2020 Solo Goldfields and Ghost-Towns - Australia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by KTM Pilot, Oct 22, 2020.

  1. KTM Pilot

    KTM Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    487
    Location:
    Perth, Australia
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    Following an awesome 2019, 7-day Goldfields and South Coast ride with my mate Bruce, we commenced planning a northern loop for Spring 2020 (well Bruce did most of the planning).

    Unfortunately, just a few weeks out, Bruce was hit by a car in a round-about – ruling him out for this trip (Bike was written off, but the rider repairable and will be back).

    Its mid-spring and getting warmer by the week, so delaying is not an option. I re-jigged the plan a little to include more dirt and remote attractions – the total now ~3000km, around 900km of dirt.

    I set off Saturday morning for York – first stop for coffee, cake and re-cinching the load. Patrick joined me for this leg on his Tiger – not keen on the amount of dirt in this ride (possibly something to do with breaking his leg on another dirt ride with me last year..)

    Historic town of York
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    Coffee consumed, I set-off east, picking up a disused rail line to get off the tar for a bit.
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    Unfortunately, too much sightseeing and not enough concentrating resulted in the first off for the trip.

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    Off-camber and deep pea-gravel - not great on a heavily loaded (~380kg) adventure bike...

    I continue East to Muntadgin where its quite. Even the pub closed.
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    Continuing east through farm-land back roads - all gravel now.
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    My destination is Mount Palmer, on the road in - this red salt-flat catches my attention.
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    Soon after I arrive at Mount Palmer.
    Built (recently) in 1935, the hotel featured 4 double and 22 single rooms – numerous parlours and a dinning room. Unfortunately, the gold mine closed in 1944 and the Hotel dismantled – supplying materials to the next region.
    The front arch, cellar and some rubble is all that remains..

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    Garmin maps shows a large number of streets that I explore - all that remains are kerosene drums, tobacco tins, bottles and building foundations.

    Nearby Cemetery
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    I intended to explore some remnants of the original mine, but new operations have restricted access.
    The road out to the north was single track and a sandy in sections - no mishaps and an enjoyable ride to the highway for fuel.

    Re-fuelled, I head to the first overnight stop - Karalee Rocks
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    Constructed in the the 1890's, the riveted steel Aqua-duct transported water from the Karalee Rock catchment area (some 70 hectares) to a storage dam for steam train and other use.

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    I used the dam wall as some shelter from the prevailing strong easterly winds - no crowds here!

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    Day 1 - 530km's - time for rest.

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    #1
  2. KTM Pilot

    KTM Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    487
    Location:
    Perth, Australia
    During the night my air-mattress fails (delaminates) - will need to get another in Kalgoorlie. The next morning I break camp early and am on the road by 7.30
    I hear what sounds like thunder, looking to the north see lightning and dark clouds.

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    I decide to follow the Goldfields water pipeline for a bit.
    Completed in 1903, this pipeline along with eight steam-powered pumping stations along its length transmitted essential water 566km from Perth to the arid Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie regions. Its still in use today.

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    I get too confident too early and a deeper sandy section catches me out..

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    Not fun. I twist my ankle a little but ok - no damage done.
    It starts to rain. With the addition of rain, the bush smells amazing - I scroll for a Paul Kelly track - 'Petrichor' and press play - Onwards to Coolgardie!

    Coolgardie is what I call a living ghost town. Still functioning, but numerous grand old buildings under or unused.

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    Below 2 pics from my trip last year, but not much has changed..
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    I continue to Kalgoorlie in search of an air mattress..
    No photos, but being a Sunday, not much is open. As I ride around I find that some of the local kids decide to follow me in an old Holden commodore with a big 'Deadly' sticker on the back window. For about 4 turns they follow, then I lose them with a U-turn.
    Turning into a shopping centre, I notice more locals sitting in cars and I seem to catch their attention - likely just because I'm on the bike - but decide its not worth the risk leaving my bike and belongings to temptation (I can't find an air-mattress let alone a tent or anything else that could be attractive). I fuel up and leave town to the north on the Goldfields Highway.

    I'm soon at Goongarrie - an old rail siding in remarkably good condition. Somehow only one window is broken and almost no graffiti, great to see for a change.

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    Next stop is Menzies. Being Sunday, all shops except the pub was closed. Walking in, I'm the only customer and the publican seemed more interested in watching Bathurst..
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    I head west for tonight's camp - Lake Ballard.

    Another largely empty campground!

