Day 41 to 50
13 September to 21 September
Broome, 80 Mile Beach and Port Hedland
We were up early to say our good byes to the owners of the Goombaragin Eco Resort. It was definitely a restful experience and if we do come back here next year this place will definitely be on our list… but it will be earlier in the year to beat the heat. We headed into Broome. It was unseasonably hot at 38 degrees, so we headed out to Cable Beach and booked into the caravan park. Being closer to the beach we thought it would be cooler, but we did get a nice shady powered site and set up camp. To cool down we decided to hop into Clive and chase down a few tourist spots. We headed out to the harbour entry as at the reserve are supposedly the largest collection of dinosaur prints in Australia. Once out there we discovered they were on the sea rocks which was now covered with a metre of water. Oh well what else to see. Louise found a large Osprey chick nesting on the tower at the end of the spit. We then went and topped up supplies and headed back to camp as it was bear o’clock.
Next day we headed into the Centrelink office to find out how my claim for the pension was going. I submitted it on 15 July and it was supposed to be determined by 4 September. After some persistence it was discovered that there was an IT problem and I would have to wait for that to be fixed before I could find out the result of my claim. Don't you just love government… if private industry behaved like that they wouldn’t have any customers. Anyway to cut a long story short very late Friday afternoon I got an email saying I had been granted the pension.
Being my birthday we decided that we would celebrate it on Friday as we could go to the pub and have dinner and watch the Swannies on the big screen. The dinner was very nice but the less said about the game the better, unless your a Geelong supporter. Gee did Geelong play well.
So on the Thursday we had Clive booked in for a 10000klm service… yes we have done 10000klms since we left Scone. To fill in the four hours we did a walk around Broome on a day the temperature reached 39 degrees. Unlike home the max temperature is reached at about 11am to midday. The heat took its toll as I don't think we were drinking enough water. This became evident when we picked Clive up and we headed off to the museum. As soon as we there in the air conditioned room the heat effect hit us. After many cold drinks we got our energy back and then had a look at the exhibits. Mainly pearling artefacts, but a lot of information about the bombing of Broome, Derby, Exmouth and Kalumburu by the Japanese in 1942/43. I never knew that the bombing of Australia went this far south.
Friday was a quiet day, recovering from the day before. We went to the shopping centre to connect to Telstra Air but found it took hours to upload anything. I'll have to sort this out when we get to Port Hedland as it is driving me crazy, and in 5 days we have used our phone data allowance of 4GB doing nothing.
On Friday night we left the pub at half time (yes we are bad losers). Next morning we were up early and headed off to Broome Bird Observatory for two nights of bush camping. The two days we spent at the Observatory were amazing and so far one of the highlights of the trip.
It was established in 1988 and is totally run on public donations and the work of volunteers. Broome is a very important stop over for migrating birds and the sand flats are the richest source of food for migrating birds in the world. The Observatory monitors the migration of birds and also their population with weekly netting and tagging. Each night at 6.30 everyone meets at the shade house and calls out if they have seen a species of bird when it's name is called out. The first night we just sat and observed in awe. Louise was becoming hooked on bird watching so next morning I bought her a copy of the Australian Bird Guide. She immediately opened it and started trying to identify the birds we had seen the day before. Then we headed off to walk through the surrounding bush and they down to the bay and mud flats identifying birds as we went. That night at the bird call we were able to add to what was logged. So far this September they have logged 200 different species of shore and sea birds. Wow. Another place to visit when we come back, but next time stay longer and do a bit of volunteering.
We left next morning and headed down the road towards Port Hedland. We had decided to camp along the way so headed to 80 mile beach which was near the sea and reported to be cooler. Outside the temperature nudged 40, so when we pulled up for a cup of tea which was drunk quickly as the heat was unbearable. We got to 80 mile beach to find that the temperature was 8 to 10 degrees cooler than inland… bliss. We set up camp changed into our cozzies and headed over the sand dunes to the beach. There was one problem. It was low tide and the water was about 1000 metres from the high tide mark, so we paddled around in the wet sand. In places it is like quicksand. Evidence of that is the roof of a 4WD in the sand about 800 metres out from the high tide mark. The rest of the vehicle is still below the roof. One expensive mistake. They lose between 10 and 15 4WD’s a year around Broome as people ignore the warnings about the big tides. Some tide variations are more than 11 metres between high and low tide.
