AWOL Around Australia… Gold Fever! Part 1

After a good couple of weeks on various parts of the WA coast, we were ready for a change of scenery. Time for some red dirt action!
We had coughed up ($50!) for a caravan park at Dongara for our last night on the coast. Being able to camp on grass, whilst also having power and water on tap, meant we were able to get ourselves, our clothes and the dogs clean and ready for a few days on the road.
Roxy enjoying her bath/shower. Using our collapsible washing up bowl and Nemo camp shower.
I also spent some time on the Cruiser. I had wrapped a couple of jubilee clips around the noisey steering damper, but there was still a knock from the front end. So I took the damper right off, still there. A bit of time with a lever and I found that the front anti-roll bar bushes at the axle were shot.
So a quick call to Geraldton Toyota to order the bushes and a few other parts so we could pick them up on our way through tomorrow.
So that was our first stop of the day, as Geraldton was the last major town for sometime, we also stocked up on various other supplies and took the Cruiser to wash off the salty crust it had acquired the last few weeks. So it was midday before we turned the truck east, to head inland.
We just pounded bitumen for that afternoon. Through the town of Yalgoo, which has a different ‘installation’ next to the metal town name sign on each of the three roads that lead into the town.
Some sort of rock crusher I’m thinking? Anyway, made in Gawler, South Australia.
A quick photo of the pretty little church and we were back on the highway.
Our eventual destination was the town of Sandstone, however it looked like that was going to be too much of a stretch tonight. So we overnighted at the gold mining town of Mount Magnet (I think every town in this part f the outback was originally a gold mining town, however Mount Magnet still has an active gold mine).
As we drove around this area, known as the Murchison Region, after the river in the western part of it, or simply the Midwest Goldfields. There was more evidence of historical and current mining operations than I would ever have imagined before coming here. Mine tailings, large and small, dotted the landscape. WA is renowned for its ‘resource boom’ economy, but I didn’t realise it was quite so prolific, or had been going on for so long. Many of the places we visited were started in the 1800’s. It certainly makes the South Australian Outback feel considerably more lonely.
However, first this morning we would explore something of a more natural spectacle.
‘The Granites’ is an area just north of Mount Magnet of impressively eroded and shaped rocks.
These overcast skies made for some less obvious photos and brought out a different character to the land. Let’s face it, I’ve got plenty of blue sky/red earth photos! The fact that it meant the high 30’s temps felt like low 30’s a lot of the time, was a considerable bonus too.
Big Red almost impossible to see against the rocks.
Plenty of places for skippy to hide in here.
Next up was a few piles of rubble that used to be a town. As is the nature of mining, the area is also littered with abandoned towns and settlements of all ages and in various states of disrepair was one of the older and more dilapidated ones.
No plastic piping for plumbing in the 1890’s.
We took the backroad to Sanstone. This fella was very hard to pick up against the dirt road, lucky he moved in good time for me to avoid him. He also wasn’t in a hurry, and was happy(ish) to hang around and have his photo taken.
I haven’t seen this exact colouring on a goanna before, at least not up this close anyway.
He (she?) was a beauty.
Another smaller one a couple of km’s down the road, then we saw another smaller one a bit further along. Must be good territory for them around here.
The road cut through this station. Fairly typical country Australia vehicle selection.
Onto Sanstone (sounding like a gritty western TV series – Kurt Russel, Hugo Weaving and Gary Sweet in Sandstone…).
I had a good feeling about this town for some reason, and so it turned out to be a good one. We were just in time for lunch at the pub. Pretty good country pub.
Proper character.
We headed out to ‘London Bridge’ another interestingly eroded rock. Standard tourist photo!
and others…
Also out this way was a cave that an industrious Irishman had converted into a brewery , to quench the gold minors thirst back in the day. Evidence of the cave’s previous usage still remains.
From Sandstone it was back on random dirt roads. Steadily trekking north east, just following our noses like usual.
We called into camp at Lake Mason homestead. It was too early for us to stop, not to mention the place had a pretty spooky, deserted vibe to it.
The weathered buildings went well with the moody skies.
The flies here were starting to get quite bad. N was safely ensconced in the Cruiser whilst I was outside. We happened to have the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on (I’ve started buying CDs again, mostly from Op Shops – you can only listen to so much playlist music and AM radio, no phone or internet reception most of the places we go – so random old CDs makes for some entertaining music selection that you can play anywhere, anytime) so as I’m dancing around flailing my arms around to get rid of the flies before racing back to the car. All she sees is a crazy man dancing badly to Yes! by Merry Clayton, very amusing apparently.
As were heading back to the main track a good old boy in his Troopy came barrelling the other way. We stop for a yarn (although the old bugger was exceptionally hard to hear over the sound on the engines and he would regularly turn away to gesture where he was talking about – I am deaf in one ear so that doesn’t help – N filled me in on the details of the conversation afterwards) apparently he lives another ten km past the Lake Mason camp. He explained that the ‘lake’ hasn’t had water in it since 1976 “that’s the year I was born!” I say. “Must have been a good year then!” he cracks back. Apparently there have been the odd bird watcher come out to see the birds on the lake, only to find it isn’t that sort of lake. Anyway, he seemed a nice enough chap. People living so far out in the bush always fills me with questions, which never seem appropriate to ask in such a short exchange.
We found some properly lonely roads that afternoon.
Quite late into camp that night. A free roadside camp that was set well back from the road. A ute came in after us but didn’t stay, so we had the place to ourselves. Well us, and several million of our closest little mates.
Flies were bad here, even I had the fly headnet on. Luckily only for an hour or so till the sun went down.
Unfortunately we had forgotten to plus in the Thumper battery to be charged as we drove this morning. So it was already quite discharged when we came to plug the fridge in that night. Nothing for it but to turn the fridge up a little and hope for the best, as temperatures probably wouldn’t get lower than mid twenties overnight.

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