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    Soon after pitching tent, the wind picks up again - this time from the south. My convex southern tent wall turns concave against the guy ropes and pegs - a dust storm follows. Within minutes, the inside of my tent is covered in fine sand-dust - great, a broken airmattress and a sandy sleeping bag!

    Lake Ballard was arguably, just another salt lake - 50km long and 20km wide.
    It became well known when in 2002 artist Anthony Gormley installed 51 metal statues - making the area a destination.

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    View from the hill (Island) on the lake
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    As the sun goes down, the wind eases and I'm able to turn my tent upside down for the 3rd time to shake the sand out for good. A much easier 376km's today.
    #2
  3. KTM Pilot

    KTM Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    487
    Location:
    Perth, Australia
    Day 3
    I hit the road early (not literally today), back to Menzies in search of fuel. Unfortunately, there is none - so I push on North then turn East for Niagara Dam and Kookynie.

    The temperature is increasing as I head north, pushing past 30C by 10am.

    Along the way my 'distance to empty' does a significant recalculation - now 40km's less. Pulling over and assessing - there's no fuel in Kookynie or anywhere else this way, I double back and continue north for Leonora. This turns out to be the right move, after an economy run into town I manage to put 21L into the 23L tank.

    Onto Gwalia.

    Gwalia is a former* gold-mining town just outside of Leonora in WA's Great Victoria Desert. Largely deserted* since the main source of employment, the Sons of Gwalia gold mine, closed in 1963. The town is mostly preserved as it was and provides an excellent opportunity to step inside what life was like.

    *New operations now operating just outside of the original township and a few of the buildings still occupied.

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    Guest accommodation

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    As it was locked up in 1964

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    You can self tour the old township at your own leisure - there's no entry or formality involved. There's no 'Disney' feel about this - its as authentic as you could get.

    Up the hill is the Museum, Headframe and other buildings. There's a donation entry, I recommend it.

    Transporting timber, people, horses and ore into /out of the mine..
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    Reminds me, it was hot
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    The mine managers house also features. Famous as Herbert Hover was the mine superintendent from March until November 1898 - he became the President of the USA in 1929.

    I continue north, fuel again in Leinster where the temp has his 36C, then turn west.

    Booylgoo Range
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    Breakaways (Peter Deny lookout)
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    And then finally pull into Sandstone - camp for the night is the caravan park and a shower!

    I'm the sole camper.

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    Refreshed I decide to look at a couple of the local attractions just out of town.

    London bridge

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    The old brewery

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    The ride back was nice..



    Then dinner back in town
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    Sandstone had a friendly feel about it. Tidy and easy to strike up a conversation with both locals and visitors.

    After a few refreshments, I walk back to camp.

    Approx 490km's today.

    A big day of dirt to come tomorrow.
    #3
    BrockEvan, braaap!, Chop Chop and 9 others like this.
  4. KTM Pilot

    KTM Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    487
    Location:
    Perth, Australia
    A short ride west out of town before turning onto the Cue-Wondinong road. This was mostly fairly easy going - higher speed, but a few sections to keep you alert.
    The roads change colour significantly and quickly throughout the Goldfields; Red, Yellow, White, Brown and a few shades between. I found Yellow the hardest to read for ruts and holes.

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    One of those renewable energy systems - complete with original stone tanks.
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    Another breakaway
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    I arrive at Cue. My plan was to find a camp site, offload my luggage then explore some more Ghost towns unladen. However the caravan campground is just a hot-baked gravel yard with little shade. I decide to miss that grab a bite and camp somewhere else.

    I arrive here and ask about some lunch.

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    The guy behind the counter explains that there's two options for lunch - here, for coffee and cake, or the Caltex petrol station. I go the coffee and cake (besides the bike-parking is excellent :-) )

    Behind the counter is homemade poster titled 'Dads plane' and small low-wing 2-seater pictured.
    I ask if he's 'Dad'?
    Yeah.
    What sort of plane is it?
    A Zenair Zodiac
    So it's a 601?
    His face lights up 'Yes!' and the conversation shifted from rote-responses to full engagement.

    'Yep, built it myself, its got a modified wing and, and, and.....'

    BTW, the coffee and cake is good too

    Fuelled up, I leave town for the Fingal Mine (directions provided by 'Dad')

    The Great Fingal mine operated for 20 years from 1898, the Mine office built in 1902.
    Well preserved behind chain fence.

