Hard to top Karijini but the week ahead did offer up a couple of great treats: a wonderful rendezvous with my brother and his wife just outside Marble Bar, a stopover in Port Hedland, and a delightful few days in trendy Broome.

Our travels since the last post.

Over the preceding months we’d remained in close touch with my brother, Ian and his wife ( Anne ) in the hope that, just possibly, our paths may cross in northern Western Australia. They habitually travel in these parts at this time and, as luck would have it, they’d reached their destination of Nullagine just a few days before we were to leave nearby Karajini. A rendezvous would indeed be possible and (Australia’s hottest town) Marble Bar ( more or less in between us ) would be the venue.

Road train, en route to Marble Bar.
We had left Karijini but were not yet done with oversize vehicles.

Spent a wonderful couple of days together trip planning, reminiscing and generally just hanging out – Anne, the camp pot was awesome ! Really nice to wind down and just be stationery after a pretty hectic previous week where we’d been constantly on the move.  Delighted to be able to bring some diesel fuel to the rescue as well ( Marble Bar had not, technically, run out of diesel but the pump that delivers it was inoperable). Ian was able to reach us by phone just prior to us leaving Karijini to advise they could not get fuel in Marble Bar, so we threw a couple of extra fuel bags in the van. Problem solved ! Only thing worse than a “Pub With No Beer” in the outback is a fuel station with (effectively ), no fuel !

Jeff, filling Ian’s vehicle with diesel. “”I’ll never hear the end of this !” he’s thinking !

Anne, preparing a delicious “welcome” camp dinner.
Nice to have access to a Starlink system – high speed internet anywhere in the world !
Beautiful sunset, camped at Marble Bar.
Camping at Marble Bar.
Classic old style buildings in tiny Marble Bar, from the days when it was much bigger.
Sturt’s Desert Pea – a beautiful wildflower common in the area.

Port Hedland was the only place of note between us and historic Broome, the pearling capital of Australia. Not a town of any intrinsic beauty ( and coated in red dust from all the iron ore that is shipped through it ), it is though, veryinteresting to see the scale of mining in the area. Four privately owned rail lines pretty much constantly drop ore at the port and just as quickly it is loaded into giant bulk carriers for the blast furnaces in Asia. The scale is indeed  immense – each train can be over 2kms long and the fully loaded ore carriers glide out of port every 15 mins or so. They proudly boast it’s the largest bulk loading port in the world in fact.

Iron ore train, en route to Port Hedland. These can be 2.5kms long!
Train crossing, near Marble Bar.

In Port Hedland the comings and goings of massive ore carriers is an attraction – gives an indication of just how much of the stuff comes out of the ground.
The carriers are huge !

Almost 700kms north east along what had to be THE most boring stretch of The Great Northern Highway that we’ve driven, lies trendy Broome. None of that section of highway follows the coast and to make matters worse we battled a fearsome headwind and the acrid smoke of seasonal burn-offs for much of the day.  Historic ( and now trendy ) Broome is the worthy reward for those long, lonely miles and it’s immediately obvious why Aussies ( and now many international visitors ) are flocking there- the climate is perfect, the setting ( on beautiful Cable beach) is stunning and the revitalized downtown is boutiquey with a vibe reminiscent  of fashionable Byron Bay on Australia’s east coast. It seemed half the town walked to the beach each day to watch its famous sunsets. Really enjoyed the place.

The long, lonely road between Port Hedland and Broome.
80 Mile beach, near Broome.
Downtown Broome.
No wonder Broome is popular this time of year !
This famous old outdoor theatre still operates. Over 100 years old. Broome.
Lois shopping, Broome.
Cable beach, sunset. Broome.
Broome, sunset on Cable beach.

It would have been a much smarter move in hindsight to have simply enjoyed one extra day relaxing in  beautiful Broome , but, foolishly ignoring the advice of our camping neighbour we opted to make  the 5 hour, 420 km round trip on to Cape Leveque. There are precious few places we regret visiting but the trip to “almost” Cape Leveque was all for nought – the final 5 kms of the road to the Cape ( the principal attraction ! ) was closed ! We should have listened to our Broome camp neighbour ( serves us right ! ).

Dead end ! We drove 420kms return to see Cape Leveque – road closed 5 kms from the end 🙁

Beyond Broome, it was a short hop to Derby, jumping off point for the legendary Gibb River Road. More on the legendary “Gibb” next week !

Fueled up for the long run to Derby and on to the Gibb River Road. An extra 80 litres. Our collapsible fuel bags have been a life saver.