Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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18 May 2006 - Mount Magnet to Meekatharra  

Location map Weather was pleasant for travelling, the road remained good and traffic was the same pattern as yesterday; very few caravans or motorhomes, a handful of sedans and 4WDs and quite a few road trains going in the opposite direction. The road was flatter than yesterday with hills far more gradual. The road continued through the arid shrublands we had encountered yesterday. This vegetation is determined not only by the low rainfall (less than 200-250 mm a year) but also by the variability and unpredictability of that rain, as well as by changes in soil types, leading to significant variation within the shrubland.

After leaving Mount Morgan the road descends gradually in an inland drainage basin where the streams flow independently of the continental river system into a land-locked lake (marked "usually dry" on topographic maps) which holds the water until it evaporates leaving salt behind. The streams flow only after rain. After recent cyclones this "usually dry" Lake Austin was completely full with some of the fringing salt-tolerant plants standing in the water around the edge of the lake. After crossing Lake Austin the road trended upwards on the other side of the drainage basin.
Lake Austin Lake Austin in an internal drainage basin. Usually dry it fills only after local rain and the water eventually evaporates. Birds use the wetland for breeding.
We stopped for a while in Cue to have a look at buildings in the main street. Cue was a gold mining town established in 1893 and substantial buildings made of local dressed limestone were erected at that time. By 1900 Cue had a population of 2000 and supported 11 hotels. But the gold gave out and prosperity faded. Cue now has a population of 350 in the whole shire. Some very attractive stone buildings remain in the main street which is empty of shoppers. Most shops have been abandoned, except for one small supermarket and the post office. A police station remains and two or three hotels still carry on their business near the shire office. Rather a sad place really.
Cue former business club Former business club in Cue, now houses the shire office.
Beyond Cue we descended into another internal drainage basin around Lake Annean which has some water in it most years but fills only every 5 to 10 years and is renowned as a waterbird breeding site. This was one of those 5 to 10 years and the lake was full up to the surrounding vegetation. When Lake Annean is very full it overflows through a series of wetlands into the headwaters of the Murchison River many kilometres away to the north west. Wildflowers next spring will be spectacular through this area after all the rain that has fallen. That rain has already prompted the autumn wildflowers into bloom.

The whole area is renowned for gold mining and we passed many signs pointing off the highway down a dirt road to a gold mine. More signs pointed to pastoral properties grazing sheep and cattle although we saw very few stock grazing. There has been a scarcity of animal life since we entered Western Australia, but today we finally saw one emu crossing the road; we haven't seen any live kangaroos or wallabies.

Arriving in Meekatharra we stopped at the only caravan park, attached to the Ampol petrol station, and set up for the night. We drove into the shopping centre for a look but that was small with heavy mesh protection over many doors and windows and a number of abandoned businesses. Fairly depressing. Much more impressive was a historical and nature trail with good signage around a hill near the centre of the township; in the main street there is an interesting display of the equipment used to crush ore when Meekatharra was a gold mining centre.
Crushing battery Battery for crushing gold ore displayed in Meekatharra.
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