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    Back through Cue, the Masonic Lodge - built 1899
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    Then out to the historic mining town of Big Bell (apologies for the dusty lens)
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    Gazetted in 1936 and peaking in 1955, Big Bell became a substantial town. The Art-Deco styled hotel - its said had the longest bar in Australia at the time.
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    One of the local churches
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    Its too hot to stick around much longer with the limited shade, so I depart for Walga Rock.

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    Aboriginal land and has some reasonably well preserved paintings - although some appear to be more recent additions.
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    While here another car arrives. A couple I guess in the their 70's driving a single cab ute, complete with canvas-on-frame cover. I ask if their 'towing' and they say 'no' we have a tent and esky...(respect!)

    Turns out they have just travelled down from Mt Augustus, where a lady had been lost for 24 hours. When she was discovered she was so dehydrated she couldn't even speak - but survived (3 other people have died there this year from the elements).
    He cautioned me to be careful out here.
    I explained that's why I carried the PLB on my arm, the UHF and plenty of water on the bike and whistle on my jacket..
    He asked 'Whistle, what's that for?'
    So I can be found if needed..
    'Mavis' he yelled, 'Write that down!'

    I continue south in search of the Dalgaranga Meteorite crater.

    I pass what appears to be an abandoned sheep station.



    Continuing I see numerous rocks - the rock holes in these are called Gnamma holes - an important source of water for the indigenous people. I guess the rocks are called Gnamma rocks?
    Anyway, from a distance these appear to be fairly smooth and often easy enough to ride a bike up. Rarely is this the case and today was no exception. I made it though.


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    Moving along (at some speed) I miss two Emu's - skidding through the centre of them as they decide which way to go after running onto the road...

    So I find the Dalgaranga crater - Australia's smallest meteorite crater!
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    I push on to Mt Magnet and check into the Caravan park - treat myself to a single room - I've had enough of the lumpy ground and did over 400km's of dirt today, so a little dusty.

    Luxury and just $60/night!
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    I take the time to lube the chain and check over all main nuts & screws. 1 x Centre stand bolt was loose.

    Walking back from a meal at the pub, 2 couples in their 60's call out hello from their van awning.
    'Come join us, we ride bikes too'
    I pull up a chair and answer Where I have come from, How far, Any accidents? etc..
    One of the guys says that he used to own a 1200 GS and was previously an instructor.
    He then continues to provide me riding tips. I listen politely - he later reveals that he's never ridden dirt...
    I agree to try and apply his tips tomorrow.
    #4
    9w6vx, BrockEvan, Chop Chop and 12 others like this.
  5. fastring

    fastring Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2012
    Oddometer:
    597
    Location:
    Monroe, GA
    Great RR thanks for sharing! I just read the wikipedia post on Herbert Hoover, I had no idea of his international background.
    #5
  6. KTM Pilot

    KTM Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    487
    Location:
    Perth, Australia
    I head west in the morning - tar to Yalgoo.
    The Yalgoo water tank is unusual construction for the region - having a substantial stone base. Constructed in 1900 for the Railway.
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    I hit the dirt again, looking for Jokers Tunnel. A tin sign points the turnoff.

    This tunnel is unusual in that its cut into a hill and out the other side.

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    Yes that's around 100+m of solid rock - tough guys.

    Circa 1894, the leases in the area were names after cards and card games - Left & Right Bower, Full hand, King & Queen of Hearts, Spades & Aces.

    No clubs only bats in here.
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    A German guy arrives in his Landcruiser and camper trailer and has come from Paynes Find. He explains that the track is a little muddy from the recent rain. He adds that I should have no trouble though (I've learnt that advice from 4-wheelers for bikes is difficult to rely on).

    Moving along I stop for water and a bite in the convenient bike-parking provided by Parks and Wildlife (yes its still hot).

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    The road start a little dull, but soon improves as the landscape changes. Old mine diggings everywhere. I imagine that this would be a fossickers dream.

    I pass through 'Gnows Nest Range'. If Mad Max does another film, this might be a suitable location for V8 buggies to launch down hills and raiders to pole-vault onto the back of a fuel truck (imagination working well after so long alone in the desert now..)



    I soon arrive at Fields Find.

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    This place is literally littered with shafts - its like, well a...mine field?
    Not a great idea to ride anywhere fast as it could end bad.

    A bit further down the road a cemetery.

    This sign a sobering reminder of the dangers at the time (mine explosion)
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    Well done Mr. Douglass
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    The road gets wet and 'claggy', in some sections 4WD's have snaked either side of the crown struggling to maintain a straight line. I keep to the side, clods of mud hitting my boots and make a mental note to check the front guard next stop for clearance..
    2 days earlier, or a little more rain and it could have been a different story (some video below).



