Distance travelled – 59.2 km
Avg speed – 16.6 kph
Max speed – 36.8 kph
Moora to New Norcia
Our route today took us back onto the Great Northern Highway, which we left five weeks ago near Port Hedland. The Great Northern Highway is the shorter and faster inland route from Port Hedland to Perth in contrast to the North West Coastal Highway, which is what we took as far as Geraldton. The GNH is meant to be a busier route south so we took our time and enjoyed the last of the quiet roads before Perth as we rode the 22 km between Moora and the highway. The only downside was the wind but we kept telling ourselves that once we turn right onto the highway it should assist rather than hinder us to New Norcia.
We stopped for morning tea at the Walebing Roadhouse and found ourselves talking to a married couple who are contracted by WA Main Roads to operate the local road patrol service. Their area of operation is centred around Dalwallinu and includes 500km of road. They are responsible for fixing potholes, replacing white posts, removing fallen trees, rubbish and road kill. They also provide traffic control at crashes and fix any damage to the road after the crashed vehicles have been removed. We were surprised to discover that the local authorities try to recover the cost of any road repairs required as a result from crashes on the highway.
Listening to them talk about how difficult it was to get good staff was like listening to any other small business operator we have met along the way. But what struck us as a little different was how the wife commented how surprised she was to discover many people did not know how to use a shovel and crow bar. This seemed such an odd comment coming from a woman who used to manage a small unit within Telstra before joining her husband as his offsider four years ago. To us, their road patrol seemed a very different small business for a husband and wife to be running and working together. As we rode to New Norcia we passed each other a number of times and we surprisingly arrived in this very different town roughly at the same time.
New Norcia is Australia’s only monastic town with all the buildings and land being owned by the monastery. We arrived too late to go on the 1.30pm tour of the town, so we spent the afternoon looking through the museum and inside some of the buildings that were open.
We opted to stay at the guesthouse – one of three cloisters in the Monastery, as the campground behind the roadhouse was not very appealing. It was not flat, quite dusty and better suited to caravans and motor homes. The guesthouse fulfils one of the Benedictine's 'Rules' to provide hospitality to travellers, although it was interesting to read that until the 1980s only males were welcomed at the guesthouse. One of the monks told us that if Mark had been staying by himself he would have been invited to eat with the monks. Women are still not welcomed in the monk’s residential cloister.
Before dinner we went to Vespers in the chapel. The monks sit opposite each other on both sides of the chapel. One of the monks begins each psalm, then the monks on the opposite side of the chapel start chanting the next line. The prayer is completed by the monks chanting alternating lines from one side of the chapel to the other. The prayers were in both Latin and English. Although we did not understand it all it was a very calming atmosphere and definitely added to the experience of staying at the monastery.
Zoom into the map and use the 'Satellite' layer
to see our new location.
View from the Great Northern Highway south of Walebing
Great Northern Highway south of Walebing
Looking towards the Abbey Church inside the cloister walls of St Gertrude's College
The rear of St Gertrude's College
Late afternoon shadows on the monastery wall