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9 Pilbara - Port Hedland, Karratha and beyond

rain 20 °C

2nd July
Left the campsite about 8.15am and headed off south on the Great Northern Highway towards our planned stop at Pardoo Roadhouse some 305 Km south towards Port Hedland.

Another day of fairly boring driving along long straights and welcomed the morning tea break along the way. Near the end of the trip we passed through the western edge of the Great Sandy Desert, which was even more desolate. We had to fill up with petrol at the Sandfire Roadhouse where we paid almost $100 for less than a tank of Unleaded! However, at least our ULP pump was working while the poor 4WD diesel-powered crowd had to wait forever while 44 gallon drums of diesel were refuelled with a small gravity-fed hose! There was a great queue waiting, somewhat patiently while the boss remedied the situation. Further down the road we saw a fuel tanker racing north towards the roadhouse, so I guess that help was on its way at last!

The names of many places along this highway are quiet fascinating and I understand that Sandfire was named after petrol somehow poured onto the sandy area nearby and caught fire. The present building there actually has major burn damage to some parts of the structure, so perhaps this one is true.
Arrived at Pardoo Roadhouse for lunch and managed to quickly get settled into a quite pleasant spot with some real grass! A reasonable spot for a pleasant break on a long journey.

3rd July
A beautiful sunrise, along with a cool breeze and we were ready for another day of driving on a good road with interminable flat plains of Spinifex grass and low scrubby trees, including the Green Depressions parasite attacks.
Our arrival at Port Hedland was uneventful, except that the weather turned cold and promised rain before long. The Port Hedland Caravan Park left a lot to be desired as it was in a quite dilapidated state with most facilities well past their use-by date. However, we managed to obtain a reasonable shower so felt better.

In the distance we could see two massive piles of pure white – bulk salt being stored for export near to the port.
In the afternoon we all went in our car to the main township of Port Hedland as it is one of the major commodities ports in the world. Primarily bulk iron ore to Asia and elsewhere, as well as the salt and cattle, I believe. We observed a large ore ship being pulled away from the storage area and towed out to the shipping channel by four large tugboats.

The town was basically closed to all business – not even a coffee shop open. Mary insisted on visiting the Seafarer’s place as they had a souvenir shop – and they did a bit more business that afternoon!
That evening it actually did start raining and that kept us all awake to some extent.

4th July
We headed off to the Baptist church in nearby South Hedland, the residential suburb for the port, in the pouring rain. When we got there we found that most of the congregation and the pastor had all gone on school holidays! However, the local Church of Christ minister had ‘volunteered’ to speak that morning and had brought along an Aboriginal & Torres Strait trio to lead the singing. Wow, they sure knew how to sing! A good service, followed by a welcome coffee and cake with the flock in this ungodly town. We left in the pouring rain to collect some supplies for our next few nights, and then found our way back to the camp site.
Steady rain throughout the night meant that sleep was at a premium that night.

5th July
We awoke to a dry morning and so getting ready for departure was much easier for Brian and Maureen with their canvas top van. After breakfast we headed sort of south towards Karratha, our next stopover.
We had a blustery side wind for most of the journey, however, we managed OK.

We decided to have a morning tea stop at the Whim Creek pub as it was about halfway to Karratha. What we saw was an old building with ‘character’ in the way of many outback Australian stopping places, miles from anywhere. We decided to have a coffee and cake to warm up on this cold morning, and in doing so we were greatly entertained with all the memorabilia on the pub walls. It appears that the original was located there to service a copper mine in the late 1800’s. Some years ago the pub was demolished in a massive cyclone and the owners and staff managed to survive, intact, by hiding in a large shipping container held down with several drums full of concrete for ballast! Anyone travelling this road should stop and enjoy the hospitality and history.

While we drank our coffee we overhead a couple speaking of an incident with their caravan that required it to be towed up to Port Hedland. A few minutes down the road we saw why. A wheel had sheared off at the lugs and the van and headed off the road and was poised about a rocky outcrop. A stark reminder to check the van wheel nuts every 1,000 Km!

There were plenty of road trains along this highway, which, in windy conditions, made for a challenging journey.
After some confusion over that evening’s stopover, we managed to secure a couple of nights in Karratha at the Balmoral CP. Our part of the park was brand new and even the toilets and wash-house facilities had hardly been used. What a joy after the Port Hedland fiasco. However, we very exposed to the continuous winds which was only beneficial when drying the washing!

Among the unique features were the anchor bolts required to tie down caravans in the event of a cyclone! Scary thought. Anyway, Mary managed to trip over a bolt and badly scraped her knee and toes.

Posted by psstevo 05:19 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

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