Grey Gypsies of Australia
Western Australia - 2010
Goldfields Trail
Starting from Kalgoorlie we arrived at the Broad Arrow Tavern in time to wave to a group of bearded bikies having some mid morning refreshment at the tavern. The trail is about more than gold, it's also the story of bringing steam trains to this remote area far from the WA coast. Railway buffs would enjoy examining the restored water tank (Broad Arrow) used to service the steam engines running on the new line that inched its way east from Coolgardie in 1895 and opened in 1898 at Menzies. Along the route we also found railway workers cottages (Goongarrie), a superb C19 station awaiting restoration (Menzies), the Niagara Dam built in 1897 to store water for steam engines and old railway bridges near Malcolm with its new rolling stock hub. We diverted to Ora Bando to see the historic pub restored in the 1980s by a former internee at the Dashau concentration camp. Later in 2002 it was the scene of a tragic shooting, when a member of a bikie gang camping nearby was murdered and later so was the publican, whom the gang suspected of the shooting. The town like so many others we would visit on this trail started life as a gold rush with up to 3000 miners  trying their luck with pick and shovels in this dry inhospitable environment. Tent towns would develop to supply them, then iron shacks would be erected later. The later brick and stone buildings that you see still standing or lying in ruins were robbed out by later settlers who reused the materials. In fact this is also a story of recycling. Wooden buildings were shifted elsewhere to a new town when the local gold ran out and corrugated iron was a prized commodity that also went. Many town locations along the trail are only marked with an information board as nothing remains except perhaps a few bottles or other bits of domestic detritus. Such was Siberia, our next stop. Only a silent cemetery with no headstones remained, separated from the bush by a rough fence. We drove through low hills and beautiful wildflower shrubs in the late afternoon to our overnight stop, Goongarrie Station. These station stays are great for an overnight stop or longer: most have showers, BBQs and camp kitchens. Goongarrie was a former sheep station where sandlewood was also harvested for the incense trade. They are managed by Dept of Environment & Conservation and in the tourist season have resident camp hosts. We stayed for several days exploring the station buildings, driving the 4X4 trails in Goongarrie National Park and walking the homestead track through several types of arid land vegetation. We also took time to explore Pianto Road well worth a look in the wildflower season because of its spectacular variety of flowering native shrubs. Our big plea is to the Dept of Environment & Conservation: Please reinstate a watering point at Goongarrie Station for the native birds and animals. They will die when the current rainwater pools dry up (very soon) unless you do. All the other stations also need this. A permanent watering point for native wildlife should be always installed whenever DEC takes control of a station property. Come on guys-have a heart! Leaving for Leonora we spent time at those goldfield town s on the way that had retained some historic buildings and still had some residents. Menzies  had a number of historic buildings that were well preserved and still inhabited, while Kookynie  had a good pub and a few dwellings and lots of robbed out ruins. Both would have been fantastic to see in their heyday with several thousand residents, tents, pubs, shanties, crushing batteries, mines everywhere, dust storms, water condensing plants- water was so scarce they condensed fresh water out of the salt water bores.
Broad Arrow Hotel Ora Banda Siberia Goongarrie NP
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