week 19...
stranded in paradise

Stuck in Port Hedland

All the friendliness of Downtown Detroit, thought Kev. All the aesthetics of Post-war Russia, thought I.Either way you think it, our entry into Port Hedland last week didn't exactly make us ring up Constable Care and nominate it for Pilbara Region Tidy Town 2003.

But, if you're ever stuck in a rusty dusty dockside town, don't just sit there and let the huge steaming piles of industry-grade salt corrode your sense of adventure! There's always things to do!

Top Ten Things To Do In Port Hedland
10. Marvel at the "diverse wildlife that makes its home among the iron ore stockpiles" (direct quote from brochure).
9. Hang out next to the Action and kiss the local Northern Exposure fans.
8. Pick a fight at the Pier Hotel.
7. Wander the streets mumbling to yourself, "Where's the pepper? Where's the pepper?"
6. Watch someone else pick a fight at the Pier Hotel.
5. Ogle at the Local Port Hedland Girls 2003 calendar (available now from Bruno's Pizzeria in all it's un-airbrushed glory).
4. Spend an hour wiping the red dust off your car, then an hour later, do it again.
3. Break up a fight at the Pier Hotel.
2. Practice target shooting at the cyclone monitoring station weather balloons.
1. For goodness sake, go to South Hedland.

Ten Days, Ten Kilos
3 Boxes of Tim Tams
2 Gourmet Pizzas
5 Bags of Chips
4 Litres of Ice Cream
30 Cans of Coke
15 Litres of Milk
11 Steaks with Sides
12 Sausages
4 Bean Burritos
2 Loaves of Bread
1 Pound of Butter
8 Oranges
feast week...
We've been here a week now and learned to appreciate the subtleties of this town. Such as the Action supermarket and the Action supermarket.

There are signs up at the Action that say that their supplies are getting low. They say it's because of the road closure. We know it's because of us. If we don't leave this town soon, a state of emergency may be called.

And really, can you blame us? It's been nineteen weeks of oatmeal, couscous and more dehydrated snacks than you can shake a water bottle at. We're long past the point of playing food games "what would you eat if..." and we're even starting to get bored with the dozen different flavours of tuna on board (Gasp! Really?). There are only so many times you can fake excitement over your choice of Red Curry or Italian Style in Olive Oil.

But don't fear! It's not like our health is suffering. We did eat those eight oranges.
On Da Mike:
Name: Mike Cahill
Home: Karratha
Coveralls: Blue
Previous Job: Navy

Today's Tug: Warilla
Today's Crew: Mark, Lance and Happy
Today's Task: Petka
Petka's origin: Croatia

Meet the other
Mike Cahill back
on Week 7!
ask a tugboat skipper
When Mike Cahill asked if we wanted a ride on his tugboat, we said, "Absolutely!" It's not every day you're stuck in an industry town, and heck, what other plans did we have?

What are we up to today? This ship, the Petka, needs a tow out. We hook up a rope, pull her away from the dock and follow her out. It's always easier going out than coming in. Of course, this particular skipper is notorious for wasting time and money, and doing things the most difficult way possible, so we'll see how smoothly it goes.

What's it like driving one of these? Aw, it's pretty easy stuff. See, a tug has two engines, which can pivot, so it has great manoeuverability. I can go forwards, backwards, turn around on a dime... you need to to yank these big ships around.

Does the job keep you busy? Yeah, fairly so. Like a doctor, I'm on call 24 hours a day, and I've got three jobs to cover today. But the schedule is good: I do 4 weeks on, 2 weeks off three times, then on the fourth I get 8 weeks off.

How big's the crew? On board today I've got three others: Mark, Lance and Happy. It's a different crew each time though. These guys work hard.

How did Happy get the nickname Happy? His last name's Happ. Not much of a story there, I guess.

Do you have one of those skipper hats? No.
these are the people in our neighbourhood...

