Author Archives: Russ

Day 196 – Tuesday, 6 December 2022

The alarm went off again at 7:00am. As previously noted, we have to carry our own supply of drinking water and have full tanks for the beginning of the journey across the Nullarbor. A such I had a thorough wash in the basin, but Russ insisted he have a shower.

By 8:13am we were leaving Balladonia Roadhouse in a light mizzle which had been falling most of the early hours of the morning, and the temperature was sitting on 16 degrees.

We had battled a side wind yesterday, and we battled a side wind again today. Even travelling at 80 kilometres per hour our fuel economy took a hit. We used 17.9 litre per 100 kilometres when we generally sit between 15 and 16. It all makes a difference, and this is the worst fuel economy so far for this trip.

Today we actually overtook a van towed by a ute which had a motor bike tied down in the well. He was going heaps slower than we were. It is the little things like this that make for interest to us on the trip.

So far there had been no dump points along the way, so we pinned our hopes on one of the 24-hour Rest Areas. The first one we came to was locked because it was full, and there were several other vans beside us who were beginning to get a bit worried.

We can generously thank Colin and Mary that we were not in the same boat as one of their gems of advice had been to buy a second cassette, which we had done.

The dump point at the next 24-hour Rest Area was open so we made use of the facility before continuing along.

Because our day’s travel was the longest stretch Russ and I shared the driving, each doing an hour block before changing over. The ENE wind was causing very difficult driving conditions.

We encountered much more traffic going both ways today than we had yesterday, and by mid-morning the sun had come out to play although there were still some clouds around.

Let me just state here that ‘The Nullarbor is not flat!’ It rises and falls up to ten metres as you travel along.

While I was doing the driving today I actually got some waves from the truckies, and there were lots of big rigs on the road both ways.

We travelled along further east and onto the beginning of the longest straight stretch of road in Australia – 146 kilometres (or 90 miles) of black bitumen lined by mallee scrub and not a bend in sight.

If you start this journey from Kalgoorlie, which many people do, you can begin to play the World’s Longest Golf Course.

The Nullarbor Links golf course in WA’s Golden Outback has captured the imagination of the world. This unique 18-hole par 72 golf course spans 1,365 kilometres from Kalgoorlie to Ceduna in South Australia. A single hole can be played in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, each featuring a green, a tee and a fairway of rugged outback natural terrain.

Providing a quintessential Australian experience, the Nullarbor Links golf course is a unique attraction to the great Australian drive across the Nullarbor Plain. The course is clearly signposted, with golfing equipment available for hire at every tee.

A couple of the bigger places have two holes.

Hole 1 – Kalgoorlie – Cy O’Connor is Par 4 and Hole 2 – Golden Mile is Par 5.

Hole 3 – Kambalda – Silver Lake is Par 4.

Hole 4 – Widgiemooltha – Golden Eagle is Par 3.

Hole 5 – Norseman – Ngadju is Par 5 and Hole 6 – Golden Horse is Par 4.

Hole 7 – Balladonia – Skylab is Par 3.

Hole 8 – Caiguna – 90 Mile Straight is Par 4,

Hole 9 – Cocklebiddy – Eagle’s Nest is Par 4.

Hole 10 – Madura – Brumby’s Run is Par 3.

Hole 11 – Mundrabilla – Watering Hole is Par 3.

Hole 12 – Eucla – Nullabor Nymph is Par 4.

Hole 13 – Border Village – Border Kangaroo is Par 3.

Hole 14 – Nullarbor – Dingo’s Den is Par 5.

Hole 15 – Nundroo – Wombat Hole is Par 5.

Hole 16 – Penong – Windmills is Par 4.

Hole 17 – Ceduna – Denial Bay is Par 4 and Hole 18 – Oyster Beds is Par 5.

And no, we didn’t play the hole at Eucla. In my opinion golf is a game spoilt by the white ball and I am hopeless at it.

I forgot to mention previously at Ravensthorpe when we were visiting the Fitzgerald River National Park for the last time, Russ picked up a hitch hiker. We found a large tick on the back of his right arm above his elbow.

We travelled through almost continuous stretches of salt bush interspersed with shrubs and small trees. We haven’t yet encountered any area that did not have some form of vegetation growing on it.

After Cocklebiddy we began a slow and steady climb up one side of the Hampton Tablelands and after Madura we went through the Madura Pass to the other side of the Tablelands. I was driving at this stage, so Russ was our photographer – there are lots of photos of trees (it was the play of shadow and sunlight amongst the top of the branches that captured his attention).

We came across two separate instances where a crow was being attacked by a minor at the edge of the road, and there was a surprising amount of bird life to be seen.

Apparently just before Caiguna is a blowhole, the entrance to a subterranean cave system which extends more than 20 km to the coast. Air chilled by the ocean is drawn through the caves until it makes its escape through these holes in the limestone and the breeze coming out of the blowhole is cool and refreshing.

