01.10.2010 - 08.10.2010
Finally we left Broome after such an adventurous time. Could it get any better than what we had already experienced? Surely the mining towns are nothing much to write home about. Well we certainly did see what BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Woodside Petroleum are up to and what is happening to all our resources such as iron ore.
To break our journey to Port Hedland we stayed at a place called Eighty Mile Beach where apparently all the migratory birds fly to and from Siberia depending on the weather. We saw none. What we did see was devastation from the cyclones last year. All the trees had to be cleared and chopped back. It was a nice caravan park and popular with families and fishermen. The poor people who run the caravan park were doing their best to tidy things up. Unfortunately for them cyclone season is about to come back again soon. The road on the way to the destinations along the WA coastline is long, rugged and very open. Of course there are always graziers trying to make a living from this land with cattle and sheep. It is semi-arid country and you can see that winds have decimated some parts of the coastline. Our large expanses of unused land is what attracts the European tourists and of course the differences in landscape from Europe.
Someone had decided to make arrival into Port Hedland a little bit interesting and did this to termite mounds. There were several of them dressed up in outfits and named.
Our caravan park at Cooke Point overlooked a huge flat and dry area that overlooks town. During the day it was a boring scene but at night we got these beautiful breezes and a lovely view of the sunset.
We also did a mining tour to see what BHP Billiton is all about. This tour was the part where the huge trains (2-3 kms long) come from the mines fully laden with iron ore and go to a processing plant to be sorted before it is loaded onto the ships for export to countries such as China, Korea and Japan mainly.
I know it is hard to see but there is one on the left fully laden with iron ore and ready to leave - that's why you can hardly see it and the blue one on the right is next in line.
Ships are lined up along the horizon ready to come into harbour. They never fill them up as they need to be able to get into and out of the port for the high tide. They are all booked in for a certain date and time so there is no room for error. BHP can't afford to have one ship outstaying it's welcome. There are ships to fill and money to make!
The trains are sometimes up to 2 to 3 kms long which meant they needed quite a few locomotives to pull them. BHP built the railway line and own everything including the carriages and locomotives. A huge operation. One of the trains they ran was the world's longest and heaviest. It stretched 7.4 kms, had 682 ore cars and eight locomotives. They also have mechanic workshops to maintain and upkeep their rail carriages and locos.
Unfortunately the open cut mine is about 600 kms away at Newman and we thought it a bit far to go there just to see iron ore pit.
The other thing they do on a smaller scale is make salt for pharmeucetical and health tablets and such. It is also exported. WA has a problem with water evaporation and therefore salt is easily farmed. The salt piles looked just like snow!
Next stop was Karratha which is also called 'cyclone alley'. This is apparently where most of the cyclones come in. It's easy to see why on the open and dry, windswept landscape. We didn't do the mining tour at Karratha but it is a town full of workers for Rio Tinto. Similar operations happening and a port to take the iron ore away at Dampier. Also at Dampier was Woodside Petroleum which we saw at an information centre. Gas and oil platforms are everywhere. They also have salt farms whereby they export the salt. There are also plans to build another one in the Kimberleys which most people up there don't want. We can understand that. It would change the landscape and turn the quirky place into a mining town. Housing to buy or rent is extremely expensive in the mining towns. Houses 3-4 bedroom are above $1 million and rentals attract around $1200 upwards per week. I think we would like to buy some demountables and collect a fortune but the land would cost a bucket load! We ended up staying at a lovely beachside fishing town at Point Samson where we had some delicious fish and chips. Yummm!
Well that was the Pilbara coast as they call it here. Mostly populated by the giants and their staff. Our next main destination is Coral Bay and Monkey Mia. Yes, more water!