Our last stop on the Nullarbor was the wonderful Fraser Range, a working sheep station that has latched on to the cross Australia tourist boom to offset the downturn in the pastoral industry.
It also hosts one hole of the world’s longest golf course, The Nullarbor Links. This brilliant concept involves towns spread across a thousand or more kilometres of the Nullarbor each hosting a hole or two. The combined 18 holes are tackled one overnight stop at a time as you make the crossing. There is even an annual trophy for the lowest score. Fraser Range’s hole is called Sheep’s Back; a par 3, 141 metre straight drive across the rocky fairway to an artificial turf green! We were camped near a couple who were crossing the Plain with two toddlers, a five iron and a putter. Apparently everything was going well but the tension mounted every time they rolled in to a stop with the next hole!
After Fraser Range we found the terrain change again and forests of beautiful salmon gums appeared. We realised we had done it… we had crossed the Nullarbor.
At Norseman travellers either turn right to Kalgoorlie or left to Esperance. We went straight hoping to have some lunch in town but were puzzled to find town pretty much shut. Apparently the gold mine is doing badly and with it the whole community. Sadly most of the shops are shuttered and there is a deathly pall over everything. At least the iconic corrugated iron camels were still there… All the other corrugated iron in town was over the windows and doors.
Our journey was to the north so onwards to Kalgoorlie we drove. We had expected a more arid landscape but things were reasonably green most of the way. Kalgoorlie was a bit more like our expectations, a thriving mining town with a lot of history and classic buildings. It retains its outback character, but as we’d found in Broken Hill there is a gentler side evolving, a little gentrification in the making. There were more cafes selling lattes than bars with “Skimpies” the famous barmaids who serve beers wearing lingerie (at most…)
And the absolute highlight of Kalgoorlie: undoubtedly The Superpit! Now that is one big hole in the ground! And talking of big, to dig a hole that size you need BIG machinery, and The Super pit has that in truckloads! (Actually, it really does have it in truckloads… We’ve never seen so many escorted “Caution: Long, Wide Load” convoys as we have here! And most of the long, wide, loads are super sized machinery and parts for the Superpit!)
From Kalgoorlie we continued westwards, but now we edged towards the south, homing in on Perth. Coolgardie proved to be a treat. Wide, empty streets, beautiful mining era buildings and a fantastic heritage collection. Priceless!
At Dowerin we came across Rusty, the giant rusty (of course) tin dog. Apparently the idea for Rusty came from the local school children who were given the task of coming up with a way to encourage drivers to actually stop in town and not drive straight through on their way to Perth, so Rusty was born. He commemorates local folklore about the early miners travelling through on their way to the gold fields. They would stop at the creek to camp and eat their “tinned dog”, or canned bully beef. The empty cans were discarded and the area became known as Tin Dog Creek. Well kids, great idea, because… we stopped!
Our last stop before Perth was New Norcia, Australia’s only monastery town. An amazing place, again, Spanish influenced architecture and an entire community operated by the monastery. The hotel is as impressive as a lot of French chateaux, soaring ceilings and wide, wide balconies and verandas. And best of all, thanks to the non-pecuniary nature of the monks, inexpensive!
And so to Perth, but not before one small hiccough… our battery died and had to be replaced. thank goodness we found an Ultratune before we were stranded!