A Travellerspoint blog


On to Nullagine - Day 23

Exploring the glacial countryside to Nullagine

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Before we left for Nullagine we realised we had to stop off again for the obligatory ice cream. Our fellow traveler had to buy an Aboriginal Dot Painting he had seen previously and we also had to pay our respects to those that had passed this way. We visited the memorial wall in the main street where descriptions of those who had died in the area read like horror stories.20180719_095449.jpg20180719_102932.jpg20180719_102918.jpg One was certainly privileged to have passed away in their sleep! The graveyard was sparse but tended to and the odd Chinese grave popped up between the usual Italian, Irish and the like.
Fueled up we then set off for Nullagine, about 150 kms south, where we decided to stay the night, maybe have a meal at the pub! The trip down was made more interesting as we had several geological stops along the way, and now that we could figure out how to ascertain our longitude and latitude on our car we could find the specific spots mentioned in our book.
It is difficult to imagine while wandering around this rocky, spinifex country that one is wandering over the very ancient remains of a reef that has the structure made from the earliest living creatures - stromatolites. Apparently this area is of such significance that scientists come from all over the world to check it out. We were lucky to have the whole countryside to ourselves. Plenty of rocks observed, spinifex seed removed and wind burnt lips licked before we got away to check out some old diamond and gold diggings further down the road.20180719_125626.jpg20180719_130024.jpg20180719_123320.jpg20180719_125619.jpg
Just before arriving in Nullagine the old remains of these diggings can be seen. Apparently these were originally alluvial sites where water was used to wash the ore body and pan out the gold. Today, aside from the total destruction of the countryside where remaining hills have been scraped removing the top soil and huge mountains of the tailing remain, there are a couple of large lakes. We were lucky to see a family of pelicans, ducks and the odd rainbow bee eater. 20180719_142759.jpg
Nullagine beckoned and we set ourselves up in the neat little caravan park, chatted with the resident gold prospectors and patted the two red healers who had decided they didn't like each other .
Before dining at the pub we popped up to the hill, Lynas Lookout (as of 2016), overlooking the town. They have a memorial plaque and display board acknowledge this WW1 hero who took up residence in the town in the early 1900s and eventually returned after WW2 to settle and die there.20180719_172942.jpg
The Town itself is about 3x3 streets and includes a school, pub and general store, along with a couple of government services. About 1 mile away is an aboriginal community flanked by a large, stony football ground. From where we stood up on the hill we could hear, coming from one of the homes in the community, the sounds of some computer game bellowing out across the airwaves. What it was like for the community one could only wonder.20180720_093453.jpg20180720_092205.jpg20180720_092215.jpg
The pub had a lovely big saloon cum restaurant room alongside some outdoor areas and was managed by an Indian couple who had been there 5 years. I did wonder how they managed the inebriated locals and were told the next day how their windows had been smashed that night. Hard way to make a living. We were joined by a Chinese gent who had come up to the town to fix the IT at the Primary School and we discussed how he had adapted to living in Port Headland, his attempts to assimilate into the town and to placate his parents in China who wanted him to hurry up and marry a "nice Chinese girl". We had a great meal and I was able to take away with me my unfinished Fifth Leg of wine. 20180720_093035.jpgWe were also able to get free Wifi near the local park so our mate propped himself on the water fountain while we checked out the rest of the town centre. Lights out by 8.30!

Posted by Toot'speak 04:18 Archived in Australia Tagged marble hill; bar; lynas nullagine; Comments (0)