According to the sign at Caiguna Roadhouse, this remote outpost on the highway is the hub of the universe!

The flat expanse of the Roe Plains lies between the escarpment of the Hampton Tablelands and the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight.

Once across the top of the Hampton Tablelands at Madura Pass it became very sunny. The Tablelands were an unexpected development as there is no literature about them to be found, and once down on the plain once more you could see how the land drops from the plateau. The

Tablelands stretch alongside the Eyre Highway for approximately 180 kilometres and maintain their average height of about 90 metres.

Occasionally the highway doubles as an emergency airstrip when the Royal Flying Doctor needs to land. The landing zone is clearly marked and if there is going to be an emergency landing the road is temporarily closed beforehand. The cleared spaces on either side of the highway are turning bays for the aircraft. We passed four of them.

There are free camps on the side of the highway for truckies and for travellers.

The highway parallels the escarpment of the Hampton Tablelands as it crosses the Roe Plains. When sea levels dropped 25 million years ago these cliffs and plains, made from the skeletons of sea creatures combined with layers of sand, emerged from the Southern Ocean.

The limestone shelf, up to 700 metres deep, was eroded by wind and water to form the cliffs and sand dunes of the Great Australian Bight. At the eastern end of the Roe Plains the road rises again to the pass at Eucla where we see the Great Australian Bight and the vast Southern Ocean for the first time.

Along the way Russ saw a Wedge-Tailed Eagle but forgot he was the photographer at the time. I saw one later while he was driving but it was too high up to be able to get a shot. We also sighted two dead kangaroos, one dead fox and one dead emu – no camels to be seen either dead or alive despite all the road signs.

Our total distance travelled today was 520 kilometres. We were able to choose our own site at the Eucla Caravan Park where there is power but no water, and a shower will cost you $1 for five minutes of water.

It was blowing a harsh, heavy wind when we finally arrived here and although the temperature reached 24 degrees it didn’t feel very warm if you were standing in the wind.’

And no one ever told us about Central West Australian Standard Time!!!

When I went to book into the caravan park the gentleman I spoke with was very quick to advise me that time here is different to other zones. Here we are 45 minutes ahead of Perth, one and a half hours behind SA

and two hours and fifteen minutes behind Victoria – just to make life totally confusing.

We ended up having tea as soon as we had set up so that we could fall into bed as early as possible. It was a thoroughly exhausting day.

Day 195 – Monday, 5 December 2022

The alarm blared out at 7:00am to get us straight out of bed. It was overcast with patches of mizzle and the temperature was 18 degrees when we left the Bushland Holiday Park for the last time at 8:11am.

We headed north on the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway until we got to Norseman, passing through several small (read tiny) towns, and some that were there during the heyday of the steam trains.

The Welcome sign at Grass Patch was very impressive and would be one of my favourites of the trip. However, there is no grass in Grass Patch. Rather, it reminds me very much of places like Walpeup – great community spirit but not a lot of cash to splash, so to speak. The area is covered with lovely mallee scrub and the town possesses the biggest grain collection area we have seen for such a small place.

From Esperance we climbed up to 231 metres above sea level, which took us two hours, and then it was a progression of hills and dales where the sand dunes were located. We also had a cross wind blowing which made driving a more difficult proposition.

I never knew that there was a Mildura in WA until we were almost at Norseman, and it appeared on the map. It is located about ten kilometres southeast of Norseman and it was not on the road we travelled so we did not pass through it.

At 10:54am the sun was shining, and the temperature had reached 26 degrees. We had passed a Poverty Lane (imagine how that one got its name) and the towns of Widgiemooltha and Speddingup.

By 11:09am we had re-fuelled at Norseman and turned northeast onto the Eyre Highway (Highway Number 1). Diesel at Norseman was $2.27 a litre.

We then came across Jimberlana Hill and Bekker Hill in the distance before reaching the Southern Hills 24 Hour Rest Area at Fraser Range West where we had lunch. We were still 110 kilometres from our designated overnight stop at Balladonia Roadhouse. We reached this august spot around 2:00pm, refuelled once more ($2.76 a litre) and managed to get there early enough to score a powered site, about which we were very happy as the air-conditioner went on for a couple of hours.

The area around here is spotted with large, dry salt lake beds.

When the explorer Edward John Eyre completed his crossing of the Nullarbor Plain in 1841, he described it as “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams”. Perhaps his opinion was coloured by his experiences. Three of his horses died of dehydration, his expedition partner John Baxter was murdered by two Aborigines and the rest of the party took seven months to complete the crossing from east to west.

Travelling by car when crossing the Nullarbor makes the journey faster and easier than Eyre had it. It’s an iconic adventure and, despite Eyre’s lack of enthusiasm, there is plenty to see along the way.

