the Tjukayiria
Roadhouse to get some help.
They had had no food nor water except a tin of spaghetti
and 4 lt of water a truckie had left them last night.
So Susi prepares some sandwiches for them and we give them
some of our water bottles.
Ruedi has a short look at the bus and decides to not even
touch it to find the cause of the fault; the bus is in such
a bad state with wires hanging around everywhere, the back
window missing, just a mess and for sure not roadworthy according
to Australian laws.
It also has no licence plate.
This is possible because Aboriginal communities are considered
to be private ground.
On private ground one can drive what ever vehicle one wants
and what ever age.
The farmers do the same on their stations allowing kids to
drive a car to the borders of the station to catch the school-bus.
We have been told a story of a boy that was too small to
be able to sit on the driver's seat and reach the pedals
at the same time so his father removed the seat so the boy
could stand to drive down to the bus-pickup-area.
Once again we realise how different some things are handled
in Australia ... Swiss authorities would have a fit if they
heard such stories!
As there is not much more we can do for them we get their
details to be able to alarm the police in Laverton.
As we walk back to the truck Susi remembers to have seen
the important phone numbers on the Hema maps.
We fetch the Satellite-phone and pass it on to the Aboriginal
woman so she can make the phone calls on her own.
We are surprised to see the teenage daughter having no problem
handling the phone. Soon they are busy calling up roadhouses
and police stations.
Once again we are very happy to have chosen the Iridium Satellite-phone
as it really works everywhere.
Even though we try to leave them alone during these phone
calls we can hear the one or the other discussion. We find
one of them quite interesting ... the call to the Tjukayiria
The Aboriginal woman gets really upset when she is told that
they would charge her 300 $ to pick them up.
We find that a quite reasonable amount considering that they
are some 120 km away from the roadhouse ... only later we
learn that individual Aboriginals don't "own" things,
it all belongs to the community, meaning if one of them needs
help or say a car the other ones provide it for free if they
This results in the situation that an Aboriginal that works
and earns money basically must provide what ever he is asked
for his community. So where is the incentive in going to
work if at the end of the day all that happens is that somebody
else uses the money ... in the worse situation to buy alcohol
or a car that is wrecked afterwards?
Somehow we start to get a bit more insight and understanding
on the problematic situation the Australian Government is
in with regards to handling Aboriginal affaires.
After passing Cosmo Newberry we start leaving the desert.
More and more trees and animal appear.
Because of the delay we have encountered with the stranded
family we are still inside of the Aboriginal community at
We decide not to take the risk of driving during the night
but to continue our trip tomorrow, even if this means driving
on Aboriginal land with an expired permit.
We find an excellent little camping spot south of Cosmo
Newberry and enjoy this beautiful sunset.
On Friday October 13th, 2006, we continue south and reach Laverton.
Now we are back on bitumen and in the civilization.
On the road from Laverton to Leonora we pass an area with
abundant animal live.
This also means lots of road-kill, but the wedge-tailed Eagles
are already taking care of that.
This Sand Goanna or Gould's Goanna
[Varanus gouldii] takes its time to cross
the road ... amazing animals.
Also an emu with his chicks runs away.
Did you know that the male emu takes care of the eggs and
the young ones? The female considers her job finished after
she lays the eggs ....
While sitting on the egg for almost 8 weeks the male looses
up to 7 kg of his body weight.
After the young ones have hatched the father takes care of
them for a full year.
We deviate to Malcom Dam but find it to be almost empty.
When full this must be an excellent place to watch birds.
Just before we reach Leonora we see a road
sign saying "Truck operators please stop and dust your
wheels before entering town".
We wonder what this means ... truckies dusting their tires
.... not really ....
Later on we are informed that this means that truckies have
to stop their road-trains so all the sand and dust they carry
along in their tires falls to the ground.
Would they not perform this "dusting" outside of
the towns the small dirt hills that remain on the roads after
this exercise would be spread all over town.
We once looked at them doing it and were amazed of how much
dirt fell out of it. A Road Train has up to 19 axles, 18
of them with dual wheels which adds up to 74 wheels.
Outside of Leonora we deviate to Gwalia
(Gwalia is one of the Welsh poetic names for Wales),
a very special ghost town ....
The "Sons of Gwalia" gold reef was discovered
in 1896 and was the most significant reef opened up in the
Leonora area. Seeking investments in the WA Goldfields a
London-based firm sent a young American mining engineer,
Herbert Hoover (later the 31st President of the United States
of America), to Gwalia to evaluate its prospects.
Hoover noted, " .... No other lode country in the world
presents such an array of severe conditions which must be
struggled against to do cheap mining ..."
The Sons of Gwalia mine was the sixth largest gold mine
in Australia's history and one of only two mines outside
Kalgoorlie-Boulder's "Golden Mile" to produce over
two million ounces of gold.
Today's open cut mine is almost 300 metres deep and almost
1 km across and follows around the original Sons of Gwalia
In 2006 the mine proceeded towards the Gwalia Deeps entering
via a decline tunnel (the Hoover Decline) located 125 metres
below the swimming pool, beside the viewing platform.
It is estimated that the Gwalia Deeps has a potential yield
of over 1.5 million ounces of gold but it is located over
1 kilometre beneath the surface.
