A Stop for Fishermen and Friends
The first signs of wild flowers growing in the arid soils between Port Hedland and Karratha
It is too far to tow a caravan from Broome to Port Hedland in one session across the flat, arid and featureless plain and for a halfway stop there is a choice of the caravan park at a petrol stop or a ten km trek on a dirt road across a cattle property to the caravan stop, fishing haven at Eighty Mile Beach. We chose the latter.
Car and van on the road into the Eighty Mile Beach Van Park.
This property and the Cattle Station were absolutely trashed by a cyclone which hit the coast square September 2009. Thousands of cattle were killed. A house and road train with four trailers absolutely disappeared, apparently lifted and blown into the ocean. Every tree in the park was either uprooted, or stripped of every leaf and branch, requiring a team of thirty men just to clean up the debris and causing the park to be closed until Easter.
The caravan park after last years cyclone. It used to be filled with shady trees. Those that survive are just poles waiting for regrowth to occur.
Travelling into the park the temperature stopped 7 degrees and we arrived to find the park wreathed in low cloud like mist. The next morning it was heavy fog making it hard to see further than 10 metres. This was the first atmospheric moisture we had seen for more than two months.
Eerie morning mist completely cloaks the park.
The attraction of this spot, 250 km by road from anywhere, is fishing. Aside from the itinerant nomadic travellers like us who only stay for a couple of days the rest of the campers are either beach fishermen or shell collectors (or both). They often travel thousands Kilometres and stay for three months or more, every year, often on the same plot and with the same neighbours the have camped with for decades.
The War Memorial at Eighty Mile Beach established by Vietnam War veterans who love to fish and remember their comrades.
Most of the campers are my generation and many are veterans of the Vietnam war. I spoke to one of my neighbours, whose van displayed insignia from the Vietnam and Korean conflicts and discovered that he had served with my cousin George Lawrence, who retired a Warrant Officer after the Vietnam conflict. These veterans, with the support of the Park Ranger (also a veteran) have established their own War Memorial within the park, unique in my experience. I suspect that it is not just the fish and the shells that bring them back each year, but also the friendships with comrades who have shared similar experiences that have imprinted them to this unique part of the Western Australian coast.