The Nullarbor Plain, the world’s largest area of limestone bedrock, begins at Norseman in Western Australia and ends at Ceduna in South Australia. The word Nullarbor is derived from the Latin words nullus meaning ‘no’ and arbor meaning ‘tree’ and, although the first section is covered by eucalypt forest, saltbush and bluebush scrub dominate the land for much of the journey. The plain extends over an area of 200,000 square kilometres and the actual treeless part is more than a day’s drive from Norseman but covered by low-lying scrubland.

At its widest point, it stretches about 1,100 kilometres from east to west across the border between SA and WA.

Historically, the Nullarbor was seasonally occupied by Indigenous Australian people, the Mirning clans and Yinyila people. Traditionally, the area was called Oondiri, which is said to mean “the waterless”.

Edward John Eyre became the first European to successfully cross the Nullarbor. He departed Fowler’s Bay on 17 November 1840 with John Baxter and a party of three Aboriginal men. When three of his horses died of dehydration, he returned to Fowler’s Bay. He departed with a second expedition on 25 February 1841.

By 29 April, the party had reached Caiguna. Lack of supplies and water led to a mutiny and two of the Aboriginal men killed Baxter and took the party’s supplies.

Eyre and the third Aboriginal man, Wylie, continued on their journey, surviving through bushcraft and some fortuitous circumstances such as receiving some supplies from a French whaling vessel anchored at Rossiter Bay. They completed their crossing in June 1841.

Some agricultural interests are on the fringe of the plain including the 2.5-million-acre (1-million-hectare) Rawlinna Station, the largest sheep station in the world, on the WA side of the plain.

The property has a short history compared to other properties of its type around Australia, having been established in 1962 by Hugh G. MacLachlan, of the South Australian pastoral family (think Hamish and Gil and you will have the family).

An older property is Madura Station, situated closer to the coast. It covers 1.7 million acres (690,000 ha) and is also stocked with sheep.

Madura was established prior to 1927; the extent of the property at that time was reported as two million acres (810,000 hectares).

In 2013, a huge area of the Nullarbor Plain, stretching almost 200 km from the WA border to the Great Australian Bight, was proclaimed as the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 (SA). It doubled the area of land in South Australia under environmental protection to 1.8 million hectares. The area contains 390 species of plants and a large number of habitats for rare species of animals and birds.

The Nullarbor Plain is a former shallow seabed.

One theory is that the whole area was uplifted by crustal movements in the Miocene, and since then, erosion by wind and rain has reduced its thickness. The plain has most likely never had any major defining topographic features, resulting in the extremely flat terrain across the plain today.

In areas, the southern ocean blows through many caves, resulting in blowholes up to several hundred metres from the coast. The Murrawijinie Cave in SA is open to the public, but most of the Nullarbor Caves on the WA side can only be visited and viewed with a permit from the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

The Nullarbor is known for extensive meteorite deposits, which are extremely well preserved in the arid climate. In particular, many meteorites have been discovered around Mundrabilla, some up to several tonnes in weight.

Frequently the Nullarbor is expanded in tourist literature and web-based material to loosely refer to all the land between Adelaide, SA and Perth, WA. Through observing satellite images, the limits of the limestone formation of the plain can be seen to stretch from approximately 20 kilometres west of the original Balladonia settlement (now abandoned) to its easternmost limit a few kilometres west of the town of Ceduna.

Vegetation in the area is primarily low saltbush and bluebush scrub.

The fauna of the Nullarbor includes communities of crustaceans, spiders, and beetles adapted to the darkness of the Nullarbor Caves and the underground rivers and lakes that run through them.

Mammals of the desert include the southern hairy-nosed wombat, which shelters from the hot sun by burrowing into the sands, as well as typical desert animals such as red kangaroos and dingoes.

An elusive subspecies of the Australian masked owl, unique to the Nullarbor, is known to roost in the many caves on the plain. The grasslands of the Nullarbor are suitable for some sheep grazing and are also damaged by rabbits. The caves provide roosts to large colonies of wattled microbats.

32% of the ecoregion is in protected areas which include the Great Victoria Desert Nature Reserve, Nullarbor National Park, Nullarbor Regional Reserve and the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area. The latter three of these protected areas are administered by SA.

The need for a communications link across the continent was the spur for the development of an east–west crossing. Once Eyre had proved that a link between the two states was possible, efforts to connect them via telegraph began.

In 1877, after two years of labour, the first messages were sent on the new telegraph line, boosted by eight repeater stations along the way. The line operated for about 50 years before being superseded, and remnants of it remain visible.

The railway line of the Trans-Australian Railway crosses the Nullarbor Plain from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Construction of the line began in 1917, when two teams set out from Kalgoorlie in WA and Port Augusta in SA, meeting in the centre of the Plain at Ooldea, an uninhabited area noted for a water supply.

This original line suffered severe problems with track flexing and settling in the desert sands, and journeys across the Plain were slow and arduous. The line was entirely rebuilt in 1969, as part of a project to standardise the previously disparate rail gauges in the various states, and the first crossing of the Nullarbor on the new line reached Perth on 27 February 1970. The Indian Pacific is a regular passenger train crossing the Nullarbor from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide.

