Tue 25th of August 2009 Port Hedland to Newman via Karijini National Park ~ 500km

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August 26th 2009
Published: August 26th 2009
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Peter and His Road Train Peter and His Road Train Peter and His Road Train

as opposed to Thomas and his Tank Engine - sorry it must be the heat.
Tue 25th of August 2009 Port Hedland to Newman via Karijini National Park ~ 500km

After two nights in Port Hedland, in a way I cannot explain, I felt like I was leaving a place I had been in much longer. Maybe I have this desire to live in places of heavy industry, which would explain the attachment to Sheffield UK, the former steel capital of the UK, where I spent two years. The Great Northern Road to the Auski Roadhouse from Port Hedland was 250km and pretty much the typical arid country for this part of the world. While enjoying a meat pie at the roadhouse (I love Aussie meat pies even though rumor has it that horse sales to the meat packers and the football season, where pies are traditionally devoured, are highly correlated) a 4x18 wheeler road train pulled in. It turns out it was driven by an amicable fellow named Peter who described how he was moving a massive number of railroad sleepers from a disused track in the middle of nowhere to out Broome way where they were to be reused on another track. To schlep all those sleepers 1000km must speak to the shortage of wood suitable for sleepers in these parts. I had recently spent $16 for a railroad tie in Home Depot and thought that very expensive; not any more, I now only want to know where it came from. Peter seemed to like the long distance driving of big rigs even though by all accounts he spent much of the time in the kind of accommodation I have been in of late - 4 walls a bed and a grungy shared bathroom. The rig was huge as the accompanying picture attests. Imagine passing one of those on a motorcycle.

Past the roadhouse the country became much more picturesque and what I had anticipated for the Pilbara region. Also the road began to climb and become windy which was a pleasure to ride after the monotony of straight flat motorcycling. From that point all the way to Newman, some 200km, the scenery was breathtaking. Again words will fail me, but it was the stark white trunks of the eucalypts with their silver green leaves against the harsh red backdrop of the rock in these parts that was so special. And of course the sky was so big, the clouds so close, white and fluffy etc. If you have not figured out yet that I like the Australian outback something is amiss in my ability to narrate.

I detoured off the main highway to visit the rock pools of the Karijini National Park. I had read about these and was interested to take a look. As I expected they are what the stuff of Aussie tourist brochures and films are made. Beautifully pristine places to swim in cool clear waters in the middle of the desert. It does not get any better. Given the number of backpacker vans around it was clear these spots are well known, even though I suspect the ones in the brochures are in the Kimberley’s and elsewhere. Of course number is a relative term, it just meant you occasionally saw someone as opposed to being in total isolation. I would have liked to stay in the park, but with no food at hand and the alternative down 30km of dirt road being an ecolodge at $200 per night I decided to move on to Newman. I was not disappointed by the contrast.

Found myself the $60 backpacker room attached to a much more upmarket hotel. Makes me realize we spend an awful lot on hotel rooms when we could do with just the basics. I only say that because I can take advantage of the facilities in the upmarket part of the hotel while sleeping in a cheap room. While eating a cheap chicken dinner in the small shopping center at the center of town and looking at the map planning for tomorrow the waitress on her break came over to chat. I would guess she was still in school, but it was hard to tell. She had just moved from Newcastle NSW, the Sheffield of Australia, so we had a rapport right there. Already she hated Newman. When I said it was famous for having the largest man made hole in the world (more on that tomorrow) it did not seem to do the trick. She said she wanted to be a hairdresser and visit California sometime. I wonder if she ever will.


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