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Day 10 Queensland to Western Australia

Caiguna to Norseman, Western Australia

We woke up to puddles and wet red soil - Yuk! Red soil sticks like glue to our shoes, the tyres of the van, we drag it inside the caravan and make a mess!

Our last day on the Nullarbor Plain. We are travelling along the "90 Mile straight," Australia's longest straight road - all 146.6 kilometres of it to the Balladonia Roadhouse. In the Balladonia Roadhouse is an interesting and FREE MUSEUM, which we both enjoyed. The displays within the museum cover everything from Balladonia's early pioneering days to the dramatic crash landing of the Skylab space station in 1979. Inside the Museum are a few remnants from Skylab.

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Part of NASA Skylab
At the time, local Dundas Shire Council presented NASA with a littering fine, and President Jimmy Carter even rang the Roadhouse to make his apologies.

In the1953 Redex field, Jack ("Gelignite") Murray entered the event in a 1953 Plymouth and John Arthur (now Sir Jack) Brabham was in a Holden.
The winning car of the Redex trial around Australia in 1953 was the 1953 Plymouth driven by Jack [Gelignite] Murray and is on display in the Museum.

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Race winning car

Still on the Nullarbor Plain and we see a quite a pretty dry pink lake.

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We eventually cross the Nullarbor and arrive at the town of Norseman and the Norseman Caravan Park at 1pm. The sites are only lightly covered with gravel and it was raining, so once again we have the problem of red soil in the caravan.
Gold was discovered at Norseman in 1892 but because the gold was found in a hard quartz reef and not alluvial, the area didn't attract a massive amount of prospectors such as Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie which we will soon visit. The rich gold reef was discovered by Laurie Sinclair in 1894. His horse named 'Norseman' uncovered a piece of gold bearing quartz, and as they say, "the rest is history." The town was established and named in honour of the horse.

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Norseman

When the rain stopped, we went into the old gold mining town of Norseman for a look. First stop was the information centre where a very friendly and helpful lady helped us with what to see and do in the area.
Norseman has an interesting round-about with cut out tin Camels in the centre. This sculpture is in memory of the days when Afghans and their camels were used by the Mining companies and other businesses to transport their goods. The Camels usually travelled 20 - 25 kms a day over the desert country.

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As I walk along the main street, I notice that is very wide. As I had previously read signage about the camels, I knew this was to allow the large camel-trains to be able to turn around in the street. There isn't much in the main street, most of the shops have closed down. An old Hotel, a chemist and a busy IGA Grocery store.

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Norseman Hotel

An amazing sight that is on my tourist guide, is the enormous size of the slag heap. This is the waste after the gold has been extracted. Up to 2002, 5 million ounces of gold had come out of the Norseman operation.

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Norseman gold operations

The road to the mine continued on and up the highest hill to Beacon Lookout. Here, there is signage on the history of the town which was really interesting reading.

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The lookout is quite good, although the council should lop the heads of the trees for better views. The view stretches for miles and miles as far as the eye can see. There are many dry pink lakes in the area.
Back to the Caravan Park where we make the decision to go out for Dinner, but where? We only have two choices, the Hotel, which didn't look the best, or the Service Station, this is where we chose to go. The meals were pre-cooked and huge, I guess because they cater for Truckies who stop here for their meal. That completed the day, tomorrow we head north.

Posted by balhannahrise 17:00 Archived in Australia Tagged australia road western trip plain nullarbor Comments (0)

Day 11 Queensland to Western Australia

Norseman to Burra Rocks, Western Australia 24th July

Most of the Caravanners were leaving Norseman today, just as we were. I think this Park is used mainly as a base for an overnight stop before and after crossing the Nullarbor Plain.
Today, we are heading north towards Kalgoorlie. On the highway out of town, we pass by a Motor cyclist who has broken down. Poor bloke looked quite dejected that nobody was stopping to help him, we were going to, just had to find somewhere we could turn a car and caravan around. He was happy to see us arrive and was really lucky that Ian could fix both of his problems and get him on the road again. A abusive Caravanner pulled alongside at one stage, I thought to give a hand, not the case, only to shout abuse about not getting off the road completely! How ignorant, stupid and inconsiderate this person was, as if either of us had gone off the road any further, we would have been bogged in the soft soil from the heavy overnight rain. Neither of us were blocking the road. In these outback locations where there isn't a lot of traffic, it is common courtesy to stop and give help, a pity this abusive person didn't do this!!

