Saturday, March 24, 2018

21 March 2018 - Day 18 - Carnarvon to Port Hedland

Last evening when I arrived into Carnarvon Caravan Park, where I had booked accommodation months in advance, for a while I suffered a ‘Mogocha’ moment. During the Trans-Siberian Expedition in 2016 I had reserved accommodation in Yalta Inn in Mogocha. However, when I got there after driving over 10 hours and 800 plus km I was told that there was no place for me and I had to drive another 750 km to get to Chita to stay the night! At the Carnarvon Caravan Park, Ross told me that his facility is under renovation; when I heard that the ‘Mogocha’ moment overcame me. But, I didn’t have to worry. Ross found me excellent accommodation at the Gateway Motel. The two bedroom suite was very comfortable and gave me the privacy to complete my work in peace. The only issue had been with the Wi-Fi signal strength.

As I had more than 850 km to do this day – the second straight day of long drive – I got ready by 6 am. However, there was a change to the routine; I had breakfast of muesli and milk before vacating the room. The suite had a self-contained kitchen; there was a warning pasted in the room that if the plates and whatever else was used was left without washing the customer would be charged for the cleaning. Before 6.30 am I handed over the keys to Philip and he took his time to wish me good luck for the rest of the tour.

Driving out of the town I could see vast tracts of banana cultivation. The Cavendish bananas from this area feeds the rest of Australia. The landscape turned bare almost within 30 km of leaving Carnarvon. The Tropic of Capricorn, the southernmost latitude from where the Sun can be directly overhead, passes through Minilya. The photo opportunity was taken full advantage of. My first fuel stop was at the Nanutarra Roadhouse, after 370 km of steady driving, averaging nearly 100 kph. I was surprised at the huge crickets and pesky flies that almost flew into my eyes. Keeping your mouth open is risky business in these circumstances. After filling up fuel I wanted to wash the windshield as it had become a graveyard of insects. However, due to shortage of water the cans were empty with a few drowned crickets in a shallow puddle!

In less than 3 hours thereafter I got to Roebourne, the next pit stop. There seemed to be a lot more aboriginals around the place. After fueling and washing the windshield I set off on the last segment of the day’s drive. Later I came to know that Roebourne is a notorious place with drugs, alcohol and child abuse among its nightmares. All along the way there were warning signages about the area being prone to flooding and submersion up to even two metres. I got a bit worried when a few sharp showers were accompanied by gusty winds. I checked online the weather in Darwin, which had been hit by a couple of successive storms in the past weeks. The forecast was clear, but am keeping my fingers crossed. The next few days will be extremely critical, I presume.

After Roebourne the landscape altered dramatically to hillocks and dry grass. The activity on the roads too picked up with a lot more Road Trains plying between mining centres and storage yards. The route was studded with ore, quartz, sand and stone mines and quarries. Port Hedland, from a distance looked like a busy port with ore stack yards, reclaimers and massive Road Trains plying back and forth.

Without a hassle I reached the Discovery Parks facility, where I had booked a waterfront cabin for the night halt. While checking in at the reception I got the log sheet signed. The cabin is an absolute beauty; two bedroomed, with a living and utility area besides toilet and shower. At the entrance is a verandah on a raised strip with chairs and a round table from where one can get the most magical views of the setting sun.

I decided to use the commodious facilities in the cabin to good use by rearranging the luggage in such a manner that I will not have to worry about that till I reached Darwin. Then I went out for a leisurely stroll on the beach, enjoying the low tide and picking up shells that were aplenty. After a couple of cans of vodka in lemonade I had chicken chow mein, another of the Heat&Eat pack.

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