Friday, 21 September 2018

Day 18 – Broome to Karratha

It’s slightly more than 600km from Broome to Port Hedland on National Highway 1 (NH1).  There is a major road junction at Port Hedland where NH1 joins National Highway 95 (NH95).  The latter is the inland road and the shortest route back to Perth.  We plan to continue on NH1 which is the coast road. 

There are road houses approximately every 200km which might mean we no longer need to carry jerricans of diesel. A road house is generally a fuel station with some additional facilities such as toilets, food, and sometimes a caravan park.  I had assumed the further we drove from a main population centre, the more expensive the price of fuel.  Therefore we refuelled both the 4x4 and two jerricans in Broome ($1.66.09p/l) on the morning of our departure. 

However before we could depart Carlin needed to install the trailer replacement shock absorbers which we had collected from the Broome Post Office.


I’ll admit he completed this task in about 20% of the time it would have taken me.  Oh, to be young, healthy and slim again!

Note the large rectangular aluminium checker plate box underneath the trailer.  It’s the second trailer water tank with a capacity of 30 litres.  I’m considering removing the water tank and using the aluminium box to hold my 150Ah AGM trailer battery.  The trailer front water holds 50 litres and I also have a 20 litre plastic water can (jerrican).  We didn’t use the water from 30 litre tank during our trip and there were three of us.    

Although we are travelling on the coastal road it’s so far inland there is very little opportunity to see the ocean.  Nearly the entire landscape to Port Hedland is as flat as a pancake.  Much of it is a floodplain and during the wet season earlier this year much of the floodplain (including the road) was under 500mm of water.  Broome was cut off along with the small communities along NH1.  Several times we had to either stop or slow down for road construction crews repairing long damaged sections of road.

Our first refuelling stop was at Sandfire Roadhouse where we topped up the 4x4 tank.  I should have checked the price of fuel first as it had jumped to $1.82.7p/l.  Much to my chagrin the fuel was cheaper at the second roadhouse!

By now we were travelling parallel to Eighty Mile Beach which is rather amusing because it’s actually approximately 220km long!  Of course we were too far inland to see it.

Our third refuelling stop was at Paradoo Roadhouse.

IMG_3022 Most of the traffic at the roadhouses were ‘grey nomads’.  The road trains obviously know the fuel is expensive and their fuel tanks have sufficient capacity to travel between major centres.

It was at this point we needed to review our situation.  Once we reached the Port Hedland – Karratha region we knew freedom camping was both prohibited and actively enforced.  We either had to camp soon or carry on well beyond Karratha.  We elected to do the latter continuing to rotate drivers every 90 minutes. 

By now we had left the Kimberley Region of Western Australia and were in the Pilbara.   Port Hedland is the second largest town in the region and is blessed with a large natural harbour.  This made it the ideal location for a large port to support the four major iron ore mines in the region.  The two largest companies are BHP and Rio Tinto.  The trains in this part of Australia are big.  Up to 2km long and weighing approximately 35,000 tonnes.  In the last decade there has been a move to robotic trains (driverless).  The trains actually don’t stop.  They are loaded; unloaded, and refuelled whilst on the move.  Port Hedland is 99% a mining town where the majority of the workforce is FIFO (Fly In – Fly Out) working 10 days and having 10 off.  Wages are high compared to most of Australia and there is a concessional income tax range for working in a tropical (hot) location.  I suspect one of the major reasons why freedom camping is prohibited in the area is to discourage workers arriving who don’t already have employment.

230km west of Port Hedland is Karratha.   The town’s income is derived from iron ore exports, sea-salt and supporting the offshore gas industry.  Karratha is probably more attractive than Port Hedland.   We only stopped to refuel at the Shell roadhouse before continuing south. 

Two hours later and the sun was getting ready to set.  We needed to find a campsite eventually deciding to stop at a long road train rest area.  There were no facilities here and it wasn’t until we’d set up camp that we realised we’d stopped at the longest open latrine on the highway.  It was too late to move on which meant camping the night surrounded by toilet paper and “the other stuff”.  All of which decomposed extremely slowly in the hot and dry conditions.


A poor choice of campsite! Sad smile

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