By Jenny and Geoff Tait now back in caravan park harness running
the recently promoted to four star Tocumwal Tourist Park
It's a toss-up between Perth and Cairns for my favourite Australian city. In between more severe storms and buckets of rain, we managed to enjoy six wonderful days in beautiful Perth.
We camped at Ascot, the closest caravan park to the CBD and only a short walk to the bus stop.
This park has a lot of backpackers and reasonable facilities, but is too close to the airport (noise) for a repeat visit. We couldn't be bothered packing up, so we stayed put.
On a couple of days we bought a day pass on the bus for $8.50 each, which was only a 30 minute ride in to the city.
This gave us the freedom to explore the city's many attractions and its fabulous malls, spend hours in magnificent Kings Park, hop on and hop off the buses any time we liked, without the hassle of finding parking etc., and still be home in plenty of time for the cocktail hour.
Take the Perth ferry at least once
Geoff liked not having to concentrate on the traffic, and the view from a bus is much better than from a car.
There are also free CAT (Central Area Transport) buses which circle the CBD and are a great way to familiarise yourself with the sights.
I have never seen so many cranes in one area, as there seem to be several on every block - there is action aplenty in Perth and it feels incredibly vibrant and alive, with so much building going on and obviously so much wealth coming into the city. Anyone living in Perth who hasn't got a job maybe doesn't want one.
We spent a couple of days in Fremantle, which has some beautifully preserved old buildings and lots to see in its main tourist/port area.
It also has a CAT bus for getting around.
The 40 minute ferry ride there and back provided some glimpses of the rich and famous (and infamous): Three yacht clubs, the homes of Alan Bond (now owned by Kerry Stokes), Gina Reinhart and Rose Porteous (whose mansion Prix D'Amour has been demolished and subdivided in to 10 blocks at $10million each!), and many more, including one property worth $58 million - the staff live in adjoining million dollar mansions.
Mansions of the rich and famous run up to $58m
The ferry captain has a wealth of knowledge and I recommend you take the ferry at least once when in Perth. There are dolphins in the port as well.
There are a number of fascinating Museums in Fremantle, including the Maritime Museum, which houses our famous yacht Australia 2.
There is also a one-hour submarine tour which was enthralling, thanks to our guide who was ex-SAS with first-hand experience in submarines. Not for me, thank you.
The port itself is awesome, with massive container ships and trillions of containers stacked on the wharves.
Apparently they can load and turn around these colossal ships in just 24 hour.
Down at the marina there are several sizeable restaurants, all seem to claim the title of the best award-winning fish and chips in the world, or southern hemisphere or somewhere.
Frankly, we found them over-priced and not a patch on at least three places in our very own Tocumwal. Plus they take cash only - how bizarre.
Freo fish'n'chips fail against Tocumwal best
Cappucino Strip is by far the best place in Freo for a meal, either out on the footpath in the sun (if there is any) or inside in the warm - there is a huge selection of cuisines crammed into either side of a long block leading up to the markets, and the prices were quite reasonable.
Typically for me, doing three loads of washing meant another crashing thunderstorm and a lot of damage done to areas surrounding Perth.
So we defended our camper from the elements for several hours until mid-afternoon.
Then we retired to the warmth of the closest Hoyts cinemaand watched Indiana Jones showing us what we could be capable of if only we were in better shape. At least we had a good laugh!
After an overnight visit with Geoff's brother in suburban north Perth, we reluctantly turned our trusty Land Rover towards the rising sun.
We have fallen in love with Perth - I could easily live here and easily spend several more days here, but time is running out and it's a long way home...Kalgoorlie beckons.
Geoff on the enthralling one hour submarine tour at Freo
We stocked up on food and fuel on the way out of Perth, and drove through rolling countryside where it seems everyone has just planted their wheat crop.
It all looks so healthy - if they get the follow-up rains then this country will be awash in wheat. Bring it on!
We took the longer way to Kalgoorlie, via Wave Rock and Marvel Loch to Southern Cross, as we wanted to see where our son worked when he was over here a few years ago.
We drove through several small neat and tidy towns with wide streets and pretty parks, and eventually to the tiny township of Karlgarin, just a few km's short of Hyden and Wave Rock.
