23-Jun-2001 -- Three brothers, George, Peter & Tony Keil, together for the occasion of their father's 81st birthday in Merredin, so called "Heart of the Wheatbelt". It's been many years since all three have come together sans families. We've been playing around with GPS for several months rekindling an interest in geography & mapping. Not since our school years have we been so enthusiastic about navigation.
The decision is made, maps procured, GPS batteries charged and cameras ready. Confluence 31S 119E awaits. Weather is ideal - cloudless sky, wind-free day, ambient temp 22deg C.
The car is loaded. Tony's pride & joy, we're all in & we're off. What about fuel? We mosey into the local gas station to top up. Now we're really off!
We leave Merredin about 1330 and head east along the Great Eastern Highway. Traffic is light. The landscape either side of the highway is dark with freshly ploughed soil. Broad tinges of green giving a hint of incipient crop. We turn north off the highway heading for Warralakin. Zero traffic, the dark brown soil slowly becoming redder & drier as we proceed north. An instant executive decision is made - we turn east off the Warralakin road onto well-travelled dirt, the "back way" to Westonia. We are nothing if not flexible!
All around is dry dusty red soil. The conversation becomes profound as we empathise with the farmer's plight. The "break of the season" is now four weeks late - it's not looking good. No rain - no crop - no cash - no life. Who'd be a farmer?
We stop briefly to look over the old gold mine at Westonia. It's now a humongous hole in the ground half-full of turquoise water. Nature calls, I trip over a quartz outcrop. This traditionally is how gold nuggets are found.
I examine the rock - It's just a rock! Tradition - bah humbug!!
We head north still on dirt until we come to the sealed Koorda-Southern Cross road. It's turn right heading east on near new bitumen. Traffic is still zero! To the left we see magnificent Baladjie rock & lake. There is no water in the lake. It's a non-water lake. We vow to return and check it out.
All eyes are now on the GPS. The maps show we'll have to walk about 1 kilometre. We're looking for the 119E meridian of longitude. The nav arrow swings indicating we've passed it but we know we can get closer by driving south on an old track which should be coming up soon. There it is! We drive south watching all the while for Lat 31S. Bingo, all stop, all out. Park the car in the shade of a tree. Bad move, there are no trees.
We walk along a scrub line slavishly in awe of the GPS. For verification we have two GPSs. It is said that a man with one watch always knows the time - a man with two watches is never sure. Folks, I can tell you that the same applies to GPS!!
A few sheep standing in the stubble eye our progress with indifference. They clearly have no idea of the significance of grazing near a confluence. We're getting closer. Tony begins the characteristic confluence conga - three steps forward, five steps back, turn 90deg to the right another few steps, turn again.
The sheep are clearly interested now and they're not hanging around. A cloud of dry red dust rises heralding their retreat. It's at this time we ponder the peripatetic nature of confluencing. We are here! Amazingly, both GPS's agree within a half-metre of each other. We look around, what do we see? Wide open space all around. The very essence of Western Australian broadacre farming - it's flat, it's dry, and it's vast!
We look down at the ground. X should mark the spot. At the exact confluence is a paddy melon (we had no Xs). And as close as dammit what do we find? An offering from a geographically savvy sheep! I guess it really did understand the significance after all.