Salt Mine at Port Hedlan

Not unreasonably I felt that the worse was behind me as I had been told by the people in Broome that the road to Port Hedland was not normally subject to flooding. The rain stopped shortly after we left and the temperature started climbing. Bridget was running well and I looked forward to another good day travelling. The landscape south of Broome is different to any that I had previously seen in Australia with miles and miles of what I would call ‘savannah’. It put me in mind of what I think the great American prairies must be like.

After about 90 miles I saw a car at the side of the road and an aboriginal man with it so I pulled over to see if I could help. The car was an old Nissan that had seen much better days and the chap told me that he thought the battery was flat. I looked under the bonnet and noticed that the battery was brand new which the chap confirmed. He said he had bought it the day before. The lead to the distributor was not connected so I fixed that and asked him to try to turn the engine over. No electrics worked at all. Realising the problem was far more serious than a flat battery I offered to try towing him to the next roadhouse, a distance of about 150 miles. Bridget struggled for around 10 miles and then she started to overheat. We agreed that the chap would stay with the car and I would tell people at the roadhouse he was there.

Some 20 miles up the road I spied a 4×4 Toyota at the side of the road with more aboriginal people so I pulled over and told them about the chap I had tried to help. They said they already knew about him and were going to go there later. After I continued on my way I thought about several inconsistencies in the complete event and realised that the car was almost certainly an abandoned one that the aboriginal was hoping to ‘rescue’, and the battery had been taken there the previous day in the hope of starting the engine. Just another experience for me.

The rain returned with about 150 miles to go and there was more water across the road again. The ground is so wet it only takes a little storm to raise the level to critical. We arrived in Port Hedland at around 4:00pm after a journey of some 430 miles. Bridget handled it so perfectly I decided to continue without any rest the next morning.

I awoke to the familiar sound of heavy rain. Having studied my map I had decided on travelling to Karratha a mere 150 miles. Although there were several spots where water was across the road, generally it wasn’t too deep and anyway I had picked up another shepherd to see me safely over the worst areas. The next day was going to be much longer, driving to Carnarvon approximately 450 miles south. There is no large community between there and Karratha and so it was unlikely that there would be suitable places to stay other than occasional roadhouses. I hoped that we had at last outrun the flooding but once again that was to prove false. With heavy rain accompanying us we set off early. Fortunately the water across the road only effected the first 60 miles after which I settled down to enjoying the scenery and keeping a look-out for wildlife on the road.

However near the Cane River almost 180 miles south of Karratha we mounted a crest in the road to be confronted with an extended stretch of water sweeping across in front of us. I brake and brought Bridget to a halt a couple of feet from the beginning. The flow appeared faster than I was happy with so I got out of the car to take a closer look. My concern increased when I saw at the other side of the water a vehicle stopped with its doors open. I could see someone walking about and the thought entered my head that he had only just made it across and was trying to dry out his car.

I decided I would have to walk the floodway before making a decision about driving through it. Just as I was removing my sandals the other vehicle started up its engine, moved forward and then turned around and started to drive towards me. I studied its wheels trying to gauge the depth of the water and decided it should be OK as long as the force wasn’t too great. The other vehicle turned out to be a Toyota 4×4 and it hadn’t had problems crossing but was waiting for me. It had overtaken me earlier and realised that I might have problems and offered to clear the way and tow me if anything went wrong. Once again the Australians were looking out for me.

That really was the last of the flood problems and the remainder of the journey was really pleasant. Again Bridget just keeps going even though the temperature has remained in the 30’s.

From Carnarvon we drove to Geraldton this time in brilliant sunshine all the way. This left a fairly leisurely final leg of about 250 miles to Perth although I was having some problems over accommodation. It transpires that there is a major golf tournament over the weekend and all the hotels are booked up.

All that remains now is for me to fix up Bridget’s engine and give her a thorough service before putting her back in her container for the trip to Argentina. It has been an exciting 5 months during which we have covered over 11,500 miles. That is 1,500 miles more than the first leg from Oxford in the UK to Chennai in India.

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