Weeks 13 and 14
We took the turnoff into Marble Bar and soon after I began to wonder if I had made the right decision to make a detour of some 300 kilometres return to visit Marble Bar for the sole purpose of being able to say I have been to the hottest place in Australia. However, once we had reached the Doolena Gorge area the scenery became quite spectacular – very red rocky hills covered in green spinifex.
Reminded me a lot of the Flinders Ranges and MacDonald Ranges.
Marble Bar itself was quite a surprise as well. A very neat and well kept looking little town with these great carvings on the way into town.
Be warned though if you are planning to go to Marble Bar make sure you have sufficient provisions with you as there is no supermarket as such. There is the ‘roadhouse’ which sells fuel, take-away food, groceries and also incorporates the post office. However when we were there the shelves were very, very bare and when Phil went to order a beef sausage, onion and egg toastie (the closest they advertised to a hamburger) they were out of the ingredients. There is one pub, the Ironclad
at which we were going to have lunch until we discovered their restaurant prices!! There is also a Bistro which we were told was closed for some repairs while the owner was away.
After a good look around Marble Bar with a visit to the Comet Gold Mine (Museum), Jasper Rock area (where you could collect a piece of Jasper), Chinaman Pool
and Marble Bar Pool (you can easily see why they named it Marble Bar – it is all Jasper Rock)
we went into Port Hedland where we picked up a new lock for our door which was mailed over to us. We had intended to stay at the free camp at the Turf Club only to discover that it had been closed. Oh well, another expensive caravan park. This one was not too bad though – only $35 for a powered site but a very old park with small sites and very basic amenities.
This was the Catholic church. They tell a story about the cross on the church. The builder had a short ladder and could only just reach where the cross was to be nailed. He nailed it up but it fell down. He nailed it up again, but it fell down. The third time, just before he nailed it, he looked up to the heavens and called out 'If it falls down again you can put it up'. The cross is still there.
Wildflowers at the Flying Fox Lookout
Marble Bar from the Water Tank Lookout
The new door lock proved to be a bit more difficult to install than we were led to believe but a call to a friendly locksmith soon had the problem sorted. So then it was off to see the sights of Port Hedland. We stopped at the lookout to see the Rio Tinto Salt Mine.
Any one for some salt?
One of the many Iron Ore trains
Next we went to the Fincune Island lookout – it is where you can see the big ships coming into port but we had just missed the last one.
We also had to find a hardware store to buy a new smoke alarm. There are only two in Port Hedland and the one we needed was in South Hedland, of course. South Hedland looks to be a new development with a large Aquatic Centre, skate park, stadium with football field and net ball courts, a good sized shopping centre with a Kmart (I am not sure what other shops as Phil quickly drove past it) and learning/training facilities. It all looks very new and shiny with landscaped streets and gardens.
We went on the Seafarers Harbour Cruise later in the afternoon. The Seafarers is an interesting organisation. This one in Port Hedland comes under the umbrella of the Church of England but does have other religious ministers there but they offer their services to anyone It caters for the sailors on the big iron ore carriers when they are in port by providing the opportunity for them to come ashore(they have a boat that goes out to the ships and picks them up and then returns them – this is the boat we went on) where they organise shopping trips and provide internet services etc. They have a coffee shop/bar area and a couple of rooms with pool or billiard tables for the sailors as well. It was interesting getting up close to the big ore carriers. They are massive.
It was then another detour east to the Karijini National Park. On the way we had a great free camp at Albert Tognolini Lookout area. There are quite a few camp areas along a ridge with great views down over the Munjina East Gorge. It was very scenic with the red, red soil, green spinifex and white trunked snappy gums and many wild flowers.
All along this section of the road the wildflowers were absolutely amazing. It was like driving through God’s cottage garden. Everywhere you looked was a maze of flowers of every shade of pink and purple that you could imagine together with some white and yellow ones and with the amazing back drop of the red stony soil and green spinifex. We even saw quite a lot of Sturt’s Desert Pea – the first time we had seen it growing in the wild.
We got into Karajini (Dales Gorge Camping Area) quite early so had no trouble getting a site. They have camp hosts there in the busy times checking people in and out and allotting site numbers – very well organised.
We walked down to the bottom of Fortescue Falls and then decided to walk along the gorge floor to the other end (Circular Pool) then climb back up to the top and do the walk along the rim back to the carpark at Fortescue Falls. It was quite a good walk and I am glad we did it that way as the climb back up was much harder (cement steps and/or steps cut into the gorge wall or just climb the cliff) than the walk down at Fortescue Falls end (good cement steps and brand new iron steps and walk way).
The walk down into Dales Gorge at Fortescue Falls
Phil next to a large termite mound
Next day we drove to the other gorges starting at Kalaminia Gorge, we didn’t walk down to the bottom as it did not look very inviting,
then Joffre Gorge – quite amazing with the terrace walls. We didn’t climb down this one either as the climb down was down the cliff wall (no actual track – just markers) and when you got to the bottom there was just a swimming hole. We watched some people climbing down and it looked hard.
I am not sure if you can pick out the people climbing down but that is the walk down into Joffre Gorge
Next was Junction and Oxer Lookouts which look down over the meeting of Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Joffre Gorge, Knox Gorge and Wittennoon Gorge. There was some sort of walk down into Hancock Gorge and we did hear people down there but it came with all sorts of warnings so we decided to give it a miss as well. These gorges were all quite different to what I was expecting. They are not gorges formed between mountains but more like creeks/rivers eroded very deeply.
