Sunday, September 29, 2013

Goodbye Onslow

Tomorrow we leave Onslow and head onto our next destination. I know we are heading towards Exmouth but not really sure where we will stay tomorrow night - somewhere in the middle of nowhere I guess. We have had to become a little more organised for the next couple of weeks as it is WA school holidays and apparently Perthites head north for the hols. Today was a pretty relaxing day although we did go out fishing for a while. I caught one and Shane got five but alas they were all undersize. I headed off down the beach to get yet some more sunset shots.
Onslow Sunset
As it is now Spring all the wild flowers are starting to bloom in
WA so I thought I would share a few of them. 

Sturt Desert Pea - this is actually South Australia's State Flower

Fields of Mulla Mullas

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Onslow is a coastal town 1,386 kilometres (861 miles) north of Perth. It has a population of around 573 people. It was founded in 1883 as a port at the mouth of the Ashburton River for exporting wool from the sheep stations of the Pilbara hinterland. Although a large jetty was built at the original site of Onslow, repeated damage whenever a cyclone hit or the Ashburton River flooded led government officials in Perth to establish a new town well away from the river after another cyclone in January 1925.  During World War II, Onslow was the most southerly town in Australia bombed by the Japanese.

Old Onslow Police Station

Old Onslow Goal - There was no way I was going in there - not ghosts SNAKES!
Onslow is another area in Northern Australia where there are a lot of termite mounds.

There sure must be a lot of termites in northern Australia!!
Industry in Onslow these days in on a huge scale as it is in the rest of Western Australia. The Wheatstone Project involves transferring gas from offshore platforms to the gas plants just out of Onslow and somehow using it as Liquefied natural gas and domestic gas development. We were talking to some fellas today who work for Wheatstone. They are what is called FIFO (Fly In Fly Out) and work 10 hour days for 4 weeks, then fly home for 1 week. Their wages are approx. $3500 per week clear, that’s what they get in their pocket!!! That’s probably why the average house price in this area is $900,000 and rent is around $1900 per week.
Onslow is also another location that has a huge Salt Industry. I find the salt mining process very intriguing. From what I have read Onslow Salt is owned by a Japanese company Mitsui group.  Mitsui's salt farms produce some of the highest quality solar marine salt (sea salt) in the world. Their fields are also ideally located to export bulk shipments to Asian markets.

One of the many Salt Pans.... become

Salt Mountains.......

Then when a ship arrives the salt is transported along a conveyor belt,
 along this jetty and loaded onto the ship.
Why is the water so brown you ask?
Not really sure but I was told that it is from the sea bed being dug up for the gas pipeline.

Robe River to Onslow

As we drove into Onslow the sign said Welcome to Onslow - The Cooler Coast. Mmmm now let me see yesterday it reached 37c and at 10.00am this morning it was 32c!!

The Cooler Coast !!
Onslow is in a great location for photographers, outside our van I can walk 10 steps to get some sunrise shots and if I walk around the point to I can get some sunset shots. So I got up early this morning and walked up to the War Memorial and indulged in greeting another beautiful day.

Good Morning Saturday

The caravan park is pretty much deserted at the moment as it is the AFL (Australian Football League) Grand Final today. The teams playing are Hawthorn (Victorian Team) and Fremantle (Western Australia Team). Needless to say, seeing I am in WA everyone has been walking around in Fremantle colours and are barracking for them.
I am so glad I don't care who wins I can just enjoy the game.

Point Samson to Robe River Roadside stop

Just another day spent getting from one location to another. This roadside stop was pretty bare, not much shade but we managed to park under a tree. Every time we pull up somewhere, no matter if its a free camp or a caravan park I've got into the habit of getting out my mobile and checking where West is. That way I know where the sun will go down and hopefully position ourselves so we get a bit of afternoon shade.
Our little spot at Robe river Roadside Stop
Now I am a pretty positive person and I try not to see the negative side of people or complain about others faults, but OMG our neighbours at this stop drove both of us crazy. When they pulled up they almost skidded into me sitting on my chair! First thing they did was jump out of their car and come over to us to see if we could get their fridge working on gas. That was fine I helped as much as I could. Couldn't get it going though something wrong with the flint. Well for the rest of the night they kept wandering over to us complaining about everything. Now I don't want to generalise but they were the epitome of the cliche whingeing poms! They didn't like the UK so came to Australia to live, started in Melbourne and didn't like it so they went to Queensland, didn't like it so went back to the UK. Then came back to Australia because they still didn't like the UK and this time moved to Perth. Perth was OK but they still pointed out all the stuff they didn't like about it!!!! There wasn't one thing that came out of their mouths that was positive. Then the next morning their alarm (alarm on holiday??) went of at 5.00am and they started their car up while they got ready to leave. The car then continued to run for the 1 hour while they got organised. They would have had to stop at the next roadhouse to fill the petrol tank up.  But finally they were gone and I could get rid of the negative environment. Michelle I got out my Black Tourmaline spray and sprayed it everywhere! The only good things about running into this couple was they made me realize how you can waste you life on the negative stuff or just enjoy being alive. Also there alarm woke me up early enough to get to look out my window and see the beginning of another wonderful day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Peawah River Roadside Stop to Point Samson

