The Pilbara - Up the highway to Port Hedland

Sunday, Jun 11, 2006 at 00:00

Mick O

Sunday 11th June
Port Hedland W.A.

When Captain Peter Hedland came ashore here in April, 1863, he would have found a very inhospitable place, dry, arid and populated by not to friendly natives. Nothings changed much!

We packed up in a leisurely fashion this morning. On going to see John and Julie, John’s back had deteriorated further to the point where he was considering returning to Perth to recuperate at his mates place. Either way he’d be some time in Karratha receiving treatment so it may well be farewell for us from here. We took our goodbyes at about 10-ish and were on the road north. The headwinds were again incredibly strong so I sat at 85 kph. It was a good run along the flat expanses only punctuated by the occasional low hill or range. The rivers were certainly becoming much wider and although shallow, they gave some indication of the amount of water that must run off during the wet and cyclone seasons. Some like the Yanyare and Maitland were sandy expanses a kilometre or more wide. Brush and detritus wedged in larger trees up to 5 or 6 metres from the sandy bottom an indication of ferocity and volumes of water.

We called briefly into Whim Creek which consisted of one large copper mine and one pink hotel. It had only just been reopened after suffering storm and flood damage during the recent cyclones. We reached South Hedland just after midday and went to the caravan park and catching up with Paul Varasdi. His father in law, Alf, owns the park so we were set up just behind the house on one of the very few patches of lawn. Paul is looking very well and is enjoying the work up this way. Katie and he have bought a place in Wedgefield, the industrial area of town and move in a month.

Once set up we headed over to Wedgefield to catch up with our old mate Vahid who had just arrived up from the east via Perth. He’d been in Alaska for 2 years and was just settling into the place. Poor fellow looked more than a little shell shocked living in a converted shed at the back of a trucking company. If Port Hedland is an unattractive place, well Wedgefield is pig dog ugly! We spent a couple of hours with him chewing the fat and catching up on his news before heading into town for a look round. All the buildings have a patina of age and disrepair about them. I don’t know if this is just the Spartan and harsh environment, the red staining caused by the iron ore dust or a combination of both but it was certainly an unappealing place.

Rice paper rolls for dinner and a read of the weekend papers.
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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