Kalgoorlie-Boulder is about 600 km east-northeast of Perth. The flight is short. No more than an hour, often less. The delays to get in the air, usually longer.
I rush to Perth Airport only to find the check in machines were not working properly. There was just one frazzled staff member to manage over 100 passengers. But we boarded on time.
I had an aisle seat in the last row. The passenger next to me was morbidly obese for his young age. He sat, tense, with arms gathering his girth away from my seat. I sensed the sympathetic looks from other passengers as they walked towards me. The engines start whining. Ten minutes later we are exactly where we were. The pilot reports there’s a problem with a light and they need an engineer to check it out. We sit in a hot plane on the tarmac for 51 minutes, the flight itself is 55. As we take off the young man relaxes. Soon we are joined at the shoulder, arm, hip and thigh.
I am always fully booked when working regionally. My appointments run back to back. I cherish my lunch hour. My colleagues have grown accustomed to my need for ‘alone time’. They know I’m out with my camera. It centres me mid day and gives me the mental energy I need for the rest of the afternoon.
From a visitor’s perspective there is not much to do in Kalgoorlie. It is a testosterone filled town of miners. They are big and burly. At least, most of them. They are also family men, working hard for their living. The town is built alongside the gargantuan maw of the gold open pit mine. The logic of this escapes me. The people work hard here. And, they play hard too.
I believe there must be more bars here than anywhere else I have been in mining country. In the main part of town they are placed at the four corners of an intersection. You can stumble out of one bar, cross the road and quench that insatiable thirst at another. From my observations, people rarely do this. They favour certain bars. Or, perhaps the ‘skimpy girls’, whose presence is written in chalk on a blackboard placed strategically on the pavement. The names, always exotic, change frequently. I hear some miners sit at the airport bar late Friday to check if their favourite girl has arrived in town that week. It is the charm of this place, as much as it is not.
But, I love the architecture of this town. Established in the late 1800s during the gold rush, many of the buildings still have the structure of those days. The streets are wide. There is a sense of the Wild, Wild, West. And, of course, being Australia, there are gum trees and bird life. The birds are difficult to photograph so I often spend my lunch break in an arboretum and photograph the gum blossoms. Some species of gum trees are straggly and ordinary with huge branches that hang like hair extensions. But, close up, the gum nuts, the leaves, the blossoms, are exquisite.
It has taken me all my life to realise this. I have been looking in the wrong places for gold. In this town, it grows on trees.
I’m off again north … until next time,
a dawn bird