Passing through the Pilbara


“The Pilbara” is a region that people identify with remoteness, mining, and great expanses of land. Our arrival into the area was much anticipated on our part, however rapidly became a nightmare for us, one which we will take a long time to recover from. Whilst we cannot and won’t speak in this forum about what has happened, we can say that we met some of the most wonderful people at this horrific time in our lives, but we desperately wish that we had been able to meet them under different circumstances, and we need you, our readers, to know that it has been an exceptionally difficult time for us recently. We were advised to take a break from all things trip related for a while.

While enroute from Exmouth, we decided to free camp at an overnight rest area on the Robe River. It was peaceful, and there were about 12 other vans/motorhomes with the same idea. It was handy to have free Wi-Fi thanks to the Pilbara District Council. It was just enough to check for any emails! The kids found some indigenous art on rocks under the bridge, and Kirstine had a long chat with a couple who had been directly affected by attempted and successful suicides in their family. It was a multi-faceted conversation, lamenting the cruel nature of depression, and the inconsistencies in treatment by medical professionals. This is a theme we have heard from a few people. They had just been told a nephew had taken his life, after years of substance abuse. What had shocked them was when their own son attempted to take his own life during a difficult period in his marriage. They are incredibly grateful that he is still alive, and now living a successful life with his wife and family. What stopped him from his suicide attempt? His kelpie jumped on him and disrupted the process. Another example of dogs saving lives!

Eventually we visited Dampier so that the kids could see the Red Dog monument. None of us have yet seen the film, but everyone knows about the Pilbara Wanderer, Red Dog! The salt flats and processing plant glowed white against the red dirt and was quite a site.

Port Hedland was our next destination up the coast, and we stopped in at the Discovery Park Port Hedland to see if they could fit us in. Clair was more than happy to give us a powered site for a couple of days, knowing what we had been through. We spent the time quietly as a family, taking a walk to the beach to let the kids explore and Luna run off some energy.

As we visited the office to give thanks for the hospitality we’d been shown, Clair had a surprise up her sleeve for the children. Overhearing how much our youngest daughter loves turtles, Clair had three plush turtle toys for the children to take as a souvenir of their stay at Port Hedland. One of the other staff, Jenny, works as a volunteer turtle tagger during the laying season, and offered to take the kids with her if we’re ever back this way in the wet season!

And so, we passed through the Pilbara, headed for the Kimberley. Our own mental health has been challenged, so it was a bittersweet departure as we moved further north, putting distance between us and the Pilbara, and intent on trying to reset the trip and focus on making new happy memories.  

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