Monday, 14 November 2011

Six day roadtrip to Melbourne - 9/11/11 Day 1 Perth-Coolgardie

Jim was itching to get on the road, but we needed to feed and walk the dogs, Miggie and Zorro, and conduct final checks.  The 35litre water tank was full, and so was the gas cannister for the cooker. We loaded the campervan with food for 6 days - soup and tins of fruit, home-made cake, bread, milk and tea - checked the oil and water and we were off by 8.30. 
Cathy and the campervan

Jim, chief driver and campervan

Filled up with petrol - $1.43 per litre. We made slow progress picking our way through traffic and carefully watching roadsigns.  Little were we to know that this was the last serious traffic we were going to see until we reached Adelaide and Melbourne, 4 days later.  Coming from London, we are used to heavy traffic virtually everywhere, and by our standards the traffic on our roadtrip was minimal.

The first thing we noticed, having left the Perth suburbs, was that there was a pipeline running alongside the road.  This was about 3 feet in diameter, and was a water pipeline that had been laid to supply the goldfields in Victorian times.  The original, exorbitantly expensive, water supply in the gold towns was created by using condensers to distil brackish water in the gold rich, but water starved areas.  Charles O' Connor the Engineer of Public Works, was a visionary who planned and built the water pipeline, powered by 8 steam powered pumping stations to lift water 355 m up to Calgoorlie, and this system is largely in use today and was a massive success.  Unfortunately, during the planning and building of the pipeline, he was the subject of massive criticism and ridicule for starting such an "unrealistic" task (does this sound familiar in today's media coverage?) and took his own life, 10 months prior to it opening. 

We regularly passed yellow roadsigns showing the road crossed both railway lines and the pipeline, and these signs became the subject of one of my postcards for the art project I am doing with my friend Lisa. 

We rested in Meckering where they had had an earthquake in 1968 which more or less levelled the town and the railway.  However, the heritage lobby had retained the distorted track as a memento of the event.  As a former railway employee, I found the buckled track fascinating.  It would certainly derail any train!
This railway line would derail any train!

As we approached Coolgardie, at about 5pm, we found a roadside campground, and parked for the night.  It was free, and had toilets, a fire hearth, and was in the middle of a group of eucalyptus trees.  The flies were persistent, and constant, and the 2 other campers wore nets over their hats.  Notably there was no water supply.  Jim is horrified that I'm going to write about the toilets but I found it quite intriguing.  Because there was no water supply on the site (remember all water is piped in to the towns, and this is a remote campsite), the toilets were described as a "ventilated vegetative composting system".  The toilet block had a corrugated iron wall around, and there was a gap at top and bottom of c6", then a roof over.   The toilet was a long drop system.  The instructions said to keep the toilet lid down, when not in use.  Much to my surprise there were no flies in the toilet block at all. Looking at the outside of the building, there was a comprehensive ventilation system to the composting area underneath the block.  The 2 ventilators were globe shaped wind fans, and were rotating fairly fast, even though there was only a light breeze.  I was amazed at how effective the system was - no smell, no flies and no need for water.  Much more pleasant than many public toilets I've used in the UK.
Eucalyptus bark

Stand of Eucalyptus trees

This was the first time I'd tried cooking in a campervan.  We were both tired, and dehydrated, so I just did soup and tinned fruit and yoghurt.  All high fluid and easy to prepare.  But even heating the soup made the campervan very, very hot, even with the ventilators open.  We had to have the door closed, because the flies were so persistent.  You can see why there is a stereotype of australians wearing a hat with corks on it. 

Daily mileage - (measured in kilometers?) Daily distance 462k.  All driven by Jim.  My hero.

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