Croydon, Queensland gulf country

One of the great things about meeting people as you travel, is the knowledge they share about where they’ve been, which alters your plans with interesting additions. Croydon was such a place.

As we entered the old gold mining town, we followed the signs to Lake Belmore and wound our way up to the town’s fresh water source and recreation area. It is a huge area, with very good amenities for water sports, picnicking, fishing and bird watching, but you cannot camp there. The obligatory far north croc sign was up, again.

Well-maintained grounds and facilities at Lake Belmore

We returned to town via Diehm’s Lookout and, on advice, went to the True Blue Visitor Information Centre.

Diehm’s Lookout

Apart from having excellent information, The Visitor Centre had strong wifi on the verandah. We spoke to the attendant and watched the short video, to set the scene before heading out to the Heritage Precinct.

The town has done an amazing job of restoring some eight or so of the original buildings and including written information at each, with artefacts at many. In the courthouse, you can hear a recording of a real trial that was held, and stand or sit in one of the areas of the court to imagine what it would have been like. It is definitely worth doing and doesn’t go for too long, if you have young children.

The judge, or magistrate

The court house walls are corrugated iron, as it was originally, and the practice continued in Australia well into the 1900s, because wood was scarce and termites very hungry. I can’t help but imagine, in these buildings, what it was like in 30 – 40C heat, swathed in petticoats, girdles, neck-to-knee close-fitting dresses. It’s a miracle more women didn’t die of asphyxiation and I now understand the fixation historical script writers have with women swooning.

The school dropoff, circa 1890

As you progress to the police station, hospital and schoolroom, you can appreciate the advancements we have made in the 100+ years, especially in medical care, and easily imagine yourself cast back in time.

Each house is next to the other, along the length of one of the main streets, so it’s easy to navigate.

The town surpassed a population of 6500, including 300 Chinese, and the original owners, the Mayi-Kulan Aboriginal people have been scattered, so that it is believed there are no more Mayi-Kulan remaining and the culture is lost. A few photos remain of some original owners and the families they started with European settlers. At the 2016 census the population of Croydon was 258.

To complete your historic tour, visit the Club Hotel, said to be the last pub remaining in town, from the 36 that existed in its heyday, or the train station, where you will see the Gulflander.

The Gulflander travels 4 and a half hours from Normanton to Croydon on a Wednesday, and returns on a Thursday, taking passengers through country that they are unlikely to view otherwise. It is an historic railway, built on steel sleepers to withstand the flooding and termites, both of which devastated previous attempts to move a train. The brainchild of George Phillips, the bridges were also designed to handle submersion.

You might even decide to view the huge display of old mining equipment.

There are shops, service stations and park accommodation, so if you want to stroll at a more leisurely pace or spend longer at lookouts and displays, you can spread it over a couple of days. You never know, this might not be the only nugget you find out here.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last abandoned mining town and there are more to come, as wealthy companies divest Australia of its hidden wealth, setting up huge towns to be left as a reminder no-one heeds.

Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, WA

Coolgardie, gateway to the gold mining region, was a stretching stop on the way to Kalgoorlie, that proved to be very interesting. Seeped in history and with charming heritage buildings, Coolgardie lays claim to the first gold sighting in WA,1893, and has excellent facilities for a family stopping there for any length of time.cof

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an old township

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well-maintained automatic ? toilets

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The gardens, said to be ‘the lungs of the town’ in 1916, providing outdoor recreation

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gazebos and trees for shade

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delightful playground

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historic buildings

There was a discovery trail suggested outside the visitor centre, covering the Eastern Goldfields and promising history, geography, culture and exercise. Had we more time, we may have explored further, but headed for Kalgoorlie as our main destination.cofKalgoorlie is etched into Australia’s early mining and railway history and we thought it was worth seeing, at least once. We are glad we did, as the buildings are impressive, the museum informative and the sight-seeing within easy reach.

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centenary buildings

Parking at the visitor information centre (look for the yellow ‘i’ signpost), we received excellent advice about what could be seen in a day. The major sightseeing spots were within a 3km radius.

We started in the very building we were in and explored the City Hall, with its displays of World War I and II, sporting and local heroes and beautifully maintained dress circle.

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We walked the main street, Hannan Street, named after one of three men who found the first nugget, and admired the architecture while we looked for ECOmaniac where the owner recycles things into crafty objects. Very interesting wares. The old market place was a bright construction, well-restored.

There are mining monuments all around Australia, but the one to St Barbara in the main street of Kalgoorlie sent shivers down my spine – it connected me with the present and the past. My family tree goes back to a place in Poland where they mine coal. St Barbara is the patron saint of miners and she is revered in that region of Poland. It reminded me of the great distances travelled by people, to harsh environments, when a new country or mineral was discovered. This circlet tells the dramatic story of Barbara, betrayed by her own father and is just down the street from the Paddy Hannan statue.

 

We jumped in the car to Hannan’s North Tourist Mine, cofwhich was very informative and you’ll find modern-day mining trucks

as well as old machinery, recreated buildings, a miner’s tent with a recording of Paddy’s find, and even a gold panning area where you can keep what stones or gold you find. You find yourself realising that people will endure a great deal in the hope of making it rich, quick.

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The Chinese arch and garden of remembrance were a nice touch, to pay tribute to the many miners who came from China during the goldrushes.