Some towns out here have really unusual names, like Widgiemooltha. Cobb & Co coaches once changed horses here on the Coolgardie to Norseman run.

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Once a thriving town, now just a Roadhouse and a replica of a large gold nugget. It was in 1930 when a few nuggets were found near Widgiemooltha sparking Western Australia's last great gold rush. Times were tough during the 1930’s depression years, so unearthing a massive 38.4kg nugget was indeed a welcome find.

It was the biggest nugget ever found in WA and they called it the Golden Eagle as it resembled an eagle in flight. It still holds the record today.

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Replica of the "golden eagle" gold nugget

At Widgiemooltha, we turn off the main highway and follow a dirt 4WD road through the Cave Hill Nature Reserve.

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Road to Cave Hill Nature Reserve

Arriving at the Cave Hill Nature Reserve, we found a very nice picnic and camping area complete with toilets and fire pits, not bad in an isolated area!

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Cave Hill picnic & camping area

A little further along the road is the area where we can park and walk to and on the giant granite monolith.
It is where I find a large cave created by erosion. The colours were beautiful!

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The large cave at Cave Hilllarge_SAM_7012.jpg

I was amazed to find shrubs growing out of the rock!

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Shrubs growing in cracks on Cave Hill

After viewing this amazing cave, I continued walking on this granite outcrop incase there was anything else worth seeing - sure enough there was!
On this part of the monolith, I found some more interesting caves in ochre colours.

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Cave Hill

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Wildflowers

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Wildflowers

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Cave Hill

Also on this side, the rock walls were shaped in a wave formation, coloured dark brown and orange. When it rained, many waterfalls would be tumbling over the sides.

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Wave shaped rock walls

It was late July and the start of the wildflower season. A walk along the nature track which winds through the reserve is where I saw a few of the beautiful wildflowers.

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Wattle

Still in the National Park, we follow the dirt road until we reach Burra Rocks where there is another lovely campground that is free to camp at. Toilets, a fire ring with a bbq plate and a nice flat area to park the Caravan. Ian went and collected some wood for the fire so he could cook some damper and our dinner.

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Dinner

I went for a walk on Burra Rock. This is another large rock monolith, but quite different to Cave Hill. Climbing the rock I come across a stone wall which was built by early settlers to collect water and to make a dam on the actual rock. Clever!

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Dam wall

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Woodline Dam

As I make the short climb to the summit of the rock, I pass by many interesting boulders precariously balancing on the large rock surface!

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Burra Rock

How on earth do they sit here and don't roll away!
The wind has created many shapes.

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Burra Rock

Once at the summit I have a great view over woodlands where salmon gum, gimlet and redwood are growing. I can also see another monolith in the distance.

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View from the top of Burra Rock

Back to camp for dinner under the stars. It is us and the Kangaroos in the middle of nowhere, so peaceful!

Posted by balhannahrise 04:37 Archived in Australia Tagged nature australia road camping western trip free wildflowers reserve australia. monolith Comments (0)

Day 12 Queensland to Western Australia

Burra Rocks to Kalgoorlie - Western Australia

Morning, and the sun was up and shining, nice to see after a very cold but peaceful night at Burra Rocks. We quickly packed our gear and soon were travelling along a dirt road for 55kms to the gold mining town of Coolgardie
Along the roadside were many beautiful native shrubs covered in red flowers.

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We soon reach the outskirts of Coolgardie where there is a Lion's Lookout. This gave good views over the area.

