North West Trip Day One – Perth to Port Headland

Day One – Thursday 4th August 2011.

Perth – Port Headland

On Thursday the 4th of August 2011 my fiance, Melissa Haydon, and I left Perth for a four day holiday in the North West of WA. The reason we were traveling north was to get a taste for Karijini National Park, a beautiful location in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, it had been one of Melissa’s dreams for many years to go there to walk and climb through the many gorges which exist there.

My Dad has been working as a contractor to the state government in the medical field for the past eight months. The nature of his job means that he is based up in Port Headland throughout the weeks. My mum flies back and forward regularly between Perth and Port Headland to both spend time with my Dad and also look after my nephew in Perth two days a week. Our trip came into fruition after a conversation I had with my mum where she said that she wanted to go and visit Karijini whilst they were based up in the Pilbara region, I mentioned that Melissa also really wanted to visit the National Park and the rest was all a matter of working out available times for the four of us to embark on our journey. After sifting through many dates we managed to find time we were all free from the 4th of August to the 98th of August, it would mean I wold have to renegotiate my teaching loads for the Friday and Monday either side of the weekend but I figured it was worth it to have this experience and share it with my fiance and also my parents.

After teaching in the morning of the 4th of August out at Aquinas College my mum and I were picked up by Melissa’s family and taken to the domestic airport to catch our 2:10 flight on QF1114 to Port Headland. Melissa and I were sitting separate from my mum, this worked really well as it gave us the two hour flight duration to talk about various details for our upcoming wedding (the trip was made pretty comfortable thanks to being given an exit row aisle).

On our descent into Port Headland I was blown away to see the size of all of the mining operations happening up here. Out in gauge roads of the harbour were 29 iron ore carriers waiting to gain access to the port to be loaded with iron ore for export to China, India and various other places around the world. It is said that the mining in Western Australia and Queensland is what is providing the Australian economy with a sense of stability throughout this global economic unstable time, however, words cannot describe the extent and size of the operations (which port wise is still being expanded further top maximise export potential).

Upon landing at Port Headland airport we were greeted by my dad and a nice warm 28 degree day (a pleasant change from the cold winter days in Perth). It was an interesting experience being in Port Headland with virtually every person you see wearing a work reflective shirt for mine site safety (it really was a sea of orange and yellow). Another interesting site were all the mine site safety fitted 4-wheel drives (all with only one person in it).

Dad wanted to give us the grand tour of the area so we left the airport and headed for the town of South Headland, the main living area of the town. I was not aware that Headland is divided into two distinct parts being Port Headland and South Headland. The reaosn this came about was due to a need for more land. Port Headland naturally is an island which has very limited land available for development, and most of it is owned by BHP. The site of South Headland was formed from the need for more land for residential living and commercial uses. There is a distance of between 20 – 25km between Port and South Headlands, this distance was worked out based on the location of South being the first strip of land that doesn’t flood during the wet season.

We went into South Headland and were shown the various landmarks (it really was very minimal). He really wanted to show us the brand new hospital which was just opened earlier in the year up here – it is currently the newest hospital in the state of Western Australia. After having viewed South Headland we proceeded back onto the main road to head for Port Headland.

As we approached Port Headland we started to see the extent of the mining operations in the region. Port Headland is one of the two major ports used to export the mineral resources of the North West (the other being Karatha). Before we got into the town of Port Headland we were confronted with the Dampier Salt Company’s Port Headland operations. Dampier Salt is largest exporter of salt in world with the majority of it heading over seas for industrial uses including use on roads in Europe during the winter. 24 hours a day the salt pile is continually added to from the thousands of hectares of salt pans which is refined from pumping seas water into massive pens to be dried over a period of three years.

The BHP port site is an incredible thing to behold, it dominates the entire Port Headland landscape. As we approached the town we saw the size of the machinery, iron ore storage piles and the out of commissioned crushers (all crushing now takes place on the mine sites rather than in the Port area). Mum and Dad have booked us into a mine tour of the BHP site tomorrow so we will look forward to learning more about all the operations of BHP in the Pilbara tomorrow.

After an extensive tour of the town (took all of 10 minutes really) we went back to Dad’s place he is staying in up here, a nice 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house. After having refreshed we went to the Port Headland Yacht Club for dinner.

The Yacht Club building is a rather new structure which replaced the older one earlier this year. A lot of the funds to construct this were a joint venture between BHP and FMG, the two big mining companies invested into the town. Aparently there was a short fall in the money and Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest donated a million dollars of his own money to have the yacht club completed. Dinner was really nice, the menu wasn’t extensive but it was all reasonably priced (as were the bar drinks). The view from the yacht club is very pleasant, the majority of the seating is actually outside and overlooks the mouth of the port harbour.

At the conclusion of dinner we headed back to the house and prepared for the next days activities including the mine tour and leaving for Karijini.

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