Dry and Dusty Port

Trip Start Jul 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2008

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Where I stayed
Big 4 Holiday Park

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday morning arrived and we were back on the road heading for Port Hedland after our usual predeparture caravan check that confirmed all was securely fastened – makes me feel like an air hostess before flight!! We left at 8am with an outside temperature sitting on ten degrees Celsius but the temperature soon rose to a more acceptable level. We drove through countryside which was very flat till we came across amazing red balancing rocks which we of course had to stop to photograph. Soon after we entered the Shire of East Pilbara, the biggest shire in the world. 

On arriving at Port Hedland, we passed the Salt Mine where huge expanses of land are flooded with salt water and left until the water evaporates before the salt is harvested and transported to huge stockpiles before being exported. We located the Big 4 Cooke Point Caravan Park and were met by very  helpful staff who assisted Mike park the caravan on our allocated site. The caravan park is very well located and maintained and the ablutions are spotlessly clean.  In contrast, we found the town hot, dry and dusty as we headed there in the afternoon to buy an adaptor for our hose as the tap size was different to the fitting we had.

We woke the next morning to a lovely day and after enjoying a breakfast of fresh fruit, we headed into town and were impressed by the cool modern shopping centre, much like any in Perth, where we stocked up at Woolworths. By this time our wine cask was almost depleted so we tried to buy another only to find that we couldn't due to laws recently passed to try and stop excessive drinking in the town. Our observations however, confirmed that these laws are not working and social drinkers have to bear the inconveniences when those who over indulge find another source to fuel their habits. That done, we drove a short way out of town to the scenic view parking bay we had seen on our way into town while we had the caravan in tow. From there we walked up to the bridge overlooking the Dampier Salt Ponds to photograph the huge pile of salt and equally big salt cellar continually pouring more salt onto the stockpile.. While we were on the bridge, ten other tourists arrived and told us an ore train was due to arrive soon. We waited with them for half an hour and then spotted the train in the distance slowly snaking its way towards Port Hedland. It was worth the wait and we were impressed watching the train consisting of 4 locomotives hauling 125 wagons loaded with iron ore from the mines further inland to the docks. In the afternoon there was plenty of time to hang out the washing, have a swim, relax and meet our neighbours, Hazel and Peter from Perth who had been farmers in Beatrice, Zimbabwe until they left in 2001. In the evening after our BBQ, when it was lovely and cool, we drove back to the docks in town and found a pleasant green park with no wind or dust, to enjoy the view. We sat and watched tug boats with their pilots bring in a huge ore carrier through the narrow channel to the area where they are filled with ore for transportation to China.

Port Hedland also boasts a roadside museum where many items of obsolete mining machinery is on show as well as a couple of old trains. We were told that this town has changed for the worse since the mining companies have started fly in fly out workers as many of the towns facilties lack support due to a very little community spirit. Its a shame that things like children's sports and sport clubs etc are battling due to lack of help from a depleted permanent population.

The next morning we hitched up the caravan and set out again through the open landscape with kopjes in the distance and acres of red termite hills wearing hardhats!  Apparently mine workers leaving the area put their hardhats on any anthill they find that doesn't already have one.
Next stop is 80 mile Beach.
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