Travels Downunder – A Reminiscence: Part 15

We left our travellers exploring a coral reef…

We really enjoyed our time exploring the Ningaloo Reef but needed to get back on the road and keep travelling north. At Nanutarra Roadhouse we struck out inland to do a loop through the Pilbara region. Passing through the towns of Paraburdoo and then Tom Price (we never discovered who he was) we encountered two of the biggest things on our trip so far. Being now in a very remote part of Western Australia we were shocked at the biggest price we had to pay for diesel. It was more than four times what we considered the normal price, but considering the remoteness of the location and the fact that everyone has no choice but to fill up at this place, being held to ransom was I guess inevitable. The second biggest thing was the length of a train we encountered. There are a lot of mines in this area, mostly iron ore, and the trains carrying the ore to the coast to be loaded into ships are enormous. It’s no exaggeration to say the one we waited to pass at a level crossing was easily more than a mile long, and travelling very slowly. We eventually turned our engine off and resigned ourselves to a long wait.

We regained the coast at Port Headland, another busy industrial port and carried on following the coast passing Eighty Mile Beach. There is only one campsite on this stretch and it gets very busy with passing grey nomads but we were lucky enough to get a space and stayed for a couple of nights. As its name implies it is a fabulous long stretch of white sandy beach which, despite its name is actually about 130 miles long, and no buildings for as far as the eye can see. It’s very unlike the Australians to underestimate the size of things. We often smiled to ourselves when things were described as “the largest in the world”, or if not, “the largest in the Southern Hemisphere”. Wandering down to the water’s edge we were disappointed to be told by everyone there that it is considered too dangerous to swim there. There are sharks, sea snakes and strong currents and there are no lifeguards patrolling, so very much not recommended. It seemed such a waste of a beautiful beach.

Back on the road, again heading north, our next stop was Broome. It’s at the southern end of the Kimberley region which is a very beautiful and rugged area, and largely uninhabited. Broome is a very popular spot for grey nomads, many of whom choose to spend the whole winter there. Consequently campsite spots are hard to come by if you don’t pre-book. We didn’t, but got lucky and stayed for five nights. It’s a bustling little town and was once a major centre for pearl fisherman. They used to use those great heavy copper coloured deep sea diving suits with an oxygen line going back up to a boat above. Broome is notable for two other things as well, which I’ll tell you about next time