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Published: April 30th 2011
View from our camp-site
A wiser blogger now sits before you in Perth, who, on the Great Nullarbor Plain learnt not only how to correctly spell the word Nullarbor, but came to understand that if one is to eat strawberry yoghurt in the dry, hot Australian bush, one will wonder with every mouthful whether that little lump in one's mouth is a piece of strawberry or a bush-fly!! But I digress... for I left you last as we headed south away from the Flinders Ranges, so that is where I shall pick this up...
We headed down to the lovely Port Lincoln which is a place where some of my Nana's boat-building/fishing siblings settled from Tassie many years ago. We camped in a glorious spot in the Lincoln National Park on the edge of a cliff overlooking a bay and enjoyed my favourite thing ever (apart from singing!) - sitting under the stars by a camp-fire. We spent some time in Port Lincoln and watched a fishing boat unload great nets full of huge tuna. Moving onto Streaky Bay we camped right by the beach and watched the majestic pelicans glide oh so gracefully inches from the surface of the water. Here we
prepared for the trek ahead through warm blue Australian open space, sunshine and sky - 1462km's from Ceduna to Perth and 1994km's back to Melbourne! As we prepared to leave Ceduna we were interrupted by a puncture and an overheated radiator. Oh dear... it seems the radiator wasn't flushed out in Melbourne as we had been told, though the RAA man in Ceduna assured us that with a new radiator cap things would be fine. I wonder if by fine, he meant that by the next day in the middle of nowhere we would be sitting by the side of the road with a boiling radiator!! Two grey nomad couples and a single man stopped to offer help, but there was nothing to do but wait, top up the radiator, watch the gauge like a hawk and never drive above 95kph ever again!! After that we had no further trouble!
Across the Nullarbor we were pleased to encounter the very rare Nullarbor Shoe Tree (see photo!). There are related varieties as well such as the rare Nullarbor Underwear Tree and the rare Nullarbor Hat Tree which we were also pleased to see. Sue and I were each going to donate
an old "Over-The-Shoulder-Boulder-Holder" to the rare Nullarbor Underwear Tree but alas, they were locked in the van!
We got right into the swing of the Great-Australian-Long-Distance-Wave too, of which there are also numerous varieties. Let me explain so that you might be prepared for any long-distance travel you may enjoy in the future... The ordinary, common, garden-variety can't-really-be-bothered-making-too-much-effort wave requires you to simply lift your index finger off the steering wheel. For those with slightly more enthusiasm, two fingers may be lifted. For those with an abundance of warm feeling toward humankind, you may raise your whole hand displaying your palm, ensuring there is no mistaking your positive intention. For those who are trying to say, "I'm pretty cool", you may lift your hand and give the "2 and a half" with the thumb upwards and the index and middle fingers pointed toward the oncoming driver. For those who wish to say, "I am so cool you are lucky I am even acknowledging your existence", raise your hand with index finger and thumb in a position which is imitating a gun and tilt down with your index finger as if shooting. Oh so cool!! We also invented one which was
View from the campground
occasionally met with a kind of pitiful smile, and we called it the "Wiggle Wave". No further explanation required!!
Unfortunately Sue suffered from a very nasty March fly bite even though it was April and I from a very painful right hip and leg. I self diagnosed either Ewing's Sarcoma or severe sudden-onset arthritis and decided I either needed an amputation or a hip-joint replacement but fortunately Sue's diagnosis of sciatica proved more likely and the problem was solved with some adjustments to the car seating involving a cushion and a small foot-stool in the form of a lump of redgum!
The Roadhouses along the Nullarbor consist of petrol station, shop, restaurant (of sorts!), toilets, caravan park and motel rooms and are spaced out, often several hundred kilometres apart. As most people stop at most of them, we kept running into the same people so that "hello again" became a common greeting! Occasionally we even managed to glean some information about petrol prices from those coming the other way as the first question was always, "which way are you going?" (either west or east). Diesel prices went higher and higher at each stop until the peak was reached at the
Unloading the tuna boat!
Nullarbor Roadhouse at 208.9 cents per litre. Ahhhh!! Yes, 45 litres cost us more than $90!!! We were also required to hand over a driver's licence at one place prior to filling up to prevent the all too many drive-offs which had occurred in the past.
We encountered numerous Royal Flying Doctor Service airstrips on the highway on which we were travelling at which time we looked out for light planes overhead! The road widened and when necessary, the white posts on the edge of the road lift out of the ground and after the police have raced to the spot and stopped the traffic, the plane lands!!
