Australia 2010 - Week 2 (Wednesday 1/20 - Tuesday 1/26/2010)
The drive from Esperance to Kalgoorlie is a pretty typical bush drive, with much Aussie cover of gums and salt ponds, and a few small towns along the way ----
Hope you didn't miss Dodd House -- a long, lost relative of Patty's, who wouldn't answer the door!
For some reason, I had never taken the swing up to visit Kalgoorlie. Brett couldn't believe it, and instructed me to take Patty to see the "Gold Capital", and Tony suggested it would be a good time to be "generous" with Patty. I did both. We went, and I bought Patty some of the finest "house" wines available! Kalgoorlie truly is a fascinating town, with an incredibly rich history. It's a bit like coming into an old western US mining town, except this one is still prospering. The main street has wall to wall old, but successful, hotels. There are still a few houses of some sort of repute on the back streets, serving the miners who come up each evening for a bit of refreshment (no shortage of pubs!), and entertainment!!
Note the Chinese influence in architecture, a reflection of the important role these people played in early mining days.
Without question, the biggest tourism draw in the area is the now famous Super Pit. Certainly the largest open pit in Australia, and one of the largest in the world. I had heard about it, and read a bit about its production, etc., but it defies description, and pictures can't capture the size. The massive shovels (see picture of little old 145 Kg me in one of these buckets), loaders, and trucks appear to be just dots and the paths to the top are so winding and lengthy, that a driver may get just one load, from loading point to the top in an 8 hour shift. One other interesting point is that many of the drivers of the trucks are women!
Patty and I received more than a few glances as we took some photos in the Kalgoorlie Community Cemetery. While some will tell you that much can be gleaned about a region's history by cruising cemeteries, it's not our normal way of doing business. Still, it caught our attention when we drove by, and as we explored it, the more interesting it became:
Then just a few "bird shots" from cemeteries, parks, and other travels in Kalgoorlie ---
Met some great folks in Kalgoorlie, and enjoyed learning more about how much Kalgoorlie has played a part in Australia's development. One of the surprises for me was that the actual first discovery of gold was not in Kalgoorlie, but in Southern Cross, which we check out on our drive returning to Perth. We arrive in Perth Thursday evening, and once again Tony performs his magic, and we enjoy a relaxing evening with Corinne and Tony, solving most of the world's problems we'd not previously addressed! Patty and I then spend Friday visiting Gwen, and driving along the gorgeous coast roads, that overlook the Indian Ocean in the Peppermint Grove and Scarborough areas. Our last look at WA this trip, as we fly to Melbourne in the morning. How do you thank folks like Corinne and Tony for being the absolute best hosts? Somehow, it doesn't seem fair to threaten to return, but as much as we love Australia, at 74 I'm not ready to toss in the traveling towel, and WA is not only one of our all time favorite places to visit, it also provides us with the opportunity to see some of our all time favorite folks!
Arriving Saturday early evening, and picking up our rental car (another Falcon, by request, so that I won't have to be retrained on buttons, switches, etc!), we choose a Best Western close to the airport, in Essendon. A great choice, as it turns out. David Ursic, the owner, is really a great bloke, and so we return, after taking a short trip down to Geelong. Let's talk about that! After all, Tuesday 1/26 is not only the last day of Week 2, it is AUSTRALIA DAY, and that, Mates, is one big National day of celebration!
One of the reasons that Patty and I were so charged up about making the trip this year, was that the daughter of great pals of ours in Savannah (Nancy & Chuck Mitchell) has been working in Victoria, in Geelong. We had the pleasure of seeing Megan, along with a great pal of hers, Kirk Miller, over the Christmas holidays in Savannah, and made arrangements to see them when we got to WA. So early on Tuesday we head for Geelong. I hadn't been there since 2001. What a change!! This town was, and still is known for two things: 1) the large Ford Plant there that dominates the manufacturing and employment scene, and; 2) The Geelong Cats, champions of the AFL (that's the Australian Football League, better known as Aussie Rules, still better known as Footie! Footie sounds to gridiron folks like us like a Pansy game. Don't you believe it! As I've gotten into it, I really think it's every bit as tough as our football, at all levels, and may require even better athletes because of the endurance demands. Any way you slice it, it is a dynamite game, and here in Geelong is where the current Champs reside!) The real change I note is in the downtown area, and Marina Basin. It has changed Geelong from a pretty grimy plant city into a handsome city with a great harbor area, today getting a real workout from the Australia Day crowds.
Since we actually get down to the Torquay area a little early we take the opportunity to check out some of the gorgeous beach and surf areas that abound here. Places like Bell's Beach, Point Addis, Anglesea, and the Jan Juc area where Kirk actually lives. Don't forget, it's Australia Day, so some crowds, BUT no alcohol on the beaches, so it's a well behaved crowd!!
Patty's tired of the well behaved crowd, so we take a couple bottles of good Aussie wine and head for Kirk's "little place" in the Jan Juc area of Torquay. This "little place" is a great home, in a great location, with a great view! We felt a little like two old blokes (which we are) imposing on two great young folks (which they are) on arguably the biggest day of the year for most Aussies (which it is)!!!
However, we really got the full Aussie treatment, --- an Australia Day BBQ by Kirk at his great home in Torquay (surfing capital of WA). I'll not get into making comparisons with Chef Bartoni of Peppermint Grove, but this young bloke must be considered in the top two!! Anyway -- we had just a spectacular afternoon and evening with Megan and Kirk. What a great way for a couple of old dudes from Savannah, Georgia to celebrate Australia Day 2010!!!!!
Stay tuned for Week 3! I have the pictures, and the memories (honest!), but it may not be until we get back to the States that I'll actually put it all together.