Nearby is a lovely, brand new little park, adjoining a farm, with everything exceptionally clean and tidy, and plenty of facilities.
All the buildings are of the beautiful limestone I love so much, and there is also an interesting little museum in the reception area.
Next morning it was just a short drive to Hyden.
Jenny flies again on the the Wave Rock breaker, Hyden
Wave Rock is certainly an exceptional piece of geography and you can climb to the top of Hyden Rock for a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
It seems like we drove through millions of acres of wheat fields today.
Coolgardie was a disappointment in that everything seemed to be closed, and we were expecting to see The Big Safe or something to celebrate the famous Coolgardie Safe, but its wide main street and beautiful old limestone buildings just begged to be photographed.
We spent three days in Kalgoorlie, and could have spent more.
The caravan parks are full of mine workers, and about as nice as you would expect with mostly permanent caravans and older style accommodations.
It was pretty cold, but at least not raining, for a change.
The CBD has many beautiful and grand old buildings, including some gorgeous old pubs - survivors of the 93 pubs that were there at one time.
There are still some operating brothels, a couple of them running tours. We passed on that, but I'm sure it would be fascinating.
Kalgoorlie Super Pit is jaw droppingly huge
There are plenty of museums and such but the KCGM (Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mine) completely dominates the town.
The Super Pit is located right on the edge of the town (you can hear the mine workings going on all night and all day, although no worse than the low hum of traffic) and it is jaw-droppingly huge!
At the Super Pit Lookout we saw one of the scheduled blastings.
The caravan park, Visitor Centre and others advertise the blasting times. It was exciting and not as loud as I expected.
The Pit is completely cleared before the blasts, of course, but we had been there earlier to see the teeny tiny haul trucks (in actual fact they are ginormous 150 tonne monsters) way down below, being loaded up by the incy wincy face shovels (650 tonne with a bucket that handles 60 tonne a time).
It only takes four buckets to fill the monster trucks, and then they start the long slow haul back up the mine roads, kept scrupulously smooth by the graders, to the crushers.
Kalgoorlie mine trucks are 150 tonne monsters
Like a line of ants, they toil up and down like automotons, which is essentially what they are.
They have human drivers of course (surprisingly they are 40 percent women) but everything is computer-controlled.
The Super Pit Mine Tour was a bit pricey at $50 per head, but Finders Keepers tour guide Matt, an ex-mine worker, was incredibly knowledgeable and we were completely satisfied with the experience.
The mine infrastructure is mind-boggling and the lengths they go to for safety on the site are impressive.
Finders Keepers also run a gold-detecting tour, which Geoff was really looking forward to, in the hope of recouping some of our fuel costs (lol), but disappointingly it was cancelled due to lack of numbers.
Our return trip across the Nullarbor (nick-named by Geoff as The Great F-All) took three days of 700km drives. Madura Pass has a pretty good camping area but expensive fuel, whilst Nundroo is definitely a place that is great for fuel but not for camping under any circumstances.
We learned our lesson from the trip over and made our own lunches to eat along the way.
Of course, you lose two hours on the trip back with the time differences, which takes a bit of adjusting to.
Kalgoorlie brothel snapped in passing
We would probably have done more off-road camping, but our 12v system in the camper is not working properly, which is disappointing. The Cub will be making a visit back to the dealer when we get home.
For those who like statistics, here are a few:
As at Echuca, our last stop before we arrive home and strap on the work harness again, we had travelled 9350km and used 1141 litres of diesel.
The trusty Land Rover never missed a beat, and used about 2 litres of oil.
We spent $2068.03 on fuel at an average cost of fuel of $1.82 per litre.
The dearest price we saw, but didn't buy, was at Nullarbor. This was the dearest in both directions. The most we paid was $2.07 at Madura.
And finally, despite towing almost a tonne with our loaded camper trailer, we managed an average of 12.2 litres per 100km.
It has been a grand adventure. Ours is a beautiful and awe-inspiring country. Should I say we are lucky?
No, I'll say we are privileged.
Editor's Note: Also see -
Flat out safety message
Kalgoorlie mining buckets take 60 tonne bites
Kalgoorlie Super Pit blasts off
Karlgarin CP near Hyden and Wave Rock WA