    I arrive at Paynes Find. Unfortunately the Battery and Museum are closed.
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    Back at the roadhouse I order some lunch and sit in the A/C dining room - nice!

    I continue west, looking for somewhere to stay.

    Wheat country now
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    Wubin has fuel, but the pub is closed. I try Carnamah - Hotel, Caravan park and B&B booked out!
    Its now 6pm so move on north for Three Springs and check into the hotel, paying for an ensuite room - $80 - deal!

    A quite meal then hit the hay (well a comfortable mattress).

    623km today - around 160km dirt
    #6
  7. KTM Pilot

    KTM Pilot Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 17, 2005
    Oddometer:
    487
    Location:
    Perth, Australia
    The run home to Perth

    I continue east to Lake Indoon - the local water ski lake, although its a bit late in the season (completely dry).
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    I tried to find lake Logue - but kept reaching dead-end dirt tracks so gave it away as the temperature rose.

    Next stop Stockyard Gully Caves, on the way I finally stop to capture some of the Spring Wildflowers which I have been neglecting over the past 5 days.

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    The last section into the caves is about 5km of sandy 4WD track. Being such a short distance, its clear that no-one is airing down as the thick sand is deeply rutted and corrugated, making hard work for me.

    Some average sand riding here (and one feral cat)


    Stockyard Gully National Park is home to a fascinating group of limestone caves that lead to an underwater river system.
    The largest cave is impressive at 300m long and open at both ends where the creek flows through & over the sandy floor.

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    And a healthy native bee colony amongst several hives.

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    I pack up and make it back out to the main dirt without dropping the bike, then head south along the Indian Ocean coast for Perth.

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    These brilliant-white sand dunes advance by as much as 20m/year - consuming the low scrub which quickly regenerates behind..

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    And that's the end of this trip. Just over 3000km's. The 1190 ate up the km's with ease.

    Most AdvRiders from Perth will have been to many of these locations, but maybe it'll inspire some East Coasters to visit in the future (when allowed!).

    Thanks for reading.
    #7
    bykemike, 9w6vx, stumps and 26 others like this.
  8. Ducatijim

    Ducatijim Hopeless Poseuer!

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    611
    Location:
    Reporoa NZ
    Great write up!
    Lovely insight into so many interesting things, I travelled the region briefly on my 990 back in the early teens (2011+) and easily managed to not find out about any of this!
    #8
    KTM Pilot likes this.
  9. Clancy

    Clancy Long timer

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2006
    Oddometer:
    6,832
    Location:
    Land of droughts, and flooding rains
    Thanks for the report. Really enjoyed it as we did a similar run through there a while back. Great country.
    #9
    KTM Pilot likes this.
  10. GSpear

    GSpear Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2013
    Oddometer:
    43
    Location:
    NSW, Australia
    Thanks for sharing, enjoyed the report.
    #10
    KTM Pilot likes this.
  11. Amphib

    Amphib A mind is like a parachute....

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2018
    Oddometer:
    3,765
    Location:
    Wnc
    Absolutely captivating. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It really lights up the imagination.
    #11
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  12. Neonasty

    Neonasty Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2008
    Oddometer:
    243
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    This is great! I've got a solo Melb - Alice - Perth trip planned for next year. I'll add some of these places onto my list
    #12
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  13. braaap!

    braaap! Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,033
    Location:
    Melbourne - AU
    Great stuff @KTM Pilot !!
    Your images are great and remind me of a trip I did east to west on the Great Central Road a while back... The change in road colors can be dramatic and like you say, can make it difficult to read.

    Must get back there again, thanks!
    #13
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  14. GasMich

    GasMich Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
    120
    Location:
    Higgins Lake MI
    Thanks for the ride along! Great pictures, made better with the KTM proudly displayed. Neat stories. You did a lot of hauling (km) in a day.
    #14
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  15. Valleyam

    Valleyam South Australian Tiger resistance group

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2011
    Oddometer:
    530
    Location:
    Angaston, Barossa Valley, South Australia.
    Thanks for the great report and brilliant photos really enjoyed them. Some fantastic architecture, but a shame to see it going to ruin.
    #15
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  16. Muddler

    Muddler Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,129
    Location:
    Dardanup, Western Australia
    Terrific ride and a great report. Thanks for sharing
    #16