Quite a thriving town Kalgoorlie, or, as it has been spelled on old photographs from around 1900, "Kalgurli". Gold obviously, has been the main stay of the region. When I drive out to the old ghost town of Kanowna, I find only a few head stones of what used to be the grave yard of the town. Not a single building left standing.
Some left-over grave stones at the old cemetary of Kanowna
When Gold had also been discovered at that very grave yard, most of the human remains had been moved to another site and the place had been dug over to extract any Gold from the ground. Just a few kilometres from there, another huge open-mine pit has been dug with on-going mining in this area to this day.
yet another open pit gold mine close to the old workings of Kenowna
This serves as a reminder that there is yet a lot of Gold in the ground and that it is being mined as I speak. This whole area in Western Australia is abundant with minerals of just about any kind we can think of: Gold, Silver, Platinum, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Molybdenum, Nickel and I am sure there are some more that I am not aware of...
I leave Kalgoorlie to drive north to what I am told, is a nice camp spot at Niagara Dam, about 190 km north-west. Driving north on the Goldfields Highway, there are several mining installations for the processing of the mined sands. There are also huge mountains of earth that have been piled up alongside the highway. A tall smoke stack on my right is belching white smoke that slowly drifts across the land. The sign pointing in its direction identifies the site as a "Roasting Facility" which is also part of the processing required to extract the precious metal from the ore.
I pass the town of Broad Arrow, or should I say, whats left of a community of 2400 at the turn of the century around 1900. The only building left standing is the hotel or Pub. This town once boasted eight hotels in its hayday. I pass yet another mining operation on my left and later I drive through Menzies which seems to consist of only a few buildings and a rather smart looking Townhall. After another 42km I arrive at my turn-off toward Niagara Dam and follow that road. After about 5km the bitumen runs out and I am driving on dirt, not too bad except for the last 5km that take me to the campsite. The Dam has been constructed and completed in 1904 where it was to serve as a water storage for the steam trains of the day that were yet to reach the area. As it urned out, water was discovered nearby only a very short time after the completion of the dam. Interesting to note that every bag of cement needed for the construction of the dam had been brought in by camel train!
I find a nice spot at the bottom of the dam wall. Its very peaceful and quiet and although I feel a bit dusty, I decide to stay a few nights and collect some firewood from previous camp fires of other campers that have used the site before me. I am also surprised to see that the toilet facilities here even have running water and a toilet that flushes! Not really that surprising with the dam nearby.
I invite my neighbor, Russel, a young aboriginal Anthropolgist, to come join me by the fire and we have long conversations about Aboriginal Heritage and the preservation of the Sacred Sites around the place. He had also spent six years in the Australian Army being part of the SAS. He is certainly a big guy. If there was to be a fight, I would certaily like him to be on my side. He also tells me about some of the Aboriginal stories and beliefs in the spiritual world which I find fascinating.
Most of the roads leading into Niagara Dam are dirt, in a couple of days I will be driving on to Kookynie where there are some great large rock boulders that I want to see. The road there is all dirt as well. Driving on dirt does stir up quite a lot of dust that will be suspended in air for quite a few minutes before settling down again. The substance is extremely fine, powder-like and also quite gritty. What I have not talked about in this regard is, that the dust (Bull Dust in local jargon) also settles on your skin, with a very strong tendency to dry it up. I have noticed that the skin on my hands, around my fingernails, any cracks in the skin tend to get filled with the stuff that will not wash off in just a single good wash or shower. The skin gets very dry, so I usually put on some skin cream after I wash my hands again. I also notice that fingernails get quite brittle and dry, breaking and chipping much more easily.
A look at the land around Niagara Dam
I am writing this down so to help convey a better understanding of what its like to actually be living under bush conditions...