Monday, June 26, 2006

West by South West

I forgot to write about the road trip that Tracie and I took in the camper van.

We drove to Kalgoorlie to see the superpit. The superpit is one of the world's largest open pit mines. It is a consolidation of a large number of regular gold mines in an area that was once known as the Golden Mile. The pit is now over three kilometers long and a kilometer deep. It is simply, spectacular.

Knowing how big the dumptrucks are and seeing how small they look only halfway down the pit helps give you an idea of how immense the pit really is. There is a public look out at the top of the pit. You can see them setting off a huge explosion every day and a half or so, depending on how quickly they clean up after the last one and the weather conditions.

After seeing the pit we headed south from Kalgoorlie towards Esperance. We ended up staying the night at some small town in between. It was only about 10pm, but we were a little paranoid about hitting a kangaroo and I guess we had come a long way anyway.

We met up with the French acquaintances the next morning in Esparence. We did a little sight seeing around Esparence and went to a national park at cape le grande. The beach there is phenomenal. The sand is white, the beach is long and the water is perfectly clear. This is a picture of Tracie body boarding there. Did I mention that we only saw 4 or 5 other people the entire time we were there?

After having our fill at the beach, we decided to go on a hike. We had a great time taking photos and hiking. About half way around the mountain, we came to a portion where run off had prevented dirt from collecting and bushes from growing so I suggested that instead of following the path, that we climb to the top of the mountain, which we did.

The view from the top was great. We could see in all directions, out to see, along the coast and inland towards the park. Our visit to Cape Le Grande was one of the highlights of the trip.

We drove back to Esparence to camp in a caravan park. While at the caravan park, Tracie had another little accident. This time we were in reverse, heading towards a gas pump. Figuring that Tracie knew it was back there somewhere, I made a point of not saying anything. Then there was a loud crashing sound. We talked to the caravan park owner and he said that this wasn't the first time the pump had been hit and that the last time, the repair bill was $1000. Luckily for us, he hadn't been selling gas in well over a year and wasn't planning on ever using the pump again, so he let us go.

While we were in Esperance they were holding a volunteer fair and one of the community groups was turning the keys to a new fire truck over to the volunteer fire department. Small town fairs are particularly fun. That night we didn't want to return to the caravan park for obvious reasons and to save the fee, so we decided to camp on the road. I found the perfect spot, right behind the fire house! It was the perfect spot. Since it was a volunteer fire brigade, we could rest assured that there would be no interruptions unless there was a fire and even then they would be too busy with the fire to bother disturbing us!

Our next major stop was Albany. At Albany we went to see a thing along the coast called "The Gap". You might imagine that we went shopping for clothes, but you would be wrong. The gap is a huge crevice that goes down for over 100feet to the ocean. The waves enter the gap with such intensity, that water sprays way above it into the air. A average of 150 feet above the level of the sea.

We stopped at a few other small towns on our way on to Margaret River from Albany. The two most important items of interest were the tree top lookout and the tree top walk. The lookout, in Pemberton, is the world's tallest freestanding tree top wild fire lookout. That they let people climb it is crazy. Imagine ladder steps made out of rebar spiraling to the top of a 100 foot tree. It seems incredibly dangerous.

The treetop walk is a lot safer, and wheel chair accessible. You pay an admission of 10 or 12 dollars and walk along a catwalk suspended high in the trees. It is about a km long and worth the money. We had a really good time seeing the view and taking lots of photos.

Margaret River was sort of a let down for me. The thing is that it is really a MAJOR destination in Australia and somewhat of a minor destination for the world. It is the wine producing region of western Australia. The other thing they do there is surf. They have major world surfing competitions there.

We went to the Tourist Information Center and asked one of the girls what we could do bearing in mind the fact that because I don't, going on a winery tour probably wouldn't be that fun for us. Well, the look of pure terror on this poor girls face was very amusing. It was obvious that there isn't really much else to do in Margaret River. We settled on going to see some caves and a little more body boarding.

The whole trip lasted a week and really for the amount of distance that we covered it would have been better to do it in two weeks. I would have liked an entire day in each town we stopped at and half a day of driving and exploring the new town. Two weeks would have been a lot better. We wouldn't have been so rushed and missed things at the end like what ended up happening.

We went on the Great Ocean Road near Melbourne a couple of months later and in my opinion the coast of southern WA is much better. The scenery is much nicer, you are all alone and you don't have to fight with the traffic like on the great ocean road.

I found this trip very fun because as you know I like driving with Tracie, but in addition to that we had traveling companion every time we stopped the van in one of the towns.

This trip has two first for me. I saw my first "wild" monitor lizard and my first echidna. There are pictures of both on my flickr account.

-Gary Milner

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