Tag Archives: museum

A Town Like Kambalda

There’s nothing sleepier than a mining town on a Sunday morning. Kambalda’s empty streets have less to do with full church pews and more to do, I suspect, with folks heading down to Esperance to test the beaches in preparation for summer. What could be a better time for a look around?

A former service station has become the final resting place for a few relics from the Silver Lake nickel mine. It’s a whole new world to me. Those giant wheels that remind me of wagons and Western movies are really a section of a headframe. The orange monster that belongs in a Transformers movie is really a jumbo formerly of the Western Mining Corporation.

Jumbo-sized: A relic from the Western Mining Corporation welcomes visitors to Kambalda, the nickel and gold mining town south of Kalgoorlie

Jumbo-sized: A relic from the Western Mining Corporation welcomes visitors to Kambalda, the nickel and gold mining town south of Kalgoorlie

I clamber on board the jumbo to strike up (to my mind, at least) an incredibly artistic and glamorous pose. My deplorably lanky legs dangle on the steps and I’m cringing at the sight of cobwebs. What can I say about the beer bottle that occupies pride of place by the driver’s seat? Words fail me.

Golden Wheels: The headframe from the Silver Lake shaft

Golden Wheels: The headframe from the Silver Lake shaft

A local artist ambles out to meet us. His name is John and the service station is to become the town’s art centre, he tells us. A town like Kambalda is a good place to bring up your kids. There’s windsurfing on the weekends and the nearby reserve is home to some of the regions oldest trees. Have we driven down the main street yet? Yes, there’s even a Woolworths and did we know that the town could be sitting on a very large nickel deposit. Had we driven up the Serpentine road yet and seen the view of Lake Lefroy?

Clearly, there was a lot more to be learnt about Kambalda. Is this the sort of town that inspires books such as Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice? However, the further mysteries of Kambalda we left for another day and turned onto the road towards Coolgardie. Another mining town and a story for another day.


Walking the Waikato

Today I’m a bit of a lone ranger. I’ve decided to walk the banks of the Waikato, which I’m told is the longest river here. It’s spanned by a number of bridges, but my goal for the morning is to reach the (unsurprisingly named) Victoria Bridge. I meet exactly five persons on the way and thrice as many ducks. This is very educational – I learn three things today. Ducks hate me photographing them (sigh). Kiwis (the human kind) don’t mind my asking them to photograph me (thank you). Bridges are good shelters from rain, but there isn’t much you can photograph while sitting under Victoria Bridge. However, I do spot my first oak tree. It’s beautiful.

Bridge Over Untroubled Water: The Victoria Bridge across Waikato River

Across the river, I find Memorial Park lies empty except for its monuments to war heroes. The park boasts a Spitfire replica, an anti-aircraft gun, and a large anchor. The pillar commemorating those fallen in war is remarkably like the one in Perth’s King’s Park – a little smaller perhaps. Lesson learned – dustbins can be very good camera stands.

Remembering Heroes: Memorial Park in Hamilton

My last stop is St. Peter’s Anglican Church, back on the other side of the river. It was built by the army in 1915, which is perhaps why it reminds me strongly of the Afghan Church in Mumbai. Even the wooden rafters look like the same Burmese teak, although I suspect this is local timber. An elderly parishioner invites me to the Maori service that’s just beginning in the side-chapel. When I decline, she hugs me and wishes me well. I write “Mumbai, India” in the visitors’ book and feel a bit guilty about this. Is this really where I’m from? Should I be writing “Perth” instead? Mumbai just sounds so much more exotic right now…and very far away.

Shell Life: St. Peter's Anglican Church in Hamilton combines Western and Maori themes

Several hours and shopping bags later, I’m sitting by a window at the Traffic restaurant, when I notice a large sari emporium across the road. There are several Indian flags draped in the display window. Suddenly, a Sardarji comes out of the building. Perhaps Mumbai isn’t quite so far away after all.

A Little Bit of India: The sari emporium in Hamilton

Kia Ora…

Or welcome from the bottom of the world. Ok, Hamilton, New Zealand may not quite be the end of the world. Technically, it’s not even the bottom of the country, as it’s on the North Island. Still it feels like I’ve plonked myself in a place that’s at the edge of everywhere – and a fraying edge it is too. I’m staying in the city centre – marked on the map as the CBD (Central Business District), although from what I can see, business isn’t quite booming. The weekdays look more like Perth after 6pm. Still, judging from the rows of cars parked along the streets, there must be people somewhere.

The Riff Raff Statue: Just one of the characters on Hamilton's Victoria Street

Nevertheless, I’m determined that there must be Something to See and Do in the city. So I set off down Victoria Street for the Waikato Museum – as every good tourist should. I think museum exhibits say a lot about what a country wants to say (or not) about its culture. The museum is part art gallery, which is a bit wasted on me, as it’s mostly modern art. One exhibit asks visitors to write messages on green post-it notes and paste them on the leafless tree painted on a wall. Ok, so some exhibits might have interested me.

The Maori exhibit is worth the visit though. The centrepiece of this gallery is a large carved canoe that is a bit like a Kerala snake boat. I would love to have a photograph but cameras are not allowed in here. There are also woven grass bags and mats on display, as well as a number of green stone (jade?) artifacts. Although the typical souvenir is usually made of paua shell, I’m now determined to find something in green stone to take back home. It just seems more authentic to me. How many paua shells were in the museum anyway? Huh! However, the grass mats are a no-no. I’ve got a horrible tickle in my nose – I would make a very poor Maori.

A Good Place to Start: The museum in Hamilton


Right beside the museum is Art Post, an art gallery and shop. The gallery wing fails to impress me, possibly because the exhibits are mainly wire sculptures, the largest of which is an uncomfortably realistic Australian spider. I’m suddenly reminded of

No Mail Here: The Arts Post gallery on Victoria Street

my German flatmate’s book of dangerous Australian creepy crawlies. The shop itself has pottery, ornaments, and a host of other things that would burn holes in to my pocket and melt all my plastic. Very wisely, I Walk Away.


Next I head over to the Browsers Bookshop – as my mother will tell you I’m a bit of bookshop magnet. Here I find author’s I never thought I’d see on a shelf again (Anne Digby) and possibly an early hardcover edition of National Velvet. I’m not buying, but I feel very good. It’s nearly 5pm,

Defining KGB: Proof that Kiwi English is not the same as Russian

which seems to be closing time for most places in this town. So I decide to head back up Victoria Street to my hotel. My first sightseeing trip has cost me a couple of hours of my time and has been completely free. Not a bad start.