September 13, 2006 GMT
Gold!

Not only did Riki and Jen welcome us into their home, but also their garage. Before leaving Malaysia I rebuilt the bike's top end as a result of stripped cylinder barrel studs, (yet another legacy of a former owner), and subsequently learnt I used gasket sealant that didn't seal. By that time we were in Australia. Originating from the base of the cylinder barrel, it was more a weep than a leak, however it was annoying and didn't appear to going away. It was time for remedial action.

As always (with me at least), such rebuilds never go quite to plan, therefore what I expected to take a day, maybe two to finish off, took several more. The first hinderance was when I realised I'd been supplied the wrong head gaskets from a later model, only after I'd smeared the cylinder base with lovely fresh gooey sealant. Sealant that was about to set without the heads being torqued down...barrel off again. Of course this was the weekend, so the bike shop's closed, so I can't get the right gaskets - great stuff. And into the bargain, I've hired a torque wrench for the occasion. At X bucks a day.

Monday morning I was back up to the bike shop, who I have to say were apologetic, throwing in a couple of small things I needed for nothing. The rest of the rebuild went ok, ok that was until I tried to fire her up. I assumed I'd jumped a tooth on the camchain and therefore thrown the timing, as it was turning ok, but wouldn't fire. Several adjustments, a flat battery and many expletives later, I gave up for the night and resorted to the contents of the beer fridge together with Riki.

New day, new outlook. I found the problem to be a worn locating lug on the right hand cam sprocket. All looked fine when put installed, however when tightened the sprocket rotated, throwing the timing. All good and well, but would I be able to source a replacement sprocket? After all, it's not exactly a servicable item. Fortunately the same said bike shop had a second hand one in stock (thankfully), so yet another excursion later and the bike was up and running again. Phew!

We eventually prised ourselves away from Riki, Jen and family, a difficult task as their hospitality was second to none, and set off for Hyden, location of Wave Rock. Yet another Australian geological phenomonen. Arriving just as the sun was going down, we had to wait until morning to check out the wave. Formed on the side of Hyden Rock as a result of water flow several millions of years ago, it was indeed an impressive sight begging for the imaginary surfing shot.

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(Hamish)

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Back in Longreach we'd picked up a book called "Digger" by Max Anderson (more about the book later). We both really enjoyed it and it had made us want to see the goldfields for ourselves. We left Wave Rock after a really chilly night (will have to buy warmer sleeping bags for South America!) and rode up to Kalgoorlie across dirt tracks. We saw some strange lizards on the way, 'bob-tailed skinks' -

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- and a couple of snakes, as well as a strange place called 'Cockatoo Tanks', two large concrete pools right out in the middle of nowhere. The outback is full of hidden surprises, tracks lead off the main roads and you can find all sorts of quirky places if you have the time to look.

We'd intended spending only a day or so in Kalgoorlie but it proved to be a fascinating place, with loads to see and some beautiful old buildings.

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I'd envisaged hiring a metal detector and going off into the bush to make my fortune but I had to be content with a little gold panning in a pretend pool in the Miners Hall of Fame museum. It gave me an idea of how hard it was. The museum was great, we were able to go down into the old mine which was a little claustrophobic but educational. Back in those days it was very very hard work...

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After that we got to touch some real gold, watch pretend gold being poured and wander around the reconstructed miners' village. Hame is thinking of buying a new tent.

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We went ot the SuperPit lookout, a HUGE mine right on the outskirts of town where gold is relentlessly being pulled from the earth 24 hours a day, with some very big buckets.

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After all that activity it was time for a beer in a pub with a mine shaft in it. Kalgoorlie Boulder has history everywhere, under every street and on every corner.

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While Hame was catching up on his journal and fiddling with the bike, I went to a brothel. Not because our funds are running low, but because Kalgoorlie is home to the oldest operating brothel in Australia and has three which are open to the public (during the day as well). Questa Casa was encased in pink corrugated iron and there was no bell to push, so together with a few other uncertain looking tourists I stood on the pavement outside and tried to look innocent. Hard, I know.

Eventually the madam opened to the door with apologies for being late for the 2pm tours - she explained she'd just had a couple of policemen round to check on things. Brothels are illegal but there seems to be an informal arrangement that as long as things are done properly and safely, the law turns a blind eye. As the police station was 200 m down the road it all seemed quite bizarre.

