The day after the bushwalk, I finally hit real civilisation. Port Hedland is on the north coast of the Pilbara, and is home to a huge, deep sea port that ships out all sorts of minerals dug from underneath Western Australia: iron ore, manganese, zinc and heaven knows what else. I stayed the night with Kath, mother of Ron from Perth, and the proprietor of Kath's Kitchen, a top establishment in Port Hedland if burgers and fry-ups are your thing (which for me, they are).
Unfortunately Kath had a touch of the flu, but that didn't stop us attacking the Bundi and Cokes (a very Australian drink, Bundi being Bundaberg Rum) and taking a Jacuzzi in the back garden as the sun went down over the docks. Kath and her husband, Bert, were top company, as were their friends Des and Theresa, who had parked their campervan in the back garden, not to mention Ron's brother Chris and his family. There were grandchildren absolutely everywhere (or 'grannies' as they called 'em), and it was delightfully insane.
That night Bert, Des and I all went down the pub for a few drinks, and to watch the two-up. Two-up is a real Aussie institution, and you've never seen anything like it. It takes place in the back of the pub, where there's a big area surrounded by a large rope on the ground, a little like a small bowling green. The idea of the game is that the spinner stands in the area, puts two pennies into the tosser (a bit of wood with two round indents for the coins) and tosses the coins high into the air. He's bet a stake against the bank that he will get two heads (a 'two-up'), and if he does, he doubles his money. He can keep throwing if he wins, and if he doesn't reduce his bet, it doubles every time (though most people stick to the same amount every time and cream off any winnings). If he throws a head and a tail it's a 'one-up', and he simply throws again, but if he gets two tails, he loses and it's the next thrower's turn. Simple enough.
The amazing part is that everyone around the throwing area is constantly betting with each other on whether it'll be heads or tails. Each bet is between two people, and they bet the same amount; the person who wins simply keeps the money, so you either lose your stake, or double it. It's incredible how much money changes hands – hundreds and hundreds of dollars all on one toss of the coins – and the atmosphere is insane. It's great entertainment even if you don't bet, and is quite addictive. That's probably why I didn't put anything on... as Bert said, you only win if you bet, but you only lose if you bet. Actually, he put it a little better; his exact words were, 'If the dog hadn't stopped for a shit, he wouldn't have got run over.' Good point that.
That night we pigged out on pies, roast beef, kebabs, spring rolls and anything else Kath had brought back from the café; life has its perks when you own a food joint. Brekkie the next day was a great bacon and egg combo, and before long I'd said my thank you's and goodbyes, and was back on the road to Broome, glowing from the wonderful hospitality of Kath and her family.