Thursday, May 19, 2011

Western Oz – finally – part 2

Halls Creek may just be a dot on the map, but there is plenty to see if you hang around for a while.

Only 6km East of Halls Creek we found a place called China Wall. This natural rock formation is simply indescribable. It is a wall of quartz rising among the hills, about 50cm wide and up to 6m tall. Apparently it runs for about 20km towards the north, but we only explored the area around one of the hills. The kids climbed their way along the edge and top of the wall, and understandably, thought it was fantastic.

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A little further along the Duncan Road, we came across Carolines Pool. As soon as we drove in Karen declared “We should camp here.” There is a beach-side bush campsite with no facilities, and even less people. The Elvire River cuts its way through the gorge and makes for spectacular scenery, especially if you walk downstream a little, through the gorge and along the creek. “We should camp here” became almost a chant on the two occasions we invented to visit Carolines Pool, and we finally managed 2 spend two nights here as we were leaving Halls Creek.

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Only 2km from Carolines Pool is Old Halls Creek, the original site of the first gold rush in Western Australia. There is not much here today, save for some old ruins and a street sign called “Connor Street”, much to his amusement. The drive further along Duncan Road took us through some excellent country with jagged rocky mountains, creeks and water crossings and we finally arrived at Sawpit Gorge.

The drive down the enbankment was interesting, and everyone except Daniel wanted to vacate the car. Some previous adventurous souls has ventured down in the wet season and the road was deeply rutted and managed to put the car on some strange angles. At the bottom was a sandy creek crossing, which Daniel was a little too cautious with, and went a bit too slowly. Fortunately we didn’t get bogged and made it through safely, although it was touch and go for a minute there. The return journey was much faster!

We explored the creek bed and climbed all over the rocks before devouring our afternoon tea and heading back to Halls Creek again.

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We met Ron and Faye who came to Halls Creek for 3 months, 3 years ago. Funny how that happens! Ron took us for a drive along the Tanami Road to an old gold miners hut, off the beaten track. The road turned rough as we left the Tanami, and got gradually worse as we continued. We reached a wet, boggy mud hole and the vehicle in front looked as if it had some difficulty getting through. “I know what to do” though Daniel “I’ll take a different line, where it looks harder.” Just to the right of where the first vehicle went through there is a large hole obscured by the grass and water all around it. Its about the length of a Troop Carrier, and that is were we became firmly and unceremoniously stuck. Bogged to the axles front and rear! Lucky for us, another vehicle was following right behind and was able to use our snatch strap to remove us from the muck. We walked the rest of the way to the hut.

Apparently the old gold miner could no longer handle the property, so one day he just got up and left. Which is extraordinary when you consider the work and effort he put into building his oasis in the first place. There are paved stone walkways leading you among the buildings, which were all hand carved from rocks gathered in the surrounding land. The ablution facility has a curved walkway which removes the need for doors, while still allowing full privacy. Among the many buildings there are scenes of days long past. A generator shed, kitchen area, and the mine site are all still evident. The miner built three large dams for water storage and they are all full today due to recent rains. The scene is surreal, an amazing home built in the midst of this harsh land, and left to the elements, as though discarded.

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Halls Creek turned out to be a fantastic place to visit, and perhaps we will get a chance to return soon.

We also visited the Bungle Bungles, but that’s another story….

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