Monday, July 13, 2015

80 Mile Beach to Port Hedland 9-11 July

After leaving Broome we headed towards Port Hedland, but as it was over 600 km it was unlikely we would make it in 1 day. We decided eventually on 80 Mile Beach Caravan Park. Among fishermen this place has an excellent reputation,  but fish or not, it's still a beautiful beach - long and flat and white as far as you can see.

One of the most interesting features of this caravan park is that it has a well maintained War Memorial to Vietnam Veterans. I didn't have tie to discover the story behind this, but I suspect some of the regulars to the Park were Vietnam Veterans. 
War memorial to Vietnam Veterans
On our first trip to the beach it was lined with cars and fishing rods and hopefuls. About 200 people was David's estimation. He watched one man working a fish very patiently, but he didn't tell me, nor did he stay to watch. Eventually a metre long threadfin salmon was hauled in, a massive fish that was exhausted by the time it was landed. We didn't hear of any other fish being caught in the 2 days we were there. Except for some small sharks. Apparently there are quite a few large sharks lurking just off the beach, so swimming is not recommended.

One end of the beach

and looking in the opposite direction

David and the threadfin salmon

The successful fishing trip 

The beach is covered with shells of many varieties, but none are really those I've seen on the east coast. Not that there are are many to be found there any more! I collected a few and the kids in the motorhomes next to us gathered a wonderful collection to turn into shell creations.

A small selection of the shells gathered by the children camped next to us

My paltry collection

Depite being in the middle of nowhere we could get phone and WiFi coverage as well as tv. So the major event of this camp was David's re-discovery of our TV which had remained in storage until now. The cricket and Wimbledon tennis provided the stimulus. Let's hope we soon move to a place with no reception.

After 2 nights at 80 Mile Beach it was time to move on. Our first stop was for coffee at Pardoo Roadhouse. The coffee was ordinary but they have found an extraordinary use for large old tyres. It creates an impression Even road trains would be reluctant to tangle with.

Three large truck tyres dwarf the car

Towards Port Hedland the country became drier with ore stunted vegetation. Shrubs, but practically no trees of any size. There have also been quite a few salt pans. Arriving in Port Hedland the first thing we saw was a massive pile of salt, and it seems that salt has been a major product there for a long time, well before the iron ore boom that has brought so much wealth to the district.

Salt evaporation ponds

A salt stockpile at the port ready for export

We spent an afternoon exploring the town. The port precinct dominates the town, but BHP BIlliton and other companies have contributed significantly to the beautification of the area. Parks and gardens,  sculptures,  murals, interpretive walks and historic plaques, and restored buildings create an overall impression of civic pride. 

A few of the murals.

And some sculptures.

This one and the one below commemorate a strike in 1946 by Aboriginal workers and their families in the Pilbara who did not receive equal pay for equal work. They were issued with rations only and were prevented from moving from one station to another.

The town is much more than the port area. It is quite spread out with different suburbs and has lovely beaches and walks.There is also good shopping with Coles and Woolworths, and also MacDonald's. Whether that is an asset is debatable. We also spent time on the beach in a area called Pretty Pool watching some wind surfers enjoy the strong windy conditions.

Low tide. A big tidal range

Today is the first time we have seen any rain since we were at Kakadu, ages ago, and I had to find jeans instead of the shorts I've been wearing almost every day since Alice Springs. I hope the change in the weather doesn't mean the end of our swimming opportunities. I'm really enjoying winter weather where shorts are the norm.

We are staying in a free camp with about 70-100 vans or campers at the Port Hedland Turf Club. The re-opening of this area has been a bit contentious with the local caravan parks. While the mining boom was on they were full of workers and weren't interested in tourists, and inflated their prices so much that many avoided the town. The free camp is an attempt to win back the travelling public and bring their money into the town. The grey nomad grapevine has worked very efficiently here so far. The Visitor Centre is collecting receipts to see how much is being spent. We have done our bit by purchasing groceries, fuel, alcohol and lunch.

Before we left on Sunday morning we returned to the centre of town to check out the Car Club monthly meet that we learnt about while having lunch at a local cafe. There were all sorts of vehicles there from the quite old to the very new. All the guys (mostly) were having a very pleasant coffee supplied by the cafe owner.
A 1926 Pontiac still driven each week

A 1924 Harley Davidson

Two modern Harleys

Three modern beasts brought along by proud owners

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