Inland Pilbara is hot, dry and dusty and there are very few towns or people. Places to get supplies or support are few and far between. The ground is rich in natural resources and mining companies are busy digging them up, transporting them to the coast and shipping them overseas. Most of the rivers are dry beds but their width show that when it does rain it is likely to flood. The far east of the region consists of deserts including the Great Sandy Desert, the Little Sandy Desert and The Tanami Desert. We just love it!
This trip we did a short (for us) loop around the top of Karajini to Auski, across country to the Newman to Marble Bar road, up to Nullagine and then east to Skull Springs, Running Waters and Carrawine Gorge and then back to Marble Bar and finally out to the coast near Eighty Mile Beach.
All the mining in the region makes travel both easier and more difficult. The easier part comes from the network of well maintained roads and the more difficult from the traffic along the roads. Wide loads are common as the mines shift their heavy equipment around. This load was so wide we had to pull well off the road to let it past.
On dirt roads huge semi trailers create clouds of dust which are dragged behind them. Visibility can be zero so it’s just a matter of pulling well off to the side of the road and waiting for the dust to settle minutes later. Once away from the mines the roads might be rougher but the scenery is always captivating.
We made an overnight stop on the road between Newman and Marble Bar on the banks of the Fortescue River. It was close to the road but the traffic was minimal after dark and it was a very pretty place for a stay.
Midway between Newman and Marble Bar is the tiny town of Nullagine where we stopped for a rest break before leaving the main road and heading east toward the deserts.
When we visited this area six years ago we briefly visited a place originally called Eel Springs but now known as Running Waters and had the place to ourselves. Ever since then Paul has wanted to return to take photos of the twisted paperbark trees surrounding this permanent spring. As a bonus the water is crystal clear and even slightly warm as one of the springs comes from the artesian basin.
Well word has certainly spread about this place, it was busy. We’d left the coast because school holidays had started but seems like lots of other West Aussies had the same idea. We managed to snare a nice spot right by the water, someone had just left, and hoped to stay for several days. We swam and relaxed and Paul was out at sunset and sunrise and was pretty happy with his shots.
Unfortunately on our second day we acquired close neighbours who had a taste for heavy metal music and we decided to move on the next morning. After backtracking a little we turned off the road toward a camping spot near the Davis River. The side track was easy to find, it was marked by some animal skulls on a post so naturally the alternate name for the camp is Skull Springs. It was much quieter here, just one camp set up by the water and we decided to leave them to their peace and and we set up camp above the river bed in an open spot with scattered white gums around.
Our final stop in this area was at Carrawine Gorge, another favourite from our visit six years ago. That time we stopped for nine nights but this time the increased numbers of campers, the new vegetation along the water which impeded the views and the copious amounts of dust which billowed through many of the prime sites anytime a car drove past combined to shorten or stay to just two nights. It was still pleasant and the bird life was lovely but it was time to head for the coast and to clean up some of the accumulated dust.