When Ken and Margaret Sibley wanted to explore the goldfields, all they had to do was check their caravan out of the onsite storage facility at The Pines village in WA. With the van in easy reach, Ken and Margaret were ready to hit the road and tour an Australian region that's rich in colonial history.
Covering 2,700 km over 11 days, they began their expedition along the Great Northern Highway, with a few stopovers to sight-see along the way.
Arming themselves with an arsenal of brochures from various information centres, the travelling duo formed a road trip bucket list and began ticking items off.
One of the first on the list was the spectacular London Bridge. A 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 their portable fridge and hit the road early towards what the locals call the Agnew Loop.
‘The loop runs northwest from Leonora up to Agnew before heading back south again. It’s peppered with plaques of information describing what’s in the area, such as a waterhole or the history of the town. It was really fascinating,’ Ken says.
It was the history that most intrigued Ken and Margaret. Hearing the stories ingrained in each of the towns and walking the steps of the people who had lived there captivated the pair.
‘We arrived in the old town of Agnew, which was a mining town in the early 1900s. We walked around old machinery they had on display to show what it was like back then and the hardships people went through,’ Ken says. ‘Then we passed a lonely grave of a miner, and the plaque described how he ended up there all those years ago.’
Another day, another winding Australian road, and Ken and Margaret were now travelling along the Darlot Loop. Here they passed the Granites, 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. 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 photos and sat down for a cuppa, then continued east to the old town of Darlot.’
Next, their journey turned south, past colonial towns smattered with old buildings, station windmills and shearing sheds. And the duo stopped for some much-deserved rest and a hot meal.
Feeling refreshed and ready, Ken and Margaret drove for two full days before deciding to spend the day exploring the ghost town of Gwalia. Here they found 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 town's old abandoned miners' cottages showed what the miners had to contend with, while up the hill, the manager sat in the lap of luxury.’
The town of Kookynie on the way to Kalgoorlie 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.
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.
As their journey drew to an end, Ken and Margaret began packing up and preparing themselves for the trek home. But first, they wanted to check out a recommended stopover, and it 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!
If you love to travel as much as Margaret and Ken but want to know your home is safe and secure while you’re gone, a retirement village might be the right choice for you. When you live in a retirement village, travelling is easy. Because you know your neighbours and the village team will keep an eye on your home while you’re gone.
And if you're a regular traveller with a boat or caravan, you'll love the many storage options, too, as the majority of our villages have space to park boats and recreation vehicles at a very reasonable cost.
Good to know: Please check with the village you're interested in to see if they have this kind of storage.