Day 51 – 24 Aug 2012 – Still at Port Hedland

We slept well despite the constant drone of traffic on the Highway – road trains mostly. There was the odd train going by too but that was a bit further  away – we could just hear their whistle as they crossed the highway. Some of these trains are 2.5 kms long. Impossible to get a good photo of the size of them. They are mostly carrying iron ore from Tom Price to the port here. There is no public entry on to the Port so we could just see the large ships from vantage points,and we could actually see the iron ore being loaded. It is a really busy Port. The lady at the Info Centre has a daughter who is a ‘towage scheduler’ (organising pilot ships etc. for these large vessels) and she is flown to Port Hedland from Exmouth (1 week on/1week off) and is paid $62 an hour. When she first took on this job about 12 years or so ago, there were 3 schedulers, now there are 14.

Ute with ‘warning’ flag

All the mine 4WD’s up this way carry a flag (with a light on top which lights up red at night) so we asked why. It is to do with driving out on the roads here to and from mines/work sites etc. and it is a safe way to see another vehicle coming with dust flying everywhere. I took a photo to show what they look like. This was a clean ute as it was parked at a car dealership. They also have numbers on their doors which are iridescent and reflect in light. There are hundreds and hundreds of them up here in the Kimberley and Pilbara.

We took the little Getz into the town to visit the Info. Centre to see what we could do for the day, but first we drove around a few of the suburbs to get a better idea of what the town is like as the main roads are busy with constant road trains etc. and the red color from the local dirt covers everything. We were quite impressed with the suburbs. Some of the houses have the most prime positions overlooking the Indian Ocean and the view was very pretty. Some of the houses even had green lawns, although that is not so common here. We drove to a lookout at a water tower and it was lovely – a 360 degree view of the town. The ocean view was impressive as the tide was coming in and we could see at least 15 large ships out at sea awaiting their turn to come to Port. On the other side of this little hill was a view looking out over the local racecourse.Had a brief look in the window of First National Real Estate very basic houses they are asking well over $ 1 million for just your average house in an average street.The lady in the Info Centre who we talked to said she reckons that there is about 10 more years of the boom prices,but eventually somebody is going to be hurt.

View over Race Course

This view over the racecourse looked so lovely I took a photo but it is a false impression of how the town really looks because green grass is certainly at a premium. I then took a photo of part of the road leading out of the suburbs and it shows how most of the roads really look.

Color of roads around Port Hedland

It was good to see the suburbs though as it does make us realise it is a reasonable town after all.

We were not far from the Town Centre, when we received a call to say our Landcruiser was ready for pick up – just around midday. How good was that – less than 24 hours after we booked it in. Cost was $776 (add to that the $200 of fuel which had to be discarded), but we thought it was reasonable. It could have been a lot, lot worse.

So I drove the Landcruiser and followed Ian in the Getz back to the airport and we notified Avis that we no longer needed the car. It was so good to be back in our own vehicle.

We then went to a small cafe and had some lunch, and then visited the Info. Centre to see what we could do with the rest of the day. We were very keen to do the tour of the mine (BHP Billiton) and would have stayed another day to do that, but they no longer run tours. We were told that the Mine Tour at Tom Price is great though and we had already planned on doing that so that was good. We will ring tomorrow to make sure we can get in.

I thought I would add a photo of the exact spot we broke down yesterday. It was hard to get a good photo, but this was the best one. It was such a busy spot it was hard to get a photo without traffic constantly driving by.

Intersection where we broke down

On the way into town there is a large overhead bridge and beside that  Rio Tinto have huge salt mine. There are salt pans everywhere and extremely large mounds of salt. We had heard there were tours there too, but were unable to find out that but have run out of time anyway as we will be leaving in the morning.

Salt Mound (Rio Tinto)

While we were at the wharf we met a couple of people who were driving a similar trip to ours. When we told them about the trouble with our car the chap (Graham) had a smile on his face. He said he used to run the RACV dealership at Bendigo and reckoned at least 3 times a week they had to help someone who had put the wrong fuel in their car. Made Ian feel a lot better. After they walked away, we realised the Coates (whom we had met at Geike Gorge and were from Townsville and knew my brother Don) were also there  So we had a nice long chat sharing our various adventures since we last met. It is lovely catching up with people we have met on the way. We have exchanged phone numbers and they have invited us to visit them when we are next in Townsville. How nice is that?

We think Bruce and Linda have gone on ahead as we were unsure when we would get our vehicle back and with the weekend coming up I suggested that they go ahead when they are ready. We are unable to contact them by phone tonight but  they too will go to Tom Price so presume we will meet up again soon.

It is possible we will not be in internet/mobile sites for a few days now so I will catch up with the blog whenever I can. Love getting your comments.

Love to all, Janese and Ian


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