Day 1 of our long awaited “Big Trip East” from our home in Western Australia went well – although maybe departing on April Fools Day could have been better planned!
Driving through the Wheatbelt region is always nostalgic for us, as it is an area we both know and love. There is a straight section of road where 3 essential ‘arteries’ run in parallel:
- The main railway east which links the Indian and Pacific oceans
- The Eastern Highway from Perth to Norseman, which then links with Highway 1 to take you all around Australia
- And in the middle is the Goldfields pipeline – now that is an intriguing and sad tale to follow, especially if you are interested in engineering feats. CY O’Connor‘s vision of pumping water from Perth to the dry Goldfields interior succeeded in 1903, but he sadly committed suicide 9 months earlier due to immense personal pressure from the naysayers of the day.
We crossed the markers for the two rabbit-proof fences built in 1901 and 1905. From all accounts they were not terribly successful in stemming the bunny tide. Releasing the myxoma virus in the 1950s was much more successful – for the humans, not the rabbits.
However “The Rabbit Proof Fence” for us will always refer to the movie of the same name where 3 Aboriginal girls ran away from the Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth, in 1931. They walked for nine weeks along the 2,400 km fence to return to their community at Jigalong. An amazing story of a bad, bad time.
3 crosses and a memorial near Boorabin reminded us of the awful events of 2007 when 3 trucks were incinerated. Poor communication between different emergency services led to incorrect information being provided to the truckies about which roads were open or closed.
Many court cases were held mainly to apportion blame in order for compensation to be awarded, but there were certainly no winners in that whole process – other than it being a dreadful reminder of the constant bushfire danger in Australia.
The distinctive trees along this route are outstanding. The Wandoo woodlands between Perth and Northam fade out to ‘parachute’ eucalypts then the very handsome ‘Salmon’ gums – as we call them because of their colour – which actually include a green and a cream… Whatever, they are very beautiful, especially when they have had a light shower of rain and the deep green leaves and trunks glisten.
As a kid Ian occasionally went with his dad when he drove to Merredin to carry out his Optometrist duties there. This is where he saw them first, so he has a deep seated memory of watching them while lying on the back seat of the car before nodding off … Priceless memories. Many years later as a conscript in Viet Nam, he came over a hill and looked down on a group of planted salmon gums which really sent a pang of WA homesickness over him.
Once we got into the Goldfields region, we settled into the Coolgardie caravan park by 4.30 pm, and wandered up to the Denver City Hotel, the only local hotel still operating out of 23 in gold rush days. This is our favourite occupation in any small town we visit. We get to stretch our legs, have a yarn with people in their front yards, chat with locals in the bar – plus have a cold beer and a wine before going home to our van to cook dinner!
Would love to hear what your favourite tree is in your neck of the woods?