Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views: June 18 Edition

Hickman Meteorite Crater, Pilbara.
Picture: Stephen Scourfield The West Australian

Travel Editor returns to the heart of East Pilbara, the heart of everything... armed with his trusty iPhone 13 Pro as his primary camera


. . . and the rain came down — along the Pilbara coast and into the Mid West. I was in Newman, and it was cold and wet. The road to Nullagine was closed. It rained overnight. We planned an “escape route”, heading south out of the rain, perhaps cutting inland to Wiluna, or heading into the mulga. But we decided to stay on an extra night in Newman and see how it played out. And then Lesley Hammersley, monitoring the Main Roads website announced that the Nullagine road had reopened. Given the forecast, we were all surprised . . . but the next morning, we were off . . .


This has become an annual inland trip — me, wife Virginia Ward and long-time friends, travelling companions and WA flora specialists Grady Brand and Lesley Hammersley. And this time we have slithered through Nullagine to return to Marble Bar, at the heart of the East Pilbara. And the East Pilbara has, for me, become the heart of everything. This is the oldest place on Earth. This is where we can not only witness what scientists call “deep time”, but live in it. This is where we can see the planet as it was 3.5 billion years ago — before there was even multicellular life — long before life crawled out of the oceans on to the land. We can be surrounded by fossilised examples of stromatolites, which were the first lifeforms to create oxygen.

And we can stand in that weird amber light after sunset that makes this place feel truly other-worldly.


The geology gets into you. This is a weird landscape of dolerite dykes and vertically plunging schists. The dolerite in ranges gives dark stripes that make them look like a thylacine’s back. The vertically plunging schists are where the Earth’s crust was drawn into a “sinkhole” between rising granite, leaving sort-of stand-up rods that look like part of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.


The activity at Sanjiv Ridge iron ore mine, operated by Atlas Iron, has changed the picture in Marble Bar. A new road has been built out past the old Comet Gold Mine Museum and iron ore trucks pulling four trailers constantly stream around the town, night and day. Gina Rinehart won what her company, Hancock Prospecting, called “the battle of the billionaires” to take control of Atlas in 2018. It was a three-way contest between her, Chris Ellison’s Mineral Resources and Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals.


On one day, we drive out to Carawine Gorge with our inflatable canoes, to paddle on the Oakover River. On another, we go to Doolena Gorge, walk around the pool and climb up into a high cave, surrounded by birdsong. Then we find a long pool on the Coongan River, and paddle there, too. There are jabirus, and rainbow bee-eaters dart down to the water’s surface. I get out my Sony RX10 IV superzoom camera, which has a built-in 24-600mm lens, but literally just have time to take the one shot published on this page before they stop . . .


The rest of the trip, I’m using only my iPhone 13 Pro for photographs. I’ve come to love phone photography — it is liberating and the quality is there now. And it’s rather like learning a new discipline; a new way of thinking; a new approach; and there are a lot of “buttons” and tricks hidden in the phone camera to learn.

Our next regional Photowalk with Phones events are in Albany on July 15 and 16. The first is full, the second has a few places left. Led by Will Yeoman and me, both are free — they are supported by the City of Albany as part of the Albany Maritime Festival held during the month of July (we have a story on page 19). Book at maritime-photowalks


The next of our PhotoWalks with Phones in Perth is on Sunday, July 3, and filling quickly. Led by Mogens Johansen and me, we will walk through East Perth from 9am to 11am, after meeting at Mardelup Park carpark. It costs $49, with bookings at


. . . speaking of July . . . the folk at July Luggage report that their Magenta Moment range has been “super popular” for people heading to Europe for the summer. The Melbourne-based designers at July say they read more than 4000 reviews of existing cases and began designing around fixing what was wrong: “We needed better reinforcement of corners and bends, a better business model around trials and warranty, and more considered features for travel. The result is what you see today.” They aim to produce luggage that lasts a lifetime and stops the cycle of single-use travel accessories.


. . . and speaking of colours . . . the name of a mountain in Yellowstone National Park in the US has been changed from the surname of Army Lt Gustavus Doane, who massacred Native Americans and then bragged about it, to a name which honours those killed. Previously Mt Doane, it is now called First Peoples Mountain, as the US Government works to change honours deemed offensive. The 3215m peak is east of Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming. Army Lt Doane, led a massacre that killed 173 people, but was also one of the members of the original expedition which led to the creation of Yellowstone as the first national park in the US. It was established on March 1, 1872.

This week, 10,000 visitors had to flee Yellowstone as the park flooded.


Happy the elephant has been a favourite with visitors to the Bronx Zoo for a long time. And she is going to stay there. On Tuesday, a New York court ruled that Happy is not legally a person under US law, rejecting an animal rights group’s argument that she was being illegally confined at the zoo. They wanted to have Happy moved to an elephant sanctuary. But the court said that while elephants are “impressive”, they’re not entitled to the same liberty rights as humans.


The US Commerce Department has a new strategy aimed at boosting international tourism, which has been hit hard by COVID-19. It will streamline the entry process and promote more diverse destinations. The National Travel and Tourism Strategy aims to attract 90 million international visitors spending an estimated $279 billion annually by 2027 — more than before the pandemic.

Japan’s Government may bring in a travel discount campaign to help the tourism industry recover from its COVID-19 slump.

It could revive its “Go To Travel” campaign, following the re-arrival of foreign tourists from July 10.

Almost 10 times as many tourists visited Spain in April compared with the same month last year.