This 300kms section of highway is particularly busy with long road trains that thunder under the weight of their heavy loads, especially iron ore and heavy machinery transported between various Pilbara mines and the docks at Port Hedland.
Road trains can be up to 53.5 metres long, made up of three or four trailers.
That can be a tad intimidating when overtaking on these unfamiliar roads, especially when dragging a caravan behind!
The short video below highlights just a couple of our experiences on the highway yesterday, starting with a very helpful road train driver who let us know when it was safe to overtake (because his rig was difficult to see around because of the size and length).
The video ends with John appearing just a little frustrated with having to readjust the external mirror (for about the 50th time that day!) – a consequence of fast heavy road trains passing and a very strong cross wind! (After about 14,000 kms to date on this trip, this was the first time we’ve experienced any issues with the mirrors from passing road trains.)
Our next road hazard was a willy willy (kind of like a localised baby tornado) lifting the surface dust as it crossed the highway before us!
But the trip wasn’t all excitement and adrenaline! The famous Western Australian wildflowers (one of the reasons for this trip!) were starting to make their appearance. Thousands of shrubs and plants were just starting to bud. Another few weeks, and these would have been spectacular!
We were planning to spend a few days at a free camp, just outside the Karijini National Park, and were looking forward to the prospect of a campfire. But as the intrepid travellers who posted reviews on the trusty Wikicamps app noted, this camp site doesn’t have a lot of firewood about – so we needed to bring our own. Duly noted! We stopped en route to collect sufficient wood for our stay (and then some!).
The free camp is the Albert Tognolini Rest Area, named after the former Commissioner of WA Transport and Environment, and who had previously overseen the planning and construction of this part of the Great Northern Highway. The camp overlooks the stunning Munjina East Gorge.
This free camp extended for about one kilometre, hugging the ridge line of the gorge. Campers needed to be self-contained, as there were no amenities other than bins that were emptied almost daily. No phone service, no television or radio … bliss (except it would have been nice to know how Ash Barty was doing at Wimbledon!).
Our view over the Munjina East Gorge looked back towards the Great Northern Highway, where we watched many a road train labour its way up the long climb through the pass.
We never tired of the view from our campsite, where we could witness sunrises and sunsets over the gorge, watch the road trains labour up the hill in the distance (and light up the hills opposite at night with their high beam lights and powerful spotties!), and enjoy front row seats for the spectacular night sky display! We’ve never seen stars as clear and bright, due to no other artificial light sources within cooee!
It was hard to leave here. All in all, spectacular scenery, quiet environment, great night skies – and best of all, free!