Before continuing on with my journey I have to thank everyone out there for checking out my blog, as this week I hit 44,000 page views. When I started this journey back in February 2009,  I never dreamed I would have that many page views. I was just writing it for someone to talk to. To celebrate this milestone I would like to give someone a gift. Anyone who leaves a comment on my blog between now and the end of October will go into the draw to receive one of my chainmaille bracelets - your choice.

Just two of the ones the winner gets to choose from.
We are now in Point Samson which is like the jewel in the industrial areas of Roebourne, Karratha and Dampier. We are staying at Point Samson Caravan Park which is quite nice, small, good amenities and right opposite a beautiful beach. We have had a couple of days sightseeing and I must say I find these mining towns very interesting.

Roebourne is the oldest settlement in the west being proclaimed in 1866. Roebourne seems to me like a town that has fallen in the shadow of Karratha, but they do have some impressive old buildings. One perfect example of this is the Old Goal (Visitors Centre). I know the inmates were criminals but it is really sad as to how they were treated, especially the Aborigines. One of the distressing pieces of evidence of the treatment of Aboriginal prisoners can be seen by the iron bolts and rings on the interior walls where the native prisoners were shackled during the night. They also had to wear neck chains for the whole length of their sentence. This was not a legal requirement, they just thought it was the best way to control the Aborigine prisoners. Neck chains were never used on white prisoners. So sad...
Roebourne Old Goal

Cruelty !!
Cossack was originally known as Tien Tsin, and was established in 1863 as the first port for the pastoral and pearling industries. Due to over fishing the pearling industry had to be moved to Broome. Today Cossack is a ghost town, but thankfully many of the towns historic buildings have been restored.
Old Galbraith Store

Old Cossack Court House
Wickham was only established in 1970 with the sole purpose of processing and shipping Iron Ore from Pannawonica and Tom Price. To accommodate the huge ships and high tides the Cape Lambert Jetty is 2.7km long and has a height clearance of 17.8 metres. All mining in this area is owned by Rio Tinto. Even though this is a very industrious settlement we were able to find a couple of nice little beaches.
Wickham Back Beach
Karratha is an aboriginal word meaning - good country and for the mining industry that certainly the case. Karratha is one of the fastest growing towns in Australia, being developed back in 1968 to accommodate the Hammersley Iron operations and the Dampier Salt project. Today it has been developed into the largest and most economically diverse community in the Pilbura and is home to an estimated 24,000 people. With all the works going on all over this town I personally thought it was a mad house.
I am amazed at all the works going on in this area
Dampier overlooks the ocean and the islands of the Dampier Archipelago. Dampier now houses the port facilities for Dampier Salt, Pilbara Iron and Woodside Energy. We went out and did a virtual tour at Woodside Energy and learnt all about the processing of natural gas for the North West Gas Shelf Project. This is a huge and totally amazing project bringing natural gas inland, processing it and then distributing it to accommodate over 40% of Australia's Gas and Oil, all of Perth's natural gas and also sent overseas.
The North West Gas Shelf Project is enormous

These flames go continuously to burn off excess fumes when filling ships
and when machinery is switched off for maintenance
But even though this was all very interesting, the main reason I wanted to visit Dampier was to see the Bronze statue of Red Dog. One of the best known and loved travellers in the North West Red Dog has been the subject of numerous books, songs and more recently a movie. Red Dog died back in 1979 and his statue was erected not long after that. Many locals still recall his visits and laugh at the memories of his strange and wonderful ways. If you haven't yet seen the movie Red Dog I thoroughly recommend it, just have a tissue.

