After a fabulous 4 weeks in Dampier we have reluctantly repacked our gear and once again set off. It was bitter-sweet and would have been so easy to stay but we have still got a long way to go on our adventure. Before we left Perth a number of people joked that we wouldn’t get past Karratha. So many people we met whilst there, had done just that, dropping in for a while and then staying for good.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Paul was able to pick up some work for an electrical contracting company in Karratha (thanks Troy and Siobhain). This worked out really well, he was even given a work vehicle and told he could go back any time (handy to know). The kids had a fabulous time at Dampier Primary School. They made some lovely friends, with Emma even being invited to a birthday party. Many of the parents I met were very friendly (I even did canteen duty) and the staff were all great. On their second last night at the school, there was a bush dance which was lots of fun. Heaps of families and friends came to watch each class present their own bush dance and were then invited up to join in, with the night finishing with a community dance where everyone got up and danced to Achy Breaky Heart (I know)!
Karratha was originally built for iron ore workers from the Hamersley Ranges, back in the 60’s. It has just got bigger and bigger and now is the heart of the massive resource mining being carried out. This includes crude oil and natural gas as well as the iron ore. Movement in and around town was just constant. There was a steady flow of choppers coming in from the off-shore rigs, every second vehicle was a truck and lots of building was going on. This is largely to, once again, accommodate the workers. There is a drastic housing shortage in the area, with most of the houses being snapped up by the mining companies. It makes it very hard for the average Joe to stick around with the average rental price being around $2000 a week! Even getting into a caravan park can be difficult, although there is a transit park in Dampier with a 3 night maximum stay.
Dampier is 20km away from Karratha and although being the largest exporter of salt in the world (there is a look out where you can check out the salt flats) and also being the largest tonnage shipping port in Australia the pace there was much more leisurely. There is a small beach to visit with some palms to sit under, which is where we watched one or two sunsets. There are also 42 islands in the Dampier Archipelago to explore and as you can imagine, the people there love to fish!
Paul & I had visited the area a number of years ago but in between work and school still managed to take the kids around for look. We visited Cossack which was the first port in the North West and once the heart of a significant pearling industry. Some of the original buildings remain (many designed by George Temple Poole), along with other ruins. The town is well maintained with lots of historical facts and information scattered around the old townsite. You can have a look inside the original customs house, court-house etc and even throw your kids in the Lock-Up!
Not far from Cossack is the fishing village of Point Samson. We all enjoyed exploring the beach and climbing the rocks. For lunch we had THE BEST fish & chips at Moby’s which is very well-known. There is a grass area to sit on and a pub upstairs to buy a coldie or two. It was very busy. Unfortunately due to some lease changes Moby’s will be closing down and I understand that the pub upstairs will be taking over Moby’s kitchen. Hopefully the fish and chips will still be great.
Another weekend we headed out to Deep Gorge on The Burrup Penninsula to check out some of the 700 odd Aboriginal rock engravings (petroglyphs). This was really interesting and we were all amazed at the number we could see. The colours in the afternoon sun were once again spectacular. There was a small creek running through the gorge and it was lovely just to sit and look around.
We had a message from Vanessa(of the big blue bus) and couldn’t believe that they were also in Dampier and staying in someones driveway only a few hundred metres from us! Richard had also picked up some work and they were sticking around for a while. In the last week we were there we found out that we could view the Staircase to the Moon from Hearson’s Cove in The Burrup Penninsula. The Staircase occurs when a full moon rises over exposed mudflats causing the illusion of stairs to the moon. Since Richard was away for work we arranged to meet Vanessa and the girls down at the cove to watch. It was quite busy and the kids were interested for 2.89 seconds, but us adults enjoyed it and can say it’s another thing we have done. Apparently it happens from May to October and there are a number of places it can be viewed, with Broome being the only one I had heard of previously.
Another highlight for the kids was having a ride in a semi. The lovely Peter & Michelle who we were staying with, run a company named Chameleon Resources which has a number of trucks that service some of the off shore rigs as well as supplying local haulage, plant hire, storage and logistics. Although they were extremely busy they took some time out for the kids to have a look at and sit in some of their big rigs.
So, in a nutshell Karratha is all about industry. Everything is big, red and busy. There are a number of shops with similar to Perth prices although the fruit and veggie selection is very average. The diesel price was a reasonable 163.9 at every petrol station for the whole time we were there. Although we didn’t, it is possible to go on several mine tours and I was also told that the Woodside visitors centre at the HUGE North-West Shelf Gas Project on the Peninsula is worth a visit with a great view at night when everything is lit up.
Our next main stop is Broome. It will be interesting to see if Paul & I change our view based on previous visits. But not before we detour via Port Hedland for a dentist appointment. I’ll give you a hint – I’m not as wise as I once was!
Stay tuned as we head into The Kimberley.