Monday, November 3, 2008

Fields of cold (sic)

Above: Hannan Street in downtown Kalgoorlie.

KALGOORLIE, WA (Nov. 3, 2008, 9:12 p.m.) – Another layover in a mining town, but this city looks like it’s going to work.

Unlike Broken Hill, Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, is a town with a bright, shiny future – thanks to the hunks of gold buried underneath its sands. While mining has taken place in both cities for about the same amount of time, Kalgoorlie is far from exhausting its resources thanks to both a larger underlying lode and the fact it embraced technological change early on.

Kalgoorlie is the site of one of the world’s largest open mining pits, which would have been impressive to me to see, but I didn’t want to shell out money for the tour bus and the pit isn’t within walking distance of the train station. In any case, the pit goes down nearly a half-mile and is still producing a healthy product.

What was near the train station was a modest little downtown. For those from Southern California, think Montrose with two lanes of traffic in the same direction. For Northern Californians, think a larger Redwood City downtown. For anyone without the above frames of reference, Kalgoorlie ‘s Hannan Street is a wide boulevard with small, mostly independent shops on each side selling everything from computers to arts and crafts, with a healthy smattering of restaurants.

And a public brothel that gives tours (no, I didn’t go in).

I ended up stopping for a meal at Paddy’s Brew House. After eating nothing but airplane food, train food and fast food over the past three days, I was looking forward to some pub chow – maybe some fish and chips or a steak. Strangely, when it was my turn to order, I asked for the buffet, which included pork chops smothered in barbecue sauce, a pasta bake and fish plus sides all sitting under heat lamps – that included the tartar sauce for the fish. As you can imagine, I ended up wishing I'd ordered something else.

The pub had the local able sports channel up on the big screen and at first it seemed it would be fine, with a tennis match onscreen. But right after that, some miniature go-cart race came on, with the local channel giving it the same attention as the U.S. networks would give the Daytona 500 – pre-race handicapping, in-car cameras during the race and post-race analysis and interviews. Needless to say, when my food was gone, so was I.

Which gave me a chance to walk around town a bit. Downtown I described above, but it should be noted that – as I anticipated – I couldn’t find an open wi-fi network. One network supposedly pointed toward a nearby Internet café, but there was no café at the address stated.

So with almost two hours left to kill, I walked the streets of Kalgoorlie, ranging a bit off the downtown strip (but not far) in search of both adventure and wireless Internet. I really didn’t find either

Instead, I stopped at a quickie mart where I found that an orange Fanta and a drumstick costs $7.80 AUD ($5.15 US) then trudged back to the train station where I plugged into an outlet on the platform and typed into a cold breeze until a janitor who needed the plug for his vacuum kicked me out.

Before getting to Kalgoorlie, we stopped briefly in the decrepit siding of Rawlinna, which is notable only because about 10 years ago I named a floppy disk Rawlinna because it seemed like a random, in-the-middle-of-nowhere place. Below: Rawlinna.

One last sleepless night, then arrival in Perth on Tuesday morning at 9:10 a.m. While I’ve wanted to visit Perth for years, I’m just as much looking forward to sleeping in a bed for the first time in four days (I originally mis-typed “years,” which is only what it felt like).


Jennie said...

Love the Rawlinna story!

Rob said...

I expect a map of your stops when you get back. A google map would be even cooler!