Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
Trip End Oct 31, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Thursday, August 26, 2010


JOURNEY: Barn Hill, 80 Mile Beach, Port Hedland -320kms

Mileage: 24320 kms

WEATHER: Windy, 28 degrees at 7.45 am

It is close to 1000kms along the Great Northern Highway from Broome to Karijini National Park. The story goes that the Kimberley region of Western Australia has fewer people per square kilometre than almost any place in the world. And in our opinion the huge spaces of the Pilbara area look pretty much the same. This ancient, 2 billion old landscape is breathtaking with wide shining red, open spaces, disappearing into magnificent gorges that feel like oases in this arid place.

The Pilbara is known as the "engine room of the nation" with enormous natural gas and iron ore industries tearing into the land.

We chose an overnight stopover at 80 mile Beach which consists of a caravan park, recently devastated by a cyclone, 250 kms from Barn Hill. But prior to that we took a coffee break at Sandfire Roadhouse where we gobbled up the freshly baked date scones straight from the oven. It was a very neat and clean place with lots of customers breaking the journey along the Great Northern Highway

The road into the 80 Mile Beach Caravan Park was extremely corrugated and we crawled in very slowly to avoid shaking the van, the contents and us to bits. It is a fishing paradise and there were people set up for the winter months who had formed a happy community around fishing, drinking and having a good time.

The tidal flats create magnificent sunsets and the tide goes out one kilometre plus to create an eerie landscape and the water is milky white as it charges back in at full tide. Migratory birds -1,000,000 of them- spend the northern winter here and flat back turtle nests here; none of this was happening during our time at the beach, but we filled our day walking the pristine shores examining the shells and tiny sea creatures that tumbled in with the tide.

The next morning after a power walk up and down the beach for an hour, and a quick breakfast , we packed up and set off for Port Hedland with a brief and very welcome stop at Pardoo Roadhouse where Kath sampled the famous homemade sausage rolls, dripping butter and nicely flavoured with garlic-yum! While eating Kath noticed a man from a caravan “weeding” the rough ground around the roadhouse; he explained that he was collecting food for his family of guinea pigs that travelled with him in the caravan! Oh well, lots of people travel with cats and dogs!

We had passed a road accident, earlier where a road train had flipped its last trailer full of water-melons and the emergency services were attending but no one was hurt; this was our first experience of such an accident, thank goodness. We met a driver of one of these road trains at Pardoo and it was interesting hearing all about life on the road and how just one slight error to either side sends these huge trucks out of control. These big road trains are impressive and we always check them out when they park at road stops.

We reached Port Hedland late afternoon and our preferred caravan park was already full and to cut a long story short, 90 minutes later we got a site at Black Rock Caravan Park that was tenanted mostly by permanents, and mostly miners. The $34 pn. site was on gravel ground in the process of renovating to create more sites, with no facilities but heh, beggars can't be choosers and PH is crowded and it was quiet and we had a good night’s sleep!

Port Hedland has a population of 15,000 but thousands of workers fly in and out each month and accommodation is expensive at $10,000 month for a 3 bedroom house. Everything about Port Hedland is huge!!!  Record breaking long trains transporting iron ore, huge mining enterprises with the massive equipment needed to operate them and tall white salt piles. The port is busy and massive. It didn’t attract us too much and we yearned for the peace and quiet of a national park.

So, we decided to head to Karijini National Park as soon as we had stocked up on groceries and filled the van. And it was on the road and away.

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