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Ghost Towns and The Great Central Road – Week 2

It took us three days to get to Kalgoorlie. It is only 6 hours from Perth but we were still sorting out systems, working out where everything would live, and what we really didn’t need. Everything seemed to take a lot of time.

Finding our Groove

We were still exhausted from our last month of packing and preparing and we really needed a big rest.

Every day was a moving day and we were working out the routine of pack up, pack down, washing, dishes and personal hygiene on the road. We were learning the difference between ‘clean’ and ‘camp clean’ and learning to make do with camp clean.

We still had a mission to complete before we could rest. We wanted to explore the ghost towns north of Kalgoorlie and cross the Great Central Road to get to Uluru (individual posts coming soon).

We didn’t have a lot of time before our booking, so we were focusing on the areas further away from home, based on the theory that it would be harder to get to those areas at a later time.

Kalgoorlie

We had 2 nights in Kalgoorlie – not much time for sightseeing, but we did our best. We had a look at the superpit via the free lookout and did a bit of a home school exercise there.

A view over the superpit

We also visited the Goldfields museum which was amazing. It had heaps of cool displays and some school holiday activities which we all enjoyed.

Lala at the Goldfields museum

We also managed to squeeze in a walk through the kurlkula parklands which was my favourite activity. 

a path at karlkurla parklands

Kurlkula means ‘prickly pear’ in the local indigenous language and it is where the name for Kalgoorlie comes from. There are a number of short walks through the park, which boasts on being a part of the largest Mediterranean woodlands in the world. We had driven through and camped in some other parts of it on our way from Perth to Kalgoorlie. It is a sparse woodland with lots of clear ground between the trees and shrubs. The ground looked as though it had been paved in parts but it is just naturally hard and rocky.

Woodlands at one of the free camps we used

The rest of our time was spent doing the errands you need to do while in a big town. I have written a separate post on Kalgoorlie which you can read here if you are planning your own trip.

Ghost Towns

We spent the next couple of days exploring the ghost towns between Kalgoorlie and Leonora. There are heaps of them and a whole trail that you can do. I am writing an article for Outback Traveller which will go into more detail about what to do in the area, so look out for that later in the year.

Lala in Gwalia ghost town

For now, I will just say, I really had ghosts on my mind. I know that the term ghost town means an abandoned town, but because of the rich history in the area, the idea of ‘ghosts’ was all about the history coming alive. Menzies and Gwalia in particular did an amazing job of telling the stories of people from the past. You can read more about Menzies here.

Lake Ballard and the Inside Australia Art Installation

There is a free camp at Lake Ballard and we set up camp there one evening. We had wanted to visit Lake Ballard for some time, so we knew a bit about it, but it still blew us away.

Lake Ballard statue in Menzies

The art installation is great and very interesting. Created by Anthony Gormley there are 50 statues placed in a 10km radius of a dry salt lake. The statues were all modelled on actual residents of Menzies. The statues themselves are interesting to walk around and see, but it is the location and surrounding environment that really makes it an amazing place.

We were lucky enough to be there after some recent rains, so the normally dry and cracked bed of the salt lake had a few areas of softer clay. We all enjoyed walking bare foot in the clay and Lala collected some of the clay to make a clay model of one of the statues. We had a fire, watched the sunset and woke early to see the sunrise as well.

Lala playing with clay at Lake Ballard
Having a fire

It was incredible and I didn’t want to leave. I was counting up the days that we had left until we had to be at Uluru to see if we could spare another night here. We were still tired and needed some time to rest, but El Enrique insisted that there was no time. We didn’t know what the Great Central Road held and didn’t want to be short on time so we headed off the next day.

Rattling Down the Great Central Road

We finally hit the unsealed Great Central Road. It didn’t seem too bad at first. We let the tyres down and rolled on through. We had four nights until we had to be in Uluru and we planned to free camp at various sites along the way.

Burnt out abandoned cars

The Great Central Road is full of abandoned vehicles. Every single one has had its tyres removed, all the windows smashed out and been rolled over. We started a game of counting them but grew bored at about 40. Every day we started the game anew. I reckon there would be close to 300 in total.

Struggling to make the K’s

We could only seem to travel about 300km per day On the 3rd day I convinced El Enrique to push through and do 450km so we could then stop for a whole day and have our much needed rest. That 450km was probably the worst of the whole road. The car was rattling and banging and we were bouncing around all over the place.

corrugations on the great central road

We pushed through to get to our campsite but we were all completely exhausted by the time we arrived. The car had lost a spotlight and the CB radio aerial had snapped. We managed to salvage both to be repaired at a later time.

Behind the Ranges

We were camped at a free camp called ‘Behind the Ranges’. There is a hell of a lot more in the middle of Australia than you realise and these ranges were just beautiful. We arrived right on sunset and the light was shining on the rocks and it was an incredible sight. The photos I took did not do it justice. We were so glad that we had the whole of the next day to rest and enjoy this amazing location.

The light from the sunset reflecting on the ranges

It was our favourite camp on the whole of the Great Central Road. I have written about the other free camps and the Great Central Road in detail in a separate blog post if you want to know more.

Crossing the Border to the Northern Territory

It took us 10 days to cross the border to the Northern Territory. Only 2 of those days we weren’t traveling. The last day as we went from Behind the Ranges into Yulara we were totally over it. The road was rough, we were tired and the car was starting to feel the strain.

As soon as we hit the bitumen, we were about to do a celebratory dance when we heard a lot more banging and clanging. We pulled over and noticed the bash plate had come loose from the bottom of the car and one of the tyres had a slow leak puncture. Never mind, no major damage and everything was able to be repaired.

Mission Accomplished

We had made it to our first planned destination. We had 3 nights booked at the Ayers Rock Campground in Yulara and after that we could slow right down. The Great Central Road was our biggest challenge and we had surpassed it. We were looking forward to exploring Uluru, Kata Tjuta and the rest of what the Northern Territory had to offer.

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