From there we drove up to Mt Bruce (Western Australia’s second highest mountain) and climbed part of the way up to where we had a good view of the Marandoo Iron Ore Mine.
Again there was just masses of wildflowers.
Phil with some people we met up with from Monto and Toowoomba
The following day we went over to Tom Price, again quite a nice little mining town. I was amazed at how green both Tom Price and Marble Bar were.
After look around Tom Price we went out to Hamersley Gorge which was my pick of the gorges. Very different to the other gorges.
More wildflowers at a lookout on the way to Tom Price
We climbed down to the bottom. The climb started off on very well made steps (looks to be recently made), then deteriorates to concrete steps that gradually get worse the further down you went to eventually you walk over the rocks, some of which are very smooth and slippery even when dry.
It was well worth the walk down as the scenery and the rock formations are incredible. The buckle in the rocks was caused many millions of years ago when two continents collided. It must have been some crash!
See the 'yellow' dot to the right of the photo - that is the path.
After Hamersley Gorge we completed a round trip by going through Wittenoon back to the Great Northern Highway and finally back to Dales Gorge. There is not much left at Wittenoon although it did look like a couple of houses were lived in. There is still erected, about 10 kilometres either side of Wittenoon, warning signs saying that you are entering an asbestos area and should wear breathing apparatus and protective clothing.
I'm glad we didn't meet this bloke on a narrow road!
Hopefully we won’t see too much more dust. I am not sure if we will ever get all the red dirt off the car or caravan. Even Phil is complaining about the red dust.
Sunrise at Dales Gorge - yes I was up that early
We arrived in Karratha and checked into the Karratha Caravan Park. Green lawn at last!!
One of the batteries in the caravan had packed it in so Phil was off battery shopping while I caught up on some washing and caravan cleaning.
We went out to Murujug National Park on the Burrup Peninsula to see the aboriginal petroglyphs. I couldn’t believe the number. The rocks were amazing too – it just looked like they had been dumped there. When you looked at the rocks you would see one petroglyph and then the more you looked the more you saw.
Of course being so close to Dampier we had to call out to see the Red Dog Statue
and we also went for a drive along the waterfront. Dampier has quite a big port, loading iron ore and salt. It looks a very old town. We counted at least eight three storey blocks of units that look abandoned. There are a lot of new houses in Karratha all with the big boy toys parked in the drive ways. A typical mining town.
Rio Tinto has big salt pans here and along the road some people have used their imagination and created artwork in the salt.
We also called out to Woodside’s North West Oil and Gas Information Centre which is at their facility on the Burrup Peninsula. It is mind blowing reading about the oil and gas rigs out in the ocean and how they process the oil and gas. Just their plant which you can see from the Information Centre seemed to be one big mass of pipes.
We travelled out to Port Samson and Cossack as well.
Cossack, which is at the mouth of the Harding River, was the original port in this area servicing Pearl Luggers and general goods. Cossack was all but destroyed by a cyclone in 1898 and was rebuilt but the port silted up and they then built a long jetty at Port Samson. So that spelt the end for poor old Cossack.
After the cyclone in 1898 they commenced rebuilding the buildings at Cossack in stone and some have now been restored as a historical site. From Port Samson you could see Cape Lambert where they have built a very long jetty, 2.7 kilometres, from which more iron ore is loaded for export.
When you see the amount of iron ore being exported from here and the amount of coal being exported from Queensland you begin to wonder if there is going to be anything of Australia left soon.
We arrived in Exmouth on Saturday and immediately set about exploring the Cape Range (National Park). Exmouth is not what I was expecting – although I am not quite sure what I was expecting – but it so very flat and barren looking and hardly any trees even in the town. I think I was expecting more of a little seaside village but although it is close to the ocean it is set back from the beach a little. There are a few houses now being built close to the shore. It is very spread out and hardly any shopping centre. It has an IGA and an IGA Express almost side by side. It has big sporting fields and a nice park and swimming centre. Even in the centre and older part of the town what trees there are look like they have only been planted for a few years and are still very small.
When you are driving into Exmouth the Cape Range does not look all that big but once you drive up onto or into it is quite high. The first road we took being the Charles Knife Gorge Road goes up and over the range and you look down into all these gorges which are very steep and rocky and bare.
The second road, Shothole Canyon Road goes up the bottom of one of the gorges. It was very good as each gave a different perspective of the gorges. The road along the bottom of the gorge was very rough as it was mainly along a creek bed.
I have been saying that after doing some of the bush walks over here I am starting to feel like a mountain goat. Well, I spotted a real one on our drive through Cape Range.
Sunday morning saw us visiting the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse.
It was very windy and quite cold at the lighthouse but you could see for a long way. We counted five oil rigs on the horizon and also briefly saw some whales well off shore. Actually today we saw more wildlife then we have anywhere else on this trip.
Next we went to Yardie Creek. They do have a cruise that goes up the gorge but it does not go very far. We did the walk which gave a good view of the gorge and most of the walk was quite easy. We then called into quite a few of the beaches – all very nice and quite different. The reef (Ningaloo) is quite close to the beach and in some places almost comes up to the beach.
There were a lot of people snorkelling, fishing and swimming Being Sunday I think all the locals were over there. They claim all the National Park Camps are full but when we had a drive around we saw about 5 or 6 empty spaces and we did not go into all the camp areas.
And, of course we found some new wildflowers. I did expect there to be more here in the National Park.
We are here in Exmouth for two nights, then going across to the other side to the Yardie Homestead Caravan Park probably for one night before continuing south.