Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pilbara Pilgrimage

Greetings from hot and sweaty Broome. We have weaved our way north-eastward from Exmouth where the last blog came from. Broome is in the Kimberly region of the far NE of Western Australia. Normally it is dry at this time of year but there has been unseasonal heavy rain, causing incredible humidity (just breathing causes a sweat) and, worse, on-going closure of key tourist routes such as the Gibb River Road. The Gibb is our target, we were hoping to set off on this by Sunday but might have to delay a few days in the hope that the weather clears and the road becomes passable.

In the meantime, we have had a great time since leaving Exmouth. Our route was via:

- Ningaloo Station, a working sheep and cattle station toward the southern end of the reef. It is on the western side of the NW Cape, and is reached via a crossing at low tide at Yardie Creek (where the bitumen ends) and a reasonable 4WD track for about 40km. Our reward was to be the only people sitting on a vast beach watching the sun sink over the Indian Ocean. Glorious.
- Pilbara mining area, notably the town of Tom Price which is effectively ‘owned’ by Rio Tinto and has a massive iron ore mine adjacent. Great views from Mt Nameless, 1230 m, reached by a pretty rugged 4WD only track, but the views are spectacular. Interestingly, the Aborigines of course had a name for this mountain ages ago but maybe no-one thought to ask them at the time …
- Best of all, the remarkable Karajini National Park, about 100 km on from Tom Price. Quite apart from the glorious colours of vegetation against red rock landscapes (this is the same rock mined at Tom Price and elsewhere for iron ore, so good foresight by the Govt to secure it as a NP), there are incredible deep gorges that you can clamber along, finding amazing pools at the bottom of caverns with beautiful clear running water. The rock here is shattered into layers, that make natural paths (almost like terracing), ‘cept these ‘paths’ often sit 5 m or more above the bottom of the gorge, and are slippery when wet! Needless to say, it is territory better handled by 20-somethings who are nimble and have no fear, rather than 50-somethings who are … not. Nonetheless, we saw some great sights, and got totally immersed in the experience – including two real immersions, one unintended (which also took the camera underwater, a shock from which it seems to have recovered) and one intended (a nice dip in Fern Pool). Karajini is brilliant.

After Karajini, which had a pretty bum-numbing 1000 km to reach Broome, broken overnight in Port Hedland which is where all the iron ore is shipped from. It is, not surprisingly, an industrial town, very much part of the Aussie commodities boom. Not a place for tourists, apart from getting tyres fixed and so on.

So far we have clocked up 4600 km, at about 290 km/day average (breaking Captain Courageous’s sustainable trip indicator of 200 km/day?? was it Tony?), and chewed through one tyre and about 800 l of diesel. Found out the air compressor that came with Ned for re-inflating tyres after going over soft sand is kaput (so weak the tyres actually started to go down rather than up when we got it running) and that the jack is useless for getting under the correct lift point below the axle and so that a 2-stage lift is needed with 2 jacks. We are geared up now.

Looks like we will be in Broome for a few days yet. We are actually one day ahead of schedule (having earlier decided to give Mon key Mia and the dolphins a miss – have seen dolphins before), and have a bit of wriggle room later if needed.

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

4600 km, and counting

Ningaloo Station

Ningaloo Station

Tom Price iron ore mine, from Mt Nameless

Getting wet at Karajini

Handrail Pool, Karajini. Descent to pool via rope ladder from here

Fortescue Falls, Karajini

Circular Pool, Karajini


  1. Great blog David & Jenny. I always check each night before switching off. Very much enjoying your adventures and thinking about the look on your faces when you hit the south island winter later on!! Alister & Lesley

  2. Stop having such a good time... Callum is getting itchy feet... I should never had told him about the blog! :) Great pics - all looks fabulous!

  3. Hi Jen & Dave

    Great to read that all is going well. Karajini is certainly a brilliant place and one of our favourites.

    I just need to clarify that "Captain Courageous’sustainable trip indicator" was actually 250km/day with the added difficulty of "kids in tow".

    Hope the the Gibb River Road is clear for you as I am looking forward to that adventureous update.

    Good news back here in Melbourne, the Hasbeens are finishing the seasons sensationally. After being on the bottom of the ladder at the halfway mark winning only 1 from the fist 7 rounds, in the last 7 rounds we lost 1, had 1 washout and won 5 to just sneaked into 4th place and the finals. We played the top side this week and won 6 - 0. We now play the Paul Van Der Haar and Terry Danaher team next week in the grand final.

    Kept the updates flowing.