The Pilbara after dark!!
by Joe Fury
(Newman Western Australia)
Hilux verses Beast, unlucky break.
Travel any time in the more remote parts of the Pilbara at certain times of the year can bring you undone if something goes wrong with either you or your vehicle.
During the "Wet" you can get stranded by rising creek levels or you can become hopelessly bogged if traveling off road, these situations can and do occur quite regularly, so it is imperative to carry communications and recovery equipment and also to have quality food rations in the vehicle, should you have to sit it out for a couple of days.
The hot temperatures usually associated with the Pilbara are a genuine factor in either limiting travel or taking very serious steps to ensure you and your vehicle actually survive a situation should things go wrong, again carrying food and water are imperative as is the good mechanical condition of your vehicle, you should always let some one you know well enough (trust) of your plans and give them the authority to organize a search should you fail to return or make contact by or at an appropriate time, your obligation is to stick to your plan or itinerary, it's that simple.
My wife and I just last Sunday (28/7/13) became players in an episode on a casual "Sunday drive" ~ now nothing in the Pilbara can be considered small or inconsequential ~ our Sunday drive was a round trip of 412 Kilometres, seeing us travel up to Nullagine on the Marble Bar Road roughly two hours away from our home town of Newman, as usual we pack and carry enough food ~ water and "stuff" to cater for at least five adults for as many days and this pack and carry routine has been the same in our 24 years in the region.
The road trip north was actually a pleasant drive, even if you consider the corrugated bitumen, heavy haulage transport and the dust, not only from the road traffic but also from the mining construction either side of the Old Great Northern Highway, the landscape is absolutely stunning since the rains in June, green vegetation and even acres of water still to soak away or evaporate, a very nice visual aspect to this fairly harsh part of the Big State.
Our day out saw us call in to several waterholes and some of the lesser known Indigenous Petroglyph sites, these places are a real haven almost all year round and always a delight to revisit, in our case just to see what and if any adverse impacts
have occurred since the rains and since the massive population shift in the region due to mining, I am pleased to say no adverse findings on either front, the waterholes are brim full and looking good.
Another objective was to take a personal look at the newly established mining ventures by B C Iron and Hancock Prospecting, visually and environmentally it's sad, commercially and economically
they must be Hi-Fiveing themselves all the way to the next Billion Dollars profit.
Our return journey was being made during the late part of the day, which would have seen us home just on dark, but like all good plans, little things like taking a few extra images and that nice hot cup of coffee when we stopped on the banks of the Nullagine River, began to eat into the daylight safety margin I like to plan into any trip, as driving after sun down can be risky not only because of the road conditions but also the real risk of straying Cattle and every other creature that calls the out back home and wanders about after dark.
Good lighting is essential, a no brainer actually, but other things can bring you undone rather quickly, in our case it was a sudden and catastrophic tyre failure on the bitumen about 65 kilometres from home, an inconvenience to say the least, expensive most definitely but a real stroke of luck as it turned out.
One road train and two light vehicles passed by as I toiled away doing the wheel change out, we were underway inside an hour, but we had to come to a stop not more than 3 Kilometres closer to Newman, where two young Irish blokes were unlucky to have hit a rather large beast almost point blank head on at speed.
The end result was one very dead beast, one mortally wounded Toyota Hilux ute and two very shaken but otherwise unharmed young mine working Irishmen, their plight was still unfolding but help was on the way as they did have a journey plan lodged with their supervisor at their mine site, all we could do was give them a couple of bottles of cold water and words of encouragement, then we headed for home all lights blazing and at a very respectful speed, fully aware of the perils of driving after dark in Cattle country anywhere in the Pilbara.
The luck of the Irish ran out when they hit the beast, our good luck became evident when the tyre disintegrated.
Safe travels : Joe Fury