The railway line has the longest straight section of railway in the world (478 km).

Most of the inhabited areas of the Nullarbor Plain can be found in a series of small settlements located along the railway, and in small settlements along the Eyre Highway that provide services to travellers, mostly spaced between one and two hundred kilometres apart.

The Eyre Highway, which connects Norseman to Port Augusta, was carved across the continent in 1941. At first it was little more than a rough track but was gradually sealed over the next thirty years. The last unsealed section of the Eyre Highway was completed in 1976. Unlike the railway, though, it crosses the plain at its southernmost edge rather than through the centre.

The unsealed Transline Road closely follows the Trans-Australian Railway, running all the way from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta and onward. It services the numerous cattle and sheep stations that populate the Western side of the Nullarbor and affords access to rail maintenance teams. It is a brutally rough road and—despite the amount of traffic it carries—is apparently poorly maintained.

The Nullarbor represents the boundary between eastern and western Australia, regardless of the travel method.

Crossing the Nullarbor in the 1950s and earlier was a significant achievement, as most of the route then was a dirt track of variable quality and caused real hazards to the motorist. It presented one of the major challenges in Round-Australia car trials (the Redex and Ampol Trials) and gave photographers many opportunities for shots of daring driving and motoring misfortune.

The Nullarbor features in the Australian 1981 thriller film Roadgames. The film was directed by Richard Franklin and starred Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. It has often been cited as one of the best Hitchcock films Alfred Hitchcock never made.

By Bicycle – On 25 December 1896, after an arduous journey of thirty-one days, Arthur Charles Jeston Richardson became the first cyclist to cross the Nullarbor Plain, pedalling his bicycle from Coolgardie to Adelaide. Carrying only a small kit and a waterbag, he followed the

telegraph line as he crossed the Nullarbor. He later described the heat as “1,000 degrees in the shade”.

In 1937 Hubert Opperman set a record fastest time of 13 days, 10 hours and 11 minutes for the transcontinental crossing from Fremantle to Sydney. His time cut five days off the previous record.

During their three-year cycling trip around Australia between 1946 and 1949, Wendy Law Stuart and Shirley Duncan became the first women to cycle across the Plain.

Between 29 June and 3 July 2015, brothers Tyron and Aaron Bicknell recorded the fastest-known crossing of the Nullarbor Plain on single speed bicycles. Their ride took advantage of the low temperatures in the Australian winter months and was completed over 4 days, 5 hours and 21 minutes, making it one of the fastest bicycle crossings and the fastest done with a single-geared bike.

The first non-Indigenous person to walk across Australia from the west to the east coast, Henri Gilbert, crossed the Nullarbor Plain on foot, with no support team or stock, in the middle of summer. His walk across Australia, from Fremantle to Brisbane, was achieved between August 1897 and December 1898.

For two winter months in 1985, six young Jesus Christians walked 1,600 kilometres from Port Augusta to Norseman without taking any food, water, additional clothing or a support vehicle- although supplies were given to them by passing motorists.

In 1998, runner Robert Garside ran across the Nullarbor without a formal support crew, as part of an authenticated run around the world. Unconventionally, Garside obtained water and other support from “passing traffic” who would leave water cached ahead for him at agreed drop-offs, to achieve the feat.

In 2010, columnist Dan Koeppel ran the 320 kilometre heart of the Nullarbor with a friend the same way, to vindicate Garside. Garside commented in his diary, that “the key to running the Nullarbor turned out to be Australian hospitality”, and Koeppel concurred that “From an armchair it is completely impossible to run the Nullarbor. Once you’re out there, however, there is a way”.

Crossing the Nullarbor by car means travelling 1,200 kilometres on the Eyre Highway, named for Edward John Eyre who was the first European to cross the plain. There are no real towns between Norseman and Ceduna; isolated roadhouses separated by hundreds of kilometres supply fuel, basic supplies, and camping. Water availability is limited, and travellers need to ensure they are carrying plenty.

100 kilometres east of Norseman is Fraser Range Station, once a working sheep station and now a campground. The granite hills of Fraser Range rise up out of the Great Western Woodlands, the world’s largest hardwood eucalypt forest.

A further 90 kilometres east at the Cultural Heritage Museum at Balladonia Hotel/Motel and Roadhouse, there are interactive displays about the history of the area, from the indigenous peoples to the pioneers and cameleers who first settled in the area. One fascinating exhibit details the crash landing of Skylab. They have a piece of debris from the NASA spacecraft which fell to Earth near Balladonia in July 1979.

Several more vans and motorhomes joined us in the caravan park during the remainder of the afternoon, and by teatime the wind had become very cool, so we were able to turn off the air-conditioner and open the windows for a while.

While Russ was napping I chatted with Jeannie as we now have some access to both phone signal and internet – thank goodness.

Day 194 – Sunday, 4 December 2022

It rained in the early hours of the morning. Luckily it woke me up so that I could go outside and remove the towels from the clothesline, so they didn’t get any damper.

