Port Hedland: Family, flies and four wheel drives

It is been a while since my last blog, most obviously because I have been to Port Hedland to see my sister Kate and the family.

Followers of my twitter and tumblr feeds will know how much I love my family, how much I have been looking forward to my time in Port Hedland with them and, from the photos I have posted, how good a time I have had with them.

Simply put, I just had the best time with my family in their new house in South Hedland and, despite nearly being folded up with the fold out bed on night one, I am already trying to work out when I will come back again. To say I was little bit down as the family saw me off at the airport yesterday would be an understatement particularly given that it is my oldest nephew Jack’s birthday next weekend.

It has taken me a long time just to realise how important family is and, selfishly, how important time spent with family is for my mental health. The effect that the smiles on the faces of my nephews, Jack and Cooper, and new niece, Abbey, had on me alone on this trip has been profound.

But that is enough about family for this blog, as this trip was also my first opportunity to travel to the western part of Australia and, more particularly, to Port Hedland. Whilst I was only there for four days some key themes from my experience are worth noting.

First and foremost, if you are coming to Port Hedland expecting anything other than a mining town then you are sorely mistaken. From the marking of just about every major piece of public works with the branding of BHP or FMG to the large “salt mountain” of Dampier Salt on the way to town it is clear that mining drives the town and its people. This is never more apparent than when the BHP headquarters reveal themselves along the highway to town as the vast expanses of red dirt give way to manicured gardens and green grass.

If you intend to drive around Port Hedland it is also important to note that just about every car on the road is a four wheel drive and the bulk of them are workmen’s vehicles. I have never seen more four wheel drives in one space at one time so if you are shaky driving one I would suggest finding an alternate mode of transport. The other thing that can catch unsuspecting drivers unaware is getting caught at a railway crossing when the self proclaimed “longest trains in the world” are shunting past. My sister described us being lucky when we got to one such crossing as the gates descended because “it is only a short one”, after 10 minutes I was somewhat unsure how lucky we in fact were.

It goes without saying as well that Port Hedland is hot, very hot, and with heat comes flies. I am not sure I would have ever gotten used to the standard fly around my mouth or eyes on the occasions we went out no matter how long we went out for during this trip. My brother-in-law claims that you do get used to them after a while and maybe next time I have over hopefully in the “cooler” months I will be able to test whether the flies are less irritating.

I say none of this to be negative about Port Hedland. I am glad it is another place in Australia that I wanted to see that I have now seen. Before my sister and brother-in-law decided to go on this adventure they are presently on I am unsure that I would ever have headed over to that part of the world. I am unsure as to whether, without my family being over there, that I would be intending to come back. However, if you want to see one of the real nerve centres of Australia’s economy at work and have some spare time while you are in the West, it is definitely worth the 2 hour flight up for a look around in my opinion.

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