Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marble Bar To Newman

The weather has been glorious lately, 30-32 every day and 12-14 every night. It is hard to believe that 12 months ago, when I was at Windorah, it damn near rained every day for the next 4 months. It still looks a little cold down south, so I am in no hurry to get any further south for a while. I recall that two years ago, I got to Perth in early October and it was still a bit cool, so I am aiming to get there probably about the beginning of November.

Monday, 22nd August 2011 - Day 983

I left Marble Bar about 2:30 and headed south towards Nullagine. The Camps book doesn't show any rest areas along this stretch so I kept my eyes open for likely bush camps but not a sausage. The road is pretty bad compared to some, in fact it is probably the worst "main" road I have travelled since the Plenty Highway from Alice to Boulia when I first started out. The corrugations aren't too bad, but the road is very rocky with the occasional rock sticking up in the middle of the road and very hard to see until the last minute, because it is the same colour and texture as the road itself. In addition, there are a lot of little rain gutters across the road, hard to see for the same reason. There are a significant number of concrete flood ways where the creeks cross the road and the lips of some of them are 2 or 3 inches higher than the road surface which, like the rain gutters, would give the suspension a hell of a bang if you hit them at any speed. I have slowed down to about 70 kph maximum and I have been slowing right down for the gutters, grids and flood ways.

I reached Nullagine in the afternoon, but didn't even stop to stretch my legs, it wasn't a very pleasant looking spot and apparently had nothing to offer the traveller. I pushed on to my planned stop at Wild Dog Creek, which is marked in the camps book and couldn't find it! Admittedly, it was very late in the day and the sun was low in the west where the track was supposed to be, but I couldn't see it and, as the creek was not signposted, I wasn't even sure that I was in the right place. I spotted an old gravel scrape and did a quick set up (no awning and didn't empty the van) just for the night.

In the morning, Tuesday, I took a wander around and found the right place, right where the book said it would be and found a nice spot and set up for a stay of a week or so.

Wednesday, 24th August 2001 - Day 985

Well, a first for me, I've been told to move on. I was sitting at my leisure yesterday afternoon, trying desperately not to over-exert myself, when out of the blue a helicopter landed right next to my campsite and a young fellow came over and told me that they were going to be mustering the next day and the waterhole where I was camped was going to be one of the mustering points for the cattle, so I had to pack up and head off. This whole area is absolutely as flat as a pancake and has only very scrubby bush and the drive is as boring as can be imagined, even worse than the Nularbor or the road from Perth to Geraldton. I came across some old hills which are so typical of the Pilbara landscape, but this was a very isolated instance.

As I got further south, towards Roy Hill, I got into the area where a lot of iron-ore mining is going on and the ore is being trucked further south to Newman as there is no rail line in these parts. The entire landscape is covered with red dust each side of the road as far as the eye can see and all the trees and scrub are just caked with the stuff. This is one of the more unpleasant side-effects of the mining boom. A real eye-sore.

The Camps book tells me there is a rest area at Roy Hill and so there is, right on the junction of the Newman road and the road that goes west to the Auski Roadhouse at Munjina. The rest area is pretty small and has no facilities except for two rubbish bins, but the whole area is flat with plenty of shady spots where you can set up well clear of the road and the 24/7 road trains which thunder through. This is just south of the crossing of the Fortescue river which, as you can see, has been stained to the colour of chocolate by the iron-ore dust.

As I said the area is very flat and level and appears to be a floodplain overflow from the Fortescue, but not much chance of rain at this time of the year. I found a nice out-of-the-way spot, well away from the road and set up for a stay.

As you can see from the photo, there isn't much shade but with the maximum only about 28-30 degC each day, that isn't much of a problem. My biggest grumble is that there aren't any hills to climb and have a look around. There is lots of traffic on the road, ore-trains, road trains and lots of what are obviously mining service vehicles, but very, very few travellers. I gather that people go from Port Hedland down to Marble Bar and then return the same way, I think I have only seen two other actual travellers in the past 10 days or so.

Tuesday, 6th September 2011 - Day 998

I stopped at Roy Hill for 11 days to make up for missing out at Wild Dog Creek, but finally I ran out of fresh milk. I still have plenty of tinned Carnation milk for coffee but in the warm weather I practically live on Iced Coffee made with full-cream milk and liquid iced-coffee mix and no fresh milk means I have to drink water, which I hate. Even more important, I have run out of Coke Zero and don't have anything to put with the bourbon, so I needed to move on.

I got to Newman yesterday and have booked into the caravan park for two nights, just enough time to do a bit of shopping, do the washing and fill up the water tanks. I am heading off again in the morning heading for Wittenoom and then Millstream in the Chichester National Park. Millstream has been on my "to-do" list for years, but every time I have been up this way, for some reason I have missed it. I won't bother going into Karajini, I was there only a few years ago, and while it is a superb place to visit, I don't need to see it again so soon. After Millstream I will hit Karratha, so I will drop you another post when I get there

See you soon