Friday, 6 November 2015

Notorious hills

It's been a long time since I've posted, but today I drove from where I live, which is in Perth's northern suburbs, out to Mundaring, which is a township that sits within the area colloquially known as the Perth Hills. Perth Hills actually refers to the suburbs on and just east of the Darling Scarp, which is kind of the border between the region of Perth and rural Western Australia.

But geographic info aside, that's where I was going. I was going to visit a friend who is moving to the US in a couple of weeks, and I didn't realise how far away her house was until I actually got there.

Getting to her house in Mundaring involved getting on the Great Eastern Highway in Midland and following its ascent up the Darling Scarp. Now, a large portion, maybe about two thirds, of the journey between Midland and Mundaring involves driving up the notorious Greenmount Hill.

I had heard of Greenmount Hill and had read about its reputation for accidents, but let me tell you, I was not aware of just how notorious it was until I was driving back home.

The hill is a beautiful drive when you aren't worrying about the descent. It winds its way up through the hills, surrounded by trees, and you feel like you're in another world. The hill itself consists of about 6 kilometres of the drive between Midland and Mundaring.

Coming back down is a different story, however.

On New Year's Eve, 1993, a heavily laden truck lost control coming down the hill and was unable to brake. It screamed all the way down the hill, horn blaring to get cars out of the way, and eventually ploughed straight through the Roe Highway intersection, killing a 20 year old woman, putting another 11 in hospital, and destroying 20 cars.

It was that accident which put into place serious traffic changes for the entire descent down the hill. As soon as you leave Mundaring, there are flashing signs warning trucks to slow down and remain in the left lane. Cars can continue down the hill at 80km/h but trucks must descend at no faster than 40km/h. Shortly after the first sign is a truck bay, where large trucks must pull in and check consignments and ensure brakes are operational.

For the entire length down the hill, signs warn trucks to remain in low gear and stay under 40km/h. And as you reach the bottom of the hill, there is a massive truck arrester bay for trucks which lose control. It's about a kilometre long and runs off the bottom of the hill. It is literally a long bed filled with loose gravel that has an upwards ramp at the end. It was constructed after the 1993 crash and has since saved countless lives.

I learned on my way down today to always stay in the right hand lane. Trucks will always remain left on the hill descent, and if a truck loses his brakes, you don't want to be blocking that lane as he goes screaming down towards the bay.

It was an interesting day going into Mundaring and finally seeing all the signage and fuss about Greenmount Hill in person. It was also pouring with rain, so that was fun.

The view coming down that hill was incredible though, I can't fault that.

Oh well. That's my rambling for the night over. I'm sure I'll have more soon.