Tom Price to Onslow Western Australia 13 March 2007.
18 Mar 2007
Until the 1960's a few cattlemen were the only inhabitants of this area in the northwest, when by accident iron ore was discovered. Forced by poor weather to fly low over the area's many gorges, Lang Hancock noticed that its walls gave off a metallic sheen. Subsequent investigation revealed, what proved to be the world's greatest concentration of iron ore. The town of Tom Price was built as a mining town in 1966 by Hamersley Iron, a member of Rio Tinto Group to house the miners required to work in the mines. It was named after Thomas Moore Price the vice president of the giant United State Steel Company Kaiser Steel. We were to discover over the next week that a number of towns we would visit were also created to service the iron ore business. The Tom Price mine is one of the biggest in the world and offers tourist's trips to see it. This was also closed following the cyclone.
At a height of 2,459 feet above sea level Tom Price is Western Australia's highest town and is dominated by Mt Nameless, close by is the Karijini National Park. Apart from trying to avoid Tropical Cyclone George, the Karijini was the reason we had come to Tom Price. We learnt on Monday morning that the National Park would not be opened until later in the week due to the possibility of flash flooding as a result of the cyclones.
The campsite at Tom Price was situated in the bush under Mt Nameless. Most of the residents were miners who are flown in from Perth and work a nine day shit pattern. As it is out of season there are very few tourists around. One break for us was the arrival of Hans, a gentleman travelling on his own in a 4 wheel drive vehicle. As he was connecting his vehicle to the power Jeff struck up a conversation with him, I was in the van working on the computer with the air-conditioning on. Hans was from the Netherlands and had a six month visa to travel around Australia. He was doing it with a little more adventure using mainly tracks, some of which crossed isolated areas where he would see no one for a couple of days. He joined us for dinner and related a number of tales from his travels. Like us he was waiting to get into Karijni. He left on Sunday morning to attempt to go to the park only to return again that night to inform us the gates were closed. He had managed to visit Hamersly Gorge and drive up Mt Nameless. He showed us his photos of both on Monday morning before we said goodbye.
Having spent five days in the town with very little to do we decided to return to the coast again, but still keep in touch with Jeff, the tour operator, as there was a possibility we could return later in the week to go to the park.
We returned the way we had driven in along the 136 road to the Nantarra Road House. The journey this time was very different, apart from facing the other way the sun was shining and we were able to see the mountains in a different light. It was also less windy, except for one huge gust that gave us a bit of a shaking whilst were having lunch. We arrived back at the road house to refuel the van and ourselves before our onward journey to Onslow. This time the temperature was 43C, (109.4F), and I discovered where the shade was, the thermometer registering the temperature was attached to the pillar by the petrol pump.
When planning our journey up the coast of Western Australia we had seen the town of Onslow on the map, and being fans of Keeping Up Appearances thought we just had to visit this town. During World War II the town became an allied naval base and Japanese aircraft bombed the town in 1943. Today this small town supports a prawning and fishing industry, pearling and off shore gas exploration. As you drive into the town you pass the salt flats which support a salt industry. Like other towns we have visited it has a reef system, this one connects the marine life between the Ningaloo Reef to the South and the Dampier Archipelago and Montebello Islands to the north.
We arrived at the camp site at about 7pm after a 300 mile drive and discovered we were expected. On Monday evening at Tom Price we had met Bryan and Marilyn, who are also members of the campervan and motor home club, and had mentioned where we were going. They had got there before us and had let the caretaker know we might be coming. She suggested the site next to them and it was like a reunion of friends when we met again. They are travelling around Australia looking for work and would be moving up the coast towards Karratha in the next few days.
On Tuesday morning I had a quick walk along the front and up the boardwalk which overlooked the bay. The sea had a red tinge to it which was quite a strange sight. Then it was back to the van and prepare it for moving on to our next destination.