Welcome to the hottest town in Australia

We draw into the hottest town in Australia around lunchtime, having driven inland from the Pilbara coastline. The campervan seats are burning our legs, we are covered in red dust after four-wheel driving through the desert and our drinking water has been virtually boiled inside its plastic containers.

In Marble Bar, at 12.30pm, nothing moves and there is not even the suggestion of a breeze.

Between October 1923 and April 1924, the town set a world record of 160 consecutive days of temperatures above 37.8 celsius.

For six months of every year, the average maximum exceeds normal human body temperature.

Today, it's a balmy 40 degrees and my co-driver Greg looks like a desperate man, a bit like Shaggy in Scooby-Doo.

He needs beer and he needs it now. We pull up outside The Iron Clad Hotel, the town's only pub and surely its centre of activity.

It was given its name by American miners who came here in search of gold and jasper in the late 19th century and saw something that reminded them of the iron clad boats, used on the Mississippi River in the Civil War.

At the time, Marble Bar was a thronging metropolis with a population of more than 5000. Today, 350 people live here.

The pub is not much to look at, all corrugated iron with blistered and peeling wooden doorframes, painted green. However, it's lasted more than 120 years and survived fires and cyclones.


Inside, the Iron Clad Hotel is dark, like a bottomless chasm. Undeterred, we venture in. Miraculously, it's cool, probably 15 degrees less than it is outside. Cool and empty.

No, hang on, there is someone here, lurking in a shadowy corner beside the bar; an atrophied old fella of indeterminate age, all bones and grey beard, whom we later discover is known as Bung.

We say hello but his glazed expression doesn't change. We walk around the pub looking for service, are tempted to hop the bar and help ourselves.

Eventually, a barmaid arrives, hot and flustered. We order schooners of Emu Bitter and, to her great amusement, down them in one. Bung's expression still hasn't changed.

We buy two more beers and chase them with meat pies. Sitting up at the bar we make small talk with the barmaid for 30 seconds but soon run out of clever questions like "isn't it like living in a sauna?"

We retreat to the pool table and play beneath a picture of an Iron Clad steamer.

"Maybe it'll warm up later," says Greg ironically, "Lee Kernaghan played here recently."

We return to the bar for one more cold one and when we're nearly finished, Greg, emboldened by Emu Bitter, tries again to chat to Bung. At first I don't hear what Greg says and nor, apparently, does Bung.

Greg forges on, repeating the question.

Still no reply.

Finally, Greg breaks Bung's reverie with the enquiry's third repetition. "Must be hell when the beer runs out?" I hear him ask, slightly tongue-in-cheek, as we get ready to leave.

"Yeah," replies Bung, a smirk of bemused astonishment spreading across his face.

The writer was a guest of Tourism WA, KEA campers and Northwest Tourism.