After a warm night and a great sleep, and nice hot showers at the Golf Club, we made a few enquiries as to whether the road to Broome was open. In general the advice, and info from the internet was somewhat inconclusive – we couldn’t seem to find any really up-to-date information. We decided, like several others at the Port Hedland Golf Club, to take the chance on the roads being open, and got away about 9.45 am.
We weren’t far from Port Hedland when it was obvious that there was still plenty of water about, including on the road, but there wasn’t much we could do but go through it. So we did – all part of the adventure. And we did it several times! We discovered that even going slowly there was plenty of wash over the Ute and especially the windscreen, to the extent that at one point we couldn’t see anything at all and weren’t sure what direction we were going in. Fortunately the road train coming the other way saw our dilemma, slowed down to let us get back on course. The bad news is that the Ute and caravan are still a nice shade of red, despite the car wash.
One interesting sight on the outskirts of Port Hedland was a cluster of large ant hills adorned with hard hats and other caps and beanies. Not sure why someone chose to do this but it was interesting anyway.
Continuing up the highway we were amazed by the incredible scenery in places, and also by the huge volumes of water everywhere – fortunately not on the road. Creek beds that were presumably dry for most of the year were raging torrents of frothing water. Also of interest was the number of cattle on the road. We had been warned to expect this and we had seen quite a few dead cattle by the side of the road but now we were going through herds of live cattle, and they’re not necessarily predictable in their movements.
For our morning break we pulled into the De Grey River Rest Area/Free Camp. The De Grey River itself was a raging torrent and there was plenty of water lying around in the rest area. This had actually been our intended destination yesterday but we’re glad that we stopped in Port Hedland rather than drive the extra distance. This is a really well appointed free camping area with a huge space, undercover areas, and two toilets (long drop) with dump points. Talking to some campers we heard that a Winnebago got bogged this morning and needed a grader to get it out. Also a couple of caravans had much better than expected river views when they woke up and had to move back as the river had risen 2 metres.
After morning tea we headed up the highway to the Pardoo Roadhouse for a break for lunch. We had looked at the road going into Pardoo Station on the way but decided to pass on that, despite the very positive reviews we had seen of Pardoo Station as a destination. There was a nice looking caravan park at the Roadhouse but we thought that we had a couple of extra hours driving left today so continued up the highway after having our lunch in the caravan.
Our planned destination for the night was the Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park. Ann actually rang them before we left Port Hedland and they had told her that the grader was out on the road now and that it should be right by the time we got there. When we reached the turnoff from the highway we stopped the Ute and got out and had a look. The road had definitely been graded but we decided that 9 kms of wet graded red dirt was probably not a great option, particularly with approaching storm clouds, so we headed on again.
Our final destination today was the Sandfire Roadhouse. Let’s just say it’s an interesting place with an interesting collection of animals and birdlife. Although there are supposedly only 9 drive through sites here, the owners have actually fitted in around 16 caravans by doubling up on the sites. We can’t leave tomorrow morning until the van in front of us moves. Still, we’re off the road and safe, we have power and internet access [no TV] and we don’t have too far to go tomorrow to get to Broome. We will sleep well tonight providing the storm clouds above keep moving!