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View from Lion's Lookout

Also at the look-out was a Poppet head from one of the old mine shafts.
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Poppet Head

Less than a kilometre from here, was the historic National Trust House - "Warden Finnerty's House." In 1895, this residence was built for Coolgardie's first Resident Magistrate and Mining Warden, Irishman John Michael Finnerty.

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Warden Finnerty's House

From here, I followed the brown tourist sign to a rockhole (Gnamma Hole) full of water. This was where Arthur Bayley and William Ford discovered gold in September 1892, thus creating the biggest gold rush in Australia at that time.

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Rockhole

From where I stood on Montana Hill, I could see that Coolgardie was only a quarter of the size it would have been when the gold rush was on!

The main street was very wide, this was to allow the Camel-trains room to turn around in the street.

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Coolgardie's main street

The main street had many impressive buildings, a sign of just how rich this city once was!

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Ben Prior Park is a free open air museum of old bits and pieces of machinery and some old buildings from the gold rush times. Probably men would enjoy it more, but I did like seeing the old Bank, old carts, cars and other types of transport used in those times, and reading about the history of Coolgardie. During the Goldrush, Coolgardie had six Banks and 23 Hotels.

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Coolgardie Bank

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Old car @ Pen Prior Park

As I walked along the main street, I found out about the history of Coolgardie by reading the signage located at each historical site. There are many signs, so I didn't get to read them all, I needed a lot more time to do that.

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The sign infront of this house tells me it was used as the first Post Office

The Tourist Information centre had a small Museum with quite a good display and information on the town. For a gold coin donation, I thought it was worth the visit.

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A model of Coolgardie during the Gold Rush

Well, it was time to hit the road again and travel a short distance to the gold mining city of Kalgoorlie where we will spend some time. As we near Kalgoorlie we catch up to a very wide load, quite common in these areas. With no chance of passing, it was a slow trip to Kalgoorlie.

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Caught behind this wide load

At last we were at Kalgoorlie and we able to pass the wide-load and make our way to our Caravan Park where we will stay for a couple of nights.

Posted by balhannahrise 05:01 Archived in Australia Tagged history australia heritage road western trip Comments (0)

Day 19 Queensland to Western Australia

Menzies to Leonora - Western Australia 31st July

We awake to a fine, sunny, clear day. First up, we decide to make our way to Lake Ballard and see sculptures by world renowned artist Antony Gormley, at one of Western Australia's most unusual and remote locations, a large salt lake.

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Lake Ballard

The 51 steel sculptures standing on the salt plain of Lake Ballard are known as "inside Australia" Luckily, the salt lake was dry and easy to walk on, although I did sink into the surface in some places.
I didn't think the sculptures were much, what I did like were the patterns formed on the salt crust on Lake Ballard.

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One of the sculptures

Even though it was Winter, it was warm to hot out here, so I put my hat on and took a bottle of water with me. If you have a long sleeved garment, then I would wear this to help to prevent you from getting sunburnt.
Next problem is the salt lake surface. Wear your oldest shoes and old clothes in case rain had previously fallen, or if like me, you come across some patches that you have to walk across that are soft underneath. I found the mud stuck to my soles like glue and was hard to remove.
Insect repellent or a fly net attached to your hat (particularly in summer) is needed, also sunglasses for the glare.

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Lake Ballard

A few kms from Lake Ballard was Snake Hill. It isn't that high, but it does give wonderful views over Lake Ballard. It has a picnic shelter shed with picnic tables, information boards, and in August - wildflowers From here we had far reaching views of the lake and the surrounding landscape.

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Snake Hill

On our return to Menzies I went for a walk along the rather short, but very interesting main street. As it is now a fairly deserted gold mining town, the local town council has put a lot of effort into attracting tourists to Menzies. All along the main street are steel cut-outs where historical buildings were or where events once took place. I loved the cut-outs, they were so well done!

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Menzies

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Menzies

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Menzies

It was 11am before we hit the road again. We were now starting to see more and more wildflowers.

