Dirt, dust and the gold stuff
Kalgoorlie Travel Blog› entry 13 of 16 › view all entries
From Perth I decided to jump a train out into the desert and visit the mining cities of Kalgoorlie and Boulder. I consider them to be one in the same as they lay next to each other but they are two different towns. They both have the same aim though, and that's to get as much gold as they possibly can from the ground!
The train trip from Perth was pretty uneventful. The flatness of this ancient land makes train travel quite dull. I had an window seat but there was very little to see out across the flat, scrub covered desert.
The train was full. I'm not really sure why, it may have been holidays or something but being the middle of the week I was surprised at the number of school-aged kids on board.
When we pulled into the Kalgoorlie station I collected a free map from the ticket office and checked out what was worth seeing in the town. I was spending a few days here so I was in no rush to get about.
Firstly I headed to the Goldfields Hostel on Hay Street.
Prostitution is legal and thriving in Kalgoorlie and Hay Street is the place you come to spend your earnings after all those long hot days digging in the dirt. The street is lined with brothels and the Goldfields Hostel was once a brothel itself.
It's a very well equipped hostel now, with all the amenities one needs for budget back packing and of course comes with a great story about it's seedy past.
It's reasonably close to town and each night I wandered down Hay Street into the centre to catch a band or down a few cold ones. One night I was walking back in the dark and a cute lady behind one of the gates called out to me and we started chatting.
Of course I knew what her occupation was but I figured it was a quiet night for her and she was a little bored. We leaned on each of our respective sides of her gate and passed a few minutes in pleasant conversation. Finally she asked if I'd like to come on in. I chuckled and said that I was very happy to head back to my own bed and thanked her for the offer. She wasn't very pleased about my not purchasing her fine wares and the pleasant conversation was quickly replaced by a string of rather base profanities and I continued stumbling my way back to the hostel.
Everything about Kalgoorlie is named or linked to Paddy Hannan. He was fortunate fellow who discovered Gold and started the rush. I had read about him at the Perth Mint but here the man was bigger than legend. Streets, Pubs, the cemetery, Shopping Centers, Museums, Mines, schools etc etc are all named after the lucky sod.
There is a great deal of money to be made mining here and since it's out in the middle of no-where there is very little to spend your money on except wine, women, and song. The two main hotels in town are the York and the Exchange. Both were good fun. One of the things I found rather pleasant was the topless barmaids serving behind the bars. I enjoy a cool beer after a hard day tramping around the desert seeing the sites but I have to admit that beer seems all the more tasty when it's served up up a half-dressed hottie.
One of the sites I visited in Kalgoorlie was Hannan's North Historic Mine. I spent a good half day touring the place and everything I saw was very interesting.
A group tour started my visit and a bunch of us were taken through the whole gold processing line. We saw how it was extracted from the buckets of gravel, how it was smelted and then cast into those great ingots we all wish we owned. I saw a similar melt and pour at the Mint but it never gets boring watching white hot fire turn a solid into a liquid and then hearing the clink of the ingot dropping onto the table once it's cool again. Yep, Fire! I'm still a man!
The tour then took us down into a mineshaft. I was a little apprehensive about being this far underground but I must say it was a great experience and again very interesting.
The guide explained that the heat was only a fraction of what it would have been if the shaft were being worked and when he started up the drill the noise was incredible. It was obvious why these miners got such big money. Not the sort of place I'd like to be for regular employment.
Once we were carried back to the surface the tour ended and we were able to explore the rest of the area freely.
I went to the sluicing area and paid a small fee to have a crack at panning. I guess I got enough gold out of the sluice to fill a small hole in a tooth but I didn't strike it rich enough to retire. After I'd had enough of that I washed my collection back into the pond. I suppose I could have asked to keep my dusty winnings but I didn't bother asking.
Some of the other places I enjoyed in the Kalgoorlie side of town were Hammond Park and the cemetery which are side by side.
Hammond Park was a great place to wander around and enjoy the flora and fauna of Australia. There is also a delightful Bavarian Castle built around a pont. The detail was amazing and the whole thing was only about 6 foot high. Construction was of gemsstones collected from the area.
I love visiting cemeteries. I think they tell a great deal about an area and it's people. One of the things I found very interesting about this one was the age of the young men laying beneath the headstones. It seemed to me that most of them had died in their 20s and 30s. I guess it goes back to them earning the good money and being paid for the high risk of mining.
I also wandered across town to Boulder. There were a good many sites I wanted to see over there but I actually foud some very interesting things as I walked. It didn't take much longer than an hour I guess but I stopped at several spots to explore derelect drive-in movie places (something we don't have in New Zealand) and to watch the big black ants go in and out of their red tunnels.
The Golden Mile Super Pit is exactly that. It is a HUGE hole in the ground where the soil was the richest square mile of gold bearing earth ever discovered.
I was amazed at the size of the trucks as I watched them crawl slowly up out of the hole. I've never seen a machine so large yet when you look down to the bottom of the pit they seem smaller than the ants I had been watching earlier.
Around the side of the pit walls you can still see the tiny shafts dug by the old miners working their single claims. I found this to be the most astounding thing about the super pit. The tiny shafts stretched down well into the hole and I wondered how many meters these men had dug and how many hours they spent deep underground looking for the precious metal. Wow!
I saw a couple of other sites around Boulder the two days I wandered over this side of the city. The Goldfields War Museum and the Old Town Hall both worth a look. I also managed to catch the monthly Boulders Market Day which was a bit of fun.
When I took the train back to Perth I thought about what I'd seen. I had now searched for my answers deep underground.