Dampier

Trip Start Jun 18, 2008
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Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Dampier Transit Campsite

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's almost 600km from Exmouth to Karratha, and after driving almost non stop for 7 hours, I was looking forward to getting to Karratha.  Billed as the "shopping destination of the Pilbara", it's a fairly large town for this part of the world, for example it had a KFC.  And a K-Mart.  Civilisation indeed.

Sadly, the excitment was short lived.  The Visitors Information centre was fairly useless.  Didn't even have a map of the area.  In fact, we had to rely on a cartoon map from a leaflet we picked up back in Carnarvon.  The only things in the centre were to do with the local industry (iron ore, gas and salt), and fishing.  

Caravan Parks weren't much better.  We tried three of them, turned away from all as being full or long term only.  Didn't look full.  So, after grabbing some stuff from a supermarket (including a cheap hair shaver for me), we went the 20k or so up to Dampier.  We managed to get the last space in its sole caravan park.  I say space, we were just allowed to park on their road.  

Whilst in the office there, I asked if there were any Snakes around, seeing as there was a warning poster up saying they are spotted in the area.  "Too Bloody Cold Mate" was the reply.  Well that's annoying.  Australian Snakes are some of the most dangerous on Earth, apparently, but if it's not 30 degrees they are too wimpy to come out.  Don't sound too tough to me.  In fact im in shorts and t-shirt, and I've no hair left on my head, yet im out and about.  

There's not too much to Dampier.  It's basically a small town with a very large port, that exports all the Iron Ore, Gas and Salt from nearby.  Huge ships were docked in the bay, which looked cool when all lit up.  

Luckily though, the one thing I wanted to see in this area happened to be just north of Dampier, in the Burrup Pensuia.  Sadly though, the useless Information place in Karratha didn't have any information on what I came to see, nor did the Lonely Planet.  Again, the only thing that had any information was from Carnarvon, and had just two lines in it.  What we came to see were the Aboriginal Rock Carvings.  The area has thousands of them.  We just had no idea where.

Luckily, we has two things on our side.  1) We are both curious, and will happily see where a road goes, for the sake of it.  2) Months ago I downloaded some old Discovery Channel programmes on Australia, and one of them had the rock carvings in it, and I remembered the presenters scrambling up some pretty unique rock heaps.  So armed with these two things, we eventually found what we were looking for, down an unmarked road to a place called the Deep Gorge.  

Piles and piles of large red rocks were everywhere, like small hills or large slag heaps from a quarry.  I've no idea how the rocks came to be like this, it's not man made, so if anyone has any idea, please let me know.  We had to scramble through the grass first to get to the hills, and as it's very dry and very sharp grass, my legs were torn to shreds just getting there.  Smug Helen wore trousers and so didn't suffer.  

We spent a few hours looking around, climbing the rocks in parts to get a closer look, only to find even more carvings further up, invisible from ground level.  Also up on top, in the nooks and crannies were a ton of Kangaroo's, whose morning we ruined by crashing through their house.  Sorry Skippy.  We followed this small stream - well not stream, as it was clearly salt water running trough - and everywhere you looked more carvings.  Most were of animals or humans, alas as no information was available on them in the visitors centre, I have no idea what else was around, or what any of them mean.  I'll look it up online when I get the chance.  Shame, reckon we may have missed loads out.

Whilst we were following the sea stream up, some locals caught up to us and pointed out one carving in particular, which most people reckon is a carving of the explorer William Dampier, the fella this town is named after.  As you can see from the photo, it's either a 18th century sailar (complete with Sword and Uniform), or a Martian.  Which I guess to the locals he could well have been, dressed like that.  Really cool to see that, think we would have missed it had the locals not shown us.  

Helen, who in her spare time does local archaeological digs and all sorts of historical things found a ton of tools - rocks and bones to me - which were probably used to carve some of them, plus all sorts of shells and bones which were probably eaten by the carvers.  amazing what you would miss out on unless you mooch around with someone who knows these things.  The only things I know about are Baked Beans and xboX.  Not too useful, really.

After more fun climbing, photographing and cutting my legs more, we went up to an outlook at the end of the Penisulur, although our cartoon map failed to feature the huge Gas Plant there, which you can't go through.  So we turned back and kept going until we got to Roeborn, some 50km away down the main highway.  We went to the visitors centre, which is housed in the old Goal, so we looked around that.  Unsurprinsgly, it's main use was to lock up Aboroginals in the "old days", for all sorts of "offences".  It was clear to me they were slaves, imprisoned for made up reasons then forced to work in the town or on the ranches.  This of course, well after Great Britan has disowned slaverly and apologised for its role in the American slave trade.  Weird it was allowed here then...

We also took the time to look around Cossack, a ghost town that was once a port.  I say We, I mean Helen did.  I had already seen them when we drove into the place.  She mooched off whilst I stood guard at the riverside.  See, for the first time on this trip, we have seen a Crocodile Warning Sign.  I didn't think they came down this far, not at least until Broome, but alas there had been recent sightings.  So I stood guard.  By laying on the bed in the van.  No reason why safety can't be coupled with comfort.

We had planned to stay the night in the area, probably around Port Samson.  We drove up there, to it's "postcard perfect" beach, Honeymoon Cove, but as there was a gale blowing it didn't look too nice.  Neither of us could think of a reason to stay, so with the light fading, we decided to just keep going....
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