This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels September 17

MONDAY 17 SEPTEMBER     EIGHTY MILE BEACH TO NEWMAN   690kms

We were away from Eighty Mile Beach reasonably early.

M had phoned while we were packing up. She’d had enough of the Tom Price visit and proposed to meet up with us tonight at Newman.

Last November, when we travelled back to the Rail Village from our R&R stay, there were fires along the highway before Paroo Roadhouse. Now, some of that burnt country appeared to have regenerated quite well.

Did a quick stock up on some food supplies at the South Hedland shopping centre, and refuelled there – $1.44cpl.

As we drove south on the Great Northern Highway, passed the dirt road that was the way into the Rail Village 1 camp, that had been “home” for three months last year. We could glimpse in the distance, the old Fly Camp site and a white dome that was the workshop of one of the rail building contractors, obviously replaced after the big cyclone of last March.

It was a bit tempting to drive in and have a look at the Rail Village 1 camp – to see how it had been cleared and rebuilt after that cyclone – but we didn’t. Thought it might not have been politic for anyone associated with the first version of the Camp to go visiting!

There were lots of wildflowers along the roadsides, mostly oranges and yellows – the colours of the Pilbara. And of course, the ubiquitous mulla mulla.

The amount of mining associated development we passed through in the last couple of hundred kms before Newman, was amazing. So much had changed through there, in less than a year. A lot of the change was associated with the new Hope Downs Mine project. This mine was in the area we had explored in 2004, and I hoped that, somehow, some of the lovely rock pools and waterholes we had seen had been preserved.

We reached Newman in the late afternoon, after a long day of driving.

M was already there, of course, given that she did not have so far to come. She had gotten us a site in the Newman Caravan Park, for which we were grateful. With all the mining development now, around Newman, one could not take accommodation there for granted.

Our site cost $23.

Shower, quick tea, and early night.

The caravan park was so noisy, through the night, with shift workers coming and going.


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2006 Travels December 5

TUESDAY 5 DECEMBER   RV1 TO NEWMAN   345kms

This felt like a momentous day – we were leaving to start to make our way to our very distant home. Our last breakfast in the mess. I packed us up a lunch crib each, for the road.

We had to finish the pack up of Truck, our rooms and the van before we could leave. John filled Truck from the diesel supply.

I had to spend a little final time in the office, bringing up to date the last entries for currently ongoing contingencies, and forwarding the spreadsheets to HO – just in case no one got round to doing them later, when work was finalized.

So, it was late morning before we got away.

We had to manoeuvre the rig really carefully, to move it away from  the building, without collecting one of the verandah uprights. John directed – I inched it in the way he indicated. And I mean inched! I couldn’t remember how we’d gotten it in there, in the first place – effectively with the side of the van in between two veranda posts……

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Bit of back and forth had been needed here……

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 We had a brief stop at the highway corner, to put on the weight distribution bars – not something we’d wanted to have on for the now rather corrugated access track and the even rougher section through the Turner River channels.

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And we are away……

I felt both sad to be leaving this area, but happy to be heading home.

It was very hot.

The drive was really enjoyable, despite the temperature. South of the Marble Bar Hillside turnoff, the country gradually became more varied, often with low ranges in the distance. There had been enough rain to turn sections of it quite lush.

The upper reaches of the Fortescue River, in the area where the highway crosses it, is not really a defined river channel, but an area of more vegetation. Just upstream from there, it seagues into the area known as the Fortescue Marshes. Over in that direction would be the Cloudbreak iron ore mine – the reason for the railway project.

South of the Auski Roadhouse we were into the at times stunning range and hill country, all the way to Newman.

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South of Auski Roadhouse

We decided that Newman was as far as we would go today. We were both tired after the very busy last few days, and the recent weeks of work without a day off.

Got ourselves a powered site at the Newman Caravan Park. $25.

Set up, then drove to the central shopping area, where I did a Woolworths shop, for fresh foods and the like to get us closer to home. No more having all our meals provided!

Refuelled. $1.43cpl.

Now we needed to get back into travel mode – and looking after ourselves mode…..It was such a novelty for John to have TV again that he wasn’t even too bothered by the distinct lack of any appealing offering, apart from the news. Yes, the world was still out there.

It was pleasant to have a shower where turning on the cold tap actually produced cool water.

