Saturday midday we headed off to Kalgoorlie. This is a gold mining town, about six hours drive out of Perth and not really at all on the way to our camping destination but our dear friend April lives there and we don’t see enough of her so we try to spend a couple of days either end of trips with her.
Wayne drove some and I drove some and we listened to podcasts I had downloaded onto my ipod – the Vinyl Café is a huge favourite on our road trips, as it brings back Canadian memories for both of us. This time around, I had also downloaded as many episodes as were current at the time of downloading of ‘Serial‘: Wayne was doubtful at first but I got him hooked after one episode and we are still listening to it because we don’t have that much time in the car together any more! This means steadfastly avoiding any discussion of episodes further than we have listened! I also downloaded a series called “Living Through It”; stories told from people who had lived through extraordinary experiences. This again was a CBC podcast – I think CBC is great. We don’t tend to listen to music at all when we drive. We like to have stories and we like to be informed. We also talk a bit as well.
Well, it is mainly me talking at him, informing him of the history of the area. I’ve taken tours through there and I know quite a lot about the early gold mining of the region. I’ve also camped out there as a child, back when we used to wander around and explore and narrowly miss falling down deep shafts – there are so many deep gold shafts in the region, put out by the early miners and worked until it became too hard. There is still gold around and you can still get a fossicker’s licence and a metal detector and wander around to try your luck.
In those early days, there was no water in the region and the gold was panned using dry blowing; it was hot, dry and dusty work. But CY O’Connor, an Irish Engineer, devised a scheme whereby water was brought to the goldfields 560km via pipeline from Perth and in 1903, water came to the Goldfields. (For more on the scheme see here). Coincidentally, the dam for the supply, comes from the Hills in which we live and I’ve walked it many a time (swum it, too, as a child, illegally).
Gold is still mined commercially in Kalgoorlie in the SuperPit, an open cut goldmine, so big it can be seen from outer space. The gold is running out and they aren’t quite sure what to do with the huge hole when it is finished: it will fill eventually to a third of it’s depth with hyper saline water. This is what it currently looks like:
I really like Kalgoorlie as a town. There are beautiful old buildings, huge wide streets (they had to be wide in days of yore because all stores came into town via camel train and the width was to accommodate the camel train turning around) and a rollicking history. One of my favourite stories is the hotel that had a mine shaft leading directly into the bar so the miners didn’t have to waste time going off shift into the bar!
There are still brothels set up in town and they tend to do an evening trade these days, rather than 24 hours, so they have maximised their revenue sources and are open for general public tours! I have never done a brothel tour but I’ve always wanted to; apparently the speciality rooms are very interesting and one even is set up like a car, complete with sound effects and vibrations to take you back to misspent teenage years!
Our friend is one of the town’s doctors and has a thriving practice; she has a lovely house complete with pool. She works harder than anybody I know but this time around had taken a few days off to study for an exam so we had the luxury of her undivided attention and we swam, ate and drank. I couldn’t handle the pace and slunk off to bed around midnight but she and Wayne stayed up till about 2.30 and killed a few bottles. I love that they are so fond of each other.
This is Wayne, literally in the doghouse (she has a big dog!).