This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2007 Travels September 18


We were away early, again, with another long day of driving ahead of us.

Stopped to refuel at Capricorn Roadhouse – $1.51cpl.

This was all previously driven country for us, but new to M, once south of Newman.

The country became flatter, south of the Pilbara range region. The scrub became saltbush dominated. Regular west flowing floodway crossings – all dry – were the most interesting feature, as the scrub was thicker along the waterways, and there were some trees.

We made a toilet and drinks stop at Kumarina Roadhouse.

About 90kms south of Kumarina, turned onto the unsealed Neds Creek road – the “short cut” south east, past Neds Creek and New Springs, to Wiluna.

Corner Neds Creek track and the Great Northern Highway

There were lots of wildflowers along this section, but for the most part it was flat and scrubby, with occasional crossings of dry waterways to liven things up.

The last 40kms or so of this road, before Wiluna, is actually the first part of the legendary Canning Stock Route, which heads N-NW to eventually reach Halls Creek in the Kimberley. This was on our bucket list, to drive, sometime soon – a trip of at least 21 days, from Wiluna to Halls Creek, and not a track on which to take the caravan! Except for the section from Well 2 to Wiluna, which we were doing now.

When the Canning Stock Route was established as a droving route, wells were sunk at regular intervals, to provide watering points. Some of these have been, in recent times, restored, to provide water for 4WD travellers doing the Route. Well 1 is near Wiluna, Well 51 is by Lake Gregory, south of Billiluna Community, where the Canning Stock Route joins the Tanami Track.

We turned off, briefly, to have a quick look at Well 2 and stretch our legs.

Stopped at Wiluna to refuel. $1.60 cpl. Apart from that, it was not a place that tempted one to linger.

From Wiluna south, the road was a good, sealed, one again. The country was increasingly arid and scrubby.

Country south of Wiluna (Google)

We did not call in to Leinster, just off the road south. We had seen it before – just the typical purpose built mining service centre.

Continued on to Leonora. Refuelled – 1.44cpl.

There, we stopped at the accommodation lodge that was owned by the NT construction company we worked for, last year, in the Pilbara. We wanted to catch up with a couple of our co-workers from RV1, who were now managing the lodge. Also, having heard so much talk about it last year, and having despatched my office supplies and other gear there, towards the end of the project, I was curious to see the place.

R said we could park our rigs in the grounds, and even hook up to a power point. We did not need a second invitation!

The Lodge was quite an impressive set up. There were lots of donga rooms, which M had looking really good inside – comfortable and clean. These were linked by covered walkways to give a more unified appearance than the separate units of the rail villages. The gardens were coming on and the pool looked inviting.

With all the recently renewed mining and exploration activity in the surrounding area, there was a real need for this type of short term accommodation.

There were not many guests in, today, so R and M were able to give us just about their full attention. Their 4WD had been stolen, very recently, by “locals”. They had broken a locked gate into the yard to get at it. It was recovered, quite wrecked, but R intended to try to rebuild it. There were big problems in the town, apparently, from the “local” element and their friends and relations from Kalgoorlie.

In the grounds, there was one accommodation donga building that had been brought down from RV1. It was somewhat cyclone battered. My old office donga from RV2 was also there. It had been rolled over by the cyclone, which had still been strong enough, some 250kms inland, to do that! It was a real mess inside – jumbled up desks and filing cabinets; obviously nothing had been done to clear it out after it had been trucked down here.

We talked about the company’s current projects, and got news of other people we had worked with.

Eventually, we retired to our rigs – R and M had work to attend to and it was time for us to cook our dinners.

A 10litre cask of water had shifted around inside the van, and worn itself a hole in the liner, and leaked onto the floor where it had been sitting. Fortunately, most of the water had been soaked up by the floor rugs, but some things on the floor of some cupboards and under the bed  had gotten wet. I probably should have carried the cask in a bucket or the washing dish. Hindsight is wonderful!

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2006 Travels December 6


Up early, while it was still relatively cool – and we were used to early starts. Quick basic breakfast. Hitching up again did not take too long, and away we went.

This trip was all about getting home, so we were not planning any sight seeing or side tracking. Just long days of driving.

It was soon really hot again, though. Going south was not making much difference. The Truck was not coping with both towing in temperatures well over 40, and having the air con on, so we had to manage with just the windows down and hoping the wind coming in was slightly cooling. Hope being the operative word.

Topped up the fuel at Kumarina Roadhouse. $1.62cpl. Bought cold drinks.

South of Kumarina, we stopped for a break at a Gascoyne River crossing. The river channel here – one of several at the headwaters of this large river system – had some water in it.

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Gascoyne River channel

We had decided to try taking the unsealed Neds Creek road, which went south east from the highway, through to Wiluna. Various tradies from Leonora and Kalgoorlie had told us this was a much better quality way than going via Meekatharra.

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Gravel section of Neds Creek road

We found this way pretty smooth, and could make reasonable speed on the red dirt road. There were few other vehicles on it. There were still wildflowers in bloom, in places –  pretty.

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We stopped part way along its length to stretch legs again and eat the sandwiches I’d made this morning.

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Road was a bit sandier here

Some 40kms north of Wiluna, the Neds Creek road was also the southern part of the legendary Canning Stock Route, so we could now say we had been on this – however briefly – as far as from Wiluna to Well 1. Not that we stopped to look for Well 1.

The Canning – originally pioneered to bring cattle from the Kimberley to southern markets – is the longest stock route in the world, depending on 51 wells sunk along its distance to water the travelling stock.  However, it was not used for any length of time and these days is a difficult 4WD track that takes about three weeks to traverse from Wiluna to Halls Creek. It was on our to-do list, but we had not yet managed to get that expedition off the ground. This was definitely not a trek that it was sensible to do alone and we hadn’t managed to find friends with a suitable rig that they were prepared to chance on it. We still hoped……

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At the small, mostly indigenous settlement of Wiluna, we were back on sealed roads. Topped up the fuel again here – $1.46 cpl.