As I was finishing up my shower I glanced out the kitchen window this morning to spot two minors. One was hanging tightly to the awning rope trying to catch the drops of water as they fell, and the other one sat on the clothesline trying to get drops of water off the pegs. That one was in a much slippery area, and it was quite amusing to watch it’s antics.

After my shower I headed over to the laundry and placed the items from the clothesline into the dryer. It takes $2 for a twenty-minute drying cycle and the washing machines are $3 a load, and usually take about 25 minutes.

We then travelled to our favourite roadside spot for good reception and rang mum for a chat. It is funny how many cars slowed right down when they spotted us there. The drivers must think we were an unmarked police car.

After talking to mum, we went and fuelled up and then we started out along the Great Ocean Drive again. Russ thought that with the overcast and mizzle it was possible that the wave action would be better than last time in the sunshine. It wasn’t. However, we did get to see a group of three kite boarders and got some shots of them before deciding the rest of the Drive would be a bust.

Once back at the caravan park we took down the awning, took up the matting and then positioned the car ready for tomorrow’s hook up. We also walked along the track at the caravan park to familiarise ourselves with where we would need to travel after reversing from our site, as other people have arrived and blocked some of the passage out.

Day 193 – Saturday, 3 December 2022

We had to race into town to do our shopping when we found out that Woolworths (and all other stores) did n ot open on Sundays in Esperance.

We also spent time in the car with our computers. It is definite that we will leave Esperance tomorrow and start on our way home. Luckily, the dump point is not far from where we get the hot spot for internet and phone coverage, so we emptied the cassette also in preparation. The stopover areas ahead do not have dump point capabilities.

It started out as a sunny day but became overcast in the afternoon. Once back at the caravan park I did the washing (nothing available ahead of us). When I took the clothes off the line later some of them were still damp, so I put up my clothesline, partially under the cover of the awning in case of rain and pegged out the clothes and towels.

We had an early night to prepare out internal clocks for the early morning alarms in our days ahead

Day 192 – Friday, 2 December 2022

Each day without internet and phone coverage at the caravan park has become more frustrating. To the point that we have now decided to leave a day earlier than scheduled and head across the Nullarbor Plain.

We spent two and a half hours sitting in the car in town near a hiot spot so that we could download, read and reply to emails, call mum for a chat, and to ring parks ahead of us to make bookings.

Two of the Roadhouses and one caravan park ahead of us are First in, Best dressed places so we will need to make early starts to hopefully have power connections, although water is not available until we get to Penong (possibly) or Burra, which will be the last caravan park (again hopefully) before we reach Mildura.

The water here at the caravan park in Esperance is just horrible. It is the hardest water we have accessed for the entire journey, and Ravensthorpe has the softest water. We discovered today that the reason for the horrible water is it comes from an unfiltered bore, which explains a great deal.

After attending to business in the car we went out to the Kepwari Trails which have been created around the lakes in the Lake Warden Wetlands System and there are canoe and walking trails.

The Hooded Plover is the chosen emblem for the wetland system. The wetlands here provide protection to 6% of the Hooded Plover’s total world population. It is a waterbird species restricted to Southern Australia. The international significance of the wetlands for waterbirds attracts visitors from all over the world.

The walking trail cover 3.6 kilometres in length and winds through fringing sedgelands, heathlands, under banksia canopies and over sand dunes. We walked 2.3 kilometres on the trail today. There are three bird hides along the way and the track and boardwalk are accessible by wheelchair.

We returned to the caravan after all that for afternoon tea, download photos etc, and then we went out to get fish and chips for tea. They were very nice fish and chips.

Day 191 – Thursday, 1 December 2022

Happy Birthday, Lucus. We hope you have a wonderful day.

The first day of December and I have begun to wear my Christmas earrings.

Today the expected hot weather happened. We recorded 40 degrees in the car at one stage. We decided it would be best to do the Great Ocean Drive (in the air-conditioned car), and unlike that other Scenic Ocean Drive that wasn’t scenic at all, today’s drive was wonderful what with the sun shining and the blue water sparkling.

Before we headed out of the park I did the washing and hung it on the line to dry. I was serenaded by a juvenile grey Butcherbird who sat in the tree between the van and the clothesline. He allowed me to take his photo and just continued to trill.

We then headed into town to put our scripts into the chemist for pickup tomorrow. I explained the Keely, the young lady in the chemist, that I had only jest recently had my scripts filled but that we would be leaving on Tuesday to cross the Nullabor and I would like to have supplies with me for the just in case scenario. She said she would explain to the pharmacist, and we will have to wait and see what I get in the morning.

We then headed down to our preferred spot on the Esplanade to download emails etc, and then we headed out to complete the Drive. We took photos of some awesome wave action along the way.

