Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Dec 22, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Today was spent mostly in the car because we had a bit of a change of plans.

We got up this morning and then went for a hike to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool at the bottom of Dales Gorge.  Both landmarks were very impressive and very beautiful.  They didn't take as long as we though they would (we thought we’d be there until lunchtime) and so by 9:30am we were on the road to Port Hedland, where BHP Billiton sends all of their iron ore overseas.  This turned out to be a fairly interesting drive as we had to stop at one point for about 30 minutes to let some enormous mining equipment go past.  We didn’t know why we were stopped at first and all of the cars and road trains had to pull into a parking loop on the side of the road.  After about 30 minutes, two massive pieces of equipment came trundling past.  They took up the entire road and even some of the edge of the road.  The first piece of equipment required two truck cabs (the bits with the engines) at the front and one at the back to pull it.  The second piece required one truck cab at the front and one at the back.  This is something that I have definitely been interested in during our time in the Pilbara and that is all of the mining.  I have never really been around it before and it is obviously a way of life for some of the people out here.  It has been fascinating to see how it is done, the people who do it and the types of equipment that they use.

We got to Port Hedland just after lunch and had a drive around.  We saw the iron ore yards where huge piles of red iron ore (just looked like dirt and rocks to me) were being loaded from trains onto the ships that take it to the steel manufacturers around the world.  The iron ore here means that the whole town is coated in red dust.  You certainly wouldn’t want to have a white house here!  There were also some Rio Tinto salt works there as well and it was really weird to see these enormous mounds of salt just sitting by the side of road.  Doesn’t seem that hygienic really!

Our initial plan had been to get here in the afternoon and stay the night before heading towards Broome tomorrow and reaching Broome by Saturday lunch time.  Given that we were in Port Hedland just after lunch and there wasn’t much going on, we decided instead to head back onto the road and get as much distance as we could towards Broome.  This means that we will actually get there a day early and should be there by lunchtime tomorrow, which is great.

We drove 245Km from Port Hedland this afternoon and stopped for the night at a campground on 80 mile beach.  We also passed two dead camels on the way, which whilst gruesome, was also kind of exciting as we are on the edge of the great sandy dessert and I have been hoping to see some wild camels.  Obviously the dead ones don’t count, but at least that means they are in the area.  The camp ground that we stopped at for the night was actually quite packed with campers and caravans, which was a huge surprise to us, because we can’t have passed more than half a dozen cars on the way in and thought we would be in deliverance country.  But no, we pulled through the gate and were instantly surrounded by dozens of grey nomads!!  Can’t get away from anyone these days it seems, no matter how remote the location.

After finding our camp site we went for a walk to the beach to check it out and were rewarded with one of the coolest things we’ve seen so far.  We knew that the tides in this part of the country were big, but when we went over the sand dune, we found that the tide was out so far that you could barely distinguish where the water started.  We guessed a good kilometer at least!!!  We tried to walk out to the waters edge but it just never seemed to get any nearer and the sun was setting and we seriously thought we might get stuck out there in the dark, it was that far away.  We decided to come back in, but it was really cool to see such an amazing tide.  Not to mention there was a gorgeous sunset as well.

One last thought for the day….we have now entered salt water crocodile territory as our camping book said that salties have been seen this far south on the beaches and in the estuaries.  Time to be extra careful!! :)
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