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I canʼt recall what it is. Ah, yes, I donʼt have to do household chores today and I can have Vegemite sandwiches for lunch if I really want to. I had a good birthday with 20+ emails from every web site I had ever subscribed and of course calls, messages or SMSʼs from the rellies too. Nice to know that even when we are remote from civilisation we are still remembered. Janet made me a bespoke birthday card in the absence of any nearby shopping experiences. It shows me in my natural habitat surrounded by spanners and a can of WD40.
My real birthday treat was the Oka gathering at Harrismith at the farm of Brett (outyonda). It was really good turn out with 13 Okas plus around 25 people. There
are a few photos emerging on the Oka website and I've added a few below. Harrismith is a very small town in the eastern wheat belt of WA, east of Katanning, north of Dumbleyung, south of Southern Cross and west of Lake Grace. Brett (outyonda) was the host and had laid on a huge pile of ﬁrewood and a large BBQ made from an old wartime sea mine. The farm is 22,000 acres of wheat, canola and sheep and Brett also has several yabbie dams and can sell up to 25 tons a year. He also runs outback dirt bike tours (Outyonda.com) as a hobby and uses 3 Okas and a Lada as support vehicles.
Saturday morning started fairly slowly since it rained heavily and none of us knew each other except by web site user name but that was soon overcome by Janet issuing name tags made of masking tape and by the evening BBQ we were all acquaintances if not good friends. It was actually fortunate that the weather wasn't too good on the Saturday, as it meant we had to crowd around together inside his shed and get to know each other. No splinter groups or hidden agendas.
We got on pretty well with everyone and really enjoyed the 2 days. Even though most of the discussion was Oka related, all the ladies got on well together as well and Brett took several groups around the farm in his 1932 truck, including yabbie catching in the dam. His small ﬂuffy black dog “Nugget” goes everywhere with him. 8 Sept Itʼs Charles birthday today, so yesterday was the one day in the year we are both the same age. Happy birthday Charles. On Sunday morning small groups were walking around looking at and under Okas and probing various technical issues. It was amazing how similar the Okas were but also how totally different they are. We were scattered around the farm but were coerced into a line up for the obligatory group photos.
After the line up for photos (which took an hour to organise), people started
leaving for Perth or wherever after a most enjoyable and educational weekend.
Being Charles birthday today, I sat up late compiling a happy birthday message to him (heʼs in the UK so itʼs still his birthday for several more hours). Itʼs been 4 years since we had a joint birthday bash and suggested it was time we arranged another one, somewhere in the world. 9 Sept Since it was quite late after all the photo shoots, we stayed on with Brett and another couple for Sunday night, and another BBQ, before leaving to continue our journey east. Todayʼs drive took us through the endless wheat belt country and a myriad of small towns. One of the best was Kulin, an RV friendly town and a really open and relaxing atmosphere, a far cry from the average location where you are immediately hit with no this or no that signs which can be very off-putting.
Since it was welcoming, we ﬁlled up with their free water, checked out their extremely clean facilities and did some shopping in their supermarket. We would have bought fuel too but their pump was out of action. We have no problem in spending a bit of money in small country towns, even if their prices are a bit higher, when our visits are appreciated, not just tolerated. As if to prove this, when we were having lunch outside their nice park, a lady “Knock Knock”ed on our door and said she was a council advisor on tourism and how did we like their town facilities? So we told her how much it meant to travellers to be appreciated and treated fairly and not shoe-horned into overpriced caravan sites or rejected as unwanted gypsies.
We asked her to pass on our congratulations to the council for their farsightedness and conﬁrmed that it was a 2 way street, they make travellers feel welcome and they will stop and spend a bit of time and money. Too many “No This or That” signs and we donʼt even stop. One of Kulinʼs claims to fame is the Tin Horse Racing Carnival, the origins of which have been lost in the mists of time, at least beyond the recall of the sweet young girl on the shire councilʼs counter. I had gone there because of a poster in the toilet block (stay with me on this). It had said “if you like our town, call in the shire ofﬁces for a sticker to put on your caravan”. So thatʼs how I came to be in the presence of the sweet young counter girl. The sticker turned out to be 1m by 1m in size designed more for the side of a bus than a small caravan but I said I could probably adapt parts of it, but sadly she said they didnʼt have any yet anyway. So to make the most of my time investment, I asked about the origins of the Tin Horse Racing Carnival and thatʼs where I came in. On the way out of town on the Tin Horse Highway, and towards the race course about 10km away, there were scores of amusing “sculptures” of tin horses made from old oil drums distributed alongside the highway. Here is a sample:
So we actually enjoyed our couple of hours in Kulin, a town weʼd never heard of before but is now part of our travelling history. Later we went to see Wave Rock again in Hyden for an hour or so and it hasnʼt changed much in 25 years, itʼs still a spectacular sight.
