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