02 June 2014
Families enjoying the water fountain in the Mall on Western Australia Day
Today is a public holiday for Western Australia Day, so fairly quiet in Wagin and no real need for an early start. The sun was shining and the sky was blue when we left the motel, all in all a delightful day for our drive back to Perth. The scenery continued with the grain fields spreading out to the horizon, the scrub started to disappear and the eucalypts started to appear. We just had a few small towns to pass through, and being a pubic holiday we were not sure what would be open for a coffee and snack during our drive.
Narrogin was the first large town we encountered, the GPS took us on a detour around the town, but as we had passed this way before we didn’t back track.
Cuballing was a surprise, it seemed only a small town from the highway, but as we noticed some substantial old buildings and homes we pulled off the highway to explore further. The name Cuballing is taken from ‘Cooballing Pool’ which was discovered by John Forrest in 1870. The Great Southern Railway was completed in 1889 and with this precious link to civilisation came the rush of settlers to places like Cuballing.
At this time it was hoped that Cuballing would be picked to become the rail centre, with hopes of expanding it into a large town. However in 1906 Narrogin was chosen mainly due to water being readily available. Once it became apparent that the railhead was to be established in Narrogin there was a steady decline in people coming to settle in the area. The Great Depression in the 1930’s did not help in attracting people and many farming families found they had to leave their farms and seek a living elsewhere.
The original Post Office with bicycle out front (left) and old farm machinery at the entrance to the town, reflecting its agricultural history, in front of a gorgeous wattle tree (right)
We found a local lady who was doing some gardening in the grounds of what is now the CWA building (formerly the Roads Board and Shire Council office) and she explained the history of Cuballing as above. She said the locals preferred the town as it is, not a busy place, and they are only 14 kms to Narrogin anyway, so she was happy about that.
A little town with the cute name of Popanyinning passed in a flash, the next pretty town was Pingelly. I noticed that a number of the town signs had little numbats on them, and it brought to mind a dear friend, John Shaw, who was a director with Film Australia many years ago and who had photographed the numbats when they were rediscovered in Western Australia, apparently they only live in this area and feed exclusively on termites. By coincidence, today is the birthday of John’s widow, Kay who has been a friend of mine since childhood and it was so interesting to chat to her this morning as we remembered the time John travelled to W.A. to photograph this endangered species.
Brookton was the town where we veered on to another highway to take us to Perth. It is a sad looking little town, the old railway station still stands, but many of the shops are closed up, an indication that life can be tough in our rural areas. We drove through a thick mist when approaching the town, which also gave it an eerie feeling. There was a roadhouse open where we were able to get a coffee and cake, and continue on our way.
The old Railway Station at Brookton (left) and a beautifully shaped ghost gum silhoueted against a misty sky nearby
A short time later we were navigating our way into Perth, always a bit stressful in a city that you don’t know very well, and depend heavily on the GPS to guide you to the right spot. No troubles on this occasion, and we were soon parked in the correct car park and settled in to the familiar Mantra hotel where we stayed when first arriving in Perth.
There was a lot of traffic around the city, and hordes of Perth residents had come to celebrate their Western Australia Day. We walked to a nearby Mall where all the action seemed to be, organised a coffee and watched the passing parade. Everybody was in a happy mood, there was entertainment in every corner of the Mall, and rides of all sorts for the children. It is a wonderful space for the community to gather for special events such as today. We walked upstairs to the first floor of the shopping mall and were able to look down on proceedings – the entertainment for us was watching the families dodging the water in the nine square water park in the mall which shoots water up intermittently, taking everyone by surprise, and judging where the water will shoot up again. There were three young boys who were drenched but kept on running through the water, having a wonderful time. Not sure where their parents were, hope they were eventually available to towel them down.
Some of the entertainers, rides, crowds, and two little guys who were soaked through and enjoying every minute of it – and the seagull had the best view on top of a large sun umbrella!
It was a fun afternoon and unusual to see so many people after the solitude and peace of rural Western Australia, and Perth was having a ball! We walked through a few more of the arcades in the CBD then made our way back to the hotel. Washing to be done (boring!). We decided to have dinner in the Mantra and again were not disappointed with Chicken Breast with white beans, bacon and spinach for me, and Pete had Lamb Loin with Sweet Potato Cake and vegetables – quite a change to the pub meals we have had over the last three days or so!
Tonight we will decide what we will explore before setting off home next Saturday, and are making plans to meet up with my cousin, and with Pete’s cousin over the next few days, both of whom live in or near Perth.