Day Seven Friday 29/09/2006
This is our last day & it will be a big one as we would like to get to Wellard on the way home. It is over 100ks to Narrogin so it doesn’t fit that they would have travelled backwards & forwards to Sylvania very often. Nearly in Narrogin & all the phones went off, I had 26 messages & one of them was Stewart Graham to tell us he was back in town. We met with Stuart who showed us around Sylvania and was a great resource for stories for us.
Day Six Thursday 28/09/2006
Early start today & Tim has changed the fuel filter so we are Cruising along well. At Lake King quite early & the lady at the shop put us onto a couple that run a bed & breakfast. Great value here as she knows a lot of the history. Lake King Townsite was built in 1928 but the Road would have been there. Tom & Paula had to travel through Salmon Gums to get to Kulin after leaving Southern Hills Station. The GPS directed us to Jitarning but we didn’t have the exact location of Jesmond. The East Jitarning School site was marked (1929 to 1936) & a sign posted to say the old School was 4.5ks to the NW. We called at a farm house for directions & the woman new lots about the district of course & told us to look up Cam Robertson as he would be great value. We had a drive around Jesmond but couldn’t find the old house as not sure of land marks. Went & found Cam Robertson, he is a really great bloke. He bought Healy’s farm 40 years ago when he moved from share farming at Merredin, Cam knew Eric & Jean Pustkuchen very well & knows all the children. Cam took us to see the old house & we drove around the farm for about two or three hours, he was so great to us. I asked him if he thought it would be okay for us to camp at Horse Collar Rock for the night & he replied of course but why don’t you stay with me in the house. That was very tempting but we decided our trip was to get the feeling of how they lived.
Before setting up camp we went for drive to find the old School as Tim had plotted it 4.5 ks NW of the East Jilakin site but we were disappointed the site was not marked at all. We were able to locate the site Tim has marked but we are not sure of exact location. That will be a job for one of us in the future. When we had set up camp at Horse Collar Rock Don came over to me & said you know I feel as though Norah is about six years old & all the Aunties are here with us. I had the feeling Tom & Paula were also with us & it was like a big family gathering. We decided the spot we camped must be basically in line with the school as the girls watered the horses on the way home. We spent hours talking tonight because we can’t understand how Tom & Paula ended up apart. We have seen all the hard work the two of them endured & we feel they would developed a wonderful bond over the years. It was such a shame they sold Jesmond as they were developing a wonderful property, I guess we will never know the real reason why they sold but one thing is for certain it would have been terribly tough & perhaps the school closing was the last straw.
Day Five Wednesday 27/09/2006
We have left quite early today as it is a long way to Salmon Gums by horse & cart, very sad to say cheerio to Southern Hills but we feel great now as we have been able to step back in time.. The run back to the Telegraph line was really quick as we had shifted all the trees on the way in but what a trip we are having on the Fraser Range Rd. Hundreds of trees, I had a drive today, Tim & Don took turns riding Shotgun on the back as we have to stop every couple hundred metres for a tree. Very rough also, top speed about 20kph (fast for a horse).
Eventually came through the burnt bush & then the fallen trees stopped. Not too late at Salmon Gums so followed the computer along a gravel Rd to get to our camping spot as per itinerary, road not yet built as stopped at a farm so into the farm we go to get permission to travel through the property, nobody home so off the other way to cut across but no road again. Tim decided Barry driving too slow & darkness closing in. Poor Cruiser, it didn’t like his driving & started spluttering so we need a camp site real soon for some maintenance (probably a bit of fish or chips in the filter). Stopped beside the railway line on the Esperance Road, plenty of wood & no prickles. We are experts at setting up camp now & it takes no time at all.
Day Four Tuesday 26/09/2006
All up early as so much to see & do, at 6-30 a B double road train came driving down Southern Hills road heading for the mine & then at 6-30 a 4WD drove past the homestead so we guessed that would be Derek. We virtually followed him to the mine as he hadn’t seen our camp. Had a good chat to Derek, he was arranging to truck out a load of granite so said to come back about 3-00pm & he would have more time to talk. We went back to the homestead for more of a poke around & we almost trod on the guardian (quite a big python).