By the time we reached Leonora, we’d had enough driving for the day. Refuelled truck – $1.45cpl.

Got a powered site at the Leonora Caravan Park – $20. We were able to stay hitched up.

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Leonora Caravan Park

I was a little curious about  Leonora Lodge – the accommodation facility being developed by the company we’d been working for, but this was not the time to be going to see it – we were weary. We had visited Leonora before, a couple of years ago, and seen its main sights then – principally, the Sons of Gwalia mine and historic display.

It was another night much like the last, except the place was much quieter. Shower, tea, early night.

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2006 Travels November 4


The putting together of the camp office building was done.

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The site admin office

Earlier on, I’d been surprised to see a separate gym building on the plans. Thinking about it, I supposed that the camp residents, confined to such a place for several weeks on end, might need some diversions apart from work, eat, drink. So the recreation facilities that were starting to take shape, made some sense. Today, two “floors” for that building arrived and were unloaded from the truck.

Eight more modules were moved south to RV2.

N left in BB’s Landcruiser to drive to Leonora, to pick up BB and boss lady. Occasionally, over the past weeks, I’d heard references made to Leonora – which I couldn’t figure out. To me, it was a small town with some historic interest, in the arid country north of Kalgoorlie, so I could not see any relevance to what we were doing here. Turned out that the company had acquired a property there and was turning it into a short stay accommodation facility, to cater for the recent upturn in mining activity in the region. Smart idea.

I guessed that BB and wife had flown in to Kalgoorlie, and someone from Leonora had collected them so they could inspect work there. Today it was our turn. Hoped N liked driving – it was over 1000kms from these parts to Leonora and then he had to come back again.

It was very quiet in the office today. I got the Document Register up to date.

I went out and did the serial number checking on the SPQ’s in Pod 2 – the first 20 buildings. That took me over two hours and was very sweaty work. Inside each room, had to get down on my knees to find the serial number of each fridge, then that for the inside part of the air con. The room key number was listed too, then it was around the back of the building to get the serials for the outside part of the air con, and the donga’s hot water service. Seventeen serial numbers per SPQ donga! Times 20. That was 80 times prostrated down on my knees in front of a fridge. I was exceedingly grateful that M and S had done this work for Pod 1 when they were cleaning and setting it up.

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One of the many, many, fridges I had to open and kneel before……..

John had a quick trip to Hedland to fetch the repaired axle for the bobcat excavator. He then set off with another load of rubbish in the truck, but came back after going about 10kms because the stuff was blowing off, all over the road. None of the men was very willing to help load rubbish on to the truck, even though it was as essential as anything else. John managed to get the load secured and took the load to the tip.

The word was about that the 13th was to see the completion of Stage 1, as far as FMG and the Spotless people were concerned. That would mean that Spotless would be able to move in and start setting the place up for residents. I suspected that may have been the original deadline, before the delay in starting the project, but I found it hard to see that – essentially – all the main building work would be completed by then.

The main switchboard was delivered about 8pm last night.

John filled all the power generators, using the 200 litre drum and filling it at Fly Camp. According to the meter there, the drum took 528 litres!

Tonight’s meal was a little better – chops, potatoes, vegies. Why did we not get salads any more?

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2004 Travels August 30


It was another early departure from camp, on a cold morning.

The road east to Leinster was excellent.

We drove into the settlement, which was off the through road, for fuel, and to have a look around. It was a purpose built modern mining town, similar to Tom Price. There were lots of trees growing, though, and it was quite a pleasant place.

Fuel was $1.22 cpl.

Then we headed southwards, to Leonora.

The country had enough jump ups and breakaways to keep from being monotonous. There were still lots of wildflowers and generally green bush.

We had a quick walk around in Leonora. This was another of the old gold mining towns of the 1890’s. We visited the Tourist Information Centre.

Leonora was renowned for the great Sons of Gwalia gold mine.

We drove out to Gwalia – the old mining settlement, now a ghost town, established around the mine, on the outskirts of Leonora. The mine began in the 1890’s, and lasted until 1963. Herbert Hoover was an early mine administrator here, before he went on to become President of the USA.

We spent over an hour at the mining/historical museum at Gwalia. It was quite fascinating and I certainly could have used more time there.

We were shown over Hoover House – the former mine manager’s residence.It was quite grand, especially for these parts. It had now been turned into a B&B establishment, and was quite well done.

I loved the little miners’ cottages there, that were now being done up by some locals.

The Sons of Gwalia mining company revived mining at Gwalia, in the 1980’s. They went for open pit mining, and so there was now an impressively deep pit there, where the first mines were shafts.

Ironically, just as we were driving into Leonora, we’d heard on the radio news that the Sons of Gwalia company was going into administration! That probably would not bode well for the future of the revived operation.

Got fuel at Leonora – $1.16cpl. In these parts, we were topping up wherever we could.

I had hoped to stay at Leonora overnight, so we could have more of a look around the area, but John decided we would push on to Laverton.

Laverton was another town dating from the gold finds of the 1890’s. It still serviced mines around the district, as well as the surrounding cattle stations, and the local aboriginal communities.

Topped up the fuel again there – $1.21cpl.

Went into the privately owned Laverton Caravan Park for the night – $22. Bit costly, although the park was quite pleasant.

We were able to stay hitched up.

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Laverton Caravan Park

Went for a short walk around the town. A little bit of exercise, after a long day spent mostly driving.

It was a cold night.

Watched the last of the Olympic stuff on TV. Thank heavens!

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