Lake Ballard, north of the Western Australian gold mining town of Kalgoorlie has some (51) most unusual sculptures of people, spread across the vast landscape of a dried lake bed. They were done by English sculptor Antony Gormley using scans of local residents and alloys from the rich mineral deposits in the region. As you walk from one figure to the next, the parking area at the edge of the lake fades into the distance. You certainly have a sense of space and the reassurance that you are not alone.
We confess to leaving the heater on all night at Clare, splurging on greenhouse gasses. In the morning we discovered why we’d felt the need for such luxury: a foot-long icicle stalagmite protruded upwards from the water tank of the caravan, proving that temperatures had been below freezing.
We had uncompleted business from yesterday’s railtrail, so we dragged the van up hill and dale to find the disused station of Barinia – the end of the line. Yesterday we’d walked 12km but still had another 3km round trip to complete. This we did in brilliant sunshine and revelled in the home-brewed espresso plus banana and cake when we finished.
Dave decided to take us to Port Augusta via the Horrocks Highway, which proved to be a welcome change from Highway One. We pulled into the Shoreline Caravan Park at slack tide – a magic photo time. The walk over red earth to the French Bakery for a vanilla slice (remembered fondly from last year) was rewarded with magical
Last Saturday we headed to Marree via the Outback Way, stopping for lemonade scones and quandong jam at the legendary Prairie Hotel, Parachilna, with its friendly dog.
We stocked up at Leigh Creek supermarket and drove on to Copley, only to find the bakery closed. Undeterred, we proceeded across saltbush plains to the historic village of Farina (established 1874), where fellow campers had reported buying bread a few days ago.
It turns out the old underground bakery is only in production when the volunteer restoration team is in residence, and they had left. We checked out the beautifully conserved buildings, including the disused pub and cattle loading yard.
Finally we met up with our friends at Marree, where it hasn’t rained properly since March, yet the desert is blooming with solanum (nightshade) and blue bush.
Mid morning the thunder started – then the rain descended. In the caravan park we dodged the puddles and queued for the only clothes dryer. Then it stopped, and we walked by the river until we accumulated clay (called black earth) on boots then retreated to the railway line, which was slightly elevated. The birds came out and so did a rainbow – a new aspect of inland Australia.
A ‘bingle’ in Australian slang is a vehicle collision. Today our beautiful caravan had its first accident, when a 4WD collided with us. Some heroic mechanics have given us a patch-up so we can continue our journey. A kangaroo wasn’t as lucky – every day we see lots of such road kill.
Eromanga (pop 45) has a classic pub and a one-teacher school. The semi-desert flora continues to entrance us.
We’ve been out of Internet range for three days as we journeyed over dirt road to Innaminka, across the border in South Australia. Explorers Burke and Wills perished here. But our little drama was that our rear door of the 4WD jammed with our food, tools and tent inside. A neighbouring camper on the town common came to the rescue. I admired his dog and was told that a talent scout had spotted her and cast her in the movie “Tracks” about a girl crossing Australia by camel.
Once again the town dump was a rich source of wildlife – home to a pack of dingoes.
The photo of a bull drinking from a roadside puddle was taken outside the Noccundra pub, which is conveniently close to our campsite.
After a campfire dinner last night with a bush poet, this morning we headed North, crossing the state border. Joyfully, we swapped the jeans for shorts and trundled past oncoming cattle trucks across an oh, so flat plain. We stocked up at Cunnamulla, (pop 1,300), Pausing to photograph the statue of Cunamulla fellow memorialised in a Slim Dusty song.
Bread is now $4.50 a loaf, but the town has a real bakery, even if it is for sale. I hope the supply of fresh baked goods continues.
The Post Office is a fine example of Federation outback architecture. We walked over sand dunes entertained by red-capped robins, which were too tiny to photograph.
Cobar is and was a copper town in outback NSW. In 1870, a ‘balgal’ (copper sorter) from Cornwall identified as copper some samples that some men who were tank sinkers showed her. The discovery led to the formation of the Great Cobar Copper Mine, which became the largest copper mine in Australia. However, the drop in demand for copper following World War I led to the demise of the mine. The mine manager’s residence is now the Great Cobar Heritage Centre, providing tourist information.
Today we crossed over part of The Long Paddock, the old route that drovers took moving cattle from outback Wilcannia to market at Melbourne. We just love the red earth and I want to share some photos. Also the Erymophylla (emu bush) that was in flower.
We had a great Italian veal with porcini at Olivettos at the Great Western Hotel, Cobar.
White Cliffs was Australia’s first opal field, dating back to the 1890s. Nowadays, there are only a few hundred residents, who shield themselves from the extremes of temperature by living in underground dugouts. Several mines are still working and the landscape is dotted with old mineshafts, giving it a lunar appearance. White Cliffs is unique for ‘pineapples’, crystal clusters that have been replaced with precious opal. Other opals are shaped like snails, Gastropods.
We had cappuccino and drooled over the beautiful opal jewellery at the Red Earth Opal Showroom and Cafe. They have a display of pineapples and didn’t hassle us to buy. We then did an hour heritage drive and had a picnic lunch in the Federation Park, returning via Paroo Darling National Park where we saw emus, kangaroos, red-kneed dotterels, and wedge tail eagle feasting on a road kill emu. It was great to get on the red earth and to pass through gibber (stony) desert.
I couldn’t resist photographing Rosy Dock in the desert. It’s a weed but attractive.
This is Silverton Hotel together with the Catholic Church in a township that now boasts a population of 35. Mining giant BHP Billiton was founded here in the nineteenth century as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company.
The vast desert vistas and almost deserted buildings make Silverton ideal for film settings and dozens of movies and ads have been made here. Some buildings are now galleries, gift shops and cafes. Worth the drive from Broken Hill for a day visit. Take a hat and sunscreen.