Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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16 June 2006 - South Hedland to Eighty Mile Beach

Location map The night seemed to be not as cold as previous nights; but the outside thermometer had recorded 9 degrees which really wasn't much different to the 7 and 8 degrees of earlier nights. Sites at this caravan park are small and the access road too narrow so the Territory had to make a curving backing approach to the A'van tow-ball to connect; the television camera in the Territory aimed downward to include the towball in the picture the driver sees was invaluable in making a smooth connection. Then the coupling was made and the weight distribution hitches put into place and we were away. The weather was clear and bright, the sky was blue, there was little traffic and the road was flat, nearly level, with a good surface. CDMA mobile telephone coverage from Port Hedland dropped out just over 30 kilometres from Port Hedland

We had left South Hedland much more quickly than usual to give us a better chance of getting a good powered site at Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park where they do not accept bookings; on our previous visit there we had arrived at lunch time on a busy day and all the good sites had already been allocated.

After about half an hours driving from South Hedland we came around a long bend to be confronted by a police vehicle on the other side of the road and a policeman waving us over. There was no sign of an accident or obstruction ahead. He wanted to breathalyse me and check my driving licence - unexpected at 9 o'clock in the morning in the middle of nowhere. The two policemen pulled over several other vehicles at the same spot. After I had been checked I asked where the road trains we were seeing came from. I was told they carried ores of copper, gold and manganese from mines way out in the desert to Port Hedland where they were exported for overseas processing. The gold ore comes from Telfer which is over 300 kilometres away; driving a long and heavy road train along gravel roads that far must be hard work.

The region we were driving through was flat grassland sometimes covered by wattles in full flower; these seemed to be similar to those around South Hedland with cylindrical flowering bodies. The huge number of wattle flowers probably explained Mary's running nose and slight sniffle as hay fever and not the cold I thought she was getting. At Pardoo Roadhouse we entered a bioregion (extending up into the Kimberley so we will be in it for weeks) of red-sand coastal plains covered in grass savannah and scrub, particularly acacias. Watching the different plant species appear and then disappear along the road was interesting. Sometimes a type of plant would be seen for a few kilometres then not be seen again that day. According to the Australian Botanical Gardens web site there are 1,000 acacia species in Australia, most of them found in arid and semi-arid regions like the north of Western Australia, so it's no wonder that I keep seeing different species along the road.

The cattle industry is a major occupant of the Pilbara and the highway ran through pastoral leases with grids across the road to remind us of the fact. From the road we saw a few cattle grazing, usually well off the road.

The turn-off to the Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park was well signed. The road runs through a pastoral property with a grid immediately off the highway. The park has its own grader and keeps the 10 kilometre long dirt road in reasonable condition. The dust wasn't too bad. When we came over the dune on to the entrance to the park we were delighted to see only one motorhome in the check-in area and beyond that empty powered sites. We were assigned a good site in the main part of the park (where the trees are bigger and provide more shade and shelter) and were able to drive through the adjacent site so there was no hassle getting the van into position. We set up with the awning and one end of the annex to provide some shade from the hot midday sun. Surprisingly we had television reception for GWN (Ch 7) and WIN (Ch 9 and 10); reception is good except at sunset when one channel becomes unreliable. There is an ABC FM station but no CDMA mobile phone coverage.

After we had finished setting up we went for a walk around part of the park and saw our first live wild wallaby/kangaroo in Western Australia. This one was standing in the shade of a tree just watching activity in the caravan park. It had the self-confidence I've seen before in wild male kangaroos; they don't look at all frightened of what they see, but are just watching with curiosity.
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