July 2010

July 1 - Port Hedland to Whim Creek, 119.26 klms, Avg speed 18.4 kph, Cycling time 6.27 hrs; Total kms 15,674.28

Buffeting side winds for 90% of the time, fantastic tail winds for 10%, surprisingly enjoyed the ride even thou it was a long one.  Camping on the lawn of Whim Creek pub, there’s nothing here expect the pub & a copper mine.  The discovery of copper in 1887 signalled the beginning of a long yet sporadic mining era and placed the area on the map. New copper mining activities commenced  in 2004.  At the pub there’s free camping, $5 showers & a relatively good meal for $20.  After being in Port Hedland for the past 8 nights we didn’t realise how noisy it was, Whim Creek is so quiet, it’s bliss. 

July 2 - Whim Creek to Roebourne, 86.27 klms, Avg speed 19.3 kph, Cycling time 4.27 hrs; Total kms 15,760.55

The nights & mornings are now chilly so wearing a fleece & cycle leggings is the norm.  Mainly favourable winds to Roebourne, passing lots of stinking, dead cows, Greg found a wind up torch & we rode past a beautiful eagle standing like a statue on a rock ... photo opportunity lost as he flew off quickly.  A few hills to look at today which made the scenery more interesting, still harsh countryside we’re riding through.  Roebourne (pop 1,400) is the oldest town on the NW coast of WA established in 1866 & has many fine old buildings still remaining as a constant reminder of the early days when the town was regarded as the capital of the NW. Now, however the town is considered one of the Aboriginal art centres of some note. Thank goodness because the township itself is pretty uninspiring with the Pub closed and most of the shops boarded or bared up. We thinks this town has a chequered past.

July 3– Roebourne to Port Samson, 23.70 klms, Avg speed 15.6 kph, Cycling time 1.30 hrs; Total kms 15,784.25

Got up late (7am!) as only a short ride today.  10 klms down the road we stopped at Wickham & had 2 cups of great coffee, something we hadn’t expected in the mining town of Wickham.  There’s also a large Woolworths supermarket here so we stocked up on supplies then rode another 9 klms to our destination.  Along the way we rode past Roebourne Prison, a huge structure, which obviously had replaced the old Roebourne Goal we saw yesterday.  Greg didn’t find anything on the road today (past finds—hats, sunnies, tools, money), still riding through arid countryside then suddenly over the hill we see the water at Port Samson (pop 400).  What a pretty place this is with beautiful sandy beaches sheltered by rocky outcrops forming many sheltered coves, fascinating walk trails through unspoilt coastal terrain & great fishing.  The town offers 2 caravan parks, a store, tavern & a couple of restaurants, we’re staying for 4 nights to sample it all.

July 4 – 7 — Port Samson

Day 2 saw us sitting in the tent in the morning to escape the wind, Greg working on his laptop.  Hearing several loud cracks outside it sounded like a tree about to fall, we should get out of the tent.  I’d got out while hearing more cracks & Greg was slowing following when Rob, a fellow traveller at the Caravan Park, raced over & said “GET OUT OF THE TENT NOW, THAT TREE’S ABOUT TO FALL” & like a startled rabbit he did & 3 secs later the tree fell flattening our tent, tearing the outer shell & breaking the poles, it was the strangest feeling watching it all happen & not being able to do anything about it.  How lucky we were not to have been hurt & how lucky we were that none of our items in the tent were damaged, including our laptop.  Over the next couple of hours we’d salvaged our belongings, had an extremely generous offer from the owner of the Caravan Park (not responsible for the tree) to provide 2 night’s accommodation in the Samson Chalets across the road & also had an offer of another tent, left behind by previous travellers.  By early afternoon we’d settled into our luxury accommodation, sheltering from the cold, windy, rainy conditions from outside, a perfect place to be.  Tomorrow (Mon) Greg would contact the local authority responsible for the tree in an attempt to claim compensation for a replacement tent....life is never boring on the road.

July 6 – Port Samson to Cossack to Port Samson , 36.24 klms, Avg speed 16.9 kph, Cycling time 2.08 hrs; Total kms 15,820.49

Rode out to the historic townsite of Cossack, the stone structures and buildings still in existence were a reminder of an important colonial port (for pearling & gold) during the period 1872 until the transfer of the port to Port Samson. On our return to Point Samson we again stopped at Wickham for a great cup of coffee and bought some supplies. We had a late lunch outside the shopping centre which Greg reckoned had less windows that the prison down the road. Again, all the shops had bars and grills on any windows and doors and this doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies. Still the coffee was worth it, but a tourist attraction it aint. 

July 8 – Port Samson to Karratha, 62.00 klms, Avg speed 21.5 kph, Cycling time 2.52 hrs; Total kms 15,882.49

A grey & overcast morning as we left for Karratha but with fantastic tailwinds for the next 30 klms.  We stopped at the tourist information office on the way into town, not because we really wanted information but because there is a Java Coffee Cart in the car park so we had a very nice but very windy cup of coffee before heading onto the caravan park. The winds seemed to increase as we set up camp at the Pilbara Holiday Park, the tent that we’d been given at Port Samson bent so much we had to move to a more sheltered spot & we also found it wasn’t waterproof when the rain fell that afternoon.  Luckily it didn’t rain for long so little damage.

