Friday, July 27, 2007

Back in Perth

This will be our last edition of the travel blog. We have arrived in Perth and we are looking back at a wonderful trip with lots of adventures, beautiful places and we have met many friends on the way. Thank you for your comments and for taking an interest in our stories, we have heard from several who have read the blog regularly.

Having lunch in the middle of the road was an illustration of how truly remote the center of Australia is. And we had another example of that when we visited Lake Bollard, some 60 Km NW of Menzies, a town of around 60 inhabitants, north of Kalgoorlie. In a salt lake which is normally dry we found 51 carbonised steel sculptures by Antony Gormley; true to our reputation, it had just rained for a few days, so we had to walk through the mud. It takes at least two hours to walk around the installation. "The "insider" reveals an attitude in a taut abstract shape formed by the passage of the person's life". Visiting this place is a very strange experience. The sculptures are cast in an alloy containing molybdenum, vanadium and titanium, all found in the Archean rock of Western Australia.

In Kalgoorlie we visited the Super Pit at the time of a planned blast; it is done with milli seconds spacings, so there is not just one big bang, it looks like rolling out a carpet. The pit is 1.5 km wide, 410 m deep and 3.2 km long and the planned maximum depth will be 600 m. If you enlarge the picture, you'll find a yellow trailer on the RH side; you can also see the blast hole pattern near where the first holes have exploded. The Kalgoorlie goldfields have produced already more than 50 million ounces of gold. There are lots of statistics but one impressive figure is the 225 ton of ore which goes into one haul pack truck and it takes only 4 scoops to load it! These monsters are usually driven by women (better drivers?)

The yellow bucket is the one that delivers 60 ton per scoop.
It was in 1893 that the first gold was found in this area. A major problem was the absence of water and in 1903 a pipeline was constructed from Perth to Kalgoorlie, a distance of 530 km, with 8 pumping stations along the way. When steel was scarce, they used wooden planks tied with wire on the outside, as in the picture.

We arrived back in Perth on the 4th of July and with a friend's help we got a house sitting job in Swanbourne until the 4th of September. Meanwhile we have found a new builder for the house near Mandurah and it looks like we may sign the papers next week. We plan to rent a house until our new house is finished. Just today we sold our wonderful camper trailer to a very nice couple in Perth; we are happy that it can continue giving others that marvelous feeling of space and freedom.

The last picture of the Landcruiser and the camper trailer, at Cunderdin, about 150 km east of Perth.
View of our corner block at LakeLands with other new houses in progress and our new Honda Jazz on the right.

It was great to see our kids again, Montana now 18 months old, Lieke and Andrew engaged and planning to marry next year somewhere in WA and .......... Bas and Renee will return to Perth at the end of October and they are expecting a baby towards the end of January! And Daan just working hard, in Thailand at the moment.

Travel Statistics:

Trip distance: 25,144 km over 7 months (Dec.'06-July'07)
Weights (fully loaded): Landcruiser 2680 kg, trailer 1140 kg
Fuels used: 3231 liter diesel and 682 liter LPG
Consumption: diesel 1:7.8 and LPG 1:33 (resp.12.8 and 3 liters/100 km)
Price variations: diesel $1.13-$1.90 and LPG $0.47-$1.20 (if available)
Longest distance covered without refueling: 1000 km (only the two standard tanks, we did not use any fuel jerry cans)
Cruising speed on bitumen: 95-100 km/h
Average speed off-road: as low as 20 km/h
Hot nights: 2 (30+ degrees, all night)
Coldest night: -1 degree C (Alice Springs, the "hot" center of Australia)
Rainy days and nights: about 90 (on a similar trip around Australia in 1990 we had 2 in a whole year) Global warming or just bad luck?
Longest time spent in camper trailer due to non-stop rain: 30 hours
Hours played Rummikub: 130
Amount of books read: 35
DVD's watched on the laptop: 24
Flat tyres: 0
Deepest creek crossed: 60 cm and no snorkel on the car.......
Major expenses: fuel, caravan parks and internet computers


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Uluru, the Olgas and further west

Enlarge the photo to see the line of people climbing Uluru (350m)

the beautiful Stuart Desert Pea

Our last view of the Olgas before turning off onto the Great Central Road, also called The Outback Highway. There is 1200 km of remote dirt road in front of us, often badly corrugated before we reach the bitumen just north of Kalgoorlie. Although the weather looks good, we carry food and water for 3 weeks and also take into account that one shower of rain could leave us stranded for a week or longer. An added problem is then that fuel trucks are not allowed to drive on a wet gravel road and thus cannot supply the road houses along the track and we would run out of fuel after 1000 km. We have an UHF radio with 5 km range, a HF radio( with a range of several thousands of kms) programmed with 6 different frequencies (incl. the Flying Doctor) and when everything goes really bad, we have an EPIRB, emergency beacon. If that also fails, we will be in real trouble and short of getting help from local Aboriginals, we would have to walk to the nearest community which could be 300 km or more.....

Docker River Store, just east of the WA border, is a typical Aboriginal settlement. We are sad that most of these settlements are full of car wrecks and damaged houses. Employment is a constant problem and most communities are "dry" to stop abuse of alcohol, drugs and gambling. Unleaded petrol is not available, BP has introduced an alternative fuel for petrol engines called OPAL, which cannot be sniffed.

Len Beadell is often called the last outback explorer; he surveyed and graded most of the outback tracks in WA, SA and the NT. Len was out there with his family for many years after World War II and many of these tracks have the names of his family members. He wrote 7 books. The grader in the picture is the one he used and is now parked near the Giles weather station; it carries the name of the Gunbarrel Construction Co, referring to the Gunbarrel Highway which was the only east-west road link across Central Australia stretching for 1600 km. Len and his team opened up a 2.5 million square km area which includes the Great Sandy, Gibson and the Great Victoria deserts. Later the Great Central Road was improved and became the main connection between Perth and Alice Springs.

Here are the remains of the first rocket launched in Australia; they were not quite sure where it had landed until months later it was discovered by accident about 50 km south of Giles..... good thing not too many people live around here!

The roads are endless but still interesting with different vegetation. Here are two pictures of improved sections. The typical red colour comes from the iron content in the rocks (in some areas this content is so high that you can actually arc-weld straight onto the rocks). Dust is an ever present passenger, although both car and trailer are not letting any in, even after a full day of dust clouds. Having lunch on the road (away from the bushes, less flies) is no problem: the chances of any cars coming is almost nil. We passed one car during a whole day of driving on this stretch. But if you meet another car, typically the driver will wave at you, either by a whole hand or just a finger.
Guess who had to climb the hill to take the picture; she was lucky not to meet any snakes......


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