As the sun was going down Louise suddenly noticed the brilliance of the sunset so we made a quick dash to the top of the sand dunes and captured some great pics of the sun setting.
Next morning we packed up and headed to Port Hedland. When we arrived we checked our batteries to find that the batteries we rely on for camping lights and fridges were not being charged so we checked into the caravan park with a powered site to get everything charged up while we tracked down the cause of the non charging. A trip to an auto electrician checked everything and established our alternator was ok and everything else was working properly but that the DC to DC regulator was overheating and cutting out. Because he was booked out he couldn't do anything for us but at least we now knew the cause. We went to ARB to see if we could buy a solar blanket so we could add to our solar capacity and keep things charged up as the next part of the trip will include free camping in the middle of no where. He pointed us to another auto electrician who could help us but he had closed for the day. Back at camp I had a look at the whole set up and found that the heat sensor was on top of the black battery and in the drive down with 40 degree heat the battery was extremely hot. I reasoned that if I moved the sensor to a more open position near the charger it would remove the heat affect from the battery and subsequently found that the fix has worked.
The next morning we had booked into a boat tour recommended by a fellow traveller we met at the bird Observatory. It is run by the Mission to Seamen. They visit every boat docked in the harbour and provide free transport to the mainland for any seaman that has a shore leave pass. They take them shopping, supply cooked meals and even has a licensed bar plus other support services. They help over 3000 seamen a month and are totally private funded charity. They sell tour passes on the boat that help fund the mission. $55 for Louise and $49.50 for me ( I'm now a pensioner). It was a fantastic and informative trip as we visited all eight ships docked in port at that time. Getting up close to these monsters is a photographers dream come true. We we got back fully impressed with the work the mission does I donated my pensioner discount back to them. Some facts we learnt is that the port is the largest bulk carrier loading port in the world, operates 24 hours a days with the main export being iron ore but also salt, precious minerals, and scrap metal to name a few. The tankers include some of the largest in the world and the port can simultaneously load 19 bulk carriers at a time. At any one time there is between 20 to 50 carriers off shore so efficiency is a must as the waiting cost to the mining companies up to $100,000 a day. The ships when loading are turned around in 24 hours. Also if a cyclone warning is issued the harbour must be cleared and it takes 18 hours to clear 19 ships from the harbour. All ships must have pilots and 4 tugs to move them through the harbour entrance. All this info comes from the mission and we would recommend the tour to anyone staying in Port Headland.
The other impressive sight. Was the iron ore trains. We saw one that had 160 cars being Towed by 2 drive less local but then saw another that was two sets of train and cars joined together. That is 4 Lucas and 320 cars…. Huge.
Another place we visited, other than the shopping centre to replenish stocks, was a working aboriginal art centre that has up to forty artists working there over time. It was very interesting watching them work on pieces that can take up to a month or two to complete. One artist was working on a commissioned piece and stop to talk to us. Her mother came from the central desert near the South Australian border and her mob only came out of the desert in the late 1950’s early 1960’s and saw their first white man. Her mother was only a child but was taken away from her family and sent to Perth. The family is now reunited but listening to her story was very moving. She is a proud mother of 3 and her eldest daughter has won a scholarship with one of the government agencies to go back to learning the traditional land care skills and then to pass it on to the next generation.
With the temperature again nudging 40 degrees we decided that we had enough of Port Hedland. The decision we had to make now was would we head to Marble Bar, Newman and Karajini where the temperatures over the next couple of days was going even higher, or would we miss them all and stick to the coast. An examination of the longer forecast showed that temps were going to drop from Sunday onwards to more normal levels, that is 10 degrees lower than they have been for the past month. So we decided to stick to our original itinerary and that is why we are in Marble Bar now, but you will have to wait for the next blog for that story.
What I can tell you is that I have finally fixed the problem of not having enough data allowance to upload blogs photos etc. I have been able to change my phone plan to get 15gb a month of extra data from Telstra without it costing me any more money, so will be able to upload photos to my website when I get time. Time is scarce when you are doing nothing, but we will see what happens.