People, places and perks memorable

Louise AllinghamNorth West Telegraph

When I started at the North West Telegraph almost two years ago, I never could have imagined all the places this job would take me, the people I would get to meet and the things I would get to experience.

The people, places and experiences only expanded a few months after starting when I was assigned to the lifestyle and real estate rounds for the North West Telegraph.

It seems fitting now that I’m leaving and heading to London that I reflect on a few of the best moments I’ve had on the job, share my favourite photos and hopefully inspire some readers to get out and experience them for themselves.

Leaving Exmouth after the Whale Shark Festival.
Camera IconLeaving Exmouth after the Whale Shark Festival. Credit: Louise Allingham/Louise Allingham/Pilbara News, Louise Allingham

Festival frivolity

After only a few months at the paper, I had somehow managed to wrangle a trip to Exmouth for the Whale Shark Festival.

This was the first big event I covered and probably the best.

I was sitting on Ningaloo Discovery’s luxury catamaran, sipping champagne after having just swum alongside the biggest fish in the sea and I stopped and thought, ‘yep, this job is pretty cool’.

And that was only the first day.

The Exmouth community are so relaxed and welcoming.

They made a work trip of being constantly on the go and taking more than 2000 photos feel like a holiday.

I had such a great time and talked it up so much, I managed to recruit 14 friends to come along to the festival the following year.

Dog of a day

You know those moments where everything turns to disaster and all you can do is laugh?

Well, that was my experience with the Red Dog Relay.

To cover the event and ensure I didn’t get lost somewhere in Millstream Chichester National Park, I followed a group of friends who had teamed up to compete in the relay.

Picture: Louise Allingham
Camera IconPicture: Louise Allingham Credit: Louise Allingham/Pilbara News

The rain started early in the morning when competitors started out on the first leg and came and went throughout the day.

Roads had to be closed, competitors had to forfeit and teams were separated.

I was forced become an expert four-wheel-driver as I battled through huge puddles and mud.

All seemed fine when everyone got to the camping grounds at the end of the day; the rain stopped, teams were reunited and people could get some much needed sleep.

I left my weary, drenched and exhausted friends and headed to the Millstream Homestead for a gourmet dinner catered by Fervor — job perks.

I wish I could say I felt bad but how many opportunities do you get to eat crocodile, emu and ants?

Mexican fiesta band at the 2016 Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival.
Camera IconMexican fiesta band at the 2016 Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival. Credit: Pilbara News

While sitting at dinner, it became evident that the weather gods were just teasing us during the day and about 8pm, the heavens opened.

It doesn’t rain much here in the Pilbara but when it does it really pours.

I had never seen rain quite like this and couldn’t help but think of the campers next door sitting in their tents getting drenched.

Weirdly enough, being a completely inexperienced camper paid off that weekend. I remained nice and dry where I slept in the back of my car with a friend whose tent had been made unusable by the rain.

Before we slept, however, we had to battle Millstream’s pterodactyl-sized moths who were attracted to the car because it was the only light source within a 100km radius.

To watch the two of us fight these moths would have been quite the spectacle and we still hear the beating of their A4 sized wings at night.

Thankfully, the second day was far smoother sailing and driving back to Karratha, the stunning Millstream landscape was eerily beautiful after the storm of the night before.

Pre-pageant jitters

As a staunch feminist, there’s something I find unsettling about beauty pageants and going into cover Pilbara Girl, I was apprehensive.

However, after my first article about the competition, I knew this went so much further than looks.

Being a teenage girl isn’t very easy and adding the racism, discrimination and social problems our indigenous population face daily wouldn’t make it much easier.

Pilbara Girl takes young indigenous women of all shapes, sizes and personalities and puts them on the pedestal they deserve to be on.

Picture: Louise Allingham
Camera IconPicture: Louise Allingham Credit: Louise Allingham/Pilbara News

You can see the transformation these beautiful young women go through with your own eyes as they become more confident with every step down the runway.

It takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there like the Pilbara Girl contestants do each year and while covering the 2016 and 2017 Karratha heats, there were a few moments that made me well up.

Hedland surprises

When I moved here, I was told if I was ever feeling down about living in Karratha, drive up to Hedland and you’ll feel better about it.

‘Karratha: at least you’re not in Hedland’ was a made-up slogan I giggled at regularly.

When I was given responsibility of the North West Telegraph’s lifestyle and real estate section, I had to intimately acquaint myself with Hedland and very quickly realised these harsh words couldn’t be further from the truth.

As much as I adore Karratha, Hedland has it’s own dusty charm and quirkiness that Karratha doesn’t.

Lifestyle content can sometimes be hard to come by for Port Hedland and East Pilbara so I’ve become very familiar with Port Hedland’s Courthouse Gallery and the team of wonderful women who work there.

Stilt performers at the 2016 FeNaClNG Festival.
Camera IconStilt performers at the 2016 FeNaClNG Festival. Credit: Pilbara News

I had to write a lot about each new exhibition and attend their openings.

Seeing the amazing works and having far too much fun covering all the gallery’s events ignited a love for art I never knew I had.

Now each time I travel to a new city, I make a list of all the galleries and exhibitions I want to visit.

Red dirt in the veins

I could go on for another million words about all the other amazing events I have been to in this job — Cossack Art Awards, Marble Bar Races, Red Earth Arts Festival, North West Festival — but, alas, space will not permit.

The Pilbara is what you make it, and I encourage anyone who has just moved here or isn’t having the best time to get out there and see it.

My relationship with the Pilbara has been a rocky one but it is a place I will never forget.

The red dirt has well and truly made its way into my veins.

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