Over the last two days of our travel we have driven from Kalgoorlie to Perth with an overnight stop in the little town of Hyden, right in the middle of the West Australian Wheat Belt.
Not long after leaving Kalgoorlie, we passed through the old gold mining town of Coolgardie. With streets wide enough to turn a bullock team, this town has a collection of fine old buildings that are real signs of the days in which this town was one of the largest and wealthiest in the district. It was in this town that the Coolgardie safe was invented.
The Coolgardie Safe was made of wire mesh, hessian, a wooden frame and had a galvanised iron tray on top. The galvanised iron tray was filled with water. The hessian bag was hung over the sides with one of the ends in the tray to soak up the water. Gradually the hessian bag would get wet. When a breeze came, it would evaporate the water. This would cool the air inside the safe, and in turn cool the food stored in the safe. because the interior was cooler. There was a metal tray below the safe to catch excess water from the hessian. The safe was usually placed on a veranda where there was a breeze and was a common household item in Australia until the mid-twentieth century.
One of our group, Tony, was interested to see the CAPS school here, where one of hits friends and colleagues was a school teacher for a decade or so. What a challenge to teach in a school where interest levels were low and attendance rates were abysmal!
Closer to our overnight destination, we again passed through some area of abundant roadside flowers. I could tell from the ‘Oohs and Aaah’s coming from the back of the bus that it was time to stop and let everyone our for a walk around and take some more photographs.
After a night’s sleep at the Wave Rock Hotel (the only place in town) we went for a look at some of the rock features in this area. There are many low granite outcrops throughout this region and a number of them have sites of special interest. One, called the Hippo’s Mouth is an aboriginal sacred site. It is where mothers came to give birth and according to legend is where a spirit called “Mulka’ lived. Mulka was the illegal son of a woman who fell in love with a man with whom marriage was forbidden according to their law. It was believed that as a result of breaking these rules she bore a son with crossed eyes. Even though he grew to be an outstandingly strong man of colossal height, his crossed eyes prevented him from aiming a spear accurately and becoming a successful hunter. Out of frustration it is said Mulka turned to catching and eating human children, and he became the terror of the district.
There are a large quantity of aboriginal paintings on the roof of the nearby ‘Mulka’s Cave’.
A kilometre away is the famous granite outcrop of Wave Rock. Wave Rock, a granite cliff, is 15 metres high and 110 metres long. Its rounded shape has been caused by weathering and water erosion which has undercut the base and left a rounded overhang. This happened about 60,000,000 years ago when it was first exposed. Water from the springs running down the rock during wetter months dissolves minerals adding to the colouring of the wave. The entire domed outcrop behind the ‘wave’ serves as a catchment area for the town water supply.
Somewhere on the way to Perth, we passed by one of the last remaining sections of the Rabbit Proof Fence. In the early 1900’s a series of fences were constructed from north to south in Western Australia in an attempt to stop hordes of rabbits from reaching the fertile areas to the west. This network of fences stretched for 1837 kilter’s and was then the longest fence in the world. It was originally maintained by men on specially sprung bicycles, until they found that camels were suitable.
Almost until we reached Perth, we drove through countless kilometres of wheat fields. These gigantic fields appeared as a golden coloured and stretching to the horizon with heavy heads of grain ready to be harvested. Around 40% of WA’s wheat crop is grown within 100 kms of the town of Merriden in the centre of the region that we were passing through.
Our final night was at the luxurious Vines Resort at the head of the Upper Swan Valley, just out of Perth. This morning, I dropped everyone off at the Airport and sent them on various flights home. I filled up the bus with diesel before returning it to the Thrifty Depot and I am now having a free afternoon in Perth so that I can catch up with David and Yuki tonight, before flying home tomorrow.