July 9 – 12 — Karratha

Karratha (pop 12,700) was established in the late 1960’s to serve the requirements of major local industrial projects such as Pilbara Iron, Dampier Salt & later, Woodside’s North West Shelf Venture.  There’s nothing pleasant about Karratha, it’s not attractive, the service is appalling, it’s main purpose is to cater for the workers, mainly single men, who are working on these projects as is evidenced by rows & rows of military style accommodation, exceedingly high rentals/housing & the local pub overflowing with men all wearing their Hi Viz work gear.  Given the choice we wouldn’t stay here, we’re only here because it provides essential services (flight connections, storage) for our trip to the UK in 13 day’s time. Over the next few days we  got into a routine of riding into town along the glass littered cycle paths and having a coffee at the Jamaica Blue chain coffee shop. It was so poorly run we thought we may have been on the set of a John Cleese training video. We would then go about our business of food shopping, clothes shopping at the two charity shops for clothes to take away to the UK and then returning to the caravan park. We did try and have a dinner out one night, but the food (Chinese) was pretty ordinary so we decided that we could do better and less expensive dinner arrangements in the camp kitchen.

July 13 – Karratha to Dampier, 20.00 klms, Avg speed 18.1 kph, Cycling time 1.14 hrs; Total kms 15,902.49

Definitely needed a break after 5 day’s in Karratha so we headed to Dampier, located just 20 klms away.  The maximum amount of time you could stay at the Dampier Transit Caravan Park was 3 days which suited us fine.  Dampier (pop 2,000) is often regarded as Karratha’s sister town but at least it’s prettier being the gateway to the 42 islands around the Dampier Archipelago with plenty of water recreation activities too—boating, windsurfing, fishing & kayaking.  After our dining disasters is Karratha we thought we’d try the eating out scene, such as it is, in Dampier, mmmmm...We were advised that you could get a reasonable feed next door at the Peninsular Palms. It used to be a resort, but has been taken over by one of the mines to provide food and accommodation services. They let the public in at 25 bucks a head, but it was nothing to fancy and, much to Greg’s distaste, no alcohol allowed in the dining room, because of Occ, Health and Safety. The next night we tried Dampier Mermaid Hotel, which in a throw back to the 1970’s advertised skimpy barmaids! We bought our drinks in the Public (only) bar and then went outside to the balcony to enjoy them and the setting sun. I asked Greg if the skimpy barmaid had a pretty face and all he could do was turn to me and say “I dunno, I wasn’t lookin’ at her face”. We sat in a booth and had the as expected dinner and walked back to the caravan park as the courtesy bus that had bought us couldn’t be found.

July 14 – Dampier to Burrup Peninsular to Dampier, 34.63 klms, Avg speed 15.0 kph, Cycling time 2.18 hrs; Total kms 15,937.12

This is where the North West Shelf Venture Visitor’s Centre is located overlooking one of the world’s largest producers of gas.  The development of these facilities in the 1980s followed discoveries of massive gas & condensate fields in Western Australia’s Carnarvon Basin.  Today, this $27 billion production system accounts for more than 40% of Australia’s total oil & gas production & 65% of gas production in Western Australia.

July 16 – Dampier to Karratha, 20.00 klms, Avg speed 15.2 kph, Cycling time 1.35 hrs; Total kms 15,922.49

Another 5 days back in Karratha but at least the time flew by as we had lots to organise— storage, haircuts, picking up a huge amount of mail from the post office (tyres, replacement Teva sandals—another Warranty claim, new stools, new seat covers (thanks Robin), new stove, our passports & bottle of wine from our cellar together with small bottle of Moet (thanks Fat Cat) as well as washing bikes & replacing tyres, raiding the local charity shops for a different wardrobe for the UK (yippee) + a suit case to put it all in & Greg visiting the doctor for prescription renewal & blood test—a healthy boy he still is.  The day before we left for the UK we loaded up Crazy Ruby & Horsey, rode the 11 klms to the industrial estate, said goodbye & rode them into our storage unit, locked the roller door & moved into our motel room at the Pilbara Holiday Park.  We’ll miss them & our life on the road but excitedly are looking forward to catching up with family & friends in the UK.

July 21—London—We’ll be back in the middle of September.

We caught he taxi from the caravan park the 16klms to Karratha air port. We checked in thinking we could access the Qantas Club lounge, but was told that Greg could, but not me as a guest. Ripper, two hours to wait in the atmospheric departure lounge of Western Australia’s 2nd busiest airport. Arrived in Perth at midday and transferred to the International Airport where we could access the Club Lounge, which was lucky as breaky was fading fast, our flight to Singapore didn’t depart until 3.00pm so we could at least have a feed, a drink and read a current news paper for the first time in weeks. We were both amazed to find that Australia now has a female Prime Minister. Amazed because neither of us could remember voting, and as with the last Federal election, we will be out of the country for the election just called. How lucky are we, that we don’t have to put up with all the crap that accompanies our democratic process.