Saturday, 22 September 2012

22 September 2012 - Port Hedland

Arrived in Port Hedland on a Saturday and not much seemed to be happening.  Even the tourist office was closed.  To make navigating around the town easier we offloaded the van opposite the police station down in the port area. 

There was  a lot of public art around Port Hedland and these were located where we left the van for the day.

Port Headland exists to support the mines in the area and has a massive port for iron ore to be shipped overseas. The tourist office had a list of ship arrivals and departures on an outside noticeboard and from that we could glean that a large bulk carrier was due to depart the port in an hour so, so we headed to the port area.  From our vantage point, we could only see 4 bulk carriers, the other 30 odd were out of sight elsewhere in the port and we could count 7 bulk carriers parked outside the port awaiting the high tide to enter the port.  The ships we could see were massive and we could also see the conveyor belt loading the ships, moving from right to left filling each section of the ship.  After waiting ages, a number of tug boats started to gather around the ‘Magnificent’ a ship bound for Korea. The tugs guided the massive ship out of port and into the harbour.  It was quite a sight. 

Once the tugs started gathering we knew a ship was finally about to leave.  The 'Magnificent' is in the background on the left. The mound of orange looking stuff in between the two ships is the iron ore stockpile.

Biggest boats I've ever seen.

Taking the anti-smoking message very seriously.  This sign was about 3 storeys high!

At the mouth of the harbour, 5 tug boats needed and an Australian skipper would be at the wheel of the ship until safely in deep water.

The town is built on the coast and there is some effort going into beautifying the area with parks and new recreation areas.  BHP is the main ore supplier and judging by the signs everywhere, they are making an effort to make the place more liveable.  One odd sight we saw was at the BHP headquarters.  The entrance to the building has this large, green, perfectly manicured lawn with metal sculptures of farm animals made from recycled pieces of machinery.  There was a sheep, cow, goat, chicken, rabbit etc.  You had to wonder if it was a tongue in cheek display - all these farm animals grazing on this fertile grass on the front lawn of a company who makes its money by digging up the ground and never enabling anything to graze there ever again.  I could see the irony, but I’m not sure that was the intention!

Hard hats had been placed on about a dozen ant hills on the entrance to the town.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting groceries, discovering that you can’t buy take away alcohol on Sundays and gawking at the real estate prices in estate agents windows - 2 bed units (1980's style) start from $1700 per WEEK, 3 bedroom houses from $2500 and newer style 4 bed 2 bath houses start close to $3000 per week.  Single rooms to let in share houses start at $300 per week plus expenses.  Unbelievable.
We then went back to hitch up the van from the front of the police station.   The van parks were full of mine workers and  therefore very expensive, so we camped the night in the cemetery carpark, which was set back off the road.  At least we had quiet neighbours for the night!

Travel tip: There is no dump point in Port Hedland! The nearest one is at the truck stop just after the turn off to Karijini, about 35km from Port Headland.  You can get water from service stations as usual. Coles and Woolies open 7 days.

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