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WA2021: Dampier

The North West Shelf Gas Project on the Burrup Peninsula

Our five nights in Karijini sadly came to an end too quickly and we were on our way back to the coast, heading for Dampier. The drive took us to Tom Price (strange name for a town) and along the access road to Rio Tinto’s railway. This required us to sit through a 20 minute safety video in order to get a permit to use this road – we were expecting something a bit different!!

Rio Tinto

Tom Price seems to be the centre of a number of major iron ore mines. Unexpectedly, the town was very clean and tidy, with a very new visitor centre. It would have been really interesting to go on one of the mine tours, but time did not permit, maybe next time.

The mining is so intensive that Rio Tinto constructed a railway network, including the line to Dampier. This network, at 1700 km, is the largest privately owned and operated railway system in Australia, serving 16 mines. The access road was built for maintenance purposes, therefore work vehicles and trucks take precedence over us tourists. On our way up we played leap frog with one of the 2.4 km trains which made for an interesting journey. We realised that the line is very busy, counting 6 full trains on the way to Dampier/Karratha and another half dozen empty ones heading back to the mines. We also discovered that these trains are totally autonomous, being remotely controlled from Perth.

Dampier Caravan Site

The only caravan park in Dampier is what they call a transient park, meaning that the maximum stay is three nights. It was a bit of a shock to us arriving at a very small tightly packed park, after the spaciousness of Dales campground. However, once we had settled in, we saw all the pluses. We managed to: use the fridge/freezer to empty and defrost ours; do a couple of loads of washing and have good hot showers. It had a great view of one of the iron ore loading wharfs and was sheltered from the wind that seemed to strengthen during the daytime and disappear in the evening.

The view from just outside Dampier Caravan Park at sunrise

The other commodity that Dampier exports is salt. The drive into the town is across a causeway between salt pans, so we managed …

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WA2021: Karijini National Park

Sunrise over Karijini National park

I had heard so many great things about Karajini National Park from various people that I was looking forward to experiencing it first hand. We had purposefully booked five nights in Dales Campground to give us time to visit as many gorges as possible. After our two nights in a motel at Port Hedland, it was back to camping. It also meant that temperatures were about 10 degrees lower. Yet again our stay here was a mixed experience that almost ended in a less than happy outcome.

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WA2021: Port Hedland

Eighty Mile Beach (my feet got wet taking this one, but the water was so warm)

Mention Port Hedland to anyone and their immediate thought would be iron ore and/or salt. Surrounded by numerous mineral mines and salt pans, Port Hedland is WA’s main port for exporting both. It is also probably not the most likely place for tourists to visit. However, I was interested in seeing the ‘other side’ of WA before heading inland to Karijini.

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WA2021: Horizontal Falls

The disused lighthouse at Cape Leveque

Our next destination after Birdwood Downs Station was a prebooked campground half way up the Dampier Peninsula called Banana Well. When we were trying to book, this was the only place that had the last remaining vacancies on the whole of the peninsula. In anticipation of our stay, we had, after much consideration, decided to book a day tour to the Horizontal Falls. The booking fell on our second full day, but as with some other aspects of our trip, this did not go to plan!

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WA2021: Highlights #2

Sunsetting on the Windjana Cliffs

Friday 16 July

In an attempt to bring you up to date with our travels, this post describes some of the highlights since our visit to Charnley River. It seems appropriate to complete the picture so far as we are now at our half way point in our three month trip – yes it is six weeks since we left Victoria. Six weeks since we came out of lockdown and, I am sorry to hear that, yet again, Victoria has been locked down. It seems that we are in the best possible place in Australia at the moment.

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WA2021: Life on the road

Taken by drone at one of the picturesque water crossings.

In my posts so far, I have been describing our journey, along with its ups and downs, most of which have been related to Covid and border permits. It is now four weeks since we left home and we have only just started to feel we are having a holiday, rather than being on a journey. So, I thought it would be interesting to write about what life on the road is like for us.

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WA2021: Charnley River Station

During my 2017 road trip Charnley River Station was a four night pre-booked stop along the Gibb River Road. It was such a great place that it was a must for our current trip. This is particularly so due to it being one of Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) sites giving K plenty of opportunity to photograph birds and other wildlife. If also offers access to a few very picturesque gorges and water holes that are not generally accessible.

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WA2021: Manning Campground

Having missed out on the Mitchell Plateau and resulting in us spending a night at Drysdale Station, we decided on Manning Campground as our next two-night stop before going to our pre-booked four nights stay at Charnley River. Located about 6 km on a track at the side of Mount Barnett Roadhouse, the campground is the access point to the 1.5 hour track to Manning Gorge. On all our bushwalks we have never started a walk like this!

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WA2021: Highlights #1

Marglu Billabong taken from the ruins of the telegraph station hill

Thursday 1 July

One of the challenges of not having internet access is when to start and stop writing posts, knowing full well that, by the time you read them, we will have moved on and no doubt have another post or two waiting to be uploaded. So, rather than giving you a blow by blow account of everywhere we have been and everything we have done, I plan to describe the highlights and provide you with a summary of the various overnight stops at the end.

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WA2021: Snakes and Ladders

One of the resources that is available in abundance as a result of being in isolation is time. Time gives me a chance to relax, think clearly and for creativity to thrive. One of the games that accompanies us on our travels, apart from the more popular Scrabble, is Snakes and Ladders. And I got to thinking that our journey so far has been like a game of Snakes and Ladders. So here is how the dice have fallen (with a bit of licence around the numbers thrown).

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