Great Tour with Gold Rush Tours

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
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Trip End Mar 15, 2007


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Sunday, November 26, 2006

After a lovely French toast and maple syrup breakfast at the Amalfi Restaurant, I took a tour 'round Kalgoorlie Boulder with Gold Rush Tours.  They were a very nice group and the lady at the desk, Mary, whose husband works for the Railway, has been to Canada and hopes to do so again.  They are allowed reciprocal free travel between the countries as I understand it. 
 
History of Kalgoorlie Boulder per a travel brochure
[The joint cities of Kalgoorlie-Boulder are one of the most important mining areas in Australia.  It is situated 59 kms east of Perth.  It played a major part in the development of Western Australia.  Before the turn of the century, the State struggled for economic survival and it was the discovery of gold that secured its future.  Kalgoorlie-Boulder saw an influx on labour and capital investments which was a timely boost since the pastoral industry was struggling to survive.
 
Kalgoorlie Boulder was not the first town to develop and prosper from gold discoveries.  Southern Cross in 1888 and Coolgardie in 1892 had seen fortune seekers flock to the area and stake their claims.  Paddy Hannan and his fellow Irish prospectors Thomas Flannigan and Dan Shea were part of the Coolgardie gold rush.  It was 1893 and after fossicking around Bayley's Reward for eight months, they left Coolgardie and headed east.  Due to a lame horse, they decided to camp near what is now Kalgoorlie-Boulder's Mount Charlotte.  Maybe it was the luck of the Irish that led them to the discovery of nearly a hundred ounces of gold.  Within a few days 700 men were on the new find panning from dawn to dusk.  Consequently one of the richest square miles on earth was named the Golden Mile, stories of fame and fortune rapidly spread and Kalgoorlie's history began. 
 
Means of travel for most of the hopeful prospectors was on foot generally pushing a wheelbarrow heaped with food and mining tools.  For the winners here was wealth and luxury but death and devastation also haunted those lured by the riches that lay on and beneath the soil.  The major problem was lack of water.  Drinking from shallow, muddy water holes resulted in sickness and death for many of the prospectors.  It seemed an insurmountable problem until the engineering genius C.Y.O'Connor devised the Goldfields Water Scheme.  In 1903 a pipeline from Mundaring Weir in Perth to Kalgoorlie was completed.
 
In 1931 the State's largest nugget of gold was found by J & J Larcome in Larkinville near Coolgardie.  Aptly named "The Golden Eagle" it weighed an incredible 32,177g or 1,135 ounces.  Gold production rose and fell over the years but the boom never ended.  Later, in the 1960's a world shortage of nickel encouraged further exploration in the Goldfields.  Fortunately huge reserves were found in the region and in spite of frenzied share speculation the nickel boom became an alternate income at a time when gold was in a recession.
 
Gold mining today is a far cry from when Paddy Hannan first staked his "Reward" claim last century.  There is little reliance on luck nowadays.  Changes since the mid seventies have meant that lower grade and larger tonnage deposits can now be mined economically.  The market price of gold determines which methods and what ore should be mines and processed.
 
In 1989 a new management structure was established to take Kalgoorlie-Boulder gold production into the 21st century.  All the major Kalgoorlie-Boulder mines, plants and leases were merged into one integrated operation.  Today the outline of the Golden Mile changes daily due to the development of the massive Super Pit.  This awesome open cut mine will eventually be 5 kms long and have a depth of 300 meters. 
 
The boom and bust atmosphere of the goldfields remains unchanged. There is a feeling of independence amid isolation, of resourcefulness, determination and humour and at the ever-growing city still revolves around the all important gold and the money which comes with it. The main street, Hannan Street, is lined with old buildings and shaded verandahs and is still wide enough to accommodate turning camel trains and even caravans.]
 
The tour I went on was a great introduction to the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, exploring the magnificent architecture of the 1890's along the cities' main streets, and learning of the region's fascinating history.  Highlights included a visit to the Super Pit, a drive along the infamous Hay Street red light district and Hammond Park (where there were peacocks in display and a miniature Bavarian Castle built by George Kaspar in 1976 from an estimated 40,000 individual Goldfields gemstones).  We also stopped off at the "Little Boulder Sweet Shop" where they advertise "'Sweet' memories of days gone by - Not only a sweet shop ... also a stroll down Memory Lane".  They apparently have sweets and chocolates from around the world including those from the UK, New Zealand, USA and Holland.  I took some photos of the shop as it was quite an eye-catcher.  I thought for sure they would have a web site but they do not. 
 
On completion of the morning tour we were transferred to Kalgoorlie's newest attraction, the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame.  The exhibition halls were dedicated to mining past, present and future.  This also included the Hannans North Tourist Mine and an opportunity to go on an underground tour, see a gold pour demonstration.  I was most impressed with the Museum and glad to have taken the tour. 
 
The city itself appeared to be a rather rough and ready sort of place.  As the driver said, if you don't like drinking, playing sports and mining, you probably won't like living in Kalgoorlie.  I wanted to go back to the same restaurant for dinner tonight but it was closed as were most other restaurants.  I wound up at a rather rough place on the main street where not only did I have to wait for about an hour and a half for a burger but they'd run out of hamburger buns and were using 6" rolls.  There was also a fellow acting up there who, after he tossed something heavy and metallic over our way (our being a mom, her young daughter and a friend).  He was asked to leave the place and came over and pleaded with me that boys were only boys while they were young.  I did not feel comfortable walking home and took a cab. 
 
Erica apparently can not get on the train tonight so will make her way back to Perth with me where she will catch a plane to Adelaide. 
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