Monday, 3 September 2018

Day 2 Perth to Meekatharra

An early departure as we have a long day ahead.  It’s 777km from Perth to Meekatharra on National Highway 95.  I opted for a Sunday departure in the hope we would encounter minimal road trains during the journey.  Highway 95 is the man inland route north and being the shortest route is very busy.  There are no rail lines to northern West Australia resulting in 90% of the freight being transported by road train.  This far south they are limited to a maximum length of 100ft and usually consist of a prime mover towing three long trailers.  Further north you can encounter roads trains with a 4th or 5th trailer.

The trip will take us via New Norcia, Payne’s Find, Mount Magnet and finally Meekatharra.  The maximum towing speed in West Australia is 100kmh and I’d calculated we would be driving for 9-10 hours changing drivers on the hour.  This day we will be on bitumen, but that will change once we reach Meekathara.

Two hours north of Perth is New Norcia.  Until today this is the furthest north I travelled by road in West Australia.    New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia.  In 1846 two Spanish Benedictine monks arrived to establish a mission to convert the local Aborigines.  The abbey continues to operate with 11 monks living in the monastery.  

This part of West Australia is the northern wheatbelt.  From this point onwards the flora starts to change.  Grain farming is replaced by dry mulga bush and salt pans.  We start to enter the western goldfield region.

Four hours later we reached Paynes Find where we needed to refuel.  After the price of diesel in Perth the cost at Paynes Find came as a shock.  However we knew from this point onwards the price would continue to rise, therefore the plan was to regularly top-up the tank and save the diesel in our jerricans from the most expensive part of the journey. 

In its heyday there was a town but all that’s left is a roadhouse and tired looking motel units.


The roadhouse


A few scattered old buildings


The motel units surrounded by lush green grass Smile

Thomas Payne discovered gold here in 1911 and the original gold battery continues to operate.   But mostly for passing tourists!  Another major attraction here are the seasonal wildflowers.

We press on to Mount Magnet noticing more signs of mining.  Explorer Robert Austin named the prominent hill Mount Magnet after it affected the readings on his compass.  The hill has a very high iron content.   Gold continues to be mined in the surrounding area. 

Another three hours of driving had us reach Meekatharra.  For the last 30km we travelled adjacent to the perway of the now abandoned Northern Railway.  The line was built during the last 10 years of the 19th century to service the goldfields.  It was extended east in 1909 to reach Wiluna.  The line was closed in the early 1970’s

Meekatharra is an Aboriginal word meaning “Little Water”.  For a brief period the local area experienced a gold rush but this rapidly died.  Today Meekatharra is a service centre for the surrounding cattle stations and mines.


With the 4x4 refuelled <ouch> we made an unsuccessful search for a food outlet and eventually gave up.  In the months prior to departing I’d carefully examined Meekatharra in Google Earth and thought I’d identified a potential free camping area just east of the town on the road to Wiluna.  This proved to be correct and was where we spent our first night.  


Carlin cooked dinner <obviously he’d been briefed on my culinary skills by his grandmother> whilst Monique opted to dig the latrine and wash up.


I <of course> employed my supervisory management skills!

We used the ‘Kelly Kettle’ for the first time and I was impressed with it’s performance.  Hot water was rapidly produced using a combination of dead leaves and dry twigs.


My one man stretcher tent was quickly erected; meanwhile Carlin and Monique had their first real experience of erecting the rooftop tent on the trailer.  We were in bed just after dusk knowing we’d have to rise at dawn for another early start. 


Davidss said...

I feel it is remiss of me to ask, but ...
"I’d calculated we would be driving for 9-10 hours changing drivers on the hour". How many drivers, 2 or 3?

Tom and Jan said...

Three drivers constantly rotating on the hour!

Davidss said...

Good; the answer I had hoped for. Well done to all the party.