We also stopped off at Observatory Point and climbed the many stairs to reach the top for a magnificent view of the archipelago around Esperance. At the top of the viewing platform there was a plaque to commemorate the arrival on 9 December 1792 of two French ships. The Recherche was under the command of Antoine D’entrecasteaux and the Esperance was under Captain Huon de Kermadec. They took shelter in the lee of Observatory Island immediately offshore from the Point.

As we completed our Drive at the Pink Lakes Lookout, which is no longer pink but that comes later, and it was still relatively early in the afternoon, we turned to the South Coast Highway and went east to visit Esperance’s Stonehenge – thoroughly amazing.

Pink Lake was initially named Lake Spencer by John Septimus Roe in 1848. It was named after Sir Richard Spencer who was the Resident Magistrate in Albany and who contributed to the early formation of the colony in WA. Lake Warden is adjacent to the Pink Lake and it is

recorded as having been named after Sir Richard’s wife, Lady Ann Warden Spencer.

It was always called Pink Lake by the locals, and in 1966 the Shire President (Cr WS Paterson) requested the name change which was granted.

For many years Pink Lake has been a tourist attraction with an arterial road and some local businesses adopting the name.

However, Esperance’s Pink Lake has lost its pink due to a number of contributing factors. Historically, it was the terminal lake in the Lake Warden Wetland System where water from the central suite of lakes (Wheatfield, Woody and Windabout) along with Lake Warden would periodically flush into Pink Lake, bringing accumulated salts into the environment.

It was the increasing salt concentrate combined with decreasing water levels from evaporation in summer that triggered the appearance of the famous bubblegum pink that can be seen in other lakes across the country.

However, with the construction of the railway line and the South Coast Highway, Pink Lake’s connection to the Lake Warden Wetland System has been lost.

Commercial salt mining began in 1896 and ceased in 2007 due to the reduced salt levels in the lake. With further reductions to the Lake’s salt concentration caused by freshwater from surface water inflow and increased groundwater inflow from new subdivisions, the lake has lost its colour.

If conditions change in the future it is possible that we may see salt concentrations increase and the pink hue return for future visitors.

Pink Lake is just one in a chain of wetlands that circle Esperance, whose population is 14,500 people. The Lake Warden Wetland System is recognised internationally for their importance as a habitat that regularly supports 20,000 waterbirds, including several threatened species.

Visitors to the Pink Lake are asked to take special care when visiting because of the birds.

Shorebirds breed during August to February. The nest is a shallow scrape, and the eggs are laid directly on the sand, either on the beach or above the high tide marks or in the dunes.

Adult birds are easily disturbed and will leave the nest until people are out of sight. Unattended, the camouflaged eggs are easily stepped on, eaten by a predator or become cold or overheated. The tiny chicks cannot fly. They will either crouch in the sand or run and hide in the dunes. If they spend too long hiding they will starve to death.

Red-capped Plover, Pied Oystercatcher, Sooty Oystercatcher and Hooded Plover all inhabit, breed and feed on the sandy beach of Pink Lake.

Esperance’s Stonehenge is a full-size replica of the original ‘Stonehenge’ in the UK as it would have looked around 1950BC. It is constructed of 137 stones of Esperance Pink Granite quarried adjacent to the property where it now stands proudly.

Ten Trilithon Stones stand in a horseshoe pattern, each weighing between 38 – 50 tonnes, and each pair has an 18-tonne lintel across the top, altogether reaching a height of eight metres.

Inside the Trilithon Horseshoe stands another horseshoe of 19 Blue Stones.

The Trilithon Stones are surrounded by a circle of 30 Sarsen Stones, each weighing 28 tonnes, and with a 7 tonne across each pair they stand almost five metres tall.

Positioned between Sarsen Circle and the Trilithon Stones are forty smaller stones referred to as the Bluestone Circle.

The Altar Stone, which lies on the ground in front of the tallest Trilithon Stones, weighs 9 tonnes.

The structure is aligned with the Summer and Winter Solstices as per Esperance’s solar calendar. The Heel Stones are positioned on this line to allow the sun rays to pass through to the Altar at sunrise on the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice), and in winter the sun sets through the Grand Trilithon on the shortest day of the year (Winter Solstice). The same line occurs on both events.

The Australasian Granite Company of Esperance was originally commissioned in 2009 by a client in Margaret River to quarry the stones to the provided dimensions. However, after 12 months the project was in trouble when the Margaret River company went into liquidation.

With six weeks quarrying still to be carried out to complete the stonework order local Esperance residents, Kim and Jillian Beale, purchased the stones. They lived across the road from the quarry carrying out the work in Merivale Road.

It was not bought as a commercial enterprise, rather that Kim fancied the idea of a replica Stonehenge in the Southern Hemisphere.

Earthworks and footing preparations to receive the large stones began in January 2011. 120 cubic metres of concrete was used in the footings, along with mesh and rio bar. The footings are huge.

The forty large stones have a wire cut base and stand on top of the footings which are 200mm below ground level. All the stones are free-standing, held in place by weight of stone and lintel.

