Tag Archives: Dampier


Saturday 21st to Thursday 26th September 2013

This was our fastest start – up at 6:30 and on the road at 8!

We first went to the Burrup Peninsula which is, nowadays, an awkward mix of ultra modern oil and gas facilities (pipelines from offshore fields come ashore here), and timeless aboriginal art. We, of course, were after the art but were rather disappointed. Perhaps we were at the wrong place, or did not venture far enough, but what we saw was not as good as what we saw near Newman. I don’t have any decent photos so will have to leave you with a gas flare!

Gas Flare
Gas flare seen fro the Aboriginal art area on the Burrup Peninsula

HERE is a link to our route and photos taken between Dampier and Exmouth.

Part of our route from Dampier to Exmouth

The route was long and tedious – lots and lots of not very much.

Part of our route from Dampier to the Exmouth area

It did become more interesting as we drove up North West Cape along Exmouth Gulf. There are some expensive looking properties with boat anchorages.


Ningaloo Saturday
Detail of our route in the Exmouth Peninsula

When we got to Exmouth we stopped at the Visitor Centre and booked a bungalow at the Lighthouse Caravan Park seventeen km beyond the town – we fancied a bit of luxury and wanted to be assured of our bed before driving onwards.

We were told that accommodation in the Cape Range National Park, if you have not booked in advance, is assigned on a first come, first served basis at the camp entrance, when the ranger comes on duty at 9 in the morning.

Then into town to get some supplies. At the Caravan Park we signed in and settled into our nice bungalow.

Sunday 22nd September

We got to the Ranger station at 8:30 and joined the queue. 45 minutes later we got to the front of the queue and found that the only camp sites available were on the other side of Yardie Creek. This is a long way south and a very long way from Exmouth and possibilities of resupply. So we decided not to go there.

We decided that we would stay at the Yardie Homestead Caravan Park. This is nowhere near Yardie Creek! In fact it is north of the park, on the road to Exmouth. Because I was feeling a bit under the weather and my back was complaining about too much activity, we decided not to camp but to indulge ourselves with a chalet. And we decided to stay for five nights.

After lunch we headed north, had a swim and went up to the lighthouse which gives its name to last nights accommodation. Then back home for a barbecue.

And the temporary filling I got in Port Hedland proved all too temporary! It came out – I will get it replaced when I get back to the UK.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. This includes tomorrows activities.

Monday 23rd September

This was rather a lazy day. Taking advantage of the availability of a pay phone and telephone card at the camp site, we arranged where we would stay on our way back to Perth. Shark Bay was on our list so we arranged four nights at a place near there, also a place on the way – it was  450 miles to Shark Bay!

Then we hired snorkel, masks and flippers from the camp site and headed off to the Lakeside snorkelling area in the National Park.

Lakeside Snorkel Area
The Lakeside Snorkel Area. the white at the skyline is the edge of the reef. The back reef runs from the waters edge to the reef. The fore reef is the slope beyond the reef down to the deep sea floor. It is covered in broken coral.

But it was very disappointing. There was a strong current from the south west and this stirred up a lot of sand, making the water very murky and visibility poor. Also the current meant that you had to paddle like fury to stay in one place.

We stayed in long enough to see that there was a lot of coral and lots of fishes but we were soon back on shore.

Lakeside Snorkel Area
Chris suffering from being unable to snorkel at Lakeside Snorkel Area

We tried again after lunch but conditions were even worse. So we packed up and headed south to look at Turquoise Beach and Mandu Mandu Gorge. We found lots of coral fossils in the gorge – the formation includes Middle Miocene coral reefs, mirroring the modern ones offshore.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. This includes yesterdays activities.

Tuesday 24th September

Tuesday morning was a very lazy time, hanging about the chalet, watching the emus walking past. After lunch we drove south of Exmouth and headed for the hills.

There are a couple of tracks which lead into the Cape range. One goes along a valley – Shothole Canyon Road – and the other goes along a ridge – Charles Knife Road. Both roads were made when the area was being explored for oil deposits.

Shotover Gorge
Our truck parked at the end of the Shothole Canyon Road

Shothole Canyon gets its name from the shallow holes drilled for explosives to aid the seismic exploration of the area. Strangely enough someone found another reason to visit the canyon. See HERE.

Charles Knife Road goes up to the top of the Cape Range to an old wellhead where an oil exploration well was drilled. Parts of the road go along knife edged ridges but that is not the reason for the name. Charles Knife worked for the oil company and laid out the line of the road.

Charles Knife Road
View toward the Indian Ocean from the Charles Knife Road

After our tour of the inland bits of the Cape Range we returned to Exmouth and bought our supper from a local fish merchant – there is a lot of fishing in the area.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. This includes tomorrows short excursion.

Wednesday 25th September

This was a remarkably lazy day! Most of it was spent round the Caravan Park. Before lunch we went to a nearby beach to see if we could see turtles – we couldn’t so we sunbathed.