This location was originally reserved to be a statue of one of the local politicians
but the local community decided they wanted Red Dog instead.
 So the bronze busk was melted down and reformed into what we see today.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Karijini to Peawah River Roadside stop

Today was one of those days where we just had to get from A to B. We arrived at Peawah River roadside stop at about 2.00pm and decided that was enough driving for the day and we would set up here for the night. Even though we were on a river there wasn't a drop of water just sand. As time went on a few more caravans drove in and set up which is always good as you don't want to be the only one in these roadside stops. We all sat around and talked for a while. Luckily one couple had travelled extensively to the areas we are planning on going so we picked their brain for info. Even though we were close to the road the night was really quiet and the evening was bright with the full moon.
As I awoke early I looked out the window to be greeted with this beautiful sunrise.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Indee Station to Karijini National Park

The road between Indee Station and Karijini travels through a lot of mining areas, so we came across a lot of four trailer road trains. It also went through quite a few cattle properties, most without fences, so the cattle roam close to the road at times. Trouble is that road trains and cattle don't mix well and the cattle will always come off second best. With that being the case we saw many many dead cows on the side of the road. It was quite sad to see so many poor animals in various stages of decay. The only roadhouse along this trip was the Munjina (Auski) Roadhouse that got a lot of truckies and tourists calling in. It was really weird there, due to the red dirt surrounding it and blown up every where from the road trains the whole place including trees and white cockatoos were red, I mean totally red!! Once at Karijini we set up Myrtle in our little bush setting for the next few days. At 627,442 hectares (1,550,440 acres) Karijini is Western Australia's second largest National Park. Located in the Hamersley Range, Karijini has some amazing rugged landscape, stunning gorges and breathtaking waterfalls. Due to the secluded location of our camp we slept better than ever, surrounded by silence and stars.

We decided to leave Myrtle at Karijini NP and drive into the mining town Tom Price for the night. Tom Price is the highest town in WA at 747 mtrs above sea level. It was initially developed as a mining town and to live there you had to work for the mine. Today anyone can live there but I don't know why you would if you didn't work in the mining industry. Rio Tinto basically runs the town with it's mining of Iron Ore. We have found that WA is quite expensive and Tom Price didn't disappoint. The motel we stayed was very basic, with a tiny room, the curtain half hanging of the track and the view out the window was boards where it had been boarded up. We didn't have much choice so here we stayed, but get this it cost us $244.00 for the night. Back in Melbourne you wouldn't pay any more than $100 for a room like this. But we will put that one down to experience. We decided to do a mine tour and it was one of the most interesting things I have done so far. The open cut mine was immense and the huge trucks that transported the Iron Ore out of the hole were huge. There tyres alone would have been three times my height. The Ore is then transported to Karratha by trains some being 300 carriages long, loaded onto ships destined for China.
BIG Truck !!

A tiny portion of the open cut mine

Explosion time
It was nice to get back to Myrtle for a quite nights sleep in a comfy bed.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

South Hedland to Indee Station

Once again we were heading for a location that someone way back in our adventure had recommended. We arrived at Indee Station around 11.00am and once again spent our first day relaxing. Indee Station is a cattle station about 400,000 acres in size and runs about 3,000 head of cattle. We booked in for two nights and at first it looked as though our time would be pretty quite as there didn't seem much to do. The first night we headed over to the homestead for happy hour with the owner Colin and his wife Betty. What characters they were, I could have sat and listened to Colin all night. Between telling us about all the snakes we should look out for (eeeewwwww!) he also said we had to go and check out Red Rock and the monument for the air crash. So the following day we donned our enclosed footwear (just in case of snakes) and headed off deeper into the property to check out the sights.
Greeting as we reached the gate
This part of the country is prone to cyclones during the dry season (approx. November to March). One such cyclone hit Indee Station and totally demolished one of the houses.
Cyclone Damage
The monument for the air crash had been moved to a different location when mining was started where the plane went down. It was New Years Eve in 1968 when the Vickers Viscount aircraft, McRobertson Miller Airlines Flight 1750 plane's wing fell off causing it to crash, killing all 26 people on board. Laying at the base of the monument are small pieces of the aircraft left behind. For some reason the monument only had the crews names on it.
Air Crash Monument
Red Rock is sort of like a mini Uluru. Betty had given us a mud map to follow and Colin said we must go and check out the Aboriginal Carvings. So off we headed with our little mud map, past two rock pools that still had a bit of water in them, then around the back of the rock to a little sign that said RR and an arrow pointing upwards. Shane stayed at the bottom (can't climb since his hip operation) and I set off climbing to the top. About 3/4's the way up I finally came to the carvings. Now some of you may think I am a bit crazy as Shane did but what happened next really did happen. As I stood there taking a photo I heard a mans voice behind me, I thought there must be someone else up there checking the carvings out. But no there was no one in sight, I couldn't even see Shane down at the bottom. When I finally climbed down the rock I asked Shane if he had yelled to me and he said no! So I put it down to the wind or something.
Red Rock Aboriginal Carvings

As we headed back to the car I stopped at the two rock pools to take some more photos. Once again Shane kept walking to the car. I was crouching down at the largest of the two pools taking a photo when I heard a young Aboriginal girls voice speak. Again I thought someone must be there and looked around expecting a girl to be there but once again nobody was there. When I told Shane he just shook his head and said it must have been the wind, but I KNOW I heard the voices. That night back at happy hour with Colin and Betty I asked if anyone had ever mentioned anything strange happening out at Red Rock and I explained what had happened to me. They had never heard of anything like this happening before but I could tell by the look on Colin's face he didn't think it was the wind.
Red Rock - Rock Pool

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Marble Bar to South Hedland

Todays driving was a bit of back tracking back to South Hedland to do some shopping and stock up before heading out into the wilderness again. Just outside Port Hedland the local miners have had some fun with the surrounding ant hills. I guess the mines must go through a few miners hats as there are heaps hanging out on the outback ant hills.