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There are souvenirs and a cafe, as well as outdoor BBQs and tables and chairs in the shade.

A short drive from here is The Mt Charlotte reservoir and lookout. The site informs you of the woodland area and the 360 degree trail has information and photographs about the opening, at the turn of the twentieth century, of the water supply which was the only one for 200km. It is the head of the Golden Pipeline, designed to get fresh water to miners and stop the deaths caused by lack of water.

One claim to fame of Kalgoorlie is the Superpit – once the largest open cut gold mine in Australia (now beaten by another in WA) which has a stunning viewing platform. The mine produces a massive 28 tonnes of gold a year.

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Those massive trucks are at the bottom of the pit

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the viewing platform is very safe

Burt Street, one of the original features of Boulder, established first, was damaged by an earthquake in 2005. A stone’s throw from the Superpit, it has recently been restored to its original state, from the late 1800s. Charming and with a symmetry that blended with the colour scheme, it was very quiet and the locals said that it was hard to keep up business when school holidays were started, and summer coincided.  It’s a hot and dusty place and many people stay home or in the main street of Kalgoorlie to do their Christmas shopping. We had a very good free- trade coffee in Newton’s Espresso Bar.

So, were we in Boulder or Kalgoorlie? Both – the towns merged at the start of the 19th century to sustain growth and share the only water supply for over 200km.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder explored sufficiently, we made for a petrol station, filled up with diesel and made it to Norseman before sunset.

There is a railway line that connects Adelaide to Perth, via Kalgoorlie, the Indian Pacific. Most drivers crossing The Nullarbor do not go through Kalgoorlie, as there is a quicker way to Esperance and Perth.

Always, always take water and a hat. Go west young ones, and see the world!

Safe travels.

Litchfield National Park

An easy hour by car, south of Darwin, in the Northern Territory, lies Litchfield National Park. Named after an early explorer, the region has been cared for by the Mak Mak Marranunggu, Werat and Waray Aboriginal people for thousands of years.

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The region was used for grazing and the mining of tin, copper and uranium. There are many falls to explore and some areas that have been developed to encourage tourists and visitors, with carparks, picnic areas, boardwalks and campgrounds. There are still natural trails and 4WD tracks for the adventure-seeking.

Berry Springs has 3 ‘pools’ that join if you want to ride downstream on a noodle. Not too deep and quite safe. The water is very clear near the edge – you can see fish. Wangi Falls is a surprise. You swim out to one of the waterfalls and get pounded by the downpour. The floor of the lagoon (?) begins as sandy and is dark in the centre, with twigs and debris. You would have to be able to tread water or swim maybe 60m unless you stay by the edge, and many do.

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Beautifully maintained, Wangi has unpowered sites but we chose not to stay here, as there was limited shade in the camping area. We stayed at Litchfield Tourist Park instead, on a grassed site amid beautiful flowers and unusual birdsong that defied description.

Rangers check daily to keep an eye on crocodiles and remove them from public swimming holes, but I would ask at the ranger station, too. I have read that you shouldn’t sit on bare ground in Litchfield, as scrub typhus is a possibility. So spread that towel on the ground and dry off in the heat!

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Take a hat, bathers/swimmers, water, first aid kit and shoes, but don’t miss it!

 

Gawler

Approximately 50km north of Adelaide, in South Australia, lies the town of Gawler. Established in 1836, it was the only other town planned by Col. William Light (the other being Adelaide, the capital city of SA). Unlike the square plan of the capital, however, the city of Gawler has a triangular centre.

 

Arriving by train, my brother and I decided to do one of the walks available from the visitor centre, and ended up doing a mix of the Cultural Walk and the Church Hill Walk. The whole thing took us 2 hours, including a half hour lunch by the river and  a dash to the train for our return journey. There are many places to eat, but I can recommend Cafe on Jacob, with its homemade fare and warm atmosphere.

If one of Adelaide’s titles is ‘City of Churches’, then Gawler is a mini city. Church Hill has four churches, positioned almost squarely, and the history was very interesting, representing not only differences in faith but often language and trade.  Gawler was surrounded by mining, farming and industry. The lovely buildings and cottages nearby don’t all face the centres of worship, but it is impossible to walk the area and miss any. The old convent is near the Catholic Church and would make a great scene for a movie.

There is some very nice architecture, quaint buildings and, generally, a pleasant ambiance. The history on plaques or in the walking guides required a bit of reading time, but was well worth it.

The main street has altered over the years, with some of the charm of a big country town lost with progress. There remains many delightful buildings and it is still a point through which travellers make their way to the famous Barossa or Clare Valleys. Very decent hotels, cafes, bakeries and parks add to the value of a visit here. There are supermarkets, a cinema, outdoor pool and caravan park, all within easy reach of the train station so if you have to dash to get home it isn’t far. The one hour (approx) train journey from Adelaide will take you through suburbs, farmland and industry, as well as past schools, the football oval and the heritage Gawler train station. You actually get off at Gawler Central which is the last stop on the line.

Visit the Information Centre for maps, or go online to download them earlier. The original owners, the Kaurna (pronounced Garna) people, are located along the Adelaide plains and lived in the Gawler area for at least 40 000 years.

The river has flooded, with water lapping over the bridges in 1992, which is a lot of water, but generally it is a dry area.

Head off from here to Whispering Wall or one of the major wine regions. A very pleasant day trip.

Take water, hat and camera.

Safe travels.