Mt Webber to Carrawine Gorge - Day 18 n 19

Mt Webber to Carrawine Gorge via Spear Hill and Comet Mines

Today we spent moving from the lovely lagoon at Mt Webber to another - Carrawine Gorge and on the way popped into an old tin mine site for a bit of supermarket shopping of the rusty kind and visited the old mine at Marble Bar.
Having spent a couple of days at Mt Webber listening to the incessant drone of the mining trucks going back and forth, it was time to take off further east towards Marble Bar, so we were up and at it early. Our first stop off was at the remains of an old tin mining township of Spear Hill Mine where nothing but the concrete bases of the homes remains.20180714_103956.jpg20180714_105510.jpg20180714_105333.jpg As you wander around you can see what a place it may have been with the bones of an old house and remnants of the garden that once was, the only indicator. We wandered around picking up the odd piece of rusty junk but the place had truly been cleaned up. 20180714_105113.jpg20180714_104940.jpg
Next stop was the Comet Mine just out of Marble Bar. The mine site is closed off to visitors but there is a museum run by a lovely ole gent who lives on site and is a mine of information. He had many tales about the mine and its history and it was a shame we couldn't go down and have a decent look. 20180714_124110.jpg20180714_124120.jpg
As we were aiming to head further east, we decided to have a quick lunch break in Marble Bar, refuel, clean the joint out of icecreams and pick up a few beers at the iconic pun. We left with a trusty book "Discovery trails to early Earth -- a traveller's guide to the east Pilbara of Western Australia"
Author: Van Kranendonk, MJ, Johnston, J., which gave us specific directions to assorted geological features. I was amazed to learn that the area we were traveling through had glacial history, and also learnt that our Ranger had the capabilities of providing us with specific lit and long data, after we had attempted to discover the features using mileage.20180716_105551.jpg20180716_100959.jpg
On arriving at Carrawine Gorge, we were lucky to have most of the lagoon to ourselves as it was the end of the school holidays and only a few campers left. Our camping area was sided by the lagoon which was sandwiched between a large wall of granite, and the washed away, very large scree of the previous water way. Apparently the 2006 cyclone completely denuded the river bank of mature red gums and all that's left is the huge area of washed rocks, pebbles and coarse sand made up of every type of mineral imaginable. The various car tracks that lead to the bank provide many stories of bogged cars and the squashed seedlings of the tough plants that attempt to get a footing in this rather hostile environment.. The lack of trees would make this place a hell hole in summer and the remaining paperbarks also show signs of previous floods and the damage they cause along with the tell tale signs of the odd chain saw. Still this is a rather popular site with the nomads who I believe camp here for months with some setting up cottage industries to help bring in some income.20180716_110635.jpg20180715_173307.jpg20180715_173221.jpg
The evening light was amazing and the temperature such that we decided to not light the fire and watched the sky lab cruise past accompanied by many satellites and the odd shooting star. Magic.
Next day we woke to the sounds of the birds going about their business and demanding we do the same. We decided to climb the nearby hill and took off with the midday sun to navigate between the spinifex and roughly cut rocks to the top. We were rewarded on the way with the appearance of the beautifully camouflaged spinifex pigeon poking its head out from under a bush. The view at the top was spectacular with the large lagoons nestled up against the huge red walls of the countryside and the appearance of a large sea eagle lazily riding the thermals above us. 20180715_122524.jpg
After such exertions we decided on resting the remainder of the day but I did try to have another attempt at having a hot shower. Like to report that the attempt was unsuccessful and I whooped into the quiet evening shattering the peace.

Posted by Toot'speak 03:26 Archived in Australia Tagged hill marble spear carrawine mine; bar; gorge; Comments (0)