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Wildflowers

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Wildflowers

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Wildflowers

It is worth the short drive into NIagra Dam even if you are not going to camp there. Europeans came to this area in search of gold resulting in a town springing up not far from here. The Dam was constructed by the Railways Department between 1897 – 1898, the intention being, the dam would provide plentiful fresh water for the locomotives that would soon be steaming along the new railway linking the towns of Kalgoorlie and Malcolm.
The dam was named after the nearby town of Niagara, which was booming at the time of the dam's construction.
Toilets and picnic facilities are on site.

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Niagra Dam

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Niagra Dam

We had lunch here, then I went for a walk and found some beautiful wildflowers known as Mulla Mulla plants. These were the pink/purple Mulla Mulla, later I saw white and I have read there are around 100 species of varying colours. The plants were growing here as they love rocky, arid areas. When the Mulla Mulla is made into an Essence, it reduces the negative effects of fire and the sun's rays. This Essence was made up in Palm Valley where some of the oldest plants in Australia are found.

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Mulla Mulla

From Niagra Dam we went to the ghost town of Kookynie. I was disappointed as I expected to find a lot of old ruins, but instead all I found were information boards where they once stood

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The Hotel was a store and a Hotel.

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Kookynie Hotel

You wouldn't believe it, but here we were on a dirt road in outback Australia, and we have to stop for a Train to go past!

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Along here were white Mulla Mulla growing.

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Then a little further on, we came across many blue/purple flowers, these were a picture!

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We are going to stay at Leonora, but first we visit the old gold mining village of Gwalia. Located 5kms from Leonora, this village was very interesting as most of the old miner's cottages still stood. People are trying to restore them. Most we were able to go inside and look around.

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Gwalia

Underground mining at the Sons of Gwalia gold mine began in 1897, the mine becoming one of the largest Western Australian gold mines outside Kalgoorlie, and the deepest of its kind in Australia. Today, the Super Pit in Kalgoorlie holds that title.
During the time it was operating, 82.24 tonnes of gold was mined, in todays prices this amounts to billions of dollars.

In 1963 when the Mine closed, the 1,200 people living there left as fast as they had come, leaving a population of 40 living in Gwalia.

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Gwalia

The first mine manager was a young American mining engineer named Herbert Hoover, who later became the 31st President of the United States.

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Gwalia Hotel

Gold is still being found here. We could look through the fence at another open-cut gold mine.

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Gwalia open-cut gold mine

Back to Leonora where we decide to spend the night. The caravan park is quite full of people who come here and go fossicking for gold. Not an overly large town, we decide to have a look around it in the morning.

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Leonora's main street

Posted by balhannahrise 05:40 Archived in Australia Tagged sculptures australia lake road western trip salt gormley Comments (0)

Day 20 Queensland to Western Australia

Leonora - Sandstone Western Australia 1st August

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Extra wide load

We hooked up the caravan and were on the way again, but first I walked Leonora's main street as the sun was in the right direction for photos I couldn't take the day before.
As Leonora is the largest commercial centre north of Kalgoorlie, it offers many services and facilities for travellers and the locals, so we took advantage of this and filled with fuel and topped up our food supply here. We had only been on the road a short time when we met some huge wide loads carrying mining equipment up north. There was plenty of room to pull off the road and let them pass.

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As we travelled north along the Goldfields highway towards Leinster, we noticed the lovely Rest area of Sullivan's creek. There is plenty of room to pull off and to be able to turn around. This site has lovely gum trees for much needed shade and a permanent water hole. An Iron cut-out and some information boards are at the location. A great spot for rest and to have morning tea, lunch etc, OR STAY, AS THIS IS A FREE CAMPING SPOT AND A REALLY NICE ONE.
You need to be self sufficient as there are no toilets or showers, but there are picnic tables and pets are allowed.