We decided to stay at a different caravan park this visit - oh I wish we hadn't! It was a bit cheaper, although everything in this part of the country seems to be expensive. It was also obvious that in this part of town that the industry seemed to go 24/7. All night all you could hear was planes, trains and trucks! Thank goodness I bought ear plugs along with me. As well as stocking up on food etc. we went to the Silver Star Cafe for brunch. This original 1930's American train carriage started its life visiting the stations of Missouri to the Australian Outback in the 1970's for the Newman Mining Company and is now situated in Port Hedland living out the rest of it's years feeding locals and visitors.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Port Hedland to Marble Bar

I knew nothing about Marble Bar, but when I saw it on the map for some reason I knew I had to go there, so here we are. Marble Bar is  about 200 kms south of Port Hedland and is renowned as being the hottest town in Australia. The town holds the record of 160 consecutive days with the temperature over 38.7c in the sweltering summer of 1923/24. The Guinness Book of Records also lists the highest maximum to have reached in Marble Bar as 49.2 c.
Coongan River - Marble Bar
An extraordinary colourful Jasper Bar crosses the Coongan River just west of the town. It was this Jasper Bar which Nathaniel Cooke, while searching for gold, mistook for Marble that gave the town the name Marble Bar. There is a $100,000 fine for removing or taking Jasper from the Marble Bar pool. When the rock is dry it looks beautiful but it really shows itself off when its wet. So I used all my water I should have been drinking on the rocks. Luckily there is a Jasper Deposit area 4kms out of town where you are allowed to take samples. I'm heading there tomorrow with a hammer. I think I would like to be a fossicker!!

Jasper Bar at Marble Bar Pool -
this is what the rock looks like without any water on it.

Then I started pouring water on the spots I could reach

The colours were spectacular

The Comet Gold Mine was founded in 1936 by Tommy Starr when  he discovered a large golden ore body. He named the mine Haley Comet Gold Mine because his surname was Starr, but it was then known as Comet Gold mine. The mine is no longer a working mine and you cannot enter the area due to the presence of asbestos and the buildings being unsafe due to deterioration. One special point of interest is the 75 meter high chimney, which was recognised as the highest in the Southern Hemisphere.  
Comet Gold Mine - long since retired
Another interesting attraction just out of town is at the Horizon Power lookout. It's not so much the lookout that grabbed my attention it was the sight at the Marble Bar Pippunyah Solar - Diesel Power Station. The power station is powered by 1350 - yep 1350 - solar panels which actually follow the path of the sun, delivering between 60 and 90 percent of Marble Bar's daytime power needs from solar energy. I don't know why a lot more towns in Australia don't get their power this way, it's not as if we don't have a lot of sunshine.

Just a portion of the 1350 solar panels

Monday, September 9, 2013

DeGrey to Port Hedland

The drive from DeGrey River to Port Hedland was a very short trip indeed. This time we are staying in a caravan park with SHOWERS - yeah. Once Myrtle was all set up we both dashed for the showers, oh so nice. Port Hedland is a very industrial town with a population of approx. 22,000, including the satellite town of South Hedland, 18 kms away. Port Hedland has a natural deep anchorage harbour which perfectly accommodates the many huge tanker ships that arrived, load up with Iron Ore and then leave to various parts of the world. The Iron Ore comes from mines further inland, one such town being Newman. The Iron Ore is loaded onto trains - very long trains - and travel the 400km plus rail journey to Port Hedland for shipping. I watched and counted as one train arrived, it had 2 Engines then 123 carriages, then 3 engines and then another 124 carriages. But they can get up to 320 carriages! Other major industries in the town include offshore natural gas fields, manganese, livestock and salt. The salt production is amazing, I actually stalked a salt truck today. I went to the salt mountain at the entrance of Port Hedland and watched the three trailers get loaded with the snow white salt. Then I followed him down the highway into the Port of Port Hedland where the salt was dumped and picked up by huge conveyor belts and dropped onto what looked like a snowfield.  I found the sight of all this salt amazing.

Sunset over the port of Port Hedland

Waiting for the train

Here it comes........

....... and comes.......

Salt Mountain