Months ago a friend of mine Kellie had called me from Port Hedland in Western Australia, known as The Pilbara and asked me if I would be willing to come and be a mentor for a program she wanted to start up. I’ve known Kellie for a number of years through our swim squad at the Fitzroy pool. Kellie had recently moved to Port Hedland as her partner had a job there and she was working for the local government. She had also been a big supporter of the Mega Swim, as her mother, when she was alive had lived with MS. She was very up front and told me that they didn’t have a lot of money to spend but would pay for my flights and I could stay with her and her family. She said she would do what she could in regards to paying me for my time.
I think what sold me on the idea was the program she envisaged. It was to be called “Move It Hedland” and revolved around a 6km run/3km walk that was to be held on Mothers Day as a fundraiser for Cancer. She wanted to empower poeple to get up and move their bodies. She had so many ideas for getting the locals to exercise at their own pace but with a target being the run/walk. But she was looking for someone to come and talk to them during the 3rd week of the program to motivate them and wanted that person to be me.
I thought about it for a while, then got back to her and said I would do it. I knew it would be right after our Para-cycling Nationals and knew that it would be at the right time of my training program where I have a mini break. If she coldn’t pay me then so be it, but at least my travel expenses were covered.
As the months passed Kellie told me that the town was excited that a Paralympian was coming to visit and that she had just over 80 people registered in the program. What excited her was that they were all coming to their weekly meetings and following their own individual programs. Hedland was “Moving It”!
So last Friday I boarded a flight to Perth where I had to wait just over 3 hours for my flight to Port Hedland. You tend to forget how big and vast this country is? It really is amazing flying over nothing but red earth as you fly 2 hours north from Perth, such desolate but beautiful country. I couldn’t help but wonder about all the people on my flight, did they live there, were they visiting, so many stories to be told. All in all it took me 12 hours from the time I left my house to the time I arrived in Port Hedland, yes it is a huge country!
As we were coming in to land there was a vast greenness about the place with red dirt showing through the tuffs of green. I could see road trains, huge Mack trucks pulling not 2, but 3 and 4 trailers behind them and then the biggest transport train I had ever seen, it was at least 3km long with every car loaded ot the top with Iron Ore. I found out that the iron ore isn’t mined in this area, you have to go farther inland, but Port Hedland has the largest port in the country where the iron ore is shipped to the rest of the world and a huge customer is China. The only thing mined around the town is salt and boy do they have salt!
So after 12 hours of travel it was great to finally be in Port Hedland and catching up with Kellie, her partner Dan and their son Riley. Their neighbours kindly invited us to dinner where I was fed fresh, from the local surrounds, fish and cray tails. What more could a girl ask for!
The weekend was really relaxing but I couldn’t get over the heat. People in town who are into doing triathlons would get up at 3:30am and go for their long rides because by the time it hit 8-9am it would be too hot. I was actually told that the weather was great and it had cooled down…it was 37 degrees…and it had cooled down? Yes it was heading towards winter and earlier it had been around 47 degrees with about 95% humidity, so I guess 37 was cool! It was great to have nothing to do but look around, have a swim and catch up.
On Monday I was going to the “Move it Hedland” program and with about 60 people at the local oval going through the paces of either walking or running around, following Kellie’s directions, it was great to see people taking the time to get out there and move. A light supper was served after their workout and I spoke to them about motivation and commitment and then showed them photos of London and passed my medal around. I even donated some signed t-shirts which we had a draw for. It was a fabulous night and I was really glad that I had said yes to travelling out there. I met some fascinating people, all with their own story of why they were living in the middle of nowhere!
Tuesday I was lucky enough to be at a Women’s Wellness Centre and able to meet a couple of the little animals indigenous to the area. Nellie the 6 month old kangaroo who’s mother had been killed and even smaller Harley at 3 months who was found and brought in. It is amazing how fragile life can be for these orphans without the help of humans.
It was certainly an interesting few days where I met some very interesting people, Graham the Plane Engineer who had been doing the job for 47 years and actually lived in Coffs Harbour but would fly in to Port Hedland to work for 14 days and then fly home for 14 days. And Barry the Kiwi who was driving the huge Road Trains, who would work for 6 weeks and then head home to New Zealand for two weeks to see his family. It is certainly a different way of life up in Port with a lot of money to be made. It is also a tough life dealing with the heat and humidity during most months and then cyclone season as well! The transient workers certainly work hard, but they play hard as well, as I found out on the plane out of town to Perth!
If you ever get the chance to visit Port Hedland then do it! It is the most amazing place, not much there, lots of red dirt and huge hills of white salt but it is beautiful in its own right and a place like no other. If you are a train spotter then it wouldn’t be long before you saw the biggest trains ever and if you are a truck nut then this is the place to be!
Thank you Kellie, Dan and Riley for a fantastic 4 days in one of the most remote places in the world, I loved every minute of it!