06.07.2010 - 10.07.2010 21 °C
Today we headed off to see the massive North West Shelf project at Dampier, a small town on the coast further up the Burrup Peninsular than Karratha. Their information centre had a good display and video of the size of this joint venture between many of the oil and gas giants in the world. The magnitude of this project is not visible to outsiders as security is, not surprisingly, a major concern. Most of the LPG/LNG is exported but some is piped to Perth, nearly 2000 km away.
Needless to say the wind kept us in a permanent leaning position!
Dampier also has a significant salt export project that employs a number of people locally. The crumpled rocks in the area, and the massively long ore trains all combined to impress with how important this area is to Australia’s economy.
On returning to the van Mary discovered that we had sprung a leak in the food compartment above the sink, certainly as a result of the heavy rain in Port Hedland. However, we could not find the source so will have to try and cover all possibilities to avoid a similar problem when we next hit rain.
It was interesting to note that the many houses and other facilities in Karratha were all built with steel and cyclone proofed, even the local hospital was bunkered down with protective earthworks.
Today we headed further south planning to stop at the Robe River free site. The scenery was varied but mainly low Spinifex and red soil and rocks. The combination of the green/light brown Spinifex clumps was a very nice contrast with the very strong red rock colours and it resulted in a more pleasant ‘matt’ finish to the landscape.
We passed a sad sight where a large number of corellas had been hit by a large vehicle and there were bits of bloodied feathers over a wide area of the road. Not a kangaroo or cattle road-kill this time.
We arrived at the Robe River site which was located on the banks of what would normally be a significant sized river, but which now only consisted of a large billabong adjacent to the road bridge. River gums and a few other, smaller trees made it a quite pleasant place to overnight. We walked up the stony riverbed for some way with Mary and Maureen collecting various coloured rocks that had previously been washed down in last wet season’s floods. How much extra weight will this add to our van I wonder? But wait there is more in the days ahead!
Anyway, we enjoyed the massive Corella flocks and other wild birds frequenting the river system, and a surprisingly peaceful night considering our closeness to the highway.
8th & 9th July
Today our destination is the small coastal town of Onslow, probably better known to the rest of Australia as a likely target of seasonal cyclones. It is actually a pleasant town some 80 Kms from Highway 1, but well worth the visit. It is famous for having both Sunrise and Sunset beaches, adjacent to one another and from which one can see the sunrise, over the estuary, in the morning, and then see it set just a few meters west see the sunset over the Indian Ocean. It is also famous for the good fishing, although I only managed one nice fish but too small to share among four people! Very windy, especially as the van park is right at the high tide mark.
The approach to the township was quite a grim picture as it was very windy and overcast, and the increasingly smaller, greyer, landscape all added to some sense of gloom and doom. We decided to stay for two nights instead of the original one, with the intention of visiting the old Onslow township that was closed in 1927 because the Ashburton River was silting very badly. The whole township was then moved to its present site. Unfortunately there must have been a little rain overnight and the road was closed, so we enjoyed the long boardwalk along the beach-line. What a surprise that we now have a supply of shells collected along the way to add to the coloured stones. There was a salt conveyor belt some hundreds of meters out to sea on which the local salt is loaded onto the ship offshore for export.
We set out from Onslow, with the surrounding countryside looking much more pleasant in the warm sunlight, intending to spend the night at a free roadside stop about 3 hours south of Onslow at the junction of the road to Exmouth. However, when we arrived there we found that Main Roads had tar-sealed the roadway and turned into a bus transfer location, leaving almost nowhere to park for the night. We then headed up the side road to Exmouth with a view to trying any other free sites, but nothing was suitable, so, after frantically trying to find a reliable mobile phone service, Brian managed to get us one of the last spots at a van park in Exmouth. After travelling some 402 Km we managed to get parked in an un-powered site, As it turned out this was not a good idea. The plan was to leave very early, that is about 0500, to race around the 40 Km to get into the queue for a cheap Cape Range National Park camp site. After dinner we re-connected the van and car ready for a racing start, but it was not to turn out so idyllically!