Red Rock, Red Mud and Red Moon

Australia is one the most resource rich countries on earth. Many claim the resource boom has sheltered us somewhat from the ‘Global Financial Crisis’ that has heavily affected most westernised nations. With this in mind, we headed inland into the Pilbara, the self-claimed economic heartbeat of Australia.

We decided to take the dirt road shortcut to get to Tom Price. Halfway up the track, the heavens opened and the road turned to red mud. The floodway’s filled quickly. Visibility was low and we were worried we would get stuck. Luckily we made it back to tarmac only having to manoeuvre a few big puddles, and the rain was still heavy enough to give the caravan and truck a decent clean. Our final destination was Karijini National Park.

Karijini National Park is the second biggest National Park in WA. It is famously known for its spectacular gorges and challenging walks. We managed to time our trip with the start of wildflower season, where the first of the blooms started dotting the landscape, adding some extra colour to our surroundings. We decided that after the kids had had close to a week cooped up because of bad weather, they would tolerate a big walk without too much complaining. The walk we wanted to undertake was the class 3 Dales gorge. Class one is accessible by prams and wheelchairs, and class six requires abseiling qualifications, swimming ability and an experienced guide.

Needless to say, we managed the entire 4 km with no tears, tantrums or complaints. The one exception was when Rhys managed to place his hand over a baby scorpion and got a nasty sting. He shrugged it off pretty quickly though. It was so worth the effort, as we ventured into some of the most spectacular scenery imaginable. I only wish it was a few degrees warmer so we could have swum in the freshwater pools and under the flowing waterfalls. Maybe next time.

We walked a second trail through Weano gorge the following day, which was another adventure we loved. In several places we had to cross the stream via stepping stones, and avoid waterways by swinging around rock platforms. The kids thought it was a fabulous exploration, and we all had such a great time. This is a place I would love to visit again when the kids are older, to walk some of the more difficult trails.

We had a quick power up and clean up in Tom Price, where I went off by myself to do the mining tour. Tom Price is an interesting little town. It exists exclusively for Iron Ore, and is pretty much owned by Rio Tinto. Lots of young families live here, and everything is scheduled by the mines. The main mine of Mount Tom Price is really impressive. Everything is big, the trucks, excavators, crushers and separators. There is over 40 km of conveyer belts in that mine alone, and the trains that carry the ore to port are 230 carriages long, around 2.4 km. Yes, the pay is awesome, with truck drivers earning $120,000 – $150,000 per year, with a house provided, but you have to work night shift, and put up with the heat and isolation.

The most straightforward road out of there to our next destination was a private road owned by Rio Tinto. Mike sat through a 20 minute DVD and induction in order for us to save over 200 km in time and fuel.

So we made it to Millstream-Chichester National Park. Some fellow travellers had told us not to bother, but we were actually really glad we went there. It was quiet and uncrowded, and it was great to see some trees again. It’s a natural underground water source for the Pilbara region, and the pools and streams were crystal clear, with lilies in bloom. The kids discovered a new game called Pooh Sticks.
The park had suffered a lot of erosion damage in recent years because of cyclone and flooding, but it held its own, and we had a great time.

Now the Pilbara is one of the biggest mining areas in the entire world. It supplies around 37% of the worlds iron ore, and is currently undergoing huge expansion and development. We got a major taste of the industrialisation when we moved onto Karratha and Dampier. We stayed in the Dampier Transit Caravan Park for 3 nights, which had a ‘lovely’ view of the iron ore loading facility. Ships are coming and going all hours of the day and night to collect ore, mostly bound for China. Rhys found this especially exciting, as he gave us a ship inventory a few times every day.

We managed to time our visit with the full moon rising, and ‘staircase to the moon’, a phenomenon where the moon rises at low tide over the mud flats of Hearson’s Cove. The reflection of the moon makes it look like a staircase, and the sight is really something. A full lunar eclipse was also occurring, which saw Mike and I get up at 4 am to see a blood red moon in full eclipse, something you just don’t get to see that often. The ash in the atmosphere from the recent Chile volcanic eruptions made the effect even more unique.

Port Hedland, well what can I say? A full day there was just too long. From here we spent just over a week meandering up the coast to Broome. This is probably some of the most untouched coastline in the world, and there are very few places with beach access. It is peak season for the grey nomad migration north, and we got to experience it in its full glory this week, where all the caravan parks were popular (and karaoke from the 50’s and 60’s was well attended). But the coastline is beautiful, and the weather divine, especially after our recent washouts, one highlight was Barn Hill, a cattle station with a caravan park. It has a ‘no booking’ policy, and is cheap for this stretch of coast. We had two wonderful beach days with the kids, and Mike even managed to catch a fish, which was thrown back due to being slightly undersized.

So Broome, here we come. From there we head east for the first time, and are almost at our halfway point, geographically speaking. How time flies.


4 Responses

  1. you sure are having an amazing trip. Getting us geared up for maybe wanting to do the west coast as well. Stay safe, huge hugs & kisses from us xoxoxox

  2. still loving reading about your trip. And amazing photos. Half way round geographically? And how many more months of travel do you think?

  3. Some great photos and adventures so far, really enjoy reading the updates. Keep an eye out for Dave Bradley in Broome, he’s up there for two weeks (left last Monday)…..theres no escaping GSK……..
    keep the updates coming

  4. that was a really nicely written blog. sounds amazing!

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