Journey to Port Hedland

We decided to take a trek up north to Port Hedland to visit my friends daughter and son in law, camping in several coastal resorts on the way up.

There are not many options to this journey. Either the 'coastal road' which is a bit misleading because it doesn't go very near the sea at all, or the inland route, which actually goes through the desert. We took the coastal road, which is, in effect, pretty much a straight line going north from Perth. To branch off to the sea just requires a left turn where sign posted. has to remember the distances here from A to B are vast. It was nothing to drive for 500 kilometres or more and not come across any form of deviation from one's route. A bit of a nightmare when the sun is shining into your side of the car for 5 unbroken hours in a straight line. The first day's journey resulted in the left side of my face and my left arm glowing with sunburn, despite smothering them with factor 30 cream. After that, learning from experience I set up a towel over the window for a sunscreen.

The temperature in the car became increasingly uncomfortable the further north we travelled. Although the Hyundai Excel car we journeyed in had air conditioning fitted, I was told that if we turned it on our fuel consumption would pretty much double, since it only has a small engine.

Besides that, it was a good way of becoming acclimatised to the obscenely hot weather up north. (Sounded iffy to me, but I didn't argue) We had not gone very far from home when we came across our first sighting of live Kangaroos. I emphasise live, because as our journey progressed I saw literally thousands of dead ones splattered on the road by the huge 'road trains' that carry goods the length and breadth of this huge continent.

It breaks your heart to see such carnage, and not only 'roos, but sheep, goats and many full size cows were also spreadeagled alongside the highway. A hell of a thing to hit. I will never forget the smell of decomposing animal remains wafting in through the door window. Many of the carcases were adorned with huge eagles, or other scavengers such as dingoes, tearing lumps of rotting flesh from the bodies. Yuk!

Our first overnight stop was taken at Port Gregory. A tiny little bay, which consists of nothing more than a small camping park, a few houses for the lobster fishermen, one shop, and nothing else. So peaceful, it was wonderful. Or so I thought...til 3.30am, when the throaty roar of a dozen diesel engines from the bays lobster boats started up for their daily journey out into the ocean to collect their harvest and drop new pots.

Gave me quite a start, I can tell you. I made a point of walking down to the jetty at 10am the following morning with my video camera to record the activities of the boats coming in with their haul. Not easy to film whilst standing on the jetty, since every time I fired up the camera, another boat would slam into the groin and send me sprawling. Whilst there, I spotted a huge stingray basking on the seabed directly under the jetty.

Quite a beast. I wouldn't like to be lashed by the tail of that monster. Some young girls who were walking their dog told me that it was the fishermen's pet, and they all gave it some tucker every day. We took a long walk along the glaring white sandy beach for some much-needed exercise before the start of our next drive. As we made our way along the shore, I started to notice the huge range of colourful seashells that littered the high tide line. Within a few minutes I was eagerly collecting them like a small child and soon had both hands full, dropping substandard ones in favour of better examples as I went. Got a bit carried away, since there was always a better one a few yards further on. We hadn't realised how far we had gone til we turned around, the sun was blazing down and it was now one hell of a walk back to the jetty laden with shells. Still, no hurry, and we took some time to take in the beauty of the unspoilt sand dunes and spectacularly colourful wild flowers that adorned them.

When we packed up and left, I too some time to film the huge lagoon there that fills with bright pink algae at every tide. This is farmed and harvested as beta-carotene to be used in a variety of health products and cosmetic applications, so I'm told. It looks extremely odd to observe a pink ocean for as far as the eye can see. Wait til you see the photos, you will not believe it.

Travelling on, and on... and on, we had breaks in many other places during our journey north.

Most notable, was a place called Monkey Mia. It takes a hell of a drive off the beaten track to make it, but was worth every minute. The dolphins of this area have been coming in to shore to be fed by hand since the 1960's. The entire family tree of these particular dolphins has been faithfully logged and recorded since that time. Because they have been treated so well by the park rangers, they have absolute trust in them. The public is invited to enter the water very slowly and are given a fish to feed the dolphins in water that is only ankle deep. Having complete faith in humans, they have to lie on their side in the water to be fed, since they come in so close to shore. I was busy videoing this spectacle when the ranger invited me to feed one. I nearly dropped my camera in my haste to wade out. An absolutely amazing experience to feed a wild animal under such circumstances. Never to be forgotten.

Our third overnight stop, and most definitely the worst, was our stay in Coral Bay. For a very long time before we got there I could make out through my polarised glasses a huge shadow on the horizon, though I didn't know what I was looking at. First I thought it was an incoming cyclone, then I thought it was perhaps just a cloud of moisture on the coast, but it turned out to be a huge sandstorm, and I mean HUGE. We had to feverishly wind up our windows despite the increasingly scorching climate, and drive on through it to get to Coral Bay. Not easy when you cannot see an inch in front of the bonnet. The wind that had whipped up such a monster stayed with us for the next 24 hours, making putting up the tent a nightmare. Cooking a meal was out of the question in such conditions, and with the tent being blown almost horizontal in the howling gale, the only option open to us was to knock ourselves out with a LARGE drink and go to sleep. It was 6pm. Of course we then woke up bright as buttons at 1am.

With the wind still blowing a hooligan we opted for another LARGE drink, and woke up again at 5am. We were now keen to make an attempt to get to Port Hedland that day, even though it was still over 800 kilometres away. So leaving the delights of Coral Bay for another time we set for the final leg, finally arriving at Port Hedland at 4.30pm in the afternoon.

Something I found very frustrating here is the national speed limit of 110 k's per hour regardless of where you are, even when you are hundreds of miles out into the outback. For many, many hours we were driving along a dead straight highway where for as far as the eye could see there was nothing, and I mean NOTHING. Yet we were restricted to doing only something around 75 mph.

This vastly increases the time taken between road station stops, and a much-needed cold drink. If you break the limit, the police here even take the trouble to have roving eyes in the sky via spotter planes to pick up speeders. Incredible...You would think they had more important things to do.

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