North West Trip Day Two – Port Headland to Karijini

Day Two – Friday 5th August

Port Headland – Kairijini National Park

After a refreshing sleep at my dad’s place in Port Headland Melissa and I were dropped off at the Port Headland Visitor’s Centre, the starting point for our BHP mine tour of their operations in Port Headland. Mum and Dad booked us on this tour for the morning as Dad had to finish off some of his work which would take all morning prior to us leaving for Karijini. I was looking forward to this tour and getting an inside look at one of the largest drivers of our economy here in Australia at this point in time.

We arrived at the visitors centre a little early, we used this time head on over to the Silver Carriage, an old train restaurant carriage that has been converted into a cafe. We had coffees and tea to pass the time on the back decking area enjoying each other’s company and the warm sun which we found lovely when compared to the cold winter days we had been experiencing back in Perth.

After finishing the coffees we headed back to the visitor centre and waited close to the front door to ensure we got a good seat on the bus tour (we had been told this was important). When the driver arrived I asked him where the best place to sit would be and he offered Melis and I the front seat in the drivers cab. This was brilliant as it gave us the complete view unhindered by any other person or part of the bus.

The tour was incredibly informative, the port site we toured make up half of the operations, the other half happening out on the mine sites. Throughout the Pilbara there are many iron ore mine sites, the largest being the Mt Whaleback site located at Newman. Our tour guide told us that the ore quality differs from the various mine sites from the high grade at Whaleback (the colour is a dark purple colour) through to the mustardy orange colours from the satellite mines. Apparently the Mt Whaleback ore is of such a high quality that it actually needs to be mixed with the lesser ore qualities for shipping to reach the demands of the various clients overseas. I was blown away with the size of the machinery and the size of the ore piles waiting for export. Some of the machinery located on the port site is no longer in use (this being the on site crushers). All of the crushing requirements now happen on the mine sites rather than in the port, at the moment the three crushers located on the Port site are being dismantled to make room for other machinery needed.

The companies BHP and FMG who operate out of Port Headland have invested significant dollars into infrastructure throughout the port area, most notably this is seen through their train lines throughout the yards to firstly transport the ore from the mines to the port but also to then have it stored in its piles waiting for shipping and then also its transfer onto the ships. The trains transporting the ore are operated by drivers, however, they can be controlled automatically from the central control station at the port. For safety reasons there is an alarm that goes off and has to be reset by the driver every couple of minutes. If a driver neglects to reset this alarm the central control can take control of the train and direct it in automatically. There are also sensors alongside all of the train line that detect anything obstructing the track, this technology allows the maximum amount of ore to be transported with the minimal amount of disruption which equals greater profits.

After we had finished the tour we were picked up by mum and taken to the turtle beach, this was because dad still wasn’t quite finished his work and we needed to give him an additional 15 – 20 minutes. Port Headland is a hatching ground for endangered sea turtles, it is the only urban hatching ground in Australia. Whilst we were at the look out we did manage to see a couple of these magnificent creatures out in the ocean. After picking dad up from his work we headed back to is place to have a quick lunch and then head off for Karijini National Park.

The trip to the National Park was an interesting one in itself, we estimated it’d take about two hours (we were wrong as it took us four hours). The landscape in the Pilbara is absolutely stunning, we were blown away with the diversity in flora from small semi arid scrubs to broad sweeping flood plains to, as the trip progressed, the high sweeping hills of the Hammersley Ranges.

After four hours and a quick stop for fuel (fuel places are few and far between so you do need to take them when they come along) we pulled into the Eastern Entrance for Karijini National Park. The time was just after 4pm so we decided to not waste a second and head to the visitor centre. Melissa’s and my hope was to be able to book oursleves onto a guided tour of the restricted gorges (level 6 walks) and hopefully get some time to go into a gorge or two in the afternoon. Unfortunately upon arriving at the visitor’s centre we found out that it shut at 4pm (we got there at 4:05pm). Feeling utterly disappointed that we had missed it by such a small time frame we headed for the accommodation at the Eco Resort to check-in. This is when we found that there was another 47km until the Resort and it was a rough gravel road we had to get there – this felt like another fail as the afternoon was getting late!

By 4:45pm we pulled into the Eco Resort and checked in, Melis and I noticed that there was a tour on offer which could be booked at the Eco Resort for the restricted gores with West Oz Actice Adventures. We booked ourselves onto it for the following day , all of a sudden our spirits were lifted as one of the main things we wanted to do had now been taken care of.

Instead of going straight to the accommodation we headed for the Weano Gorge Recreation Area and for Oxer Lookout, reputably one of the best lookouts at sunset in Western Australia. At Oxer lookout three of the gorges in the area, Hancock, Weano and Red Gorge all meet at the point known as the junction (at the base of the gorge is Junction Pool). We arrived there right as the sun was staring to set, the setting sun provided brought out the many different shades of red from the rock of the three gorges. We had arrived and now it felt like we were going to have a great time. All I can really say about the view is wow, words just cannot describe the magnificence and beauty. I found myself in total awe at the magnificence of creation and again thinking about how there is no such possible way that we, or creation in its full splendor could not have happened accidentally but as part of the design of a loving and powerful God.

After spending a lot of time down at Oxer Lookout we headed back to the Eco Rereat and checked out our accommodation. We had booked two Eco tents between the four of us, I was sharing with my Dad and Melis was sharing a tent with my Mum. These tents were a great blend between the basic necessities with a little bit of luxury containing a proper bed and electricity as well as an en-suite with both a toilet and shower. The toilets and showers provided much humour over the next few days with it being a common occurrence to open the toilet to find a small frog looking back up at you…always a good thing to check before doing your business.

For dinner we headed over to the Eco Retreat’s Restaurant where we enjoyed a good meal. The retreat was actually not too badly priced from a food perspective and whilst the menu was rather simple the quality of food was great and there was enough range to cater for everyone. Whilst we were having dinner we had the tour guide from West Oz Active Adventures come over and introduce himself to us, Pete. Pete filled us in on everything we needed to know about our trip the next day.

After dinner had concluded we headed back over to the tents, on our way there we were blown away by how cold it had gotten (it was super cold). It was lucky we had been warned and brought lots of warm clothes to get through the evenings.

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