The campground was rather noisy into the evening, with people – mainly workers – coming and going, and imbibing in refreshments after their day’s work. But we were tired, went to bed early and slept soundly.

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2004 Travels July 24

SATURDAY 24 JULY     NEWMAN

Today’s destination – also sourced from out little booklet – was Weeli Wolli Springs, about 100kms from Newman.

This involved driving back on the main highway, the way we’d come on Thursday, for about 70kms, then turning north-ish.

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Locations of Kalgan Pool and Weeli Wolli (Google Earth)

The track was reasonable for most of the way. It deteriorated, though, towards the end. We may have tried to drive a bit too far?  We got stuck trying to cross a little creek that John didn’t check first – just drove into. It had a deep gravel base that we sunk into. Luckily, he was able to reverse out.

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Oops!

Then we saw where other vehicles had crossed this creek and were able to drive on a bit further. These places just do not have sign posts to tell you when you have reached where you intended to go!

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Checking out the creek depth

We had lunch out there – by a pool and rock wall.

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Weeli Wolli

There was a build up of dark cloud, so we did not go exploring to follow the creek any distance from there.

However, we did stop a bit further back on the track, closer to the springs, and wandered about exploring there, for a while.

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Creek at Weeli Wolli. near springs

Would have liked to stay out there longer, and maybe walk far enough to see if we could find the source of the springs, but the skies were looking really threatening.

Weeli Wolli Springs and creek were supposed to be a Rainbow Serpent home. It certainly seemed an unusual formation for these parts. The belief was that the Serpent came up here, in the water that flowed at the springs, from the desert to the east. He went north under  the creek and came up again in the Fortescue Marshes, then went on to Millstream. It was supposed to be a dangerous place where no one was to venture into the water and should not camp there at night. Women were not to walk alone along the creek, according to the lore.

On the return trip, took an alternative, longer track to the highway – this brought us out a bit closer to Newman. We only did it for variety, and because it was marked on the map.

As we’d driven about, the past two days, saw much evidence of mining and exploration, and one could not help but hear talk of new mines. I did hope that exploration and development spare places like Kalgan Pool and Weeli Wolli.

Over the past two days, we’d visited two little known destinations that were just superb, neither of which we’d been to before. Once off the main roads, both times, we’d encountered no other travellers – had both destinations to ourselves. Wonderful.

Back in Newman, refuelled again – $1.16cpl. We’d done 353kms since yesterday’s fill!

The people who were now parked next to us had come in from the Canning and the “bomb” tracks – so called because they were made (by Len Beadell) initially to monitor the atomic bomb testing in the desert country. One of their party had been towing an Ultimate camper trailer. His auto transmission got too hot and caught fire. There may have been a build up of dry spinifex underneath, too, I thinks to myself.  That damaged the electricals, so they were now in Newman for repairs, for a while. Another thing that I thinks to myself was that they were pretty silly to be towing anything on those tracks, anyway.

There were a lot of “sitting about” indigines in Newman. One cannot buy 4 litre wine casks in town, unless leaving town that day – and driving licence must be produced. They let us stock up today, as tomorrow was Sunday and we were leaving then – we had to make solemn promises that this was true. We wanted to stock up a bit because we’d heard that such casks were not available in Port Hedland at all.

 


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2004 Travels July 23

FRIDAY 23 JULY     NEWMAN

Had to be up, fed and organized quite early, in time to front up for our mine tour. This departed from the Tourist Centre. We had to wear closed-in shoes.

We travelled in a full sized bus that took us to various points of interest at the Mt Whaleback mining operations. A couple of times we got off the bus at vantage points, but basically, the tour was bus-based.

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Mt Whaleback iron ore mine dated from 1968. BHP built the Newman township at this time, too. The ore is transported by BHP’s railway to Port Hedland, for export.

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Essentially, the mining operations are taking away the mountain!

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The tour was interesting and worth doing.

The mine pit – open cut – was huge.

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The guide told us there was plenty of iron ore in reserve – essentially, ore is all through the Pilbara and right to the coast.

At the mine area everything was, of course, coated in red dust.

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We saw, close up, some of the huge trucks used to move the ore out of the pit.

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I know the country needs mining, and progress, but part of me was very uneasy at this beautiful, elemental, country being dug up. No amount of rehabilitation could ever make it the same again.