Mt Webber - Day 15 n 16 n 17

Pebble mice to dingo howls

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Another day off into the bush to camp by a large lagoon in the Mt Webber station countryside.
Prior to leaving Weeli Wolli, we climbed the banded iron cliff face to wander along the tabletop that was littered with rocks. One of the group, who had been walking along the top previously, had found three pebble mouse nests all within the one area. He did find another nest earlier, which appeared to be more active, but was unable to find it again. This species of mouse is endemic to the non-coastal, central and eastern parts of the Pilbara, and while it may be prolific we didn't see so much as a scratching!04e2b300-a94a-11e8-8261-53349e85886b.jpg04d08a90-a94a-11e8-bacc-17dcb4d5eb9e.jpg20180711_100037.jpg
We were however not short - changed as the rock people amongst us found very lovely specimens of banded iron and commenced to bring back with them the results of their finds. 20180711_101056.jpg
On leaving Weeli Wolli we arrived at our next spot within a couple of hours and set up camp against the back drop of the passing road trains hauling the ore to the railway siding way off into the distance.Those that sleep more lightly than us said it went on throughout the nite. On our way in we were held up for around five minutes while we waited for one of those very long iron ore trains to pass by. No such thing as wilderness!
On arrival we were greeted to the wonderful site of a pelican taking flight alongside two or three white spoonbills. The bird life was fantastic and the camp stood still while everyone grabbed cameras and the like. We were lucky to witness the evening parade as birds came down to the water and a flock of corellas squawked its way into settling on a large beautiful white gum. Movement by one of us sent the whole flock off into the sunset and the deafening roar by the birds told us in no uncertain words what they thought of us! 4d6bee30-aa98-11e8-ad09-6bd3578e764b.jpg4d5d2120-aa98-11e8-bb66-53e4e6394995.jpg20180712_154452.jpg20180712_104005.jpg20180712_165815.jpg
We were able to wander down the waterway further and found the site where early Afghans must have camped with the evidence of a very large palm tree embedded in the water course.20180712_171342.jpg20180712_171412.jpg20180712_171511.jpg
Later into the night we were serenaded by a couple of packs of wild dogs or dingoes who howled away eerily into the night. This didn't make one feel overly comfortable whilst having another cold shower which was located some distance away from the crowd clustered around the camp fire. We decided to bring in the rubbish just in case.
Day 16
We woke to the sounds of camp chatter, one hour later than the normal 7.30am, and much warmer than we had experienced earlier; made for quick exit from bed. With all the bird life around us we eventually decided to spend the day at camp checking out the wild life. A list of the birds would reach over 20 varieties but the corellas, galahas, budgies and weerios made the most noise while a dozen odd cormorants, darters and herons gracefully perched most of the day in one spot providing a great opportunity for photographers. We were delighted by nesting families of zebra and painted finches, who visited our campfire coals for a nibble, while the odd whistling kite flew overhead sending all and sundry into panic modes.
It was a great day and one that we needed. just relaxing, reading, bird spotting, washing etc. One soul braced the water in the lagoon but I continued being brave and subjected myself to a kettle of hot water mixed with a bucket of cold. Who needs glamping!
Having rested up a day we then decided to go out and try our luck with a bit of gold prospecting along an old mining road. Needless to say we took a while getting there as the wild flowers were engaging and the creek bed, while devoid of water, supplied many more interesting rocks to collect. 20180713_115523.jpgThe more enthusiastic amongst us finally got serious with the gold hunting and walked three metres off the road and gave it a whirl. Much excitement was noted very quickly and the small crowd surrounding the machine was keen to dig up the dirt - their effort was a tin can! End of gold prospecting and off we went in search of diggings and more flora further up the hill.20180713_125002.jpg20180713_121637.jpg20180714_114616.jpg
On our way back to camp we decided to deviate and go check out a caravan we could see in the distance. The old tract took us through old creek beds and up over spinifex country until the road petered out and we didn't want to chance further travel given the time. Several energetic walkers took off over the hills and dales till they got to the site which looked to be derelict with the caravan in a run down state. After exploring the site they deduced it to be an old gold mine that had been reworked but was now quiet. It was certainly an odd site - a caravan out in the wilderness!
Back to camp to find others had joined our site - it was time to go!20180713_155810.jpg

Posted by Toot'speak 01:40 Archived in Australia Tagged mt webber Comments (0)

The delights of Weeli Wolli - Day 14

Mining with Aboriginal heritage

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Today we took off to a site, some 100ks east of Newman, with the lovely name Weeli Wolli. The ride in was through Rio Tinto mining country with plenty of areas fenced off indicating Aboriginal Sites, while the roadside metal poles covered in white plastic showed signs of being subjected to extreme heat. Many had melted plastic buckling down the sides providing an artistic display! The corrugated road provided us with a musical tune and we jerked in our seats as we roller-coastered our way to the pool. Despite the leisurely ride in we did a shock absorber. Thank gawd it wasn't the Kalumburu road or we would have done the entire lot!20180711_105526.jpg
On arrival at our end point we were greeted with a large wooden platform shaded with shade sails and table and stools, as well as interactive boards providing us with Aboriginal information about the area. The platform covered the entrance to a spring that was pouring out water similar to that found at the bottom of a hydro dam and it tumbled very strongly down a series of natural steps. The water was mildly warm and did provide Mark with his daily wash later on that night. 20180710_115438.jpg20180710_112136.jpge1bd4ab0-a2a6-11e8-97b8-9534aef4ee46.jpg20180710_112448.jpg20180710_112515.jpg
This platform provided by the mining company was oddly built in that it completely covered the spring source and even attempting to check underneath was foiled by the construction of stone walls to channel the water. Given the tourist's propensity to check things out, this did not accommodate that need, and this design may have been built with cultural sensitivity in mind. I did however find out later that this spring was indeed artificial in that Rio is de-watering the underground water table for mining uses, and the the water is being pumped back into Weeli Wolli creek to a point below the natural spring. This area and water course is believed, by the Aboriginals, to contain the spirit of the Yurduba ( Rainbow Serpent) and one can only surmise that with time the natural spring may dry out and this will in turn further diminishes the significance of the area.c15220b0-a946-11e8-bacc-17dcb4d5eb9e.jpg
We spent a couple of hours checking the area out finding no aboriginal sites, very little rock of consequence but a lot of interesting flora. We were unable to find a decent path to the river as rushes or reeds smothered the edges and we weren't prepared to navigated thru what could be hostile vegetation. There was a road crossing but what with the strong currents and rather deep platforms to drive over we decided to give it a miss.20180710_122726.jpg
We put up camp a small distance away beneath a cliff face of banded iron and before settling in we muffled the rhythmic sounds of a pump nearby spurting out air. We ended the day with the sun setting over the tall gums on the cliff edge high-lighting their tops with a yellow tinge.e9a27e00-a948-11e8-baa2-dd22cafaad3b.jpge8b81e00-a948-11e8-bacc-17dcb4d5eb9e.jpg