What has changed is the approach of the local community which is totally the reverse of Kulin. Quite apart form the overt exploitation of tourists (who wants a lace museum or a toy soldier museum when youʼve come to see one of Australiaʼs scenic wonders?), the entrance to Wave Rock appears from the signs to be via a caravan park which covers all the area alongside the rock and ruins the ambiance with the commercialism of a kiosk and caravans parked everywhere. At the entrance to the rock, there is a ticket machine which says $10 per vehicle and display the ticket on the windscreen. Hang on, Wave Rock is a national park which has free entry, how can they be charging an entry fee? We nearly got caught as many others had been, since the $10 is only a (rip off) charge for using the caravan park car park. You can park for free a 100m up the road at several national park picnic places and still walk along all the scenic parts of the rock
quite freely. It is a huge con-trick by the caravan park owners.
It was getting late in the day so we left Wave Rock and itʼs exploitations and headed east towards Norseman to look for the Holland Track, a cross country historical gold-mining track to Coolgardie. 10 Sept After a night in a very pleasant bush parking bay we drove towards the Holland Track when the unexpected happened. Weʼve had stones hit the windscreen but never before have we captured the event on video. A small truck passed us and we waved, as is usual in the Outback, but a few moments later a large stone, actually a small meteorite, came hurtling towards us. It hit the scuttle just under the windscreen, bounced back into our path, up to the sun visor where it rattled around for about 2 seconds before falling on to the windscreen and bouncing off sideways. And all of this was captured on our crashcam recorder. All of this was over in the blink of an eye (around 2 seconds actually) so I extracted some stills from the movie.
Itʼs bounced back off the Oka (which is why it appears smaller) and into the path of the sun visor.
And now luckily it just drops downwards.
“Snicko” conﬁrmed that it hit the windscreen just out of range of the camera.
If a stone that size had hit the windscreen directly it may have shattered completely, since itʼs already badly cracked. Next we came to the Holland Track. This is a narrow sandy track, stretching 500km from Broomehill in western WA to the goldﬁelds of Coolgardie. It was developed in 1893 by John Holland and his team with 5 horses and a dray to provide access to goldﬁelds by gold miners who ﬂooded into the area. Now it is used as a 4WD track so we set out to see if it was navigable at this time of year. We were only attempting half the track but only 100m into it we came upon our ﬁrst mud hole. We sploshed across it OK, but they became bigger and more frequent and the ﬁrst 15km took well over an hour, so reluctantly we decided to turn around a seek out a better way. To carry on it would have taken us at least 3 days to complete, assuming conditions didnʼt get worse. An early scare.
Things got worse.
We had a near disaster on a bypass track as the Oka nearly sunk in.
And this was the ﬁnal straw, we did get past this one but decided enough was enough and we backtracked through the same mud holes again to the Hyden to Norseman road. One bogging per trip is enough.
After 15km each way and nearly 2 hours on the Holland Track we concluded that this time of year is not a good time to try this one and resolved to try again another time. So we stopped to re-inﬂate the tyres and have lunch as Janet washed the mud off the windscreen and door handles. Somewhere along the track one of our hub retaining rings got bent out of shape.
As we were doing this, who should pass by but Brett, whose farm we stayed on
for the Oka gathering at Harrismith only last weekend. He was supposed to be in Sydney today ferrying some new trucks back to WA but something delayed the process so he was on his way to Esperance instead. We were over 200km from his farm so it was a pure coincidence that we should meet up again so soon. Brett, not in one of his Okas, on his way to Esperance.
However, he told us that a group of motorcyclists had called in last night. They had attempted the Holland Track the day before but only got halfway when they too turned around and backtracked as the track became impassable, even for motorbikes. So at least our decision was ratiﬁed by another group. Brett also told us of a good camping spot at the McDermid Rock near the Victoria Rocks turn off and thatʼs where we are tonight, about 125km south of Coolgardie. As you can see from the photos, the blue skies have returned as weʼve moved inland and it got quite hot. We both changed back into shorts this afternoon. 11 Sept Now in Kalgoorlie preparing for the return to Adelaide which will be in the next entry
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