Derek came back to chat with us for a bit as he needs some stuff from the shed, he was most interested in our knowledge of the past as it differed to what he had found out. He thought the shearing quarters had been erected after the house burnt down but Marcus Wood told me all about that. Marcus & his wife went for a holiday to South Africa & arranged for people to stay in the homestead, the people weren’t happy with the 32 volt so bought a 240 volt lighting plant, the wiring couldn’t take the high voltage which burnt the place down leaving the shearing quarters virtually unscathed except for very singed rafters. It looks to us as though the laundry would be the original as it is very close to the house along with the thunderbox which is now septic. We decided to visit Fraser Range Station so set of quite early on a nicely graded road but it didn’t fit our directions so came back & went along a bush track past Healy`s dam. The latter part of that track, near Eyre Hwy was very very rough so not keen on going back that way. Met Teen Ryan at Fraser Range but they all seemed to be under pressure there so didn’t gain much information from her or her husband. The Caravan Park Manager reluctantly talked to us for a while before we left. Tim asked Teen if we could shower but she wasn’t too keen as they had just cleaned them although a bit later she did offer as long as we paid, we didn’t bother. They did give us permission to drive through their property though so that we could go back to the homestead past North well. Not a bad track back & we decided to have lunch at the dump. This was paradise for Don he found so many things to fill up the nooks & crannies in the Cruiser. Found the remains of an old Sunshine Harvester, real old cars, all the burnt iron from the house, just amazing how much stuff was dumped, it was just behind the House Dam.
Went down to see Derek & decided to climb Mt Malcolm first as we were a bit early. Fairly easy climb & it gave us a very good idea of the Station as it is the highest point. Back to see Derek & he was good value, the mine is not in receivership but stopped mining in January as there is a large wastage with cracks in the Granite. He has been trying to arrange sales for the smaller Granite blocks & once that is fixed they will start up again. He told us that North well was really interesting as they had dug a well which was about 35 mitres deep. Amazing how things get out of proportion as we measured how deep the well was & it is about 10 feet. Perhaps the original hole was 3.5 metres not 35 metres. We found an old camp not far from the well & we could imagine Tom camping there as it is quite a distance from the homestead. There was a real old table in the camp & also big steel buckets used to lift the dirt from the well. Long discussions around the campfire tonight as we are starting to get the feel of life at the Station & the amount of effort required by both Tom & Paula, they are an amazing couple.
Day Three Monday 25/09/2006
We all slept extremely well after being in bed very early & quite exciting so we were away about 8-00. Not far along we came across two more tanks 100ks from Norseman, 50ks would be a good days work with the horses so we figure this would be where they camped on trips to town.
Drove straight past the Fraser Range road as Tim was speeding (about 20kph) so I had to stop him as the computer GPS shouted at me to go back – it was an amazing tool. Fraser Range road was no better as there had been a fire through. When it is burnt nothing existing survives, all the trees are dead but the regrowth is phenomenal, this is why there are so many trees on the road. Stopped at a rock waterhole for a look. This spot would have been amazing for droving as the Fraser Range road goes for miles, the rock hole was built up with rocks to help it hold more water. What a wonderful sight when we found the Western gate to Southern Hills, about 10-30 now & we are here, it feels like such an achievement.
Not far inside the property we came across a hill which we climbed & added a rock as Tom would have done. In the distance we could see Mt Malcolm so it gave us a good idea of the size & location of the station. Excitement rising now as we are looking for the homestead, Don looking at the map Barry looking at the computer, Don & Barry arguing which way to go, as it turned out we got to know the roads very well & either way would have done. The Southern Hills road in was graded & like a highway & then we came across a miners camp so we were starting to get the gist of current day happenings. Not much further we could see a very large cleared area (100s acres) with the shearing shed in the distance on the hill & what looked like the statue of an enormous camel, then it ran off so we figured it wasn’t a statue after all. Turned off the highway into the homestead & here we are, first thing we noticed was prickles everywhere.
The homestead site was very much visible, although sadly the house has burnt down. In later years they have obviously built asbestos shearing quarters up against the back veranda & they are still standing, although rather scorched from the fire. We found the blacksmiths shop but no building remains. The shearing shed has been rebuilt but they have retained many of the old features like bush timber for the fleece bays & two very old wool presses. All the yards remain & are intact, the dip could be used immediately. East of the homestead are more remains of a house but looks like it was built later, we had lunch under a tree beside an old windmill. Went for a drive South then as we had arrived from the North West & before Mt Malcolm was the mine, hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of dollars worth of machinery just sitting, it almost looks like the place is in receivership. Had a good look around but decided we would catch up with Derek Louwe tomorrow as he will be arriving from Perth to do some work at the mine. Had a bit more of a look around the station at the mills & dams but most are dry so back to homestead to find a place to set up camp.
There seemed to be less prickles near where we had lunch so found a nice spot there at the base of the rocky outcrop, there has been a lot of work put in here trapping water. As the water runs down the rock face they have built catchments to steer the water into small dams. One spot would have been deep enough to swim in & we feel that would be the one Norah refers to in her story. Spent a lot more time poking around the house & sheds before an early night, we feel great tonight as we have made it.