A worker watches over a conveyor belt at a BHP Billiton iron-ore mine in the Pilbara. High salaries at the mines have drawn many workers to the Western Australian regionleaving travelers in a bind.
Road-trippers taking the scenic coastal road between Perth and Broome used to spend the night in the Pilbara's largest town, Port Hedland. But these days, every spare bed has been taken over by mining employees.
"There used to be four backpackers [youth hostels], but they are all leased now to the mining companies," explained Kelly Howlett, manager of the Port Hedland Visitor's Center. "Even the caravan park is gone."
Visitors with tents can camp in the oval of the town's racetrack. Those without, however, have no choice but to keep moving. And it is not an easy drive to the nearest neighboring towns.
Broome is 370 miles (600 kilometers) north and Karratha is 160 miles (250 kilometers) south. The routes are particularly hazardous at night, when drivers can't easily see bounding kangaroos before they hop onto the highway.
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Photograph by BHP Billiton/HO/AP