We thought we’d be spending more time in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, but that was not the case, and apart from our short stay at Exmouth, we only had one more stop before continuing north. (I’d incorrectly identified Exmouth as being in the Gascoyne region, but I’ve corrected that now.)
It was a heartbreaking decision to not visit Karijini National Park, I’d been looking forward to doing some bushwalking and lots of other sightseeing in the river gorges. But as the weather so often dictates what you can or (more accurately in this case) cannot do, driving east and into hotter territory to reach the park could have been a disastrous decision.
But much like our decision to bypass the Flinders Ranges when we were in South Australia back in late October because the temperature was 40°C (104°F), we thought better of visiting Karijini due to being in the middle of some of the hottest weather we’ve ever experienced, some of the hottest weather Western Australia has ever experienced for that matter.
Granted it was hot at Coral Bay, and hotter still at Exmouth, but as we said goodbye to the North West Cape, it seemed with every degree of travel north, so too the temperature mirrored our trajectory.
It was already 40°C (104°F) at 10:00 am as we skirted around a stretch of sandy plain to rejoin the national highway. Thankfully the air-conditioner in the car was working wonderfully.
By the time we stopped to refuel at the Nanutarra Roadhouse, three more degrees had been added (43°C/109.4°F). Here was make or break time, the turning point so to speak, and as the roadhouse owner told me “This is nothing lady, it was 47°C (116.6°F) yesterday. Will be hotter than that today.”, the decision to drive past the turn off to the national park became a little easier, and we continued north to remain as close to the coastline as possible.
Somewhere around Fortescue, Dean decided he would hand the driving over to me. By then it was 45°C (113°F) and as I stepped out of the car, the atmosphere sucked the moisture from the surface of my eyeballs. It was the hottest I have ever felt the air. That was four days ago now and my eyes still haven’t recovered fully.
From Fortescue, we continued on to Karratha where we only stopped overnight at the Pilbara Caravan Park. This was Location No 78 on our trip around Australia but there isn’t much for me to say about it. We enjoyed dining out at one of the local pubs where the food was absolutely amazing – mainly because I didn’t have to cook after a long day of driving. (I’ll fill you in on the Parmie I had later.)
Heading north once again, stopping at Port Headland only to refuel and grab some bread, we eventually crossed the De Grey River and left the Pilbara region behind, but not before we saw the effects of tropical cyclone Stan that crossed the east Pilbara coast back on January 31. Bringing much-needed rain and filling parts of the De Grey River and the river catchment areas, as we continued north, it was refreshing to see the landscape change from dry and barren to lush and green.
Our next stop was the caravan park at Eighty Mile Beach on the southern fringes of the Kimberley region, a veritable oasis reached down a 10-kilometre dirt road (6.3 miles). It took us two days to travel the 1,034 kilometres to reach Eight Mile Beach (876.1 miles). In what felt like an extremely long stretch of highway from south of Fortescue and north of Port Headland, (some 500 kilometres/310.1 miles), we encountered countless road trains travelling to and from the mines, no doubt hauling product to the ports at both Karratha and Port Headland.
Some of them were only three carriages long, but the majority were four carriages trains, making for an awesome sight and demanding the most attentive driving. (Not that we drive any other way.)
Across the Pilbara