Nothing boring 'bout the Nullarbor!

Trip Start Apr 13, 2011
Trip End Jul 13, 2011

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Where I stayed
Eucla Caravan Park

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Saturday, April 23, 2011

OK, tonight I will finally start my blog. Whatever cascades onto the screen will be my first contribution, no matter what the quality. So, if it's rubbish, please come back for another look once I have got into it a little more, as I hope it will improve. I have now procrastinated for 10 days, although in my defence, 10 days ago I was ripe for locking up in a mental institution – burnt out, stressed, more than a little confused after trying to pack for a 12-week holiday in three days whilst simultaneously trying to recover from a school camp AND catch up with a few friends and relatives I had been meaning to see before the trip began.

But all to no avail. Wednesday, April 13 rolled around and we were on our way, ready or not. What wasn’t packed had missed the boat. What should have been left behind in the final cull will now give us the shits for an entire three months, smugly taking up room in the car or trailer and reminding us of all the useful things we could have taken instead.

I promise to TRY and go back to write some previous entries in retrospect, as I have faithfully made notes in a diary so that I don’t forget. One thing that springs to mind and can be dealt with tonight is the "Rabbit Island" story from Coffin Bay, but I’ll tell it here, as my Facebook friends are getting impatient for an explanation. We splashed out on a boat tour of the bay and surrounds, which included a closer look at a number of islands. Our host, Darrian, explained that the names – Rabbit Island, Goat Island, Sheep Island, etc  - were a bit misleading. It is clear to anyone still blessed with perfect vision or wearing the right corrective lenses that there is not a rabbit, goat or sheep in sight on any of these islands. Some of them are host to large colonies of sea birds, others are completely bare, whilst others provide sunbaking opportunities for the odd sea lion who has got lost looking for the quickest route out of Antarctica. Anyway, the story goes that one of the first boats that sailed to Coffin Bay back in the 1800s dropped a breeding pair of each of these animals off on the islands as they passed. A perfectly logical and sensible thing to do, it would have seemed, and a generous gesture meant to make life easier for all the other boats who subsequently sailed these waters, as the intention was to breed an ongoing food supply. However, they forgot one important detail … rabbits, sheep and goats drink fresh water, and the islands were floating in salt water! From that point on, all that the subsequent visitors found were pairs of rabbit skeletons, goat skeletons and sheep skeletons, and nothing yummy to eat at all. 

But that’s history now, in more ways than one. And luckily for them, they survived long enough on bread and bottled water to get to Coffin Bay and discover the yummy mud oysters, so I’m tipping there weren’t too many complaints in the long run.

Fast forward to Easter Saturday, and I am warming the tent with my sunburnt face. Forgot the sunscreen and even though we spent hours in the car again, it doesn’t take long for the sun to find the end of my nose. I look like Santa, which probably means the Easter Bunny will be too frightened to come near me tonight and I’ll wake up to no chocolate in the morning.

We’ve spent the last 24 hours on the Nullarbor, and are holed up in Eucla in the back corner of the caravan park. It’s been an interesting 48 hours, and although we can’t see ourselves doing the trip 7 or 8 times as everyone else out here seems to have done, it’s neither as boring nor as exciting as it’s made out to be – if that makes any sense. There’s enough variation in the landscape along the way, punctuated by some breath-taking views of the cliffs on the Great Australian Bight, to stop it from ever getting boring. But by the same token, driving in a straight line for 1,000kms can also not be called the most stimulating of ways to spend a day – or two – or three!

Last night was our first attempt at bush camping, and we are one-quarter of the way to declaring our new Camp Australia book worth its asking price. We rolled into a bush park called “Scenic Lookout” for fairly obvious reasons. It’s basically just the car park at the first place you can actually stand on the Nullarbor cliffs for free, so EVERYONE who does this trip stops here.  The first however many can squeeze into the park and put up their campsites get to stay the night. We were amongst the lucky few, squeezing our “mini road train” in between the monster caravans and buses and throwing our tent over the guard rail onto the only spot that was clear of the lunar-like rocks that have covered much of the terrain for the last few days. Thank God for my old futon, as it is the only thing that would make these hard surfaces bearable for sleeping on. I hate to think what colour our hips would be if we were trying this with more traditional camping bed options.