In February 2011 a 140-tonne crane, 2 x 988B loaders and 2 floats began the transportation of the stones onto the site, and their erection thereafter.

Building Stonehenge continued with the placement of the Blue Stones horseshoe, Blue Stone circle and the Altar Stone. The 30 stones on the outer circle were stood up and placed in two days along with the roll-out lawn at the same time.

Construction then stopped for 11 weeks during winter due to very boggy conditions. At 3:15pm on 26 October 2011 the last stone of the 30 lintels on the Sarsen Circle were positioned with a 20-tonne crane.

The alignment of the structure to the Summer and Winter Solstice was done by Kim along with the measuring and positioning of the stones. The floor plan and stone sizes were put together by Sorensen Architecture in Margaret River.

Kim and Jillian said the building of the Esperance’s Stonehenge was a rewarding experience and described it as ‘a walk back through history,

until everything ancient is new again while still leaving much to the imagination and the unexplainable….’

Day 190 – Wednesday, 30 November 2022

We woke up just before 9:00am and decided we should go into Esperance for internet access (and take our computers with us to update emails etc), and also to go to the Visitor Information Centre.

Neither Russ nor I are very impressed with Esperance. It looks like a nice town, but it is so spread out and you have to go round about ways to get anywhere. Along with the internet issue it is a frustrating and bad joke, and the dump point is in town.

Before we left the van Russ was unable to get any reception to receive the call from mum, so once we made it down to the Esplanade he rang her back and had a chat.

I picked up several pamphlets from the Information Centre which is on the Esplanade itself and part of the Historical Village where the original houses were built such as Matron’s Quarters, Doctor’s Residence etc, and they are now converted into the tourist shops.

We then moved further down the Esplanade to where we had a view of the harbour, and we had our lunch there. After that I headed out across the grass area and was able to take some photos of the young people using the impressive skateboard facilities. I will say here that there are a lot of places dedicated to families.

The defining feature of the Esplanade Foreshore is the reconstructed Esperance Jetty which was officially opened on 28 March 2021. It measures 415 metres in length and reflects the classic curvature of its predecessor while incorporating a series of interpretative features, as well as fishing and diving platforms.

The species of fish most commonly found in this area includes herring, skippy (never heard of it), whiting and flathead along with squid which is attracted to the overhead lighting in the evenings.

The dive platforms allow the divers to launch themselves from the jetty on the way to a spectacular view of the artificial reef some 50-100 metres away from the jetty. As there is a vast array of seaweed species along the reef it is a perfect hiding place for the Leafy Sea Dragon and a host of other marine life.

The weather was supposed to be a warm and sunny 27 degrees, but it was overcast with frequent showers of rain so when we had completed everything we needed to do we headed back to the caravan instead of touring.

I made a casserole in the slow cooker for later in the week while we were in the van. Tomorrow is supposed to be high 30s, but we will wait and see what eventuates.

Day 189 – Tuesday, 29 November 2022

The alarm went off at 8:30am but I was already awake. It is incredible how much light comes through into the van when the awning is not open.

I had a quick word with mum while Russ was busy outside striking camp and was pleased to hear that she was feeling a bit better than yesterday. We cut our conversation short when she had a visitor.

It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature had risen to 26 degrees when we left the caravan park and Ravensthorpe at 9:59am for the last time on this trip.

We turned onto the South Coast Highway and the road conditions hadn’t miraculously changed overnight. In fact, they continued almost all the way to Esperance 187 kilometres away. In several places they had applied speed restrictions because the road surface was so badly mauled. It was a very scary proposition to overtake a loaded road train in these circumstances.

Once we had traversed the hills of the Ravensthorpe Range we were most definitely into wheat and cattle country, and the scenery was much flatter than previously.

We went past one dead Eastern Brown snake and a dead fox. We came across Poot Street (almost common after some of the other names in the area), Munglinup township and River, Monjingup and Coomalbidgup – who thinks of these names??

We finally arrived at the Bushlands Holiday Village (caravan park) around 1:10pm. It is in a bush setting and we are about five kilometres out of Esperance which is marvellous as there is little road noise.

However, although we are in a 5G area for Telstra there is no signal worth a cracker in the caravan park. It is going to be a long seven days without any internet connection. At least texting works, and hopefully there should be no interruptions to the phone signal.

We set up camp and had lunch before we put out the awning and put down the shade matting. The area is a very fine white sand, and from past experience, it will get into and onto everything.

After that we went into town to buy some water as neither of us were able to finish our cuppas at lunch time, even after double filtering the water. It was just horrible.

While at Woolworths I grabbed some fresh multi-grain rolls and a hot chook for tea.

I have finished inputting the diary into the computer, so it is now ready for printing. However, in order to send it out and post the photos we will need to go into town near one of the areas where coverage is superb. At least we will be in the right place to post the letters.

