Kalgoorlie and Boulder, WA - Climate change

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December 15th 2018
Published: February 6th 2019
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So, Steve had managed to find the address of our next accommodation, after trawling through e-mails of confirmation and finally finding one we had previously read that gave us the information. Who needs the internet? We had considered staying in a place called Menzies which featured on the map IN BIG LETTERS so we thought it might be a thriving place but in fact it was tiny, made up of about six buildings which were mainly closed (including the Information Centre and loos which I really needed to be open) so we were glad we had decided to drive further. Menzies was very pretty though, in keeping with most of the other places we had passed through in the Outback, as though they had been frozen in time. A sign told us it was once a thriving gold town, with more than 10,000 people in the area but now only about 200 inhabitants remained.

Today we were heading for Kalgoorlie (another of those places beginning with KA ..), 150 miles away, gradually leaving the Outback behind us. Kalgoorlie is twinned with Boulder City and our first impression on arriving on the outskirts was of mining, as the place was dominated by enormous pit heads on the horizon. Once we dropped into the town itself though, it was really, really picturesque with the main street (Hannan Street) being full of old, single-storey buildings, many of them featuring the iron fretwork which had been such a feature throughout our previous travels on the east coast but had been conspicuously absent on the west coast and in the Outback, though climate may have been a factor there. I recalled that fretwork was used as much as an indicator of wealth as for aesthetic reasons and guessed that Kalgoorlie must have had significant riches. For the first time in weeks we encountered traffic lights and roundabouts. Oh-oh - we may need to hone our neglected driving skills! We checked in to the Quest Yelverton Hotel and I mentioned to the receptionist that Kalgoorlie seemed a very pretty place. ‘Just wait until you see Boulder’ she said. Ok then – something to look forward to there. Our room was super and overlooked the swimming pool, had a full kitchen and spa bath (which we never seem to make use of, always opting for a quicker shower instead) and it came with wifi! Praise the Lord! My phone finally found a signal – I think it had been constantly searching for a signal that it was never going to find in the Outback – and kept its charge for longer than thirty minutes so things were on the up and we felt as though we had rejoined the 21st century with a wallop. We had a restful afternoon wallowing in the comforts and technology.

The following day was a Sunday and, as we were more than becoming used to, was again hot and sunny. We slept until after 9 am (a minor miracle for me, an early riser) but then we kicked off the day with a bang when I managed to burn the toast and set the fire alarm off. Not the relaxed start to the day we were hoping for. Various visits by hotel staff eventually managed to silence the bells, and at least the Fire Brigade didn’t turn up as well to see me in my pyjamas so that was something. We roused ourselves enough to go for a walk in the early afternoon and, although the streets were quiet, a local pub had a live band playing and people sat in the beer garden enjoying the atmosphere. We strolled up and down Hannan Street where I marvelled at all the architecture and eventually arrived at the Mining Museum just after 3 pm. Silly us – we had forgotten that this was Australia and things close early. Factor into that this was a Sunday in Australia and things closed even earlier than normal. The Mining Museum had closed at 3 pm, Woolworths had closed early, the Tourist Information place and the bottleshops were shut all day! We wandered around, aimlessly but hopefully, looking for somewhere to eat but the whole place was closed. We did find a decorated Christmas tree in a public area, which was quite a find in Australia which doesn’t seem to do Christmas as we know it! We eventually found an open fish and chip shop where we dithered between the choices of shark, snapper and barramundi, thinking hake would be somewhat tame, and we returned to our hotel room with our takeaway. Maybe Australia hasn’t embraced the 21st century as well as it might.

The following day we awoke to rain. Yes, rain! And not only that, it was much cooler too with the morning starting at 18°C and only rising as far as 21°C during the course of the day. We had become accustomed to temperatures in the 30s and even in the 40s, and we certainly noticed the difference! I dodged the rain to dash into the now open Visitor Centre (just had to get the map and postcards!) and chatted with a guy from Liverpool, who was also visiting the area – we Brits get around. We drove up to the lookout point, high above the town, to find it was closed due to ‘an electrical storm’. No change there then – I was becoming quite used to electrical storms interfering with my plans. We continued on to Boulder but didn’t find it remotely as pretty as Kalgoorlie, though the weather may have impacted on my impressions. The roads were wet due to the rain and we had to dodge the puddles that accumulated on the roadside. I was amazed that such a small amount of rain could cause so much standing water but then saw that the roads had no gutters and no drainage. No wonder Australia floods if this was typical.

We were somewhat thrown by having a choice of roads to take out of Boulder, having become used to only one option in the Outback! We chose the wrong one as it turned out and missed the Pioneer Cemetery which I had wanted to visit. We eventually consulted the map (!!) and got on the right road but again missed the cemetery due to late signage. Sod it – let’s just move on. It wouldn’t be much fun in the rain anyway. We finally hit National Highway 94, heading towards Kambalda (yet another KA... place), Coolgardie and Esperance. The roads became much quieter with fewer road-trains and therefore less roadkill and we saw signs for wild horses, eventually seeing the horses themselves through the trees. We drove along a dead straight road for at least 10 kms – it was weird seeing it stretch ahead of us into the distance and we relaxed back into steering mode, though we didn’t even need to do a great deal of that. The rain lessened into spitty showers and we drove through Norseman (a strange place) where we turned onto Route 1 and after passing the bone dry Lake Cowan we went into the Dundas Woodlands which became a bit boring after mile upon mile of trees. Eventually the landscape opened into flat wide fields of cultivated grain at Myamba Downs, Salmon Gums and the aptly named Grass Patch. Unfortunately, the rain returned in greater quantities and by the time we drove into Esperance, after a long and fairly dull journey, I was cold and pretty miserable. Even the sight of the sea after days of desert did nothing to lift my spirits.

I wondered if I might have viewed the journey differently if the sun had shone. Before we started our trip I had determined to enjoy the complete experience, whatever was thrown at me. Resilience in the face of adversity is part of travelling. I have always known that the weather can impact on my mood but today confirmed that I definitely don’t do cold and wet! By the time we arrived in Esperance – a journey of 270 miles so long, but not as long as many we had done - I am afraid to say I was quite grumpy. We were checked in to Apartment 2 at the Esperance Beachfront Resort by a friendly chap originally from Hampshire and the room was lovely, with a separate lounge, kitchen and bedroom but it was ooooh soooo cold. We would be staying for three nights so we headed out in the pouring rain to Woolworths, to stock up on supplies, and got very wet doing so. It was bouncing down! Steve had to move the car from where we had originally put it in the car park closer to the shops so that we could get the stuff in the boot without it becoming water-logged and even that short distance was a challenge. We eventually returned to our apartment and put on the electric fire we had found in a cupboard in the bedroom. I admitted defeat before 8 pm (so rock ‘n roll) and decided to remove myself and my miserable mood to bed where I discovered – an electric blanket!! OMG – it was blissful. I fell asleep warm and cosy for the first time that day.

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