On the road in retirement
Midnight skies blanketed in stars and the red glow of the Australian outback – this is what awaited Ken and Margaret on their road trip to the goldfields.
Having checked their caravan out of the onsite storage facility at The Pines village in WA, Ken and Margaret Sibley were ready to hit the road and tour an Australian region that’s rich in colonial history.
Covering 2,700 kilometres over 11 days, the pair began their expedition to the goldfields along the Great Northern Highway, with a few stopovers to sight-see along the way.
Arming themselves with an arsenal of brochures that they weaselled into their bags from various information centres, the travelling-two formed a travel bucket list and began ticking them off.
The London Bridge
One of the first on the list was the spectacular natural phenomenon nicknamed for its incredible natural arch that glows red in the outback sun.
“What they call the London Bridge is a ginormous sandstone ridge that was weathered for over 350-million-years. I must say the views were spectacular!” Ken says. “We then continued on to a couple of other spots before heading back to the van for an afternoon rest.”
On the fourth day of their trip, Ken and Margaret packed the Engel Fridge (a portable fridge-freezer popular with campers) and hit the road early towards what the locals call Agnew loop.
“The loop runs north-west from Leonora up to Agnew before heading back south again and is peppered with plaques of information describing what was in the area, such as a waterhole or the history of the town. It was really fascinating,” Ken says.
It was exactly that, the history, that really intrigued Ken and Margaret the most. Hearing the stories ingrained in each of the towns and walking the steps of the people who had lived there all those years ago, captivated the pair.
“We arrived in the old town of Agnew which was a mining town back in the early 1900s and walked around some old machinery they had on display to show what it was like back then and the hardships people went through,” Ken says. “We then passed a lonely grave of a miner and the plaque describes how he ended up there all those years ago.”
Ken found a great spot for sightseeing atop The Granites boulders
Another day, another winding Australian road and the two were now travelling along the Darlot loop and pass the Granites, which are extremely large boulders strewn across the arid landscape.
“Well, we couldn’t resist and had to climb them. You’d think at our age we would’ve known better!” Ken laughs. “Margaret went first then me and there were no broken bones thankfully. What a view was in store for us, it was absolutely stunning - you could see for miles. We took some photos, sat down for a cuppa and continued east to the old town of Darlot.”
A town fit for a President
The towns were dotted with weathered and rusted reminders of what used to be
The next leg of the journey turned south, past colonial towns smattered with old buildings, station windmills and shearing sheds before the duo stopped for some much-deserved rest and a hot meal.
Refreshed and ready to set off again, Ken and Margaret drove for two full days before deciding to spend the day exploring the ghost town of Gwalia, in which stands the mine manager’s house.
“The house was built in 1898 for Herbert Hoover who went on to become President of the USA,” Ken says. “It cost 600 pounds to build, compared to the usual 100 pounds for a house of that size. A walk around the old abandoned miners’ cottages town really showed what the miners had to contend with, while up the hill the manager sat in the lap of luxury.”
Kookynie and Kalgoorlie
It was the town of Kookynie on the way to Kalgoorlie that held one of the most interesting tales from the trip and it involved a thirsty horse and an old pub.
“Kookynie was built around 1903 and while its numbers have significantly dwindled, the pub is still used today. It wasn’t open as yet on that day, but we did find a horse standing at the front door obviously waiting for a drink,” Ken laughs.
The Australian outback town of Kalgoorlie
As the journey went on, the mercury seemed to skyrocket, and Ken and Margaret found themselves trying to cool down in any way they could. They weren’t however expecting to cool down in such drastic measures.
“We arrived in Kalgoorlie mid-afternoon and had just got the caravan set up when the heavens opened up with a very blustery storm,” Ken says.
The journey home
As their journey drew to an end, the pair began packing up and preparing themselves for the trek home – but not before scoping out a recommended stopover that, as Ken describes, was certainly a breathtaking sight.
“We were told that a little town of Westonia was worth a visit. We’d seen the sign to Westonia often in our travels along the highway but ignored it,” Ken says. “Boy, were we surprised when we drove in. It was stunning! Very clean and tidy and the caravan park was the same – immaculate.”
Ending their tour with a pub dinner, Ken and Margaret set off for home the following morning, but not until after a well-deserved cuppa!
Ken and Margaret travelling home
Did you know? Part of the benefit of living in a Lendlease retirement village is living in a community where your neighbours and the village team can keep an eye on your home when you jet off. If you’re an intrepid traveller, sailor or caravanner, you will be happy to hear that majority of our villages also have space for parking boats and recreation vehicles at a very reasonable cost. Whilst we try to have this facility in as many villages as possible, some villages do not have space, so please check with the village you’re interested in.