Red dirt

6 Mar

As the plane banks over the silty brown sea towards the airport, the view is like a child’s play mat, a child who is particularly fond of diggers.  Huge machines move piles of red dirt from one place to another, dumping it on conveyor belts that snake their way across the barren, rust coloured landscape.  A single railway line stretches into the desert, carrying an impossibly long train, we try counting the carriages and give up at one hundred.

Geometric shapes made by huge salt pans impose order on the flat, barren land.  A perfect, sparkling white Mount Fuji of salt, is the only contour on the map.

Out at sea, twelve gigantic ships, are lined up, as if by a toddler, waiting for the little orange and grey tug boats to guide them safely into port where the wharfs, march confidently across the water on metal legs.

Port Hedland is a strange place.  If it wasn’t for the valuable iron ore that oozes out of every rock, it would barely exist.  But thanks to the red dirt, it’s growing at a furious pace.  There is such a shortage of housing that our campsite cabin is costing about twice what our London home is earning this week.

Everywhere you go there is evidence of the town’s primary industry.  Men wander around the supermarket in orange shirts with reflective stripes, every second vehicle has a large number on it’s side, indicating that it’s owned by one of the mining companies, and washing machines in laundrettes bear the sign ‘absolutely NO work clothes’.  Everything, but everything is stained a dark, rusty red.  Swimming pool tiles, pavements, tree trunks, buildings, street lights, vehicles, clothes, anything that moves and doesn’t move.   A vivid, colourful reminder of the town’s reason for being.

Despite it’s noisy, grimy purpose, it’s a lovely town.  Thanks to generous investment by the biggest mining company, the art gallery is outstanding, the public spaces are beautifully planted and we are assured that it’s a wonderful place to live.  Wonderful but hot.

It’s hard to imagine what this funny little town on the edge of the desert will look like in one hundred years time.  It’ll either be a shiny, bustling city, full of grand buildings and prosperous people, or it simply won’t exist at all.

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3 Responses to “Red dirt”

  1. English Grandma 06/03/2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Amazing….where was it?

  2. Mummy Mania 06/03/2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Your writing is wonderful – so discriptive and emotive.

  3. JallieDaddy 09/03/2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Sounds like an amazing place! Las Vegas started out like that of course, but without the red dirt 🙂

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