Sunday 2nd September

It was our last morning to wake up in the Karijini National Park. Despite the chilly nights and red dust it has been a magical place. We had our breakfast as the sun rose and the day began to warm up. The little Spiniflex pigeons that have been our regular breakfast companions during our stay pecked around us, moving with incredible speed whenever I tried to photograph them – hence my rather poor offerings by way of photographic evidence!

It was eventually time to go. We made our way out of the eco centre in the inevitable cloud of red dust. Passing the Welcome sign that had meant so little when we arrived.

Definitely a memorable place.

The drive through the Pilbara Range was stunning. Great red cliffs lining our route.

Once we hit the Great Northiam Highway there was more traffic. It is the main freight road north from Perth and forms part of the sealed road network around Australia that was not completed until 1979. The long road trains carrying the out turn of the mining activity constantly move along the road. We stopped for fuel sat the Munijina Road stop and there was w stream of them coming and going in clouds of red dust. The whole place had a red covering.

A driver past me as I was photographing his truck and I asked him how he controlled the five trucks trailing behind his cab. He said very nonchalantly (and a bit caverlierly I thought) ‘ Oh it just follows on behind’. Hmmm. As a person who can find a supermarket car park challenging in my Nissan Duke, I found this rather crushing. Mental note – I must do better!

Our route then took us past through the Manijina Range. Dark hills proudly flanking the Highway. The term ‘there is gold in them there hills’ definitely applied to the area through which we were travelling. Metaphorically if not literary. As well as the iron ore, lithium is currently really taking off and making a lot of money.

Eventually we lost our our hills and the landscape became very flat – true flatlands with little vegetation. We drove on for another three hours before we reached Port Hedland. We could see it in the distance as we approached it – the cranes, antennae and buildings silhouetted on the horizon. As we got up close the immediate area looked like wasteland but beyond it was the industrial architecture and detritus of the mega money making mining conglomerates.

To our left were huge tanker berths cranes, pipes and conveyor belts which skirted the docks – to our right an enormous scrap iron dump. A mountain of salt came into view.

If the town of Tom Price was the heart of the mining industry, Port Hedland is definitely the head!

What is interesting is that the individual mining companies do not share their infrastructure. Competition means that independence is king. This adds to the cluttering of the shoreline for what seemed like miles…….. we had lunch looking out over the entrance to the berths and watched as a large vessel closely escorted by tugs slunk swiftly and stealthily into the port – it looked like a sinister animal going in for the kill, low bodied and lethal. Minerals of all sorts are being mined in the area and more recently there is fracking for natural gas which is also in abundance. All make rich pickings for Australia but some of the activities are pretty contentious.

Lunch over, we packed up and headed out of the town, passing the race course and cricket pitch. A lot of the people working in anything associated with mining fly in and fly out, living elsewhere, but for some Port Hedland is home. I am glad it does not have to be mine.

We were heading for Pardoo Station. This is a 10 year project with the long term objective of rearing cattle to sell as wagyu beef. To do this access is required to the water beneath the ground. Hundreds of dollars are being invested in accessing the water and bringing in fertiliser to make the soil sufficiently rich to grow crops. At the moment they are growing oversized sweet corn and shipping it to the UAE.

The station is a farm on a grand scale. Driving in we saw large sheds and costly machinery. As another money making enterprise the station runs a caravan site and, for the likes of us, container like buildings converted into bedrooms. It was not exotic but after several days camping we had a twin bedded room with a pillow and duvet. Bliss!

The shower block was good and it felt great to lose some of the red sand we had accumulated. I fear some things will just have to be abandoned as ‘too fa r gone for pickling’ as my Mum would say…….

It was our last night on the road before reaching Broome where Brenton leaves us and another guide takes us. up to Darwin, so our meal took on something of “the last supper’. There was a lot of lively chat, although Keith was a bit disappointed to learn that the Wagyu beef was not yet available and we feasted on sausages

It was something of a games night for those who wanted to get involved, but I headed for bed, which was so comfortable that I did not want to go to sleep – I just wanted to enjoy the comfort!!

I adjourned to bed while Keith joined a raucous game of Cards Against Humanity…..

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