Friday, 12 September 2014

Somewhere south of Port Hedland

It was with a heavy heart that Fiela dragged himself off 80 Mile Beach threadfin salmon-less into the car and down the Great Northern Highway to stock up in Port Hedland, and travel the vast distance down to Karajini National Park. A Wise Nomad had given the insider's tip that all the groceries were way cheaper in the satellite suburb of South Hedland, so we drove the freeway right passed the port- mining money is rife here, I haven't seen this kind of infrastructure since I was last in an eastern state capital city, and this for a town of 16,000 people.

Caesar was beside himself with every second vehicle being a roadtrain along with the heavy machinery dotting the landscape. Every few kilometres seemed to reveal a different mining operation. Every building smelt of fresh paint and drying mortar.

A wonderful spot to watch the spectacle, hear the noise and feel the rumble of a passing 53 metre road train.

And since we'd  lingered quite late at the caravan park so Fiela could have one last crack at catching a fish (are you feeling a little chilly? God knows it was arctic in the car when he finally got in it), getting down to one of the supposedly beautiful free camps just outside of Karajini became more and more of a pipe dream. Whilst setting up in the dark is not the worst thing that could ever happen, setting up in the dark with two hungry, tired kids is fairly harrowing. So after listening to Caesar scream on and off for 45 minutes, Fiela and I heatedly discussing where we should pull up and watching the light fading to black, we finally drove into the foulest point of human habitation we'd been in thus far.

It was just a rest spot and definitely not an overnight free camp but it was our only option at this late stage of the day. Rubbish, toilet paper,  nappies,  broken bottles, it was all here along with what was looking like a 24 hour operational mining depot 500 metres up the way, roadtrains screaming passed every 10 minutes and machinery lights off in the distance. My brain was about to explode.

Early morning hand disinfection, road train in the background.

But we completed our spartan set up, fed the kids leftover spaghetti bolognese with a can of baked beans thrown in for bulk  and went to bed. Of course, it was a mining depot, so we listened to road trains either gearing down to go in, or simply screaming passed. And there was also a delightfully annoying machinery revving up and down noise from somewhere off on the horizon, another industrial project that could not possibly shut down through the night.

Dawn broke and we multi-tasked: packing up, screaming at the kids not to touch anything, disinfecting their hands constantly  and marvelling at what must be under the ground here in the middle of nowhere.

More Pilbara camping with a fire smudging the horizon. 

Just to reinforce that we'd spent the night in the armpit of civilisation, we drove through the most gorgeous free camps of Bea Bea Creek and the Toglioni freecamp- pictures of scenic beauty and calling to us with their sheltered camp sites and (probably) clean toilets off the double laned highway. It was a strange place, majestically beautiful and remote, yet with roadtrains, the odd man in a suit, stunned looking tourists pulling trailers and caravans and everyone else in high-vis gear... It felt like we'd entered a strange paradigm of natural spiritual beauty alongside unreserved industrial pillaging and greed.

Welcome to the Pilbara.

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