Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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29 June 2006 - Eighty Mile Beach to Port Smith  

Location map The morning was very windy. The wind was a headwind for us on the Great Northern Highway so we had slightly heavier fuel consumption but not enough to alter the amount of fuel we took on at the Sandfire roadhouse so we could reach Port Smith, then Broome. We didn't want to buy petrol at Sandfire prices (168 cents per litre) unless it was needed before Broome where petrol costs 151 cents. But we also didn't want to run out of petrol.

The Great Northern Highway road surface was good and the weather good for travelling (except for the wind which decreased as the morning went on). Traffic was fairly light but the number of caravans on the road has increased. The road is still passing through the Dampierland bioregion characterised by grass savannah with scrub and trees in patches. The variability in plant types is still intriguing - a plant will be common in patches then just disappear from sight.

This is still pastoral land and we saw cattle in the scrub beside the road as well as four or five roadkill cattle. The boundaries to pastoral areas are marked by steel grids in the road which cattle cannot walk across but motor vehicles can easily cross. Tyres running over the steel bars produces a harsh, distinctive sound (which quickly wakes up anybody dozing in the car) and there can be some concern about hitting an uneven surface or sharp edge of the pit under the grid but on main highways the concrete edgings on grids are fairly level with the bitumen so there is little difficulty passing over them, even towing a caravan, at normal speed. Grids on gravel roads are a different matter, the gravel frequently drops below the level of the grid leaving a nasty, sharp edge. So slowing down for grids on gravel roads is essential.

The turn-off to Port Smith is signed with conventional caravan park signs as well as a very unconventional three to four metre high, bright red pillar drawing attention to the turn off. The road is flat, red sand with a dish profile for much of the way; the middle of the road is flat but the sides slope up at forty five degrees or more.The full width of the road is enough for two vehicles going in opposite directions to pass but the dish profile means that a vehicle moving off the centre of the road is tilted towards the middle of the road.
Pillar at Port Smith turnoff Red pillar clearly marking the turnoff to Port Smith.
Arriving at the Port Smith Caravan Park we were assigned site number 27; this was either the site we had last time or one very close to it. Setting up was straightforward with the awning going up for shade. The central pole for the awning had been bent by the wind at South Hedland and was very difficult to extend.

In the evening the park held a barbeque in the entertainment area near our site; it was a pleasant meal but it got too cold for us to stay long.

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