At the Visitor Centre, where the bus returned us, I bought an iron ore necklace  and earrings. I do love ironstone, and the colour suits the things I wear in my non-travelling life.

Refuelled Truck – $1.16cpl.

Back at the van, we changed footwear and I quickly packed up a lunch.

We drove out to visit Kalgan Pool.  Had to drive out the unsealed Marble Bar road for some 25kms, then follow a track for about 25 kms to the west. It was not too rough, but definitely a track rather than a road.

Kalgan Pool was on the upper reach of the Kalgan Creek, which eventually fed into the Fortescue River.

The track  basically followed the Kalgan Creek valley, so was really scenic, with quite lush growth along the creek and regular occurrences of red rock valley walls and outcrops.

 

Kalgan Pool itself was lovely – a green oasis, but for me the real attraction out here was the massively folded and fractured rock walls – fascinating.

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Quite amazing that trees could establish themselves on the rocky hillside

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Tortured rock strata – massive folding

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Kalgan Pool

We had lunch at the pool and walked about, exploring, walking up the creek for some distance.

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Kalgan Creek

 

Had to return back the way we came. We started off on what looked like a continuing track to the west – were following directions from a little booklet bought at the Tourist Centre in Newman, but it was not the easiest to follow. Although the rough drawn maps in it indicated that we could continue west from Kalgan Pool, that was a bit vague, tracks on the ground were hard to relate to those in the booklet, so we decided to be prudent and backtrack.

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By Kalgan Creek – John looking for gemstones

On the way back, we turned off the Marble Bar road and went west for a short way, to the Opthalmia Dam. This was nothing really special – a body of water dammed back by rock walls. It contributes to Newman’s water supply.

Hordes of mosquitoes descended once we got out of truck, so we were not tempted to dawdle there. One quick look around, and we were away again!

Back at the caravan park, another traveller came up to talk to us. He owned a Trakmaster too. He’d left it at home, this trip, because he was driving the Canning Stock Route. His group had come in to Newman, off the Track, to source parts to repair a vehicle.

We bought fish and chips for tea. They were adequate.

Phoned the caravan park at Marble Bar and booked us in there. There were such crowds around these parts at the moment, that it was prudent to be sure of our accommodation – particularly since M was on a fixed schedule and we couldn’t adapt plans too much.

 


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2004 Travels July 22

THURSDAY 22 JULY   KARIJINI TO NEWMAN   210kms

There was a van queued up to take our site, well before we were packed up and ready to go!

I wondered whether this mounting pressure of visitors here would eventually mean that more camp areas would need to be set up? Or this one expanded? At least, the current limitations on the numbers of campers went some way towards ensuring the main attractions were not impossibly overcrowded.

The drive to Newman was really scenic and dramatic, with lots of the stark Pilbara ranges, near and distant.

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We went into Dearloves Caravan Park, at $20 a night. The park was crowded. It was, supposedly, a 4-star operation, but to me a long way off the standard I would expect for that rating. There were no annexe slabs. Our site was a mix of struggling grass and red Pilbara dirt. The amenities were adequate, but nothing flash. We had to supply our own hose splitter before we could connect to water. They seemed to be squashing rigs in all over the place.

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Newman site

There was a large section of – presumably – mine workers. They were fairly feral!

This was a park that was noisy at night – a rather unpleasant contrast to where we had been. There was noise carrying from the town. There were shift workers coming and going through the night and noise from trains and trucks.

After doing a basic set up, we drove to the central shop area, to collect the mail that had been forwarded from Karratha. It was not there! Had to phone housesitter L for the tracking number. Then a very nice Australia Post staff person phoned around – and found it had been sent to Broome! They said there was another person with the same surname, having mail redirected – not sure whether that was an excuse, or true. We arranged for it to now go to South Hedland PO – where we might or might not meet up with it! Hope there was nothing too important – or urgent – in there.

Then it was off to the Tourist Centre where we booked a mine tour – BHP Billiton operation – for tomorrow. It cost $15 a person.

Newman was the typical mining service town of these parts, with a central area of shops and services. There was little of note to see around the town itself, so it was back to camp.

I showered thoroughly – very enjoyable, after several days in the heat, and with all the walking I’d done!

Did our washing and hung it out to dry overnight.

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