Nestled in the remote part of Western Australia, Port Hedland is unique in many ways. It is not a town that most travellers will care to visit due to its inaccessibility. Yet, people who come to the Pilbara region are greeted with some of the most pristine and unadulterated landscapes in the country. It’s the play of colours that is most mesmerizing – the ochre earth, the deep blue skies, the crimson sunsets, and miles of red nothingness – the rugged beauty grows on you.
How then, did my wife, Ambika and I (along with our kids) end up in this remote mining town in Australia, of all the places?
As migrants, living in a regional town is not a preferred option. We’ve been here since 2017, and this has been the longest we’ve stayed in one place in Australia, ever since we migrated.
In one word, our move was dictated by Australia’s most abundant and prized commodity – Iron Ore (or is that two?!). I was offered a job to work at the largest bulk export port in the world – a port that predominantly exports this mineral to the rest of the world. Living regional in a small mining town with a resident population of just under fifteen thousand has had its challenges – something most city dwellers will not be able to relate to – one post office, a few grocers, even fewer restaurants, and a community that dresses in high visibility work clothes most of the times.
But for a family with young kids, we’ve come to realise that this place is perfect, and offers us an enviable lifestyle far removed from the fast-paced life that exists elsewhere: quiet neighbourhoods, zero traffic, minimalistic lifestyle, and miles and miles of endless space.
We live by the beach, and my kids are content to just build sandcastles or to ride bikes on the footpath every day. This coastline gets an annual visitation by flatback turtles, one of the only places in the world where they come for nesting. Watching the hatchlings emerge from the water and scurry up the beach to lay their eggs each season is one of the most wonderful experiences and one of the rewards of living here.
The other unique characteristic about living in Port Hedland is the overshadowing influence of the port in everyone’s lives in town. Being the largest bulk export in the world, the port is frequented by thousands of mega-ships each year, and our kids are now accustomed to watching these three hundred meter long behemoths sail past the harbour, an arm’s length away.
Everything here is Big: monster dump trucks, three-kilometre long ore trains (the longest in the world), giant ships, mammoth road trains (trucks with four trailers, spanning 60 metres). I tend to call it the land of Giants and Big Red Skies! We will certainly leave this place at some stage in the future when life beckons us to move on and write the next chapter in our lives. However, no matter where we go, the unique landscapes and the tinge of the red earth will stay with us and within us forever.
The preceding seven years have gone by in a blur. We’ve relocated six times in three cities across two states and have become proud parents of two beautiful children; we’ve become Australian citizens, and also amassed a lifetime of memories and experiences as a result of our migrant journey. We can finally feel like we have achieved some form of stability in our lives. We did not have a home to our name yet, and many things were still uncertain; but there was a sense of calm – as if this ship had found a safe anchorage after a tumultuous and lengthy sea voyage.
I have returned to my hobbies of running and writing with renewed interest. My travel boots have been mothballed due to COVID, but I have used the time judiciously. There’s a certain project that I’ve been working on relentlessly these past few years and as it reaches the final stages of completion, I feel a sense of accomplishment and gratification quite unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.
Our migrant journey – which started when Ambika and I first arrived in Australia in 2014 with nothing but a few suitcases – did not start here. It has been a roller coaster ride with a fair few challenges, the occasional rewards, and a lot of learning along the way. Come join me, as we retrace our steps, back to the day when we made the life-changing decision to migrate to Australia. Ours is a migrant story that begs to be told. Whilst it is average for the larger part, and I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of similar stories of migrants who have moved from across the globe to this remote continent, it is still unique in many ways. Would you like to have a glimpse? Sign up and stay tuned as this journey unfolds … in reverse, of course!