Malcolm to Meekatharra

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June 25th 2014
Published: June 25th 2014
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We were reluctant to leave Malcolm Dam but as we had procrastinated for 5 days we knew it was time! Headed into Leonora and used the dump point and filled up with water. Some mongrel had removed the hoses from both places – very strange behaviour.

The drive to Leinster was interesting. We were going through country which was scrubby and very dry, then would come across a small patch of healthy looking eucalyptus for a few hundred metres then back to the sparse country again. As were neared the turn off to Leinster the beautiful white trunked gum trees became more prevalent and then became the dominant species. We went into Leinster itself. It has wonderful plantings of trees and must be a great oasis in the very hot summer months. The roads are in excellent condition including the verges but there is not a single one which is straight or wide! All lovely curves and not a place to park a caravan at all. Now we understood the 5th wheeler parked two kms out of town with the tow vehicle missing.

Eventually we drove into the car park of the shopping centre, no where to park there either so we hugged up against a fence and hoped people could get past us. We just needed some margarine, bread and lettuce which we found quickly and then left. There were no offerings for tourists, this is a serious mining town. We did get a photo of a nice rock formation as we were heading back to the highway.

Once back on the road we headed off to the overnight stay we had selected from our very battered camps 7 book, managed to find it and were set up for the night by 1 pm. More time to read. The toilets which were supposed to be here had been removed, other than that is was a nice spot to spend the night. Well graveled roads, good seating, tidy and rubbish bins.

The night sky was breathtaking, but we do not have the camera equipment to be able to share with you. Away to the south just beyond the horizon we could see the lights of WMC’s Mt Bryan mining operations and at times we could just hear the heavy machinery working.

Chris located two eremophlia’s here, one the purple one looks familiar but the red one we think is a new species.

We were only 60 kms from Wiluna and planned to stay overnight in the caravan park there. As we approached the town entrance they have a good information bay which also has the sculpture honouring the “Last of the nomads”. Once more funded by the royalties for the regions program in WA.

The sculpture is excellent and a good likeness to photo’s which appear in the book of the same name (Chris has a copy). Their story is poignant. Yarri and Yatungka were from the Yandildjarra people, they fell in love during the 1930’s. According to indigenous law they could not marry because of the strict “skin” laws. These laws governed who you could or could not marry and when analysed prevent inbreeding. This was unacceptable to the young lovers so they ran away and lived a nomadic life alone out in their country including the Gibson Desert. They had three children a girl who died young and two sons who drifted off to civilization. Their people had not forgotten them even though they had broken the law. In 1977 during a very serious drought the elders of the Yandildjarra people went and sought help from authorities to go out into the bush and to locate them and try and bring them into Wiluna. It took three weeks to locate them and they were close to death from starvation and dehydration. They agreed to come into Wiluna and both died in 1979. They are believed to be the last indigenous people who lived the nomadic lifestyle. The book about them was published in the 80’s sometime.

The other memorial there is a simple windmill to commemorate just how important these were to inland Australia. These days they are being replaced by solar powered pumps.

From the time we left Leinster Chris had been catching a glimpse of a pale yellow grevillea in the bush along the roadside. All the bushes were in a very bad state. Lo and behold we found an excellent example at the information bay in Wiluna.

Because it was early we headed off to the pioneer cemetery which was closed in 1902 because it kept getting flooded. There are very few graves in it and only one has a headstone. I have included a photo of the names of the person buried here for you Giovanni in case there are any of your rellies buried here.

We wandered into the town itself and gazed at the amazing corner, east heads off to the Gunbarrel Highway and north to the Canning Stock Route. As we stood there we determined we will try and find a tag-a-long tour of the Canning and do that in a few years.

These days you can only go onto the Gunbarrel if you have a permit and you cannot go alone there must be at least 2 vehicles. It is no longer maintained the Great Central Road has taken over the role of getting to and from Docker River. We finally managed to find out why the name gunbarrel. Apparently Len Beadell the famous interior road builder had named his construction crew the Gunbarrel Road Construction Crew because he like to make roads as straight as possible. If you have seen a map of the gunbarrel you will see they did not achieve straight roads here. He joked the crew should have been called the corkscrew road construction crew.

Next we went and checked out the caravan park. No way Jose. Horrid looking place and the hotel next door where you paid your money was even worse. For the first time we were not comfortable in a town. Wiluna has a completely different feel to it. It is untidy and messy – the rest of the old goldfields towns have cleaned up their act.

We decided to move on to Meekatharra and started rubbing our hands together in glee. Some gravel to travel over at last, there has been very little so far and that has been of excellent quality as well. There were a few corrugations along the way, some very recent grading and some grading in progress. On this road they also have stretches about 6 kms long which are designated paved passing zones. All in all it was very passé. The bush along the side of the road is very dusty, there must not have been any rain for some time.

Once Graham gets behind the wheel he just doesn't stop even if prompted. After he passed the second set of lone graves on the Wiluna to Meeka road Chris asked why and expressed a wish that he stop in future. When he sailed straight past the next lone grave he says he didn't even see it. Nothing seems to work really. Perhaps I shall throw out his beer.

Approaching the township we saw the sign for the old cemetery and upon DEMAND we went for a look. It seems that this is still the working cemetery and is was not really interesting from a grave point of view. The final photograph of this blog, a 44 gallon drum being used as a rubbish bin, is perhaps one way to ensure entry into the underground portion of the cemetery - if enough are eaten in a single session.

Once more we checked out the caravan park in Meekatharra and were not impressed and headed 19 kms out of town to a free camp site where we are now ensconced. We also saw other caravanners check out the park and decide to move on again.

Tomorrow we will go back in to Meeka and fill up with fuel before heading off on a gravel road towards Sandstone reputed to be one of the best little towns in Western Australia for renovated historic buildings and from July carpets of wildflowers – we will see.

Additional photos below
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25th June 2014

Dad's Birthplace
Looking forward to your blog and photos from Sandstone. I've never been there but it's where my father was born in 1908, and my Aunt Marg in 1911. My grandfather was Winder Driver on the Blackstone Range Gold Mine while grandmother was housewife / mother to 4 kids (at that stage) the other 2 had been born in Kanowna in 1903 and 1905. Have heard only good reports re Sandstone -- hope it lives up to its reputation.
25th June 2014

I'll check for Sullivan's in the cemetery John, any other names you know of?
25th June 2014

My mum was born in Meekatharra and my grandparents worked in Cue, Daydawn, Wiluna, Sandstone and Meeka. My uncles worked in the dame area, predominantly at Big Bell. You are in God's Own country!
25th June 2014

God's own country
I can feel the aura Shirley, didn't see any Muldowney headstones in the cemetery.
25th June 2014

No Muldownies - they are the Scottish lot. Look for Clarke, Sullivan, Radcliffe - but I don't think anyone died there. Born , lived, moved on.
25th June 2014

Ancestral Resting Places
Thanks for the offer Chris but both great-grandfathers buried in Kanowna (pioneer) cemetery. Mays and Sullivan; Mays died 1900 and Sullivan 1903. Their respective widows survived to 1914 and 1918. Nurse Mays is in Boulder Cemetery in Anglican section, Ellen Sullivan is in the Roman Catholic section in the Kalgoorlie cemetery. Enjoy your fossicking.

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