So today, the 28th of December, almost two months into the summer wet season, the tourists passing through Karratha have dwindled and the pesky flies have landed. Even the appearance of food trucks at Dreamer’s hill has stalled, but despite the quiet surroundings we have been using the time off work to explore more trails on the mountain bikes.
Setting out from the power line track directly behind the neighbourhood, we descend with the full scorch of the sun behind us towards some flat winding single track. We cycle through spinifix grass on red dirt towards a rather dark grey sky and depending on the direction of those clouds, rain may be on the way. Chances are, the clouds will head out to Millstream, missing Karratha entirely which is almost always the case. Some say the town deflects rain, a ‘Karratha/Hedland dome theory’ is at play. I’m not too sure but it makes for some interesting reading on the internet.
One of the unique aspects of mountain biking in the Pilbara is the ability to see very far distances across the landscape. The first couple of rides in the Pilbara, months ago, produced an uneasy feeling of isolation because it all appeared somewhat barren, unforgiving and lifeless, but gosh I was so very wrong. Take a routine cycle in the Karratha hills, it’s not unusual to slow down, trailing behind a Ta ta Lizard who seems to want to race me. I might see a snake or a bungarra in the summer months or Kangaroos bolt across the trail in the winter ones. Rainbow bee eaters on the rocky top section of the hill, spinifex pigeons shuttling ahead my tyres. A bush turkey launch from in the grass and even black Swans! On one particular ride when it was getting quite dark, I interrupted a snake chasing a little mouse. Constant noises to the side of the trail reminds me I am far from not being alone in this landscape.
I realise now, my eyes had been so used to cycling in the lush green forest of Perth, I assumed an arid environment contained no life. Mountain biking schooled me and as my eyes adjusted to the rusty red dirt and prickly dry grass, truthfully, I get so much more out of riding and it’s beautiful to see.
Anyhow, enough of reminiscing about the beauty of the Pilbara! Back to the ride. Not a sound today, perhaps the local fauna sense the arriving weather.
We roll towards one of our favourite routes, Kangaroo trail and Dog’s Hollow. These two trails linked by a 4WD track provide a variety of terrain, a good mix of ground cover and a couple of fun A/B lines through a rock garden. Dog’s Hollow twists around to the side of a hill, it climbs to no more than 60 metres in a short distance along a trail cut into the hill before a straight fast dip in and out of two small valleys.
Before this super fun single trail though, we break at the top of a hill to watch the lightning show unfold in the far distance.
The rain falls and it’s a nice feeling whilst we cycle in the heavy humidity. To not be standing outside when it rains in Karratha, is almost a sin because of the rarity of such a weather event. You’d even be forgiven for taking a picture of rain or puddles, just to make sure it is real! I have no doubt this will be a talking point of everyone’s weekend over coffee in the office Monday morning.
The thunder cracks and becomes too loud/close for us to hang around and continue the cycle, we’re possibly the tallest feature on the trails at this point in time and visibility deteriorates.
As the sky continues to dump rain, we’re at the BMX track and decide to skip the rest of the single track and cycle together along a 4wd track, the quickest way back to our neighbourhood. A few vehicles head in the opposite direction past us and towards the storm. The lightning photos from a Pilbara summer storm can be incredible to capture.
By now, I’ve lost sight of Derek and thunder cracks over my head, another front has snuck in on us. A flash to the left causes me to momentarily lose grip of the handle bar steering on the last stretch – holy hskahsa*&*. Too close for comfort and a quick bunny hop over the curb onto the bitumen leaves only the rain and us dawdling back home on the streets.
When it rains in the red dusty region of the Pilbara, it floods until the water either makes it way along the once dry creek lines or the ground does a great job at soaking up the water. The City of Karratha have several storm water channels through the neighbourhoods to direct large bodies of water. Heavy rainfall changes the landscape and carves out some great trails to mountain bike on, turning gentle trails into technical rocky rutty ones – loads of fun for an mtber.
While any other town when it rains you’d be running for cover, in Karratha and possibly other areas of Western Australia’s North West most folk run out into the street to join in on the fun. It’s a pretty cool experience especially when the children bring out the bodyboards, just to give you a perspective of the volume of water that can potentially fall!