Tag Archives: Karratha

16 – Glimpses of the past

Deep Gorge. The piles of rocks are not something left over from mining. They're volcanic rock which cracked when it reached the much cooler surface.

Deep Gorge. The piles of rocks are not something left over from mining. They’re volcanic rock which cracked when it reached the much cooler surface.

The Burrup Peninsula where Karratha is built had a history before the white man, of course. Vicky and I were up at the crack of dawn to have a look at some of the evidence. The temperatures rise quickly here, especially when you’re in a canyon with the sunlight bouncing off the rocks, so we made this visit early.

Water reflects the gold of the sun

Water reflects the gold of the sun. Note the rock pigeons

We were off to Deep Gorge, one of the few places in the area which had relatively permanent water. As such, it attracted the aboriginal people, as well as the wildlife, and the aboriginal people had left their mark on the landscape. Please understand, these are not spectacular rock paintings, and this is not a sacred site. The pictures are of local animals, sometimes of people. I could imagine the family gathered in the gorge, and some of the bored youngsters climbing the rocks to carve their drawings. Maybe some of these are aboriginal equivalents of “John was here 2016”.

As we walked along the gorge, stepping carefully from rock to rock, Vicky explained some of the pictures are quite hard to see, because they are essentially scratchings on the surface. Their visibility depends on the angle of the light, and the keenness of the eye. This is just a small sample of what can be found. Even with these photo, the longer you look, the more you’ll see.

Examples of rock art

Examples of rock art, sometimes in quite inaccessible locations

Later in the day we visited the town of Cossack, site of the earliest white settlement in the area. The site had been abandoned for many years, but now work is in progress to restore the wonderful old buildings and build a tourist area. Situated on the mouth of the Harding River, it’s a pretty spot. We had a wander around, took a look in the fully restored court house and read some of the history.

From the lookout. Cossack is behind us

From the lookout. Cossack is behind us

This big red hopped around the headland on the right of the picture above. I did my best to get a good one.

This big red hopped around the headland on the right of the picture above. I did my best to get a good one.

Restored buildings. LOVE the stone work.

Restored buildings. LOVE the stone work.

 

Butterfly among the discarded cocoons. It probably just emerged from the one underneath it.

Butterfly among the discarded cocoons. It probably just emerged from the one underneath it.

On the way out to the car I noticed a bush covered with butterflies. I have a standing joke with Peter’s brother about my photos of birds and butterflies – he pretends absolute boredom, so I take a chance to get a picture of a butterfly for him when I can. I didn’t realise until I got home and took a closer look that the bush wasn’t covered with shrivelled leaves – there were dozens of cocoons, with newly emerged butterflies trying their wings.

We had fish ‘n chips for lunch at Port Samson, and that evening ate our farewell meal at the famous Mermaid Hotel at Dampier. Next morning we were off to Broome. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Vicky and Bruce. So nice to see some of the more attractive aspects of a mining town feeling the effects of a mining construction boom that’s over. We hope to see them again, either in the West, or over on our side of the continent.

 

15 – New friends and a stairway to heaven

img_5866The country starts to change north of Carnarvon. It’s more like desert with long lines of red dunes marching across the landscape. The road is excellent – until we reach the road works. It has to happen, though, so we wait in a queue with good humour. I took the chance to take what I think’s a stunning photo.

img_5874aFurther on, low ranges of hills appear. They’re old and scarred, crumbling into the plain, but not in our lifetime. The hills help to hold the water. There are rivers here – obvious, really. Just look for the river red gums.

The trees advertise a river - and if you missed that, there's a bridge

The trees advertise a river – and if you missed that, there’s a bridge

I love the colours in the Pilbara

I love the colours in the Pilbara

Karratha wasn’t our favourite stop in 2013 – but this time we were staying with friends we’d met on a river cruise in Europe. It makes a HUGE difference when you have friends who know the area. Our first evening was a backyard barbecue and lots of talk.

As it happened, our visit to Karratha coincided with a full moon in a cloudless sky, coinciding with low tide. Karratha has an east-facing bay, which means the moon rises – if not quite out of the sea, very nearly. So the reflection of the moon in the water as it rises gives the impression of a path or staircase to the moon.  The Karrathians celebrate this event in the usual way – 4WDs backed up to the beach with the trays down to hold the tinnies and bottles, and the finger food. We all turned up not long before sunset for a convivial drink and a walk in the shallows of Hearson Bay.

Apart from our hosts, Vicky and Bruce, another couple who had also been on that European cruise was also there. It was lovely to see Alison and Phil again – especially since Ali had brought along a bottle of rose she’d bought at one of our stops in Germany. I was happy to help her drink it.

And now for the staircase to the moon.

The sun has disappeared

The sun has disappeared – just. The last light brightens the rocks

And now we wait - enjoying the evening

And now we wait – enjoying the evening

Here it comes - rather later than we though - but hey - good company, nice drinks

Here it comes – rather later than we thought – but hey – good company, nice drinks

And here she is in all her glory

And here she is in all her glory

Some motels are crummier than others

Picking motels from the internet has its pitfalls – especially as you pay when booking. We chose to be careful and booked a motel room in Karratha online from Port Hedland. We’re staying two nights so we can do a day trip to Millstream in the Chichester Range. Nice place. I’ve been there before.

We found the address – but not the motel. Rather than go and ask at the rather inauspicious hotel where the motel should have been, His Highness assumed a mistake had been made in recording the details. To cut a long story short, I ended up asking at the aforementioned hotel, at the front bar. I had my doubts pretty much immediately, walking over sticky carpet to a bar where a handful of chaps in dayglo safety jackets perched on barstools. The barmaid didn’t know, neither did the bloke she was chatting up – but the other fellow sitting beside him did. Next door, it seemed.

We eventually found a tiny sign for the motel – but we were sent back to the bottle shop in the pub to book in. When Pete mentioned a sign in the road for the motel might have been nice, the manager fellow said the council had complained because the sign was 10mm too long. So we booked in. This place is clean, but very, very tired. The faux floor boards are peeling, the bedspread needs replacing and a few glasses to go with the chipped, not matching mugs would have been nice. Need I add that the internet wasn’t working? We found out why the faux floor boards were lifting when we had a shower. The water oozed through and soaked into the backing, so you squelched your way across the floor.

An ore train on its way to the port

We’ve stayed in some pretty ordinary motels in the past and this isn’t the worst, but it sure is up there, especially for the cost. Still, we can live with it for two nights.

Having said all of that, there’s always a bright side. We ended up chatting with a fellow inmate, and sharing a table for dinner at the pub’s restaurant. It was unanimously agreed the food and the company were both excellent. And I sold a book. We promised to catch up with Mick in Perth, where I would sign To Die a Dry Death for him.

Spinifex covered hills with the Chichester range in the background

Millstream turned out to be HUGE disappointment. It’s changed in 30 years or so. Hell, I probably have too. A little bit. But the Chichester Range and Python’s Pool made up for a lot.

Back at the motel, the room hadn’t been serviced. But dinner was every bit as good on the second night as it was the first.

At LNG info centre

We said goodbye to Karratha with no regrets. It’s a town of transients who come here to work. Looking at what they work at was certainly interesting. The massive ore trains, the mountains of coal and salt and the LNG plant offered lots of work, but the demand has waned a little. I get the real impression that people can’t wait to get out of here. We can’t say we disagree.