ACROSS THE NULLARBOR UNDER CLOUDS
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: Norseman, Eucla, Ceduna -across the Nullarbor Plains- 1200kms
WEATHER: Cool, very cloudy, some drizzle. 16-20 degrees.
OVERNIGHT:1- Fraser Range Rest stop, 2- Moodini Bluff Rest stop, 3- Peg 157 Rest stop
The Nullarbor Plain or Desert can be crossed by train or road; the road trip is 1200kms through remote and isolated land and "nullarbor" means no trees which is only true in some areas.
The road once just a dirt track is now a bitumen surface and traverses the southern edge of the Nullarbor and hugs the Great Australian Bite for some distance after you cross the WA and SA border. This area is stunning - huge crumbling red cliffs stand above the Southern Ocean and everyone pulls over to witness and photograph this wild place. There is vegetation road side for the whole journey, mostly saltbush and blue bush scrub which we thought looked attractive after good rains this year.
The Spinifex Wangai people roamed the area before white settlement and the explorer, John Eyre and his aboriginal guide, Wylie explored it around 1841 and opened up the area; he reported "the land is a hideous anomaly, a blotch on the face of nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams".
We guessed that his huge struggle to achieve the journey impacted on his view because the land around the road is quite attractive from a car window!!!!!
"Crossing the Nullarbor" is the epic road journey for Australians, and of some cultural significance and for many of the international travellers that we met it was a "must do" on their itinerary. It is sometimes called "Nullarboring" and the long straight road takes its toll. Long distances between road houses and service stations- your vehicle needs to be in good condition and you need to watch the fuel gauge.
Back to our story: It was 16 degrees at 7am when we left our first free camp stopover, and Kath was keen to have a look at Fraser Range Sheep Station which accommodates travellers in the bush camp and stone cottages and we were glad we chose thefree rest stop because this was expensive and had little to impress you.
Fraser Range however is quite impressive- granite hills and vast eucalypt forest where according to a brochure, 20 species of gum trees flourish
We stopped at Balladonia Roadhouse 190 kms from Norseman to stretch our legs and look around; we passed the two 74 year old blokes, on their bicycles doing the 2680kms trip Adelaide to Perth. According to our mates at the overnight stop this was their 4th trip across the Nullarbor!!!
Balladonia derives from an aboriginal word meaning big red rock. The longest straight stretch of highway in Australia runs from Balladonia to Caiguna and we were ready for it.
Caiguna is not much more than a roadhouse- named after the explorer John Eyre- with a side road to Baxter Cliffs which are apparently stunning but the road is very rough and unsealed so no-go for us.
We did get out for another stretch here and Sheila stood at the tee off pad on the Nullarbor Links, the longest golf course in the world at 1365 kms in length. We checked the cost of camping in the dusty caravan park $28 pn and agreed that free camping was more attractive. Diesel at close to $1.50 per litre was the most expensive we came across. We were able to fill up in a less expensive town!
The drive to Cocklebiddy was straight and uneventful and we had a good laugh at the signs in front of the roadhouse. We did have to get right off the road for the extra wide road train speeding towards us. As the day wore on it became darker and mistier, so we realised that the huge star speckled night sky would not be experienced on this trip. Oh well shit happens!!
Moodini Bluff Free Camp was a lovely place to sleep and we shared the smelly toilet and large attractive place with 20+ vans, motorhomes etc. We were unexpectedly in hilly landscape driving through Madura Pass with the Hampton Tablelands on our left. Madura is about half way between Perth and Adelaide! This part of the Eyre Hgway is very attractive.
People are obviously short of things to do, so decorate roadside trees; please note that Baz and Rob reallyaimed for attention and fame on the undies tree.
We stopped at Mundrabilla to prepare breakfast and watched a couple of cyclists getting themselves ready for the day's journey; they were obviously in a relationship and seemed reluctant to get on with the event! Perhaps they should stay in the camp ground one more day.
Shortly before reaching Eucla we passed another brave soul on a bicycle.
Eucla just 12 kms from SA/WA border used to have a population of 100+ when it was a busy telegraph station in the early 1900's. Now it is just a stop on the Nullarbor journey. We were getting excited about reaching the border but a little sad to be leaving the wonderful state of WA.
Time difference: we had to put our clocks forward by 2 1/2 hours when we reached SA. That is a big change and we suffered time lag for a month or so after.
The Great Australian Bite NP is a special adventure and even in drizzle and heavy cloud we were impressed by the scenery; there are frequent lookouts along the 185 journey between the border and the town of Nullarbor and we stopped at them all. A few times the clouds lightened a little to expose the scenery and get some adequate photos.
We dithered around a bit with our overnight free camp and it was too windy at the designated lookout so we checked the Camps 5 book and headed for the rest stop at Peg 175, 27kms west of Nullarbor. It was a huge area, nicely vegetated and there was only one other camper in a caravan; we decided to park fairly close to the road, with the memory of bogging still very much alive in our memory and prepared the van for sleeping and eating.
Sheila was keen to watch the last episode of "The Rafters" on channel 7 and spent a frustrating 30 mins trying to get reception via satellite; a primordial scream closed the effort and it was back to the van to shelter from the rain and nurse her disappointment. We later watched it on line.
Just 27kms from the town of Nullarbor and the turn off to "Head of Bight" lookout, after a good night's rest, we made our way there tothe Head to enjoy breakfast with a view.It was still extremely overcast and raining on and off, so we did not pay the $10 to explore the boardwalk and SA side of Bunda Cliffs. Between showers we looked into the misty distance and imagined the place on a sunny day!
This area plays creche to the off-spring about 60 Southern Right Whales each year (May to Oct.)and as one of the best places in the world to witness the births, attracts large numbers of visitors.
These giant migrating mammals are 18metres in length and around 60-70 tonnes in weight.Today there were just 6 other travellers braving the weather here today.
the information centre attendant was very knowledgeable about the aboriginal importance and history of the area; it is on Yalata land which spans 150 kms along the Eyre Highway. About 400 people inhabit the land and some moved here in the 1950s when the atomic bombs were being tested in Maralinga just north of here. We were horrified to read that Australian and English Maralinga workers were deliberately exposed to high levels of radiation to discover what effects it would have on them!!! Oh dear!!!
Getting really sick of this weather: grey, humid and dark!!!
We had anticipated going into Fowlers Bay to stay fo a while, but heard that the 18km road in was very rough and corrugated, so on through the small town of Penong with 100 windmills and a skyline of wheat silos and full speed ahead to Ceduna, the major town of the Eyre Peninsula.
We handed over our only remaining fruit and vegetable- some lettuce at the quarantine check point just outside of Ceduna.
Ceduna was busy with travellers and we had to accept a spot in the Shelly Beach Caravan Park Overflow- 4 kms from town and $28pn. A tasty meal of fish and chips and a bottle of wine and we were happy to retire early.
Surprisingly Ceduna is quite an attractive town on the far west of the Eyre Peninsula on a scenic coastline.
Our driver was feeling the need to rest another day and the passenger was happy to comply so we booked into a more comfortable site with power and hoped we could wait out a change in the weather. So it was rest and reading and walking the beach between showers (both from the sky and in the bathroom). We managed to get some washing dry between showers as well.