Billy was from Nottingham, and he looked like a prune. He’d been living in a shipping container by a beach for the last 50 years, so I guess that would do it. I’d say that Billy wouldn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story however, so I’ll take that with a pinch of salt.

The road to 80 Mile Beach was fantastic. Straight, flat and after the gravel of the Gibb, a welcome relief. Then a stone was thrown up by a road train and chipped my bloody window. Fuck.

Leaving Broome was only difficult until we arrived there. Then I was amazed, once again. Every time I think I’ve seen it all on this continent, we come across another place that blows me away. The beach here was so big you couldn’t take it all in. And there was no wee village. No national park visitor centre. Nothing expect for 80 miles of beach, and one little caravan park.

We pulled up, payed for a night and drove down to our spot, passing a couple of shipping containers with the word COASTWATCH stencilled on the side. Out front was a skeleton, standing at an ironing board, next to a sign that said “Job Vacancy.” Ha!

We set up, and walked over the dunes to see the beach. The tide was out so far we couldn’t even see the ocean, but there were shells everywhere, and little streams of water running out to the sea.

We walked out as far as a half-submerged 4WD that some idiot had gotten stuck. A young fella probably. Unlike the rest of the people around here, who were all retired.

The sun began to set as we were walking back to the dunes and just before it disappeared, a guy in the distance started playing the bagpipes. Brilliant!

We stayed three nights in total. Erin and the girls collected shells. I finally got to go fishing properly, catching a shark of all things 😀 It was lovely, and the fact that there was nothing much to do except fish, and go beachcombing – was just perfect.

I just had to find out who lived in the shipping containers, and early one morning I saw a little fella sitting on a chair next to the skeleton. This was Billy, of course. He told me that COASTWATCH was an unfunded organisation that patrolled 700km of WAs coastline, looking out for smugglers, pirates, illegal fishermen or whatever.

“Oh yeah? And which of those do you find most often?”

He avoided answering the question. Maybe our Billy was a politician in a former life. Anyway he was a nice little fella, and whether it was 50 years or not, he’d obviously been there a long time. Fair play to him.

Port Headland

Leaving 80 Mile Beach we were aiming for Karijini National Park, but it was going to take a few days to get there. I was also having some battery issues so we stopped at Port Headland on the way. Turns out the car needed a new alternator, which they could order in and replace for me the very next day. Great.

Port Headland is, as the name suggests, a port – that services the enormous mining interests of the Pilbara region. I had to get a taxi out to pick up my car, and the driver used to work in the mines.

“Each of those lines of rail carriages is full of iron ore. They run 24 hours a day, and have done for about the last 20 years. Each train makes $8 million in profit. Port Headland is a lot quieter now than it used to be though.”

Jesus. 24 hours a day for 20 years. That cannot be good for the planet. I know it’s a large freakin’ area, but how long can you just keep digging chunks out of the ground without it becoming an issue? Shit.

By way of comparison, the Pilbara is around 500,000km2, and Scotland is just over 80,000 km2. Pretty fuckin huge. Yet unbelievably in the middle of this heavily mined region of scorched earth, Karijini National Park happily exists, as it has done for the last 2,500 million years.

Car fixed, we headed inland to check it out.

Karijini National Park

It’s the geology of this place that makes it so distinctive, and also makes it one of the best places in the world to mine iron.

The red bands that can be seen clearly in the gorges are layers of sediment, that accumulated thousands of millions of years ago at the bottom of a sea bed. Full of iron and silica, these layers slowly compacted, and turned into rock.

Eventually they lifted to the surface, and the sea levels dropped causing rivers to cut sharply down into the land, creating the amazing gorges we were on our way to see. Also creating visibility of the iron deposits that Lang Hancock (Gina Rinehart’s daddy) discovered by accident in the 60’s. Lang was a cattle farmer who took his light aircraft down to avoid a storm, only to discover that he’d landed on the largest deposit of iron in the world. Happy Christmas Mr Hancock.

The road inland was typically Australian. Long. Flat. Desolate. Actually no indication at all that there were mines all over the place. Except for the constant road trains. But then the land started to lift, and it became rather beautiful, quite dramatic.

We eventually arrived in the park, and set up next to another family we’d met on a few occasions. They were nice folks from Melbourne, and after 80 Mile Beach we’d decided to head to Karijini together. They had twin boys who were three, and four girls ranging from four, to thirteen. They were lovely, and all the kids got along so well that it made it easier for all of us.

We stayed for a couple of days, went for hikes to swimming holes, did a bit of 4WDing and hung out by the camp site for a while. It was still almost 40 degrees in the middle of the day, so downtime was pretty important.

The twin boys were running around naked at one point. Skye was standing there looking at them as their mum approached, and although I wasn’t there, the following conversation ensued. 

“What are you looking at Skye?”

“The boys, what is that?”

“That’s a penis Skye.”

“Oh, my daddy has a big penis.”

Ha ha ha ha! My little lady 🙂
Karijini was amazing, but that just takes the biscuit.