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The "Breakaways"

Leinster was the next town we came across, it was named after the nearby station of Leinster Downs Station. It was first established in 1976 as a company town where the Miners from the nickel mine of the Agnew Gold Mining Company could live.
There isn't much in the town, but outside it are the "Breakaways," a formation of small cliffs in colours of red, orange and white. The wind had created interesting shapes, even some honeycombing and caves - I had fun clambering around seeing what I could find. This area has plenty of room to pull off the road to stopeven larger vehicles are catered for.

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The "Breakaways"

We arrived at Sandstone from Leinster and found another old gold mining town which hasn't quite become small enough to be known as a ghost town. The boom town was established in the 1890s and had become a virtual ghost town by the end of World War 1 as many of the miners went off to serve overseas and never returned.
Today, Sandstone is a sleepy little mining and agriculture town with a population of around 50 people, most work for the shire or are retired pensioners that do a little prospecting around the area.

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Sandstone is still rich with gold and the wildlife in the surrounding area is abundant. August and September is the ideal time to visit for the beautiful wildflower displays in the outback.
Even though the town isn't much, we found Sandstone had a Tourist Drive, only dirt and quite narrow, but worth following to see interesting formations.

We stopped at London Bridge, one of the main attractions in Sandstone, and so it should be! I have seen a few London Bridges' in my time, this one is up there with the best.

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London Bridge

The colour of the rocks in this area is a brilliant orange, really very pretty. The Bridge itself is approx. 800 metres long, varying in height from around 3 to 10 metres. It was formed from weathered basalt believed to be about 350 million years old. Rocks of the Sandstone belt are close to 2 billion years old. Astronomers believe the age of the earth itself to be 4.6 billion years, so the Sandstone strata are little less than half the age of the planet.

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At London Bridge

Over time, the bridge is getting thinner and thinner and will eventually fall. In the early days, the Bridge was strong and wide enough for a Horse & buggy to cross, since then it has eroded away, so now there are signs warning not to walk on and over the Bridge as it may collapse, a warning we heeded. A pity another couple didn't do the same!
There are many great photo opportunities from ground level.
There is plenty of area for free parking and turning around, some picnic tables and information about London Bridge.

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Brewery Cave

Also on the same road as London Bridge was the remains of a Brewery, there is nothing at first sight to indicate a brewery was here, only a sign!

In 1907, Irishman "J V Kearney", decided to provide Beer for the many miners working in the area, so he built a Brewery on top of a breakaway, (rock formation) close to where the cliff drops some 30-40 feet. I followed the rough dirt trail to the top and found where water was pumped from a well. It was through gravitation that the water flowed down to the coolers (which were provided with fans in the hot weather) and to two large vats on the main floor. From there it went to the cellar, which was the sizeable tunnel I had first seen. The cellar was originally cut out with dynamite, and the material out of it, was made into a loading ramp so that the wagons could drive up to the door to load the beer.

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Brewery remains.

The Sandstone Brewery cellar kept remarkably cool in the hottest weather by means of a hole bored through the ceiling of the cellar up to the top of the breakaway.
The liquor from the Sandstone brewery was sold to the surrounding hotels until the railway line came to Sandstone, then regular supplies of beer came from other Breweries, thus the Sandstone Brewery closed for business.

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Views from Peter Denny Lookout

Leaving Sandstone behind, we travelled 36 kms on the Sandstone-Leinster Road, stopping at the Peter Denny Lookout, named after a former Shire President who was tragically killed in an accident on the Mount Magnet-Sandstone Road in 1977. Located on the edge of the highway, it overlooks stunning Breakaway country. It was getting near the end of the day, so I didn't walk down to the breakaway formation and explore caves there. The views from the top are of orange cliffs and a endless sea of flat spinifex scrub extending out to the horizon, complete with Wedge tail Eagles circling overhead.

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Peter Denny Look-out

It is a very nice area for a picnic and has picnic benches, rubbish bins and fire pits. It is a FREE CAMP area. As it was on the edge of the highway we decided not to stay here, but moved on further where we could free camp well of the road.

Posted by balhannahrise 22:13 Archived in Australia Tagged hiking australia scenery road western trip gold mining Comments (0)

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