Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The road to Kalgoorlie was long and dry and dusty. And it got progressively darker, from the yellow sand in Hyden to orange to a dark, rich volcanic red in Kalgoorlie.

We kept seeing these bobtail lizards crossing the road, usually (for some strange reason) from north-west to south-east. They were about a foot long, and moved slowly but steadily.

We were using my father's GPS. At first it didn't want to take us on this route at all; I assume it was programmed to avoid unsealed roads where possible. But once we were on it, it seemed happy enough… until lunch time.

We stopped for lunch at Marvel Loch, a strange little mine service town. The houses were all basically air-conditioned tin sheds. We found a park with some public toilets. It was near an "oval" (I use the word with reservation; it was certainly flat and oval-shaped, but the surface was basically gravel), and there were four doors in the toilet block. All were unlabelled. Two on one side were locked. The two on the other side were open; each revealed a toilet and a shower. One did have a women's hygiene product disposal bin, so perhaps the locals knew which was meant to be male vs female, and so didn't need door signs. Laetitia's theory is that the men can have a shower to wash off the beer smell before they go home. Who knows? Anyway.

After lunch we asked the GPS to take us on to Kalgoorlie. It suggested a route slightly shorter than via Southern Cross, so I decided to try its advice, and turned off the main road. Not long after, as the road quality began to drop noticeably (think small shrubs growing up through the surface), we wondered whether that was wise. Sure enough, another kilometre or so on, we came to this:

Give way? To what, exactly? The fence!? What's with the fence across the road?

GPS fail. So we turned around and (steadfastly ignoring the GPS's instructions to "please make a U-turn") headed back to the main road to Southern Cross. Several hours later, we made it to Kalgoorlie, and our friend Stuart's house there.

Stuart is doing up a house. At the moment he has no internal wall panels, just exposed framework, which is not so good for privacy but is definitely good for finding places to store things. (Built-in two-way shelves in every wall!) At least the toilet and bathroom had walls.

Our room at Stuart's
The dining room (will be the kitchen when Stuart's finished)

Nevertheless we received a very warm welcome from Stuart, and from his parents who were also staying with him, helping him with the house.

Stuart took us out to the lookout over the Superpit, which is the huge gold mine in Kalgoorlie, then directed us to an Indian restaurant for dinner. (Bombay Palace on Hannan St. Very nice, a little spicy but not too hot.) We went back to the lookout the next day, where we also met Zoe's parents Ian and Chrissy, who serendipitously happened to be in Kalgoorlie on their way driving around Australia!


As it turned out, the Superpit tour was booked out for that day, so instead Stuart showed us around town, especially the earthquake-damaged old buildings in Boulder. We had a delicious lunch at the Hoover Cafe (part of the Palace Hotel in Kalgoorlie). After lunch we went to the Mining Hall of Fame, where we took an underground tour and watched gold being poured.

The tunnels in the mine were rather low. This one's actually quite high, but Stuart is pretty tall. There are many, many levels to this old gold mine. However all but the upper two are flooded.

The working face of the old gold mine, called a stope. The rock is mined off the upper slope, falling to the base from where it is taken away to be crushed and then taken up to the surface. The wooden stumps hold the rock walls apart—still. Some of them are cracked or bent. Look out if they fail!

The melting point of gold is over 1000°C. The fire has to be very hot. That's why the crucible glows, and why the guy doing the pouring wears a thick reflective suit.

Afterwards we wandered around the yard looking at the various displays. Stuart and Laetitia had a go at panning for gold. Stuart even found two (very small) flecks of gold!

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