The steam winder came from England and was installed in
It is one of the larges steam winding engines remaining in
The headframe, designed by Hoover, was made from Oregon
pine and built in 1899.
It is the only wooden incline headframe surviving in Australia.
The headframe and the winder formed part of the hauling
system at the mine site, the headframe providing guidance
of the hauling ropes between the steam winding engine and
the skips in the shaft, which carried the ore. The winder
elevated the skips up the incline of the headframe so that
ore could be emptied into a storage bin for subsequent treatment.
Hoover also designed and built in 1898 the Mine Managers
House (Hoover House), the Mine Office (Collection) and the
Assay Office (office and archive).
Transport was difficult and expensive in the Goldfields
and Sons of Gwalia constructed a woodline rail service to
gather and transport the enormous amount of mulga timber
needed to fuel the mine's steam and gas producer engines.
The 20-inch gauge woodline ran west and south of Gwalia for
up to 112 km, covering an area of some 1'280 square kilometres.
Originally called "KEN" (an acronym for the names
of three directors of the Sons of Gwalia Company) the name
of this engine was changed to "Midland" during
its period of use at the mine.
However it is still, and probably always will be, referred
to affectionately as "KEN".
"KEN" was built in 1934 and ran until the mine closed
in December 1963.
In the 1950s the company, very belatedly, recognised that
one of the problems of its decline was that people were no
longer prepared to raise families in the earth-floored corrugated
iron buildings erected in Hoover's time.
Despite new facilities that were introduced (including a
swimming pool), and despite support from the State Government,
on Friday December 13th, 1963 it was announced that the mine
would close on New Year's Eve.
The population of Leonora and Gwalia was about 1'700 at the
time and a mass exodus to work on other mines began.
When on January 17th, 1964 the Gwalia Hotel closed its doors
the town had only 40 resident left.
It is hard to believe that the quiet, almost deserted Gwalia
town-site in the late 1890s was the home of around 1'000
Today the town still has a small population of around 15
The typical Gwalia cottages are gabled structures, constructed
with timber frames and galvanised iron cladding.
Around 1910 the building that later became the towns general
store was moved from Laverton to the
"Gwalia Block", the thriving business centre next
to the State Hotel.
Later on it was relocated to its current location.
For more than 50 years this store provided nearly all the
towns supplied as it was truly a "one-stop-shop" which
sold everything from soap to ammunition.
The "Little Pink Camp" is a good example of the
resourcefulness of mine workers, who constructed their houses
using whatever materials were available or cheaply obtained.
This tiny dwelling, built of timber and corrugated galvanised
iron, is known for its decoration and the unusual construction
of three rooms, and still has remains of its original hessian
inner walls, papered with newspapers. Unlike many of the
Gwalia dwellings it has a plank, rather than dirt, floor.
The "Patroni's Guest House" is a complex of several
dwellings and a multiple-gabled main building. It was constructed
with a timber frame and galvanised iron cladding and features
a lattice veranda on the main building.
Most of the miners who came to Gwalia were single men and
guesthouses such as this were built to accommodate them.
Even those fortunate enough to live in homes of their own
frequently ate their meals here, as many of the Gwalia houses
did not have kitchens or water facilities. The average cost
of the meals was around 30 shilling a week - roughly one
third of the average miner's wage.
A surprising number of personal objects including photographs,
household implements and letters had been left behind when
the miners moved on. The dwellings haven been lovingly decorated
Almost reluctantly we leave this special place. There is
so much more to be seen there ....
Following the recommendation of our friends Peter and Margaret
we stay at the Niagara Dam Nature Reserve over
On the way to Kalgoorlie we visit Lake Goongarie.
On Saturday we reach Kalgoorlie. We are
welcomed by Peter and Margaret, owners of OKA 196, and stay
out bush in a lovely area of Salmon gums.
On Sunday we have time to explore the local animals including
Trap-door spiders and other funny critters that close their
entry door over night.
Also a Mallee Tree Dragon (Amphibokurus norrisi) lives there.
On Monday, October 16th, we get to meet Robin Wade of Kalgoorlie
OKA. As we are still the only OKA of the new NT-series on
the road Robin takes the opportunity and crawls right under
the OKA to have a look at the changes.
Then it's time to turn into a real tourist and we visit
the viewing platform of the Big Pit ...
.... and boy, is this big!
It feels like looking at a model railway!
They have 31 mining trucks on site each costing $4 million.
Each has 2,300 hp, weighs 166 tonnes and has a fuel tank
of 3,790 litres.
Their payload is 225 tonnes and the maximum speed is 55km/h.
They have 4 face shovels on site each costing $10 million.
Each has 3,714 hp (2 engines), weighs 685 tonnes and has
a fuel tank 11,000 litres.
Maximum speed is 2.1 km/h.
1 bucket full is 60 tonnes, it takes 4 buckets to fill one
On Tuesday we have an appointment with Robin. We will be
visiting a drilling company to show them the new OKA NT.
It makes us really proud to see grown up man getting so
excited about our vehicle and crawling all over and under
Due to the lack of new OKAs they used Ford F250 and Toyota
Landruiser instead, but would like to return to OKAs, as
the other trucks do not endure the continuous punishment.
We love our little truck!