Disgust at Dusty Rusty Port Hedland
Disgust at Dusty Rusty Port Hedland
I emerged from my last unsettling dream to see human shadows walking past the tent; we were pitched next to the walkthrough and little bridge leading from the vehicle park at the front of the roadhouse and the mine employee cabins behind us and the shift was changing over. There was a dynamic sense of different lifestyles in the camp; the busy mine workers and the rest of us, families on the childrens’ school break and older couples like us passing the time exploring this diverse and beautiful country.
On the road again we were amongst the multitude of four carriage road trains loaded with the recently extracted red guts of the earth, plying the road northwards to the export town of Port Hedland that really needs to be re-named Port Redland, because it is covered, head to toe in red dust. Even the buildings are painted in the same earthy red ochre colour and the red brick buildings look totally at home.
Rob counted 18 ships anchored off awaiting the call to enter port and load up. We saw 19 waiting for a passage through the Panama Canal when we sailed in, just to give you an idea of the scale of iron ore exporting here on a constant 24/7 process. We need iron ore of course for manufacturing all steel products, it is not that to which the local people are objecting, it is the fallout of the archaic system of loading the ore from the acres of stored piles of the stuff onto the kilometre long trains that role it the short distance to the port for yet another messy system of loading it onto the ships. In both processes tons of dust is freed into the atmosphere and accumulates on everything around including the inner linings of the lungs of all the people, most damagingly the children who live there. I will let the banners speak for themselves.
The unwitting testimony here is the conflict between the commercially minded powers that be from industry plus the local and national governments and the people who live here. There once was a nice area where residents and visitors could cool off with a swim in the sea. A shark net enclosed the area with a small beach. Well that has gone and not been replaced and it seemed eerily odd to sea beautiful beaches empty because of the danger of sharks and sea snakes when there is clearly plenty of money in the coffers to restore such a simple and enjoyable amenity as a place to swim in these 30’ daily tropical temperatures.
Good old TS. Pilbara was giving youngsters a chance to learn sailing on a handy little lagoon nearby and a kilometre or two further down we pitched our little tent in the Discovery Parks Site on a little nearby headland to find a totally different world. A number of the caravans around us and the cabins were semi-permanent homes to mine workers and their families so again we had the mix of workers and non-workers in a shady site with some delightful amenities including a Fish and Chip van arriving later, a pretty swimming pool with views over the small estuary next to us and a young father who had been travelling Aussie with his wife and two children for two years providing a solo concert for anyone who cared to join him in the evenings.
So, firstly we returned to town for a cool beer at the Pier Hotel Garden Bar, then it was back for a refreshing dip in the pool and a sit beside it, taking in the atmosphere. From our shaded vantage point sitting in our folding chairs Rob drew my attention to the tame little yellow birds that kept flying to a dripping tap and drinking from it just as a hummingbird would by being suspended underneath using rapid wing beats. Some also hung underneath the tap and had their drink. We were impressed that they had found the tap was dripping and hoped no-one would come and turn it off. Maybe it was left on on purpose or it had a conveniently worn washer inside. I think they were yellow tinted honey-eaters, from the information board I saw yesterday. So often our queries are answered on local boards a day or two later. Like the identity of the wedge tailed eagles we continue to see every day.
After our swim we sat outside our tent and chatted with passersby and noticed in the leafy small tree beside us the same little yellow honeyeaters had a beautiful nest that looked like a fluffy tennis ball. We could see one or perhaps two chicks lifting their beaks to receive the latest morsel and the parents were fastidious in de-bugging the outside of the nest to keep it healthy, as you will see in the rather blurred image. They didn’t mind us sitting in the shade of their tree sipping our drinks, waiting for the food van to arrive, which it did bang on time. Rob and I shared a portion of delicious food before carrying our chairs around the corner to the open area next to our entertainers ‘bus’ home. He was really good, had a nice voice and played the guitar well but also added his own recordings of different instruments over his live performance.
His wife sat nearby listening, the older of the children now inside the bus settling down for the night. His impromptu concert was the perfect end to a various and interesting day.