Posted by Toot'speak 08:37 Archived in Australia Tagged rio tinto weeli wooli Comments (0)

From the Bush to the City - Day 12 n 13

Recooping In Newman

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Today was another travel day as we made our way to the metropolis of Newman. On the way we passed massive haul trains with 4 -5 trailers attached making passing them an exercise in caution. The countryside is dotted with mining activity and plenty of Toyotas, with their ubiquitous flags flying, driving back and forth ensuring that one doesn't nod off.
Newman, which we haven't visited for years, was a different place. It was bustling with tourists, people in their high vis gear and the odd local with school holiday- tired children. It certainly has more oomph that 10 odd years ago and I believe that the mining companies have bought the remaining caravan parks to house their staff, as they are returning to the days of leaving staff in the town instead of fly-in fly-out. As a result we campers have a smaller choice of accommodation. Newman.jpg
Our campsite for the two nights was at the back of a motel complex that catered for the mining fraternity. Caravans were catered for at the back in a section that is currently treeless and bare ground without any redeeming features. This meant that the caravans heading further north only stayed the night so there was massive movement every morning as they all got out before the rush. We stayed the two nights in an area of natural bush some distance from the complex. Still we had free showers, washing machines, telephone contact etc and were able to have a grand 3 course meal of soup, roast chicken, pork, beef or what not and dessert of a variety of ice creams, assorted sweets and finally fruit and many cheeses. This was like Christmas, and for $25 we waddled out swearing off food for a day.
We did experience some downside when one of our lot had the old sleeping bad which was storing his dried clothes stolen and he eventually found his clothes hidden in a used towel trolley. Apparently one of the regular mining blokes had some of his work clothes stolen as well.
Time in Newman involved checking out the supermarkets for replenishment and hardware stores for hoses, lights etc. We had a win at the op shop where everything was for a dollar so we availed ourselves of several books. We visited the Information Centre where we sampled the delights of a Devonshire tea - cold scones with dairywhip cream - along with the group which had just finished the tour through the open pit mine.
After exhausting the delights of the shops, we took a ride out to visit Ophthalmia Dam which, although owned by BHP, is accessible to the public for swimming etc. Given the amount of warnings - Ophthalmia Dam water is prone to contamination by a range of viruses, bacteria, toxic algae and other harmful microorganisms and mosquitoes are common near the dam and may be carrying Ross River Virus or Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus, which are harmful to human, we decided on a cuppa and a wander. There were many birds there and the area was set out with covered barbies etc so it was a lovely place to stop off for a break.20180709_144115.jpg49508c50-a202-11e8-b53e-9b79f3c69c24.jpg20180710_111819.jpg
A couple of the others took off to visit a couple of gorges that are in the surrounding area but got lost and ended up at an amazing Aboriginal "Museum" of hundreds of petroglyphs or "rock art" - Wanna Munna. As many of the sign posts have been removed their trip wasn't as easy as others but they did get time to wander around the hill checking out the artwork. On our bucket list next trip.
In the evening we did drive up Radio Hill which provided us with a bird's eye view of the town which appeared neat and orderly compared to previous visits. We also had a Chinese /Thai meal which was freshly cooked and as we were the only guests, we had great service. Enough of this city life, tomorrow back out to the bush.

Posted by Toot'speak 20:49 Archived in Australia Tagged dam dam. newman opthalmia Comments (0)

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