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Port Hedland, Karratha and Dampier

The giants!

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.
Broome to Coral Bay map

Broome to Coral Bay map

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.

With the winds we also saw quite a few willy willies (whirlwinds). All with the red dust. You can see them from the horizon a long way away.
pindan dirt whirlwinds

pindan dirt whirlwinds


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.
arrival at Port Hedland - termite mounds have been dressed!

arrival at Port Hedland - termite mounds have been dressed!


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.
sunset at Port Hedland view from our caravan park at Cooke Point

sunset at Port Hedland view from our caravan park at Cooke Point

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.
spaghetti junction at BHP iron ore plant

spaghetti junction at BHP iron ore plant

The spaghetti is all the conveyor belts going in all sorts of directions. Of course there are ones that go to the ships to load them up.
ships filling up with iron ore for export

ships filling up with iron ore for export


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.
the train locomotive says it all

the train locomotive says it all

empty train carriages going back to Newman for the next load of iron ore

empty train carriages going back to Newman for the next load of iron ore


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!
salt farms

salt farms

pile of salt at Port Hedland being tidied up for export

pile of salt at Port Hedland being tidied up for export

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!

Have we mentioned the heat? Yes it is a dry heat which is more bearable than the heat with humidity. Only thing is with the dry heat comes something else. See if you can guess what?
must have coffee at all costs!

must have coffee at all costs!

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!

Posted by blondnomad 05:10 Archived in Australia Tagged automotive

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Hi Nick and Geoff

Just sitting here at enjoying a cup of coffee and your blog in the cool. Without flies. Thanks for the constant updates. They keep Lea and I nicely involved and awestruck at your intrepiditiousness. Our wonderful River Cruise was so decadent in comparison.

John

by John Greenaway

Wow!!!!! what a lot of memerories your "blog" brings back. You are much better at it than me ---no wonder you are a "boss" at Naplan and I am an also- ran.
Enjoy!!!!!

by Beryl Barrett

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