Anyway, turns out we had landed temporarily in grey nomad heaven. We’d befriended a couple from Queensland earlier in the day and when we trotted over to their caravan with our chairs and a bottle for a pre-dinner drink and chat, turns out the whole campsite had actually converged under the annexe of the neighbouring caravan. They welcomed us warmly to the grey nomads’ club, although they did laugh about our (lack of) age. Over the next hour, it was revealed to us why they all pull in off the road so early. We had already worked out that the nomads like to be in camp by three, and had previously thought it had something to do with safety and keeping the road kill count down. Turns out it has nothing to do with this and everything to do with getting through as much grog as possible before it’s time to put the veges on for dinner! I know we are out of practice at the moment, but even in our heyday, I don’t remember socking back a full bottle of red BEFORE starting on the dinner preparations! And these guys weren’t limiting themselves to one type of poison, either. Most of us were on the red wine, but I saw a guy from Sydney knock back an entire bottle of tawny port in under an hour (I’m guessing his wife was doing the cooking). Anyway, it was loads of fun. When the sun started to fall towards the horizon, everyone suddenly grabbed their chairs and scuttled like little bush mice back to their own corner of the car park for dinner, and within half an hour, everyone was locked warmly in their caravans. We braved the elements for dinner, then scurried off into our wildly flapping tent, which seemed to be wanting to fly home any moment, but then decided to stay and shelter us after all.

Next morning, I was up and about reasonably early and a very strange sight greeted me. I poked my head out of the tent, only to find that the campsite was deserted. The nomads had packed up and left, obviously soon after the sun rose.  We chatted to our host from the previous night, who was still proud as punch that his place had been the venue for such a great party. We had thought this was normal nomad behaviour until he pointed out that he’d never had 22 people under his annexe before, especially 22 people he’d never seen before that day.

Unfortunately, this very positive experience lulled us into a false sense of security and we spent the rest of the day paying for our mistake. At the very next photo stop, we stopped to chat to a man who was travelling on his own. It quickly became apparent why he was travelling alone, but by then it was too late, we were trapped on the Nullarbor with nowhere to go. Everyone on this road is going either east or west, and you share the journey with everyone headed in your direction, whether you like it or not. You zoom past each other at rest stops, piddle stops and fuel stops – it’s like a variation on chasey or some other childhood game. Every time you catch someone you’ve seen before, you have to compare notes on which stops you made, which ones you liked the best and which ones you will stop at next. It’s all good fun till one of them turns out to be Ivan Milat’s long-lost twin brother - and he has decided you are his two new best friends! What started as a few harmless comments on the view and cameras slowly developed into a long day of playing a tortured version of hide and seek – not that easy in a playground where the tallest tree is knee-high. By early afternoon, we’d had enough of the creepy comments and the “coincidental” meetings, so Paddy cooked up a plan to thwart him. We deliberately cut our journey short by stopping at Eucla, did a circuit of the caravan park before booking in and returned triumphantly to the caravan section, only to be stopped short by a vision that made us both swear VERY loudly. There was bloody “Ivan”, halfway through setting up his campsite, smack bang in the middle of the carpark. Nowhere to go, rabbits in the headlights, you name the cliché, we did the only grown-up thing – a big donut in the gravel as we hastened to get our little butts out of there!

We sat at the gate to the caravan park, shaking nervously and trying to work out what to do. In the end, we decided to be really, really grown-up and go back in to face the music. This time, we circled the park slowly and deliberately, but avoiding eye contact with “Ivan”. Thankfully, at some stage, we spotted a new section under some trees, well away from the main park, so we headed for what we hoped would be a sanctuary, then busied ourselves with chores for the next hour or so to look as unwelcoming as possible. Laundry (two loads), dishes, showers, tent, tidy car, put more sticky tape on the door handle (another story), … It seems to have worked, as we still have not been approached, and it is now the middle of the night. We still have to get out of here in the morning, though, so perhaps that will be yet another story. Actually, I hope not. 
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Kirst on

You have brightened up my 5am feed Frau, lovely!!!

stones_luce on

A great first entry, can't wait for the next! Stay safe, and we checked, it isn't actually Ivan, as he has been moved to a 'Super' Maximum Security prison in Goulburn, NSW! Luce x

Sharon Gordon (Hogan) on

Loved reading your blog! You had me laughing with your story on Ivan. Hope you manage to get away and stay safe.

kyser on

Thanks for the encouragement, everyone! I've added a few more entries, although I seem to have confused the pin guys on the map doing it this way, so it looks like we have travelled back and forth a bit more than we really did. Hope the next few entries keep you entertained as well!

Macca on

Very funny wish we were with you or!!!

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