Wheat fields, Gold fields and Wild flowers - Part 1
Heading out of the noise and bustle of the city you drive along the Great Eastern Highway through Midland and begin the climb up Greenmount hill.
Once quite an obstacle for wagon teams, today's motorised vehicles barely notice the long climb to the top edge of the Darling Scarp.
On through the Avon Valley you bypass Northam and keep on going. Although there is plenty to explore in the nearby towns of Northam, York and Toodyay, that is a task for for another journey. The first major stop is Meckering, site of the 1968 earthquake that shook Perth.
Not far north of town is graphic evidence of how strong the quake was. The old farmhouse at Salisbury now lies in ruins but looking around the rest of the area it is hard to find much evidence these days of how much damage the quake actually did.
In fact a fault line rose 5 feet into the air cutting road, rail and even the Kalgoorlie water pipeline. The fault that caused the quake has been fairly quiet lately but lurking under ground is the potential for it to happen again almost any time.
Meckering has a good rest area that includes toilets, BBQs, seats and tables and it is a good spot to stop and have a break and possibly some lunch.
As is almost always the case when we go exploring, the rain had decided to pay the area a visit and although it might be welcomed by the local farmers it left us rather less than impressed. It had in fact been so bad that it had delayed our journey by 24 hours.
The next major town is Cunderdin. I am not sure what possessed the good folk of this town to build an Ettamogah pub in their midst but this single lapse of judgement seems to be the only slight flaw in the town
The local museum, housed in the old pipeline pumping station, is certainly worth a visit.
Moving on again you will reach Tammin. This is primarily a huge wheat silo that seems to have a town attached as an after-thought.
There are one or two nice old buildings in town across the railway line but for the life of me I am at a loss to explain the construction of the 'hydrology model'. It seems as out of place in this town as the Ettamogah pub did in Cunderdin.
Kellerberrin is the next stop and there are a few things to see here. Sadly the original pub burned down some years ago but you can see some pictures of it in the new tavern. The manager there is very friendly and is happy to share all sorts of information about the town.
Visit the shire office and get a key to the local museum. It is located across the railway track almost opposite the tavern and although the exhibits are a bit dusty, it is worth having a look at.
There are some interesting old buildings, with the post office that was constructed in 1912, being probably the most unique.
Just north of town is Kellerberrin Hill where you can get a good view of the town and surrounding area.
The local caravan park has cheap rates for caravans if you want to stay and explore the area but we pushed on towards Merredin.
Before reaching Merredin you pass through the small towns of Doodlakine and Hines Hill.
Merredin is the largest town between Northam and Coolgardie and there is a lot to see here. Plenty of heritage buildings and plenty of shopping opportunities to pick up any supplies you forgot to pack when you left home.
The Palace Chinese Restaurant is a great place to stop and re-fill yourself too! Very good food, plenty of it and not expensive. The decor inside is pleasant and it is pretty popular with the locals.
As rain was still intermittent we decided to stay in a motel overnight instead of putting up the camper-trailer and ending up with wet canvas in the morning.
We found a cheap room at the Northside Tavern. To be honest it was pretty small, just room for a bed, fridge, cupboard and TV but it was all we needed for just one night and at $70 it didn't break the budget. It does have shared ablutions that really needed a bit of work though.
In the morning we had a good look round town and found the most interesting building was Cummins Theatre. This is a real old-style movie theatre and if we had been there longer we would have made time to go in when it was open.
On the outskirts of Merredin, as you come in from the west, is an old pumping station that used to be part of the gold-fields pipe-line. It is an amazing old building but like many that are no longer in use it has just been left to rot. It is a real shame the local community don't do something about turning it into a tourist attraction as has been done in Cunderdin.
The Merredin train station has been put to good use and is now a museum but we were up and away too early to get a look inside.
Westonia turned out to be the most charming little town. The nearby Edna May mine occasionally punctuates the silence with a large detonation but it is infrequent and the locals are always told when blasting is going to take place.
There is a new museum in town that is one of the best we have seen in a small town. There is even an underground blast simulator for you to go in and see what it is like for the miners who have to work in underground mines. Entry to the museum is through the shire office and costs just $3 so don't miss it.
You can also visit the mine lookout and have a look at the open pit operations. There are trucks moving up and down with loads of ore and usually plenty of other activity with mine vehicles of all sorts going about their work.
From this point onwards you are gradually moving from farm country into mining country.
There are only a couple of small towns now before you reach Southern Cross. This is where our day started to go wrong.
The plan had been to go south to Marvel Loch and then follow the Emu Fence road up to a turn off and go out to Mt. Palmer before heading back to Southern Cross and then north to Bullfinch. I made the mistake of referring to a map I had picked up at a visitor centre that suggested the road to Mt. Palmer was a 4x4 track. It showed an alternate route south and then north via Yellwodine Road. This turned out to be a big mistake because the Yellowdine Road does not exist where the map says it does. We searched for it for some time before giving up and heading back to the Emu Fence road.
This road was unsealed but in excellent condition and the road leading east from it, that the map said was a 4x4 track was also in excellent condition. We had wasted a lot of time running around because of an incorrect map.
On the way to Mt. Palmer the road crosses a salt pan. If it has been raining a lot you will have to take care here as it is obvious from the other wheel tracks that it gets pretty boggy and slippery. Thankfully it was hard when we passed through so there was no problem.
There really isn't much at Mt. Palmer except the ruins of an old hotel and there isn't much left of that.
There is a campsite here but we decided we still might have just enough time to get to Bullfinch so we headed north along what the map indicated was a good road. We really should have leanrt by then that the map we were working from was highly unreliable. The good road quickly deteriorated into a bush track and it took quite some time to reach the highway east of Yellowdine.
By now we were out of time and had to find a campsite for the night. The closest we could find was Karalee Rocks about 20km east so we headed off having missed Bullfinch, Koolyanobbing and Yellowdine.
There was a good signpost to Karalee from the highway but as is so often the case, when we got to the next intersection there was nothing to tell us which way to go. Considering how the day had deteriorated, it came as no surprise when we picked the wrong road and ended up at a dead end and had to turn around.
Thankfully, when we did finally get to Karalee, we found it was an excellent campsite with toilets, dump point and a big dam with plenty of water in it.
PLACES ON THE WAY