Monday, August 04, 2008

DAY 274: De Grey RA to Port Hedland

Thurs 24th July 2008
85km @ 19.9 km/hr
Sunny, 28 deg C
Elevation of /destination 5m
Distance to date 16829 km (10518 miles)

To say there were several hundred people staying here it was very quiet last night; mind you there’s plenty of space for separation. The birds were very entertaining as dawn broke, breafasting and socialising at the same time. I was up and about early and away by 0730, hopefully to give me plenty of time to get stuff done in PH this afternoon.
I didn’t now where the wind would be so this could have been a hard ride, but I needn’t have worried; the SE wind was on cue again for as long as it lasted. The road was dead flat as usual and as the morning wore on the wind strengthened up to fresh again, and I was merrily cruising at 28 for long periods. A few mountains started to appear on the horizon; not very big ones it has to be said but looking big enough in the otherwise clear landscape. It was quite pleasant riding. I saw my first Sturt’s Desert Pea sprouting on the gravel shoulder - a small, vividly-red flower iconic in WA.
An old couple stopped ahead of me and looked as if they wanted to speak so I pulled over and we chatted for a while. I forgot to get their names, but they’re from Port Macquarie in NSW, touring with their 4x4, and were keen tandemists in their younger days. The man rode the Nullabor in the days before it was bitumenised, which sounded pretty tough all right - much harder than my crossing.
30km or so from PH the scenery becomes more industrial, testament to the high concentration of mining - especially for iron ore - in this area, which is coming into the Pilbara region. There are more road trains and traffic in general, and I had to keep a wary eye open since there is little in the way of bitumen shoulder - the gravel isn’t too bad in most places though. There are virtually no trees - all today’s section in open and bare - although this has it’s own sort of interest to the viewer with distant mountains and wide vistas.
Nearing PH there are a few rail crossings and an increasing number of industrial sites, fuel storage places and the like. With 15km to go the wind started to turn into the west again - lucky I started early - and it was tougher going with no windbreaking vegetation. I stopped at the first large roadhouse with 12km to go, and seeing there was a caravan park there asked how much - $11 pppn - so this was an option. The road up to PH ends there and I have to ride back 10km to carry on SW - should I leave the tent and gear here and ride into PH to do my internet and shopping? Since there was a CP in PH too I decided to carry on and go there. It was a battle against the wind. The salt works on my right are clearly seen as you ride over the big new bridge (which thankfully has a cycle lane to get you away from all the lorries). I chatted with a Dutch couple waiting to see one of the very long iron ore trains (up to 2km long!), which was due apparently, before carrying on another 5km to the CP. On enquiring I was told it would be $39 for a tent site - wow! I was pretty tired, and had much to do, and it was still early and I’d have time to get it all done if I stayed here, but $39? I went to have a look at the sites - all without shade - but met another touring cyclist who’e staying here and decided to stay myself. I must be getting soft paying all that! It is quite a nice site though - one of the BIG 4 sites.
I chatted with my new friend for a while then headed off to Port Hedland. The Visitor Info Centre 8km away didn’t allow uploading, but the Seamen’s Centre did ($6/hr) and I got everything done; even booking onto the London to Inverness sleeper in September as I return. I also got plenty of shopping done (hope I can fit it all in) and even got a haircut since they were open until 8 on a Thursday. I decided to just get a no.2 clipper job (skinhead) and that’ll probably last me until I get to Perth.
I’d bought a barbie pack and had a delicious dinner of steak, chops and sausage, with zuchini and mushrooms, washed down with plenty of red stuff. A couple I’d met (from Victoria) on the El Questro day trip out of Kununurra turned up at the camp kitchen, and brought me some pudding, which was eagerly accepted, and we had a good chat. They knew the N of Scotland as they had been up there a few years ago.
No time for the blog as it was now 2200, and I was really tired after a hectic day. All was quiet here, and straight to sleep.

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