Balladonia - First Stop on the Nullarbor

Trip Start May 10, 2009
Trip End Jun 30, 2009

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Where I stayed
Balladonia Roadhouse Caravan Park

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Sunday, April 19, 2009

As none of us had previously crossed the Nullarbor, we weren't sure what to expect except of course, we presumed we would travel long stretches without trees!  We had planned to stay at Fraser Station, a working sheep station with camping facilities, but due to change of ownership, we found it was closed so we kept driving and ended up late in the afternoon at Balladonia.

First, though, we had the interesting drive from Merredin to Norseman, the Gateway to the Nullarbor.  We really enjoyed seeing the different species of trees along the roadside especially as they broke up the monotony of the otherwise flat scrubby bush.  Soon after leaving Merredin, we had to pull over onto the verge to allow an oversize truck, loaded with swimming pools, to pass by on its way to Perth.  An hour later, we stopped at Southern Cross for fuel and change of driver, as Lesley started her first experience driving the Pajero towing the caravan to the next stop.  At Coolgardie we had our lunch stop in the lovely green park next to the main road where there was plenty of parking.  The main street in the town is very wide with enough space to turn a camel train.  Across the road from where we were parked, we noticed the Denver City Hotel in the well maintained colonial building.  We had an interesting time wandering around the small park where they have installed a time capsule with information that will be opened by a future generation of residents.  As we walked back to the car, we watched a truck loaded with Jayco caravans trundle down the main street on its way to Perth.  After lunch we resumed our journey enjoying similar vegetation until ten kilometres before Norseman. We presumed, as we came upon some treeless terrain, that we were travelling through the beginning of the Nullarbor but it turned out to only be a salt pan. We were pleasantly surprised to find this only lasted for five kilometres before we were back in hilly countryside full of leafy trees!

At Norseman we parked in the large open parking area behind the Information Centre and set off to see the town attractions.  Lesley had been to Norseman before so she was appointed tour guide and took us directly to the statue of the horse 'Norseman' after whom the town was named.  In 1894, Laurie Sinclair named the site of the present town after his horse, Norseman, who pawed the ground there uncovering a large gold nugget which was instrumental in starting the gold rush in the area from where the town grew.  Our next stop to take photos was the roundabout complete with corrugated iron camel shaped structures for which the town has become renowned.

Back on the road in the early afternoon we were getting excited seeing the signposts along the way for the Fraser Station Caravan Park, so were very disappointed when we pulled into the driveway to find a gate there with a closed sign. It was closed due to change in ownership while the new owners upgraded the facilities.  Mike had to use all his driving skills to manoeuvre the caravan back onto the main road in a very limited open space.  The next place we thought we might overnight was a designated 24 hour stop overlooking a valley of granite rocks with a beautiful view but unfortunately there were no facilities provided so without water in our tank, a generator or caravan battery it was just not practical for us to spend the night  there.  We decided to head off to the next roadhouse 150 or so kilometres down the road at Balladonia.

Balladonia has a good caravan park next to the roadhouse with amenities and power but no water outlet to connect to the caravan.  With just an overnight stop that was no problem and at least we could connect to power and wash up dishes at a sink attached to the outside wall of the amenities block.  As it was late in the afternoon when we arrived, Mike soon took out the portable gas cooker for Lesley to make the pasta bolognaise  to go with the bottle of special red wine she had brought for our dinner on the Nullarbor.  After dinner we walked across to the roadhouse to buy a loaf of bread and took a look at the museum featuring mainly the NASA spacecraft debris which landed in the area about 40 years ago and for which Balladonia is proud to be able to say they fined NASA $400 for littering! 

Before a fairly early night, we had fun watching the 'Cook and Chef Easter' DVD.   Nest morning, by 8am, we were all packed up and ready to drive the next 26km to the road sign informing us that we were about to travel the longest straight stretch of road in Australia, a distance of  146.6kms (90miles).  Although we hadn't been in the car long, we just had to stop to take the opportunity of snapping a photo of the sign seeing it was our first time on the 90 mile straight.  As we had not yet reached the treeless plain we had interesting scenery on the long straight with many trees and bushes, covered with dense spider webs, growing along the road. 

At Cocklebiddy we changed our clocks forward by 45 minutes and decided as it was now 12 noon we might as well pull into the picnic area to have our packed lunch after refueling.  Even though outside the Roadhouse there was a sign telling us that the population consisted of 8 people, 25 budgies, 7 quails, 1 dog and 1,234,567 kangaroos, we saw none of them besides a few other travellers at the Roadhouse.  When we left Cocklebiddy, we were surprised to still see a lot of trees though there were fewer than the day before.  We were beginning to think 'Nullarbor' was a misnomer but then we were told that further north, where the Indian Pacific Railway line runs across the Nullarbor, there are many more kilometres of treeless terrain than by the highway which runs along the Great Australian Bight.  We were also told that we should see many camels, kangaroos and other animals, but all we saw were a few dead kangaroos with Black Birds and Eagles feasting on their carcasses, and one lonely Echidna taking his time crossing the road.  The sky turned cloudy and we were fascinated by the shapes of  the small clouds passing by overhead, much lower than the grey thick cloud cover high above us.  By 1am we drove through Madora Pass, the half way point between Perth and Adelaide and a distance of 1,3000 kms from each.  It was a good change driving through the hills after  the hundreds of kilometres of flat land we had travelled  through so far.  In this area there apparently have been many sightings of UFOs but we didn't spot any little green men when we were there.  Along the way some bored travelers have hung old shoes on one tree, various pieces of clothing on another and  hats on a third.  Before reaching Nundrabilla we drove past three touring cyclists with all their worldly possessions stacked on carriers or in pannier bags attached along the sides of their bikes. They were obviously very fit people to attempt such a feat of endurance but we wondered what motivated people to cycle such long lonely distances.  It was mid afternoon when we arrived at Eucla, our planned overnight stop.
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