Australia Vacation: Week Two

I arrived in Perth, West Australia in the early afternoon of June 22nd. While here, I am staying at my father’s place in Yangebup (yan-je-bup) which is a short distance south of Perth itself.

For the first few days we puttered around town and got caught up on some errands that needed running. This downtime was helpful as the five hour flight from Brisbane was decidedly cramped and uncomfortable – though, once again, my Zune helped preserve my sanity.

We had a wonderful afternoon and evening with Mark and Narelle. I suppose you could say that Mark is my step-brother; using Aussie ocker, I prefer to call him “me mate.” Narelle and their two daughters participate in horse riding and they have dedicated a large part of their beautiful house to pastures and training areas.

The internet access speeds in Australia continue to be a major disappointment. The government recently inked a multi-billion dollar deal with the national monopoly Telstra. I hope this improves access for everyone across the country. This is one factor that would seriously give me pause about ever moving here permanently – I am used to throughput speeds probably 10 to 15 times faster.

Kalgoorlie And The Superpit

In the early morning of June 25th, Dad and I caught the Transwa Prospector train out to gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie. I have high praise for the train and the trip. You could hardly tell that you were on a train, the rails were really that smooth. It was only the last quarter or so as we approached Kalgoorlie that the familiar clickity-clack sound and motion of a train ride was noticable.

4740896951_4c3aaba723_b[1]The key draw here is the KCGM Superpit Tour. Gold was discovered here in 18xx and the region is still one of the biggest gold producing mines today.

The superpit simply must be seen in order to fully appreciate its immensity; even then, it takes several seconds for the size to sink in. It is 3 kilometers long, 1.5 kilometers wide and about 500 meters deep. That means it is deeper than the Empire State Building is tall and if the price of gold remains high there are plans to go at least another 100 meters deeper still.

4740929483_2ce38f75b4_b[1] Of course, the big trucks used to haul ore out of the pit are every bit as impressive as the hole itself. Interestingly, upwards of 41% of the truck drivers are women. In typical Aussie style, the sexist joke is that the women keep the trucks cleaner than the men and get hear when something is going wrong sooner.

Generally, only one truck out of seven loads is taking gold-bearing ore out for processing. The rest is waste. That one truck will carry about 260 tons of rock and will produce enough gold to create a nugget about the size of a golf ball.

The big trucks only move about 10 KPH coming out of the pit. In one 10-hour shift a driver will make about 30 trips.

West Australia Museum

4741047483_bb9bf6fc8f_b[1] For history buffs, the West Australia Museum is worth seeing too. You gain a deeper appreciation for the various forces that shaped this region. The entrance is dominated by an old mineshaft head that used to stand where the superpit is now being dug.

It was interesting to learn here that Australia helped shape Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Though not as significantly as the Galapagos Islands, the Beagle did sail to various Aussie ports as it made its way back to England. Darwin collected several plant and animal samples for the Royal Society from Australia.

Kalgoorlie wasn’t as lawless and the famed American West, but the huge influx of miners and incredible flow of riches did bring vice. Kalgoorlie still has three active brothels and these offer tours as part of their other services. Time constraints prevented me from taking the brothel tour (I swear, just the tour!) though.

Tomorrow we head south toward Bunbury. Much of the south-west coast of Australia is made up of coastal limestone; which has allowed some spectacular caves to form here. I am looking forward to this new adventure!