Lance runs the engine room on Mike's tug. He explained to us how all the widgets and spinners and habdabblers work down in the basement of the ship, but it was so loud, we didn't learn a thing!
We actually met Mark on Australia Day. We asked him what was going on in town in terms of festivities, and he was just going for drinks at the Pier. We were glad to catch up with him again on the tug!
Dave's a rugged traveller just like us. He's been all over Canada, America, Europe and Asia. He was the only other camper in the tent area on the night of the storm, but at least he had a car to take refuge in. Good luck in your new job, Dave!
The Fisherkids
A popular evening hangout in Port Hedland is the jetty, where you can hang a line and hook yourself a barramundi if you're lucky. But these kids kept pulling up (gulp!) baby sharks! Lucky, or not? Hope momma's not nearby!
aimee and britney spears...
separated at birth?

wally's amazin' facts!
It's not the day Australia became a nation: that's Federation Day. It's not to pay tribute to Australian soldiers: that's Anzac Day. And it's not a day to celebrate AFL: that's Anzac Day. From what we learned from a bunch of drunk teachers, Australia Day is the day Captain Cook claimed the land in the name of merry old England. Jolly good fun!

This Week's Amazin' Fact: The Pier Hotel, located on Port Hedland's beautiful esplanade, was once known as the world's toughest pub. Back in it's heyday, one could expect a few fights a night, and at least one stabbing a week! That's rougher than back when I was in prison!

Maybe all that aggression comes from too much salt in the diet. Heck, you saw that huge pile of it. Do you realize how much of is there is? Answer next week!

Don't forget to look for Wally this week!
Distance this week: 24kmDistance since Day 1: 6269km

What is Bikeabout? Click here to find out!

Day 128: Another Day at the Big4
Distance Travelled: 0.0km Temperature: 41
End Location: Cooke Pt Big4
um. yeah. so now what?
In case you haven't received the latest news bulletin, we are stuck here in the esteemed town of Port Hedland. Kind of like being stuck between a rock and a hard place, but in this case, it's a pile of salt and an iron ore mine. As the eloquent Campbell Armstrong, author of Brainfire, would write: we're stuck like a traveller who can't leave because the road is washed out.
   We've heard it could be days or even weeks before the WA road crews build us an escape route outta here. Theoretically, we do have other options, such as trying to hitch a ride by sea to Karratha, or retracing our steps to Brisbane (so long as we get back to Brisbane, we've done the loop, right?) but neither of these options seems ideal.
   It's time to play the waiting game. Tick. Tick.
   Hey, could be worse, right? I mean, at least we're not stuck in Elliott.

"Kevin Orpana was in my dream last night.
Groundhog Day must be coming up."
- Aimee.
Day 129: Gulp!
Distance Travelled: 0.0km Temperature: 38
End Location: Cooke Pt Big4
in a sorry state
He may be long winded, he may be thin lipped, he may be sneaky, warhungry and have a brow-ridge similar to that of Cro-Magnon, but that doesn't mean he can't spice up your Tuesday afternoon! It's time for America's favourite political pasttime...

The State of the Union Drinking Game
1. Invite your friends over. Have an ample supply of liquor.
2. Assign each of the player one of the following keywords:
  • Dubya says "Weapons of Mass Destruction", "Terror", or some form of the word "Evil"
  • Dubya pronounces Nuclear "Nucular"
  • Dubya stumbles over a big word
  • Dubya doesn't blink for over a minute
  • Dubya shows any other facial expression than concerned or self-congratulatory half-smile
3. When George coughs up one of these hairballs, take a drink! No doubt you'll be falling down in a phonebooth by the end of the hour!

"I'm not the fainting type either,
except when I do it on purpose at my cousin's house."
- Kevin.
Day 130: Cholesterol City
Distance Travelled: 0.0km Temperature: 35
End Location: Cooke Pt Big4
you want fries with that?
Why am I the only person in this town worried about the salt? Last week I was sick with worry. It wasn't the cyclone scares that kept me awake. Nor was it the thought that we were about to float away to South Hedland. It was the salt.
   You see this pile of white? That's all salt, collected through the painstakingly slow process of evaporation of sea water. I could probably go in-depth on the wackiness of an industry that is built upon waiting for water to evaporate (they've got more patience than I have, and I'm travelling Australia by bicycle), but I'm too worried about the salt.
   Why all this salt angst? I have this insane fear that the salt pile is going to melt when it rains. A lot of time has gone into that salt pile, and as it rained last week, I just sat and wondered if the executives were crying salty tears that their pile of white gold was going to melt back into the ocean.
   Why aren't they covering it up?! Don't they care? Are they insured against rain? Would the whole town have to be involved in sweeping up the salt from the highways and returning it to the Pile? Can't they get a big tarp? I've got more questions about this salt pile than I did about the Amish.
   In an effort to end my worry, I ask that if you work for Dampier Salt, or any other company involved in the hazardous evaporation and piling salt process, please write to me and tell me why everyone seems unconcerned about great waves of melting salt whooshing through the streets of Port Hedland.
  I have to know.