We were taken on a two hour tour which was illuminating, I learned loads about the world's oldest trade. Prostitution back in gold rush days sounded awful for a variety of reasons, these days the women seemed to make lots of money - over $200 an hour - and be reasonably safe. The madam had to explain to one man who paid for the tour by credit card that the brothel would come up in disguise on his bill as "Mobile Mechanics Inc".

We were heading to Kookynie, the place written about in 'Digger'. We had learned after reading the book that all the characters are real people the author met while living there and writing, and it was in the general direction we wanted to travel.

On the way we stopped at Lake Ballard, where sculptor Anthony Gormley (he also made the 'Angel of the North' in Newcastle) has placed images based on inhabitants of a nearby town. He used a holographic image of their body shape then reduced it, made 150 statues and placed them over a seven square kilometre area on the dried lake bed. It was called 'Inside Australia' and was stunning.

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We arrived at Kookynie to find the campsite behind the pub full, we'd clashed with a caravan safari tour. Our only option was to take a room as we were both ready to get off the bike, but as the hotel was an interesting historical building filled with artifacts from the area that the owners had collected, this wasn't such a bad option. We dumped our stuff and wandered into the tiny bar. The safari tour operators finished up for the day and joined us for drinks, and we ended up having an impromtu party, dancing and singing the night away along with the owners of the hotel, Kevin and Marg. It was a great night and yet again we met good people, but my head hurt the next day...

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I'd never met characters from a book before. Kevin and Marg Pusey were exactly as described and didn't mind sharing their experience of being part of a story with us. We'd enjoyed the book and it was good to hear the author had not exaggerated anything, he was still warmly thought of in the Grand Hotel, where much of the action takes place. It was also good to hear what may have happened to 'the nugget'... my lips are sealed! Aside from the fact it was fun visiting a place we'd read about Kevin and Marg were good company and we thoroughly enjoyed talking to them, especially about local history on which they were both experts.

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We wandered around Kookynie which was absolutely fascinating, more so after all our visits to gold mining museums. Kookynie had its own gold rush in the early 20th century and was once a buzzing town of 3000+ inhabitants. Now it has a population of 17.

Everywhere we looked there were scatterings of times gone by; ancient rusting cars, old broken bottles, horseshoes, neglected mining equipment and piles of rubble that were once houses. Many of the buildings have gone though, dismantled to be used to build cattle stations when materials were hard to come by after the war. We walked out to the cemetery which had its ownstories to tell. As well as all the artifacts lying around there were many mine shafts open and uncovered, we both decided it wouldn't be a good place in which to stagger home from the pub at night!

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We bid farewell after a couple of days and thanked Kevin and Marg for their great hospitality. We'd installed ourselves on the lawn in the beer garden for our second night, that's the kind of camping we like!

A few more good dirt roads took us North to Leonora, famous for the 'Sons of Gwalia' goldmine, named after some of the first miners in the area who were Welsh (Gwalia is the Welsh word for Wales). There was so much to look at in the museum we could hardly take it all in, it was well worth the visit.

Herbert Hoover ran the mine when he was just 23. Apparently the owners of the mine were looking for a 'mature' man of 35 or so to manage things, however Hoover impressed them all so much (and grew a moustache to look older) that he got the job and made the mine a success. He later went on to become 31st President of America - obviously back in those days you still had to have brains to become President of the US...

Some of the old miners' cottages - which were lived in until the 1960s - had been reconstructed and opened to visitors, they were basic indeed. The mine still runs today but on a huge 'superpit' kind of scale. Feeling like we couldn't take in any more history for now we left, heading for Laverton which was the start of the Great Central Road (which I was pretending to look forward to).

We'd both found the goldfields incredibly interesting but we had to leave before I caught gold fever, just as I'd nearly caught sapphire fever.

We also dropped in on a deserted nickel mine which Hame found incredibly interesting (?). He took some great 'deserted nickel mine' shots.

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We checked into the campsite in Laverton and checked the road conditions in a book jotted in by travellers - varying descriptions from 'good' to 'atrocious' - although we'd long ago learned not to listen too hard to what people say about roads. Looking forward to an early night we snuggled down into our bags, and were kept awake by a birthday party in the club next door until the wee hours. We seem to be very good at camping next to parties. After the 3am drunken basketball game finished we finally got some sleep.

(Emma)

Posted by Emma Myatt at September 13, 2006 09:16 AM GMT
 
 

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