The Pilbara’s primordial pull of rust-red country

The bloke sitting next to me waiting for his meatlovers’ pizza in the Iron Clad Hotel asks what I’m doing in Marble Bar and seems surprised when I tell him I’m on holiday. Reading his “why would you?” look, I add: “Why wouldn’t you?”

The East Pilbara is one of WA’s most remarkable regions. This is a land of chocolate brown rock, blonde spinifex, surprising inland waterways, dusty tracks, purple mulla mulla, dumps of machinery and old pubs.

It has some of the most important and rare crustal geology on the planet.

It’s a land cut loose beyond the Pilbara’s “car-park Karijini” and “cartographic Karlamilyi” national parks, I tell my new temporary-mate. Skull Springs Road, heading east from Nullagine, feels like the Kimberley’s Gibb River Road 30 years ago.

To get here, I drove a first day to Meekatharra and stayed overnight in “dongas out yonder”, and then bypassed Newman and drove on to Marble Bar the second day, arriving a bit after sunset.

(I’ll take it easier on the way back, staying at Newman’s Seasons Hotel and then the great Mt Magnet caravan park).

Marble Bar, Nullagine, North Pole, Doolena Gorge, Coongan River, Rippon Hills Road in the East Pilbara feel like “travel”, not “tourism”; an open-space antidote for those of us who usually travel the world and feel a bit cooped up, even though our temporary playpen covers 2.5 million square kilometres. These aren’t places polished and presented for tourists. They’re living, working, genuine — which in itself seems both interesting and relevant, as worldwide tourism operators have been busy manufacturing the authentic experiences contemporary travellers seek.

Read the full story here.


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