Days Like This

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Day Twenty-two: - Ceduna - Nundroo - Yalata - Nullarbor - Border Village

AMAZING! Probably the best so far. Today was glorious - a huge blue dome of impeccable sky and more of the same long featureless road that brought us here. Spiny bushes, crippled trees, dust and huge expanses of terra-firma joined us again for the entire journey and the road just kept on rollin'. How far can it possibly be? How long can you sit with your weight pressed down onto your wrists? How sore can your arse really get? Why bother with all this crazy shit?

The small aboriginal village of Yalata was our first breather, and we couldn't get out of there fast enough. It's home to the overly photographed bright yellow 'Roos! Wombats! Camels! Next 96km's' sign and also to an alarming variety of BEWARE! Aboriginal Land - KEEP OUT! - No photo's! No Alcohol!' signs. But it wasn't that. It was the place. There was something about the place. Yalata gave us the heebie-jeebies the minute we set foot. A sharp exit was made.

'Nullarbor Plain - Eastern end of treeless plain' was the sign that had us pull in an hour later. 'Null-arbor' is the latin derivative for 'no trees', not from the aboriginal interpretation like you'd expect (just so you know). It was an amazing place to stand and be, and the perfect spot to eat a haphazardly thrown together lunch. We stood for a while, jaws hanging, taking in the whole flat uninterrupted horizon, following it right round a full turn, and then round again. Funny really, it's something you'd only ever expect to see from looking out over the ocean: a perfect line, flawlessly flat and precise. But this wasn't ocean. This was land. This was amazing. Lie on your back and the sky becomes a stunning dome-like canvas - a full 360 degree smothering of striking blue and white artwork spanning over and around you from corner to corner. Spot on. Unforgettable.

We made it to the Nullarbor roadhouse around 3pm where the realisation of just how remote all this really is, first hit us. A 'roadhouse' basically consists of a petrol station with adjoining toilet (shower if you're lucky), an additional room with dining facilities (a cafe/bar charging a small fortune for a meal that wouldn't fill your big toe) and a small cluster of overly (stupidly) priced poky motel units. We immediately had a predicament on our hands. Previously, we'd agreed to stay at the Nullarbor roadhouse one night and the SA/WA border the next. So do we press on and try and make it to the border tonight, thus sparing a night of painful vacant boredom? Or stick with the plan and leave it till tomorrow?

It was the snappiest decision we've made yet. We jumped immediately on and in our vehicles and screamed down the westbound highway. We'd got 185k's or so to reach the border before nightfall. Nightfall means a whole battalion of roos, wombats, camels and other bulky hazards prancing about in the road waiting to hospitalise you - and in a place where there isn't so much as a first-aid kit (or anyone to hear you scream for that matter) we needed daylight as much as we needed fuel. The race was on. We booted it down the highway with an urgency that would impress most - flat out ('flat stick' as Sarah would say) at a solid 130-140 all the way to the border..

..where we came across - almost by accident - the main highlight of the trip so far: The Great Australian Bight. My god. What a spectacle, and one that should be added - without question - to the list of our world's 'Great Wonders'. As soon as I laid eyes on this masterpiece the whole ball-ache of crossing the Nullarbor became an immediate pleasure. It was a showstopper. The Great Australian Bight marks the very edge of this big old land: three hundred feet or so of sheer vertical granite, trailing off way into the distant foggy horizon with its endless miles of jagged contours, every bit of it sharply and freshly chiselled as if something horrifying periodically emerges out of the big deep blue to take an enormous bite. Then, just as things couldn't possibly get any better, a southern right whale surfaced in the distance and spluttered about. Ah... Well... This really is as good as it gets, and this is exactly why I'm doing what I'm doing. It's times like these that bring it all home. Standing on the edge, on the very lip of a new continent and taking it all in, for me, is one of life's magical heart-thumping experiences and makes for one hell of a memory to walk away with. The pictures will do nothing, NOTHING to illustrate this magnificent coastal marvel, but take a look anyway - above all else, it's a nice part of the planet to stand and go 'Wow!'

'Border Village' has more to offer than the Nullarbor Roadhouse in that there's actually something to look at. And that's the border checkpoint: a small poky office sheltering a goofy looking official outstretched in a comfy chair with a newspaper. All fruit and veg, plants, animals and small children are to be declared and handed over at the checkpoint, otherwise they get confiscated and you cross the border wearing a hefty fine. We got ourselves a motel, moved in and kicked around for a while outside as the sun started to set. It wasn't long before we got talking to one of the road-train drivers, who turned out to be from Victoria. 'Big money' he was telling us, 'big money'. I asked if I could sit up in his big rig and he said 'no dramas'. Moments later I was perched high up in the cab like an excitable 12-year-old cooing over all the lights and dials.

We ended up back at the border control office chatting with the border official. He was a real nice guy with a cruisy job and a lot of time on his hands. He tilted his head in the direction of the road and said we could go and walk 'into' Western Australia if we wanted to. We did want to. And so we walked right across the borderline, one foot in South Australia, the other in Western Australia. It was so immature but so so good. We walked for a while along the highway in the dark. It was black. Pitch black. Black as the ace of spades. Now and again a mighty road train would illuminate the road like a football stadium and explode past, leaving us to recover momentarily and wallow in the silence and darkness once more. We were ages out there. I think it's fair to say that standing in the middle of nowhere, and I mean NOWHERE, in the dead of night is one of life's peculiar moments, and one we sure got to experience fully. It's days like this last forever..

Kilometres eaten: 2848
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