First thing this morning I did some editing of my blog on the laptop, just in case I had time to update another day or two. I had made a decision to go to Lake Ballard, up north and east about 200km. I had seen this advert for it and it jogged my memory of something I had seen a few years back. I had no idea on road conditions, but I would find out first as it had 51km of dirt to get there.
First off before I left I took a few quick photos of a few of the old buildings in the main street.
Then I spoke to a local copper down the cop shop, he advised the road is hard packed dirt and no loose stuff or corrugations. So, off I went and headed first off to Menzies in the north, I had another crosswind, but this time from the east, I have no idea what this wind is doing, nor does it I reckon! I arrived at the Menzies servo where I grabbed a ‘leper in a sleeping bag’ * as I was hungry. I also spoke to the lady here and she said the road was like a highway, better than some roads out east, so great news :) The servo was great, it was covered in all these old number plates and old adverts some bring back memories.
Then onto the dirt just around the corner and it was not too long before I was swearing at the copper and the lady at the servo! The road was shit, it may be OK for a normal car and maybe also for a dirt bike, but a fully laden nearly road bike, it was scary.
The photos do not show the bad stuff very well, all the scary bits I was too busy hanging on to stop and take photos, but there was about 25km of corrugation out of the 51km of road. There were 3 wheel tracks and in between were the built up dirt mounds you find on normal corrugated roads. I nearly turned around, but there were some nice flat bits as well so I could get some speed up. I also thought about stopping and dropping off the extra camping gear, tent etc. In the end I decided to persevere as I would be loaded up on the road to Wave Rock later on anyway, good practice I thought :)
Anyway, just under an hour later I arrived at Lake Ballard
This is a salt lake and an artist called Antony Gormley came here and using laser scans of the local Menzies population, he sculpted from steel, l 51 sculptures and stood them randomly around the lake bed. There was a sign with a lot of warnings, I was also advised by the cops not to ride on the lake as it is soft.
So, I failed the first four rules as I only had 3l of water, I had no long sleeves, I was alone and it was nearly midday ;) Anyway, the bike was in a nice shady spot, although the ground was a bit soft so I found an old tin can for a footpeg puck.
Then it was off down to the lake bed where I realised that the sculptures were spread out all over, not grouped together like I thought, never mind, no wonder they said allow two hours, although, it looks like my plans of getting to Wave Rock today are on hold. You can see the dark shadows in the distance; they are figures that I have to get to and they go around this small island.
While walking towards them I could see heaps of old footprints, but I also could feel myself slipping and sliding, the crust was very thin, I looked behind and my footprints were very damp.
Then I arrived at the first and closest figure, of a woman I guess :)
On the way to the next one I could see these bog marks where cars had driven onto the lake bed and become bogged, they then ripped the surface up when they got out and the scars filled with salty water which evaporated and left the salt crystals behind.
The next one was a male.
In this one you can see shadows on the horizon, more and more, but too far to walk for this little black duck!
Next up I decided to climb that small island as it promised a good view, although the climb looked a bit steep and slippery
Once at the top I had a ‘dingos breakfast’* and took some photos as well :) My camera does not have the capacity to show the figures from this distance, but what you can see are all these tracks that look like stars that go to all these points, at the centre of each point is a figure, all the white stuff is surface salt.
And in this one you can see the wheel tracks from cars and the walking tracks.
I headed back after a cool down in the shade, and was a little bit faster than going in, but I still had some difficulties on the corrugations, mainly the bike is too heavy loaded up. When I got back to Menzies I added a few litres of fuel as I would need it and it was expensive here. I also told the lady she needed to downgrade her road condition for motorbikes from excellent to crap :(
So, I arrived in Kalgoorlie, which is really called Kalgoorlie – Boulder on all the signs, just after 2pm and it was way too late to attempt the Wave Rock so I recalled there being a gold pour at the Miners Hall of Fame, which was on the way in so I stopped. As it turns out, it costs $30 and you get to go underground to see how the gold was mined in the olden days and the way it was done until recently. It included the gold pouring, but that was later and was included in the price. So, I just managed to get onto the tour underground, only 4 people per cage so it takes a while for everyone to get down to the 120ft level.
This is where the mine has been played out and modified slightly so visitors can experience what it is like. This is our guide, he worked under here for 30 years, behind him is a wall of marks, they are the drill holes that have to be drilled for the explosives, they need to do 2 drills and fire each shift. On the left is a Bogger truck, it has a shovel in front that lifts the dirt straight back over itself into a skip that normally sits behind it, closer to the camera.
And this is the drill they used; it is air compressed and drives a 2 meter drill bit which has detachable diamond bits on it. He fired up the drill and it was loud at 120dB and apparently at the end of your shift you only buy half a beer, as the top half would have shaken out . There is a video of the drill in action, but the sound is nowhere near what it is like in an enclosed tunnel.
This is a thunderbox as once you are underground you stay under until the end of the shift, bring your own paper I guess :)
This thing here is a 24V battery operated skip puller; it can haul 4 skips for a whole 7 hour shift before it is recharged overnight. Prior to this the men had to manually haul these skips along the tracks themselves.
Then we had to wait for the lift as 30 people went back up top in groups of 4. It was straight to the gold poring demonstration where a small furnace was melting a ‘gold’ bar in a crucible ready to be poured into a mould. There was a flowchart showing how the gold ore is processed on the wall.
The chap doing the pour also mentioned that today’s price is $960US per Troy ounce which is 31g. Here is a small video of the pour itself, it all looked quite hot :)
After he had placed the ingot into a water tub to cool, he explained that the gold he had poured was not gold, but mostly bronze, but it did have 10g of gold in it. At today’s price having a 1kg bar of gold being passed around was handing over $96,000AU, so it does not get done. It still looked OK and I was going to test it the old fashioned way, but decided to keep my teeth intact :)
There were lots of displays around, this one of the old kit used in ingot pouring.
And some old machinery, the drill shaft towers and a replica of an old miners camp.
There was also a machine that is used nowadays to do the same job as men back then, a bit more comfortable, less heat and dust etc.
After that I went and had a look down this dirt track I had passed a few times now, the sign said ‘Two Up’, now I know what Two Up is, it is a game played to gamble money and is played anytime you like in Australia, as long as it is Anzac Day, or you are in a casino, it is banned otherwise.
So, off down more dirt, but not very far before I came to what was once a Two Up ring, a proper one with walls and roof and everything, it was only a few km’s from the mine :)
And that was it for me for the day; I went back to the same caravan park and set up my tent in the same spot before checking internet at the same place I uploaded the movies I took as they always hog bandwidth, then I got some Big Rooter for tea and had a quiet night. The forecast for the next day was not looking good, rain coming out to Kalgoorlie which means I would have to go through it. Hopefully I could get the dirt road section to Wave Rock out of the way before the rain hits as it would save some distance, approximately 170km. The miner chap I spoke to had said the road was good but when it rains it is bad, so I shall take it as it comes.
Day – 414km
Trip – 12,590km
Note * A leper in a sleeping bag = A Chico Roll – a type of vegetable mix inside a pastry roll
Note ^ A dingos breakfast = A piss and a look around
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