Russ is getting antsy and is talking about longer drives across the Nullabor Plains. I had scheduled just over 200 kilometres per day between roadhouses, but we may just pass some of them and continue on.

Day 188 – Monday, 28 November 2022

We woke up just before the alarm went off this morning. I quickly showered and put all the towels in for their weekly wash while Russ had his shower.

When he rang mum to talk with her she said she was not feeling real good so he told her to concentrate on getting better and that he would ring her the next day and rang off. It was a short conversation.

On our last day in Ravensthorpe, we headed out to see some of the Farm Gate Art Trail. We headed down the Ravensthorpe-Hopetoun Road and stopped at each place with the artworks. We were then so close to Hopetoun that Russ decided it was too good an opportunity not to wash Hornet while we were there. It is incredible just how dusty he gets when we travel on gravel roads.

Some of the Farm Gate artworks were very interesting and extremely creative. While photographing the Franke Family gates I was enthusiastically greeted by their pet Labrador who finally had a captive audience. He jumped up so much that I could only get one of the gates in the photo and gave the second gate up as a bad idea. He then wagged his way to the car to make Russ’ acquaintance.

Much of the art has been created using many of the different discarded implement used on farms, and in way that astound when you look at them. Queen Beatrice, for instance, is a 1938 Fargo truck loaded up with wildflowers and so named because she was found in amongst trees full of bees.

The Watering Can is another that is striking in appearance and very large. It started life as a field bin and has been prettied up with lots of painted flowers and sits on the corner of the farm clearly visible to passing traffic.

While I was taking my photos I laughed to see a caravan go past, slow down, do a u-turn and come back, perform another u-turn and then stop to get out and take a photo. The guy I spoke with had never heard of the Farm Gate Art Trail, so I provided him with as much information as I had to hand, and he was very intrigued at the idea there were more of them along his travel route.

We passed three stumpy-tail lizards, one blue tongue lizard and one quail standing in the middle of the road. We also have finally found a bitumen road that is in terrible condition with severely broken edges and large, deep potholes. This is the South Coast Highway to the east of Ravensthorpe and is used by many trucks from the nearby mine. The road is obviously not made to handle the weight and constant source of traffic.

We also passed by Nindilbillup Road which is where we came across the Shoemaker Levy Mine outside of Ravensthorpe (the mine I wrote about above).

Shoemaker Levy is the name of the Ravensthorpe facility which is a laterite nickel operation producing around 30,000 tonnes per annum of a mixed nickel-cobalt hydroxide intermediate product used in the production of nickel sulphate.

Nickel sulphate is a key material in lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

Around 650 people work at the Ravensthorpe operations, with the new orebody expected to extend the mine’s life by at least 20 years.

Since being restarted by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) in 2011, the operations have had nickel sales of 202,782 tonnes and cobalt sales of 7,527 tonnes.

Three of the operation’s 18-megawatt steam turbines generate power using waste heat from the mine’s production process.

The mine is generally known as the Ravensthorpe Nickel Mine, and describes both the mine and associated plant. Halley’s and Hale-Bopp are two nickel deposits on Bandalup Hill next to the processing plant. Halley’s is presently being mined.

Shoemaker-Levy is a nearby deposit on the north side of the South Coast Highway. Some sources call Halley’s, the Bandalup Hill Mine after its geographic location. In 2002 BHP initiated a feasibility study on opening a nickel/cobalt mine here, 27 kilometres east of Ravensthorpe. Construction commenced in 2004 and production started in 2008. Nickel would be extracted by the Pressure Acid Leaching (PAL) process. This method was introduced into Western Australia in the early 1970’s and resulted in several nickel mines closing. The technology did not suite Western Australian conditions, resulting in higher costs than expected. In 2004, BHP had estimated a construction cost of $1.3 million. By November 2006 it had spent $2.2 billion. In January 2009, less than a year after opening, BHP announced the sudden closure of the mine. 1800 workers lost their job, and the closure had a severe impact on the small community of Ravensthorpe resulting in widespread and severe criticism in the media. Several senior executives involved with the project were removed. In December 2009, Canadian miner, First Quantum Minerals (FQM) purchased the mine/plant for $340 million US, and production started again early 2012.

Once we arrived back at the van we had some afternoon tea then took down the awning, folded the chairs and packed them all into the canopy ready for tomorrow.

I caught up with Ken (Caravan Park Manager) and asked whether bookings could be made for the Wildflower Festival time but he said it remained the same as now – first in, best dressed.

Day 187 – Sunday, 27 November 2022

Today we had a day at the van in an endeavour to catch up with some chores. Robert rang around 8:00am to ask after mum and we took the time to catch up with the local news.

Sometime later mum rang but the reception was horrible, so Russ rang her back and was then able to talk with her for a while. He then rang Lyn and Peter for a quick catch-up.

In the meantime, I caught up with putting the diary into the computer. The day was overcast with a cool breeze, and the sun shone intermittently.

Janelle rang and spoke with Russ while I prepared and cooked tea.