"I can eat a quarter pounder with cheese doing 110."
- Sean.
Day 131: Tightie Whiteys
Distance Travelled: 15.5km Temperature: 32
End Location: Cooke Pt Big4
is it the shoes?
"By the way," mentioned Skipper Mike, "you'll need closed-toed shoes. See you at 10:30!"
   We were really looking forward to the tug ride that morning, but as we were getting ready to leave the campground, the skipper dropped this new requirement on us. As you remember, I've been doing this whole trip in a pair of size 13 Tevas, busted at that. And now, I've got two hours to find closed-toed shoes? Eep! Quick, Batman! To the Op Shop!
   Luckily, they had these fine babies. Gleaming white, retina-burning golf shoes, pointy toes and all. Size 12, but I could squeeze them on for the required couple of hours. And man oh man, did my feet look fine. They were the kind of shoes that you didn't walk in; you were inclined to strut instead.
   By the way, the price? The sticker read $5, but I offered her $2, with the promise I'd have them back by 1:30. I'm sure it's the first time the Op Shop has had anyone rent their shoes.
Q. How do you separate the Greek men from the boys?
A. With a crowbar.
-Dock worker joke.
Day 132: Steak through the heart
Distance Travelled: 5.4km Temperature: 30
End Location: Cooke Pt Big4
they're made out of meat
A celebration of meat. That's what industrial towns are. Thunder Bay, our beloved hometown, is a place where you can reasonably expect to eat an entire cow during the BBQ season. Port Hedland residents aren't held back by the winter months and can therefore relish in steak heaven all year round.
  It's unavoidable and almost ridiculous. In the past four months, we've eaten three steaks. Since we've arrived in this town seven days ago, we've upped that total to fourteen. That's over a steak a day. The need for steak even invades the media. Advertisements here educate you about the benefits of eating red meat: 'You'll Eat Less If You Eat Red Meat.' they proclaim. From the looks of the steak Sean's cooking, it looks like less is definitely more in Port Hedland.
Kevin: "Hey, this oatmeal's made with hot water! How'd you manage that?"
Aimee: "The hot water tap."
Kevin: "Hunh. What'll they think of next?"
Day 133: Irreplacable You
Distance Travelled: 2.9km Temperature: 31
End Location: Sean's Sofabed
the pants that couldn't
They survived Ground Zero, but they couldn't survive the Australian outback.
   But look at them. The knees have been bunched up and sewn together so much that the front of the ankles is higher than the back. If I pinch the fabric at the knee, it holds at the newest seam, but invariably finds a new spot to ventilate. My abilities as the family seamstress have been challenged to the limit, and the pants have won. Material fatigue is the only explanation.
   Try as one might, with the sewing kit, and patches, and prayer, there just comes a time in every man's pants when they just can't take any more wear or tear. But, as pants go, they've certainly performed above and beyond the call of trouser duty, and gone where no pants had gone before.
   I guess the old adage is true: when your time comes, your time comes. Pants, you've been good. Oh well! Into the bin!

"C'mon in, I just finished watching Lord of the Coights."
- Peter.
Day 134: Social Studies
Distance Travelled: 0.0km Temperature: 35
End Location: Sean's Sofabed
one whores town
...And if everything we've told you up to now hasn't convinced you that Port Hedland is your summer destination for fun in the sun, maybe this will! It's the annual "Pimps and Prostitutes" town party at the Pier Hotel!
   The women delve into their closets and pull out their finest Saturday evening prostitute garb! Fishnets, push-ups, stilettos, and heaps o' hairspray! The men blow the dust off their finest pimp duds! Gold chains, wide-brimmed hats, fur coats and feathers! The other men (the ones called 'Sally' by their shipmates) get out the fishnets, push-ups, stilettos and heaps o' hairspray, and hope to go home with a very inebriated and gullible pimp.
   Now that's what I call a party, or at least, a cultural rift. Thank goodness the road is open again.

"I'm going in. Keep your eyes open for Action Man."
- Aimee.
coight: (n.) ass. There's a program here called "Russell Coight's Aussie Adventures", which makes fun of those other adventure shows, since the host is frequently breaking things and being pooped on by camels.
"You want a beer? Get off ya coight and fetch it yerself!"

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© 2003 Kevin Beimers & Aimee Lingman. Happy Birthday, Kevin Orpana!