Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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4 May 2006 - Esperance to Hopetoun

Location map We avoided the shopping area when leaving Esperance and were quickly on the South Coast Highway initially bound for Ravensthorpe where we would turn off to Hopetoun. The road runs through a pastoral area with sheep and cattle grazing on green pasture (an unusual sight for us after crossing the Nullarbor). The Esperance wheat area is further north around Salmon Gums where there is less rainfall. We passed a lot of eucalyptus plantations; most of the trees (Tasmanian blue gums) were about a metre high, or less, so it will be a few years before there is a crop. The road varied in elevation from 30 metres to more than 200 metres with frequent hills making fuel consumption for the leg to Ravensthorpe higher than expected.

About 35 kilometres before Ravensthorpe we passed the turnoff to the BHP-Billiton nickel mine; this area was entirely under scrub with no sign of agriculture, pastoral activity or habitation. In Ravensthorpe we called at the Information Centre then drove down the road to Hopetoun. Ravensthorpe's reason for existence, apart from serving road traffic between Esperance and Albany is as the seat of local government for the Shire of Ravensthorpe with a population of 1,500 people. Two thirds of the Shire's area is natural bushland, the remaining third being described as "productive farm land". Such townships which continue to exist only because the shire office is located there usually have an odd atmosphere because that continued existence depends on the Shire not being absorbed or amalgamated in a local government re-organisation. Questioning Ravensthorpe's existence is not new and the tourist literature specifies that the town serves a total population of about 2,500 people who rely on the town for "business, medical, police, State Emergency, Minister of Religion and other services"

daily map
After settling into the caravan park (council owned as an effective way of attracting tourists) we went for a drive around Hopetoun. Population is listed as 300 and the main residential category as retired people and holiday makers. A bowling club on the main road into such a small place is confirmation that many residents are retirees. The new nickel mine is quite close (less than 50 kilometres away) and 36 houses and 54 townhouses are being built in Hopetoun by the nickel project. This will introduce a significant population increase for Hopetoun.

In the evening we could hear waves breaking on the beach on the other side of the dunes. The beach atmosphere was enhanced by the smell from the piles of rotting seaweed washed up on the beach.

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