Chris on the beach
Chris on the beach

Late afternoon we went back to this mornings beach and watched the local windsurfers. Then walked south to something odd we could see in the distance.

Turtles mating on the beach
Turtles mating on the beach. Romance plays an unimportant part in the process.

It turned out to be turtles mating – but we originally thought that the big one was dead! The owner of the caravan site told us what was really going on.  The female has a gash on the back of her neck which you can see in the photo HERE.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. Includes yesterdays route and photos.

Thursday 26th September

After breakfast we decided that we were not beach people and that we would not go to Shark Bay. We much preferred the inland parts of Western Australia. You might conjecture this by the number of photos I took on the coast compared to inland. So we phoned and cancelled our Shark Bay booking.

For our last day on the coast we decided to give snorkelling one last chance and hired what we needed and headed to South Mandu Beach.

And found that the sea was too rough to snorkel! So carried on south to look at Yardie Creek. It does not reach the sea but the pool extends up the gorge. We resisted taking the boat trip up the gorge.

Yardie Creek
Looking inland up Yardie Creek

After lunch (at the Caravan Park) we tried our snorkels at Oyster Stacks but again the sea was too rough, but we had better luck at Turquoise Beach. The water was turbid but at least we got the snorkels wet.

At Turquoise Beach
Corulla eating grass seeds at Turquoise Beach
At Turquoise Beach
Golden sand, turquoise sea, blue sky – another boring Western Australia beach!

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures.

Port Hedland and Dampier

Thursday 19th and Friday 20th September 2013

This morning was a long, uneventful, drive into Port Hedland. By this time we were using cruise control and so passed the place of our speeding fine with an easy conscience.

HERE is our route and pictures of our route to, and within, Port Hedland. Open with Google Earth

Port Hedland1
Geological map of the Port Hedland area and our route from Eighty Mile Beach

In Port Hedland we booked a tour of the port, spotted a dentist and booked an appointment for later that afternoon.

The tour of the port was very disappointing. We were not allowed off the bus, could not get near the interesting bits such as the rail wagon unloader and I think I knew more about the nature of the business than the guide. She did not know the capacities of the boats or how fast they could be loaded. Photos from the bus were poor – the best I have got is of an ore carrier passing the end of the main street of Port Hedland.

Ore ship at the end of the street
Huge Chinese ore carrier at the end of the street. Note the sign for the dentist.

I suspect that the reason that they are so reticent is that relations between BHP and the people of Port Hedland are not very good. Many of the workers on the site fly in to Port Hedland, work for their shifts and fly out to spend their money in Perth.

Also the stacks of iron ore in the older part of the complex often cause dust problems and low level annoyance. BHP does not want to give any information which would cause them grief. But they are trying to move the dirty bits of the operation further away from the town.

Then off to the dentist where I had a replacement filling put in for A$255! Then to the camp site where, to celebrate my birthday, we hired a cabin which was very comfortable.

Then back downtown to have dinner at the Esplanade Hotel.

Friday 20th September

We left our comfortable chalet and went to the retail delights of Port Hedland – shopping and diesel at Woolworths. then a long and uneventful drive to Cossack.

HERE is our route from Port Hedland to Dampier via Cossack. Open with Google Earth

Geological map of an earlier part of our route from Port Hedland to Dampier
Pelican at Cossack wharf
A tame pelican at Cossack wharf

Cossack is an old, almost abandoned, settlement which was once a centre for the pearling industry. A dangerous business – the highlight of Cossack are the graveyards, one European and one Japanese. But the highlight for us was a tame pelican which posed shamelessly.

Geological map of the latter part of our route from Port Hedland to Dampier

Then we drove to Dampier where we found the smallest camp site of our trip. We were next to a guy from Victoria who was in the area looking for a job – he was a mechanic of some description. He thought he could get a job very easily but was more worried about finding some place to stay. The camp site had a rule that you could only stay for three nights and no returns for a week.

This was typical of the mining and oil and gas areas of WA. Most hotels are filled with workers who fly in for one or two weeks then fly back to Perth. In many cases what are described as hotels are really a collection of dressed up shipping containers.

(We did hear of a few workers who stayed in Bali and flew on the frequent tourist planes between Perth and Bali – only three hours. For the same money you can live a much more luxurious lifestyle in Bali than you can in Perth.)

Because many of these towns will be abandoned when the mine closes, there is a reluctance to provide permanent facilities, release land for house building and establish communities.

Iron ore loading at Dampier
The RTZ iron ore loading dock at Dampier. There are four ships here – they dock on both sides of the pier.

From the camp site we had a good view of the RTZ iron ore loading facilities. In the evening we saw a huge bulk carrier start being loaded. It was high in the water showing much of its underwater paint protection. When we got up next morning it was low in the water with hundred of thousands of tons of iron ore in its holds and getting ready to sail to China.

Iron ore loading at Dampier
Ship being loaded with iron ore at the RTZ pier at Dampier. Note another ship on the other side of the dock.