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June 2005 Club News

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The Great Gravel Ride

by Lurline Penny

Day one: Sunday, April 10: Meet at Bakers Junction.
Riders are Des Gaze, Frank Cooke, Ian Alexander, Andrew Haydock, Ray Macneall, Warwick Jones and Phil Penny. Ladies in luggage wagon: Helen Cooke, Sue Haydock and Lurline Penny.

Morning tea at Pingrup, then direct to Newdegate and east to Lake King and lunch. We took group to our old farm and first taste of gravel, 20kms. We all fuelled up at King and onto Hyden, our overnight stop. Did the tourist bit and some, managed to “surf” the Rock and Phil and I enjoyed seeing Hyden sculptures in the main street.

Day two: Direct to Marvel Lock, 100kms of gravel. Reason for this section was to check out the 1944 WWII Vultee Vengance crash site. After some confusion with maps (Andrew you must throw away that map!) we eventually found it.

The story goes like this - a pilot “bailed out” of the plane after being lost in a storm and had insufficient fuel to return to base near Perth. The pilot landed safely by parachute, east of the “then” Rabbit Proof Fence and was rescued four days later.

His co-pilot bailed out before him but unfortunately he was never ever found. It entailed searches by planes (the biggest in Australian history), soldiers from Northam Camp, police on horses, volunteers and so on to try and find the missing person, but no luck. However today, numerous crumpled, mangled pieces of wreckage are all that’s left from the bomber.

Engine Room at the now obsolete No. 8 Pump Station
Engine Room at the now obsolete No. 8 Pump Station

Lunch at Southern Cross, lovely with beautiful gardens and lawns. We then proceeded east to Karalee Dam which was for railway steam trains. The usual set-up was of stone wall around rock to channel water to a wide, overhead flume, this was some distance to a magnificent size dam (bigger than most farm dams). Remember there were no tractors in those times!

Next we were at No. 8 Pump Station (Dedari) where Trendy, the caretaker, opened up for us. This is the only station that has most of its original boilers etc intact (other stations have been stripped well and truly). In time, with upgrading and TLC, we will see this pump station open to public. Oh dear, its getting dark, arriving at Coolgardie with lights on.

Day three: Left Coolgardie Caravan Park and headed southwards for a further 130kms of gravel. Lunch was at Burra Rock. Explored that, with its stone wall and dam before proceeding onto Cave Hill. It was an awesome big rock complete with stone wall that channelled water into three dams.

I felt too hot and didn’t go over to the cave, but judging by the wonderful photos Andrew took of it, it looked spectacular! The history of the rock is that years ago timber cutters, some with their families, lived and moved about in many places, including Burra Rock, cutting timber and loading it onto trains each day.

The timber (cut green) was needed for desalination of water for the mines and possibly for water pump stations and other uses. The children had their education onboard the train in those days. Oh dear, a storm was brewing and we got to get moving fast. It was to our concern that we try to get to bitumen quickly — and fortunately we made it, with only one shower of rain, to Widgiemootha. Proceeded on to Norseman to stay overnight.

Day four: A lot easier on the bitumen road and we had lunch at Salmon Gums at a little park nearby.
We then headed onto Esperance. We decided to take a ride to Cape Le Grande National Park, and later onto Lucky Bay which is such a beautiful place.

For tea that night we went around to where Ray Macneall was staying with his son, Kevin, and Rachael Sealey, his partner. We were made very welcome and thoroughly enjoyed fish and chips there. Kevin is a local fisherman, Rachael does beautiful bead and shell jewellery.

Day five: A few of the men left early to head back to Albany, those left went for a short drive, while us ladies went shopping! We arrived at Ravensthorpe just on lunchtime when it was busy with aged people off a bus. Afternoon tea was at Wellstead and later we were home. It was a wonderful trip.

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