TOURING your own state by motor bike has its challenges. But a seven-day journey with a friend to the Goldfields and south to Albany and Esperance was a special experience, revealing hidden gems along the way and encountering people with a story or two to tell.
There’s nothing like the sense of being on the open road, away from the city mayhem, at one with nature and feeling the wind in your face as you take the bitumen road to who knows where.
At 67 with a lifelong love of motor bikes, I took my 2009 Suzuki Bandit GSF 1250 SA on a small adventure, with good friend John Bristow, 70, riding a 2017 Triumph Tiger Sport 1050.
After leaving my Edgewater home, I met up with John at Beechboro, both of us heading via Great Eastern Highway as far as the Lakes Roadhouse where we travelled towards York and then Beverley.
We met up with three friends, Mike Jones (KTM), Phil Drew (BMW GS 1200) and Mike Bode (Triumph Tiger) – who travelled part of the way but couldn’t spare the time to do the entire trip.
We headed towards Kalgoorlie, the two Mikes and Phil gradually leaving us, with John and I heading east.
A fuel stop in Southern Cross allowed us to make it comfortably to Kalgoorlie and our accommodation for two nights, the Palace Hotel.
The route we took made it a ride of 661km and we were all sorted by 5pm with bikes secured in the hotel access area.
A couple of cleansing ales in the Exchange Hotel, which incidentally, still employs a “skimpy” bar maid, was next on the agenda, followed by a meal next door at Paddy’s, a restaurant attached to the pub.
Friday – Kalgoorlie sightseeing 23km
The second day at each stop, we had decided would be a sightseeing day, so we only covered a mere 23km. We only used the bikes to ride to the Mount Charlotte lookout which overlooks all of Kalgoorlie and is well worth the visit, especially at sunset.
There is some interesting information to read on the panel about water or the lack of it in the early days. Water was more important than gold during the gold rush years, until famed engineer CY O’Connor had the vision of pumping water from Mundaring near Perth to the Goldfields which became a reality in 1903.
We continued to the “super pit” which has to be seen to comprehend how big is this hole in the ground.
From there we rode to Boulder and had a walk around. Boulder is now virtually connected to Kalgoorlie, as the urban sprawl even takes effect in this more remote area.
We parked our bikes and explored iconic Kalgoorlie, speaking with many interesting characters which mining towns tend to attract.
Saturday – Kalgoorlie to Esperance 419km
It was a reasonably early start with the Goldfields Highway a good road from Kalgoorlie to Kambalda.
We joined the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway, passing through Widgiemooltha (the location of the biggest gold nugget ever found in the Goldfields, tipping the scales at 1,136 ounces in 1931) and then onto to Norseman.
It was then a comparatively easy ride through Salmon Gums and Grass Patch, which has been a town site since 1910 and was a watering spot for the Esperance to Norseman railway.
Locals sought to change the name to “Warden” in 1949 but objections soon had it changed back to Grass Patch.
We arrived in Esperance mid-afternoon and found accommodation at the Comfort Inn-Bay of Isles.
We then took a ride around to get our bearings and check out the pleasant little town.
Sunday – Esperance sightseeing 82km
After a leisurely start, we had a ride around the tourist loop that takes in a scenic coastal road. We then turned inland to investigate the pink lake, which incidentally wasn’t pink at that time.
High salt content is required to turn the lake pink, but over the last few years freshwater entering the lake has negated the complex chemical reactions which cause the colour phenomena.
While there we chatted with some other tourists who were visiting from Switzerland and Italy. It’s always good to hear stories from other travellers and tourists, especially if they are from overseas.
We then rode out to see the Esperance Stonehenge on Merivale Road, just a few kilometres out of Esperance township.
It is the only full sized replica of the original Stonehenge in Britain but is also appears as the original would have looked around 1950BC. It consists of 137 stones of local pink granite and is well worth a look.
Riding back into Esperance we grabbed something to eat before spending a few hours in the museum. As well as local artefacts of interest, it also has some parts of the Skylab US Space Station that crashed to Earth nearby on 12 July 1979.
One interesting anecdote is that as a trick, NASA was issued a $400,000 fine for littering. It was not paid until Californian disc jockey Scott Barley asked his listeners to donate money to clear NASAs books.
The fine was duly paid and Barley received the key to the city for his efforts. NASA, to its credit, hasn’t littered in the Shire of Esperance since the Skylab incident.
Esperance has many interesting features, two of which stood out, the whale tail sculpture and the brilliantly built clock tower, both on the waterfront.
Monday – Esperance to Albany 502km
We made a reasonably early start after refuelling our bikes and setting off towards Albany. We encountered quite a lot of road works and also met up with a couple of guys on BMWs from the Netherlands who were doing a similar trip to ours. It’s amazing how you tend to stop for fuel and eats and keep bumping into people you have met on the way.
We passed through Ravensthorpe and then remained on National Route 1 by turning left at Jerramungup.
We arrived in Albany and followed the signs to the Tourist Information Centre. But they had relocated to the High Street the previous day.
We eventually tracked them down to a temporary office in the town library. Albany was quite busy that week, but we were eventually able to get accommodation at the Albany holiday units at Middleton Beach.
Tuesday – Albany sightseeing 72km
One of our first ports of call was to ride up to Mount Clarence to the Anzac memorial and lookout. This overlooks the town and also King George Sound and Princess Royal Harbour where on 1 November 1914, 30,000 Anzac troops boarded a flotilla of assembled ships bound for the battlefields of the Great War.
Little did they know at this stage that many were headed for the disastrous campaign in the Dardanelles, which was Gallipoli. We paid our respects at the memorial and also checked out the Anzac Museum which was inaugurated 100 years to that fateful day on 1 November 2014.
We then made the trip out to the Blow Holes and the Gap and Natural Bridge which are notoriously dangerous natural phenomena along this rugged coast.
Recently viewing platforms and walkways have been built for the safety of visitors and sightseers but some fishermen still risk going out on the rocks. Some unlucky ones have been known to be swept off the rocks by freak waves that seem to happen quite frequently along this coast.
Wednesday – Albany to home 547km
We awoke on the last morning to pouring rain and a forecast of it continuing for most of the day. So it was don the wet weather gear and grin and bear it.
We headed north on Albany Highway but shortly after Mount Barker we turned off the highway and travelled north towards Frankland River and onto Boyup Brook where we stopped for coffee and to remove our wet weather gear as it was fine there.
After refreshments, it was on to Donnybrook, Bunbury and a lunch stop at Spill the Beans Café in Halls Head, just out of Mandurah. Two friends, Ian Moon and Gary Johnson, met us there and rode the last 100km home.
Finally, it was a great little trip and break with John who was a fine travelling companion.
We are now looking to another odyssey in the near future.
Anybody contemplating a trip like this can vary it to suit their time frame. If you don’t fancy long kilometres between stops, a more leisurely approach can be done with stops at Merredin or Southern Cross between Perth and Kalgoorlie, Norseman between Kalgoorlie and Esperance and Hopetoun or Bremer Bay between Esperance and Albany.
Home to Perth from Albany has numerous routes so it comes down to personal choice. There’s a lot to see in this big state, so why not get out and enjoy it as we did.