Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Pilbara - WA

Isolation - you know about that up here in the North West of Western Australia. On this trip - Karratha to Port Hedland to Broome and to Derby - I will travel about 1400 kilometres in 5 days, staying four nights and seeing numerous customers. The car is my lifeline, my office, my one and only haven. It is my time machine, shooting me forward into the future of the week, leaving behind the past of yesterday. My rear view mirror shows me where I have been and where I hope to go again soon. Ahead lay the open road - thousands of kilometers of bitumen winding its way through low hills, barren grassland and shrubby spinifex.
At this time of year, water is scarce in the bush and wild animals are drawn to the road to feed upon road-kill. Temptation brings more risk and, ultimately, more death. I have seen hawks and crows swooping down on decaying kangaroos on the side of the road. The Wedgetail Eagles, however, they don’t move for anyone. They sit on the carcass, in the middle of the road. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll go around them.
Emus dart out from two metre bushes, cunningly camouflaged like the trees - at first I thought the trees were alive and bounding at me until I realized that it was a couple of emus. I was about to curse that café in Port Hedland and their dubious looking hamburger when I realized the error was not as a result of food poisoning, but rather fatigue. The food poisoning part of the burger was to visit me later when I was in the relative safety and comfort of the hotel room.
Ancient valleys and ranges jut out of the flattened landscape at irregular intervals - as if a giant child had left his toys strewn all across the world. The roads wind their way between them - I’m certain done deliberately to give the weary drivers something interesting to look at. Road trains rumble past, multiple trailers chugging along like a great steel beast. Serpentine trains wind their way through the countryside, kilometers long, tens of thousands of tonnes of the precious earth in their cars. They snake their way to the coast, to the great export ports and deliver the Australian rocks to overseas companies - only for Australian companies to buy it back as a finished product.
Industry is as much a part of the landscape as the rest of the assets in the region - without that industry I wouldn’t be up here and neither would the vast majority of people. The vastness of the area, the isolation, and the distance from anywhere else conspire to keep this place raw.
It’s tough.
It’s hard.
I can be rough and it can break you.
But it can make you too.
The ports of Dampier and Port Hedland show us man’s contribution to the landscape up here - his ability to uglify it, to export it, exploit and pillage. Then there is the beauty up here - gorges of rare and pristine grandeur that to mention them here would bring them to attention…they are just for me and anyone else who stumbles across them.
I also know of places with Aboriginal rock art dating back tens of thousands of years. It’s not sign-posted, there are no tourists - and yet thousands of people drive past it every day without knowing. My lips are sealed to protect.
The Pilbara is a land of contrasts - a land as old as anywhere on the planet and yet the human element here is growing so fast the world can’t keep up. Extreme temperatures, extreme distances, extreme challenges.
I wonder how long it will last.

If you have made it this far...thank you.

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