Red Dirt and Red Dog
Next stop Karratha and the Pilbara area of Western Australia. Temps were heating up again with 37 degrees expected on the day we got to Karratha. The scenery changed often from deep red sand dunes to green grassland and free roaming sheep. Unfenced stock is quite common up here so apart from the usual roos, lizards, birds that are likely to pose a hazard on the road occasionally there are sheep or cows to contend with too.
Again for part of the road trip we were without any radio reception so we dug out some old CDs buried in the car and had a bit of a “Priscilla” moment, disco in the desert.
We find the odd good roadside rest stop which provide really well for travellers with toilets, shade, tables and benches, rubbish bins and a good spot to stretch your legs. The heat and humidity however has been so intense that you melt as soon as get out of the car, so they have been very quick stops.We have started crossing some very wide, but mostly dry rivers. Some have pools of water from past rain but by the size of them they must be incredible after heavy rains. The closer we got to Karratha the more huge road trains we started seeing as well as mining cars and gas plants. We paid the most expensive price for petrol so far on the way to Karratha and that was $1.70 per litre.
On our second day in town we drove to Dampier, a place I’d been looking forward to seeing for of all things, a statue honouring Red Dog. Also known as the Pilbara Wanderer, this amazing red kelpie had quite a story of life travelling this rough and rugged region. If you haven’t seen the movie, DO. It’s a tear jerker but a fantastic story. We also visited the Mermaid Hotel where some of the movie was filmed too.
Lots of really interesting places to see around here that were unexpected. We went to Deep Gorge, one of the newest National Parks in WA and found some aboriginal art that was scratched into the rocks not painted, they are known as petroglyphs and took a while to spot but then the more you looked the more you found.
Next was a spot called Hearson’s Cove, a popular swimming spot with humans and horses on the day we were there. A very different looking beach with red rock right down to the water and mangroves at one end.
We stopped to look at the Karratha Gas Plant Visitor Centre but it wasn’t open, not until the tourist season picks up in April, but just as we were about to walk away a lady raced out and gave us some freebies. Rather than see us walk away empty handed she gave us a booklet on the plant, some drink bottles and a couple of USBs with the story of the plant contained on it – Great.
Moving on from Karratha we headed to our next planned stop, a little place called Point Samson. On the way we stopped in at a ghost town called Cossack. This town was once the North Wests main shipping port and it was the first pearling town in WA, before being over fished and the industry moved to Broome. Some ruins still stand but also some incredibly well preserved and restored original buildings including the courthouse which is now the museum and holds some wonderful finds.
The merchants store and old police station and jail are still there too. A little eerie walking around, especially as I was the only one at the time but so interesting.
The cemetery has been restored as well with some sad and tragic stories as was the case in so many pioneering towns in Australia.
Arriving at Point Samson and Samson Beach we moved in to the little 20 site beach caravan park and again could choose wherever we wanted to park in. In fact for the size of our van and to enable us to leave the car and caravan hitched together we were told ‘take two sites, no-one else is here”. Perfect. We parked ourselves under a huge shady tree, with the temperature predicted to be 40 degrees, and headed to the beach to escape the oppressive heat. Huge ships were on the horizon as they seem to be everywhere in this region, lining up to come in and be filled with iron ore and return to China.
The next move was on to Port Hedland and an even hotter 42 degrees. At a town called Wickham on the way we stopped to take some photos of a big haul truck at a rest stop.
Reaching Port Hedland we took a look around the port where huge ships were being guided in and out by tug boats and others being loaded with iron ore, a non-stop operation.
The heat of the day did lead to a spectacular sunset and the red dirt and dusty industry looked completely different when lit up at night.
We have started noticing more cyclone warning information in print and on the radio too now. The caravan parks have tie down chains embedded in the concrete slabs we park the caravan on, so that you can literally tie down your caravan in case of a cyclone. We are at the end of the cyclone season but it does leave you with a bit of an uneasy feeling.
As we left Port Hedland we drove past the huge salt mountain and continued our journey north and as we left we started hearing reports of a possible cyclone forming off the coast and maybe heading towards Port Hedland by Thursday or Friday this week. Definitely time to go!