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Port Hedland, then on to Marble Bar and Nullagine...chasing GOLD

Three hours of 'road surfing' out of Middle Lagoon saw us heading down the west coast towards Port Hedland, where we had arranged to collect mail before continuing down through the centre of Western Australia.

We camped overnight about 100km out from Port Hedland, on the banks of the De Grey River, along with several other caravaners who had already discovered it.

It was a pretty spot, shady and grassy and an ideal place to break fall.

Several cows browsed contentedly along the river bank and wandered, unperturbed, amongst the campsites.

Black swans floated gracefully on the river, spending more time with their rear ends in the air than their heads as they fed below the surface.

We walked across the road bridge to look down along the River and to snap a few pictures of them...only to be surprised by the silhouette of a metre and half long fish, resembling a shark, lurking beneath the water. We can only speculate as to its species!

An early start the next morning, Monday, saw us cruising into Port Hedland.

Port Hedland

BHP Iron Ore's rail hub, port and ship loading facilities are located in Port Hedland to service its Pilbara mining operations at Tom Price, Paraburdoo and Newman.

Port Hedland is also home to one of the world's largest solar salt production operations, Cargill Salt.

The area is an ideal location for salt production because it has low rainfall, high evaporation and large areas of low lying, impervious flat land...ideal for the concentration of brine and the production of salt.

Cargill Salt produces about 3 million tonnes of Dampier Salt per annum.

As luck would have it, we arrived in town at about 9:30 am to find just about everything closed and locked up...for Port Hedland Cup race meeting, of all things.

Australia may write off half a day or so for Melbourne Cup...but good old Port Hedland takes the cake...it closes shop for the full day.

Our once over of the town confirmed that it's certainly no 'Club Med' ...not by a long shot...everything in sight was covered in or stained red by iron oxide...presumedly from BHP's iron ore loading facility which is located on the doorstep of the CBD...and the place had a drab, lifeless feel to it...accentuated, I'm sure, by the absence of commerce on the day we visited.

...Victor you're a very unattractive place !!

We weren't doing cartwheels about the prospect of overnighting there and made a quick decision to push on to Marble Bar instead.

 

Port Hedland

 

 

About the only thing in Port Hedland not coated in iron oxide...Dampier Salt.

Marble Bar

Located in the East Pilbara, 184km south of Port Hedland, Marble Bar is reputed to be the hottest place in Australia, averaging 108 days per year with temperatures above 40 degrees celsius.

It is named after a unique 'bar' of jasper (mistakenly thought to be marble by early settlers) which spans the Coongan River about 5km from the town at Marble Bar Pool.Marble Bar

 

Gold and tin were discovered in the late 1800's and one of the early mines, The Comet, now operates as a tourism enterprise.

We gave it only a cursory inspection and, eager to make our own fortune, headed off to find some ground to sweep with our metal detectors instead.

 

After a day and a half of 'aerobic exercise' on the hillsides around Marble Bar we decided to call it quits, stopping at the local roadhouse to refuel before we departed.

In the roadhouse Anita spied a collection of old bottles on display and was able to pick up a very old Schweppes bottle quite cheaply.

I spied a postcard...sporting a photograph of a 6 kilo nugget found at Marble Bar...in 1995.

...the letter fffffffffffff slipped, involuntarily, from my lips...before I suddenly stopped, cringing at the thought of the reaction the word's utterance would evoke from Precious.

...and here we were, prancing around the country thinking we'd struck it lucky...finding two nuggets that would hardly rate larger than fly specks compared to this monster !!Nullagine

Convinced the last big one had been found in Marble Bar, we set off southwards...aiming for Nullagine.

Yep, Nullagine was going to cough up the big one...we could feel it in our waters!

Nullagine

Travelling south for just over 100km, on a reasonably good unsealed road, we arrived at Nullagine.

About 7km out of town we found a track within eyesight of current mining operations and wound our way around a couple of stony outcrops into the alluvial deposits of the nearby breakaway country..remembering, occasionally, that we were towing a caravan.Nullagine

After finding a rocky valley with a relatively flat area sufficiently level to park the caravan, we set about some serious detecting.

 

A day later, after meandered back and forth over a several Nullaginesquare kilometre patch of stony ground littered with water worn quartz and ironstone...like a hyperactive housewife vacuuming...dodging thorny spinifex grass...and finding no #*& gold...we were ready to declare...next...been there, done that...time to move on...where to now?

Nullagine

 

 

Nullagine...cross country driving through breakaway country studded with spinifex grass...fossicking for gold.

road to Newman

 

 

Signs that spring is on the way...early wildflowers line the roadside enroute to Newman.

 

 

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