After so much dry land, red earth, salt-bush and low scrub, we glimpsed the sparkling blue-green Great Southern Ocean at the Great Australian Bight. We walked out to the edge of the cliffs and saw a most spectacular sight - a place where whales come from the south to the relatively warmer waters to mate and give birth! Had we jumped in and started swimming, we would not have encountered land again until we had reached Antarctica, that is, had we not drowned or been eaten by a shark first! Our first
stop along the Bight was an area managed by local Aborigines with an interesting little museum. The cafe (entirely powered by solar) sold the most expensive ice-creams in Australia at $4.50 and the cheapest and best home-made buttered date scones I have ever tasted in my whole life, for only 50 cents!! I reckon our trip all the way from Melbourne was worth it just for that one date scone!!
We camped in free camps along the nullarbor designed for that purpose. Some even have toilets! In a couple of campsites we were joined by loads of other vans but one night we camped solo on the edge of a cliff with the vibrant ocean crashing beneath us. We got up at sun-rise (can you believe it?!) to take in the beautiful scene before us. After breakfast and before packing up we again stood outside in awe. How rude it was of those backpackers in their "Wicked" van as well as those grey nomads to have arrived and invaded our space - particularly as we were still in our pyjamas!!
The "Nullarbor Links" is an amusing concept which kept us entertained along the way. It is an18-hole par 72 golf
course (whatever that means!) spanning 1,365 kilometres from Ceduna in South Australia to Kalgoorlie in WA. There is one hole in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway in a somewhat rugged outback-style natural terrain fairway. This is where the entertainment bit came into it, for, while we didn't play, we watched several people trying to play on red sand, around salt-bush and scrub while brushing flies from their faces!
We stopped at the Balladonia Roadhouse and were pleased to see how cheap the fuel was - only 188.0 cents per litre!! We filled up and looked through the museum which houses a large piece of the US space station "Skylab" which accidentally crashed from space to Earth around Balladonia in 1979!! Apparently the US president phoned the Roadhouse the day after and apologised for any inconvenience!! We actually touched the large piece of space junk and were assured that it was "The Real Thing"!
We travelled along the longest stretch of straight road in Australia for an amazing 146.6km's until we had the great inconvenience of having to turn the steering wheel slightly!!
The greatest excitement we had across the Nullarbor was at the South Australian /
Western Australian border. As WA is so isolated it does not have many of the pests and diseases which affect the rest of Australia, hence the quarantine border checkpoint is a very serious and scary thing!! We saw the first sign informing us of exactly what we could not take across the border quite some distance away. It said: "Border Quarantine Checkpoint 500 km's ahead"!!! The information brochure available at all Roadhouses also could not be missed and was available in about 12 languages including Burmese!! How many Burmese cross that border!!! We stopped just before the border checkpoint and ate apples, pears and lettuce!! We took a deep breath and approached what we had nicknamed Checkpoint Charlie and hoped we weren't about to be arrested! We handed over our honey and declared our pumpkin seeds. The very serious quarantine officer entered our van and opened drawers, cupboards and our fridge. Oh no... I felt like I was in the headmaster's office or worse, at the border in Bali with drugs taped to my body, for there on the top shelf of the fridge, slightly behind the yoghurt and just in front of the lemon juice, looking inoffensive but unmistakably
like a vegetable, was a little, tiny bit of... garlic!! Ahhhh!!!! We had failed the quarantine inspection, were thrown in the divvy van and were carted off to the closest detention centre three days drive away!! No, just joking... but the garlic was confiscated as we headed into WA not quite sure what time it was anymore as there is something called Central Time which is not SA or WA time but somewhere in-between!! Just over the border at Eucla I was approached by a couple about to enter SA where the quarantine thing is not so serious but where fresh fruit and veges are still confiscated. The man came towards me without any introduction and simply said, "Do you like pumpkin?". I looked around certain that he couldn't be talking to me, but he was!! He repeated the question and I replied in the affirmative. So, we ended up with a bag of vegetables which filled the place where our honey, seeds and guilty garlic had been!!
We arrived into Kalgoorlie where gold was first discovered by Paddy Hannan in 1893. It is now a mining town of 30,000 people in the middle of the hot red-sand desert. We
Camped on the edge of the Great Southern Ocean
High on the cliffs of the vast empty plain
The last fiery glow of the embers of evening
Light the remains of the traveller's day
- Bernard Carney -
were ready for a nice shower and brought with us the hope of finding a big, fat gold nugget when we hammered our awning peg into the ground! We visited the open gold mine know as the Superpit which will eventually be 3.8km long, 1.35km wide and more than 500m deep. It was huge and we arrived in time to see an explosion! The cars and people at the bottom of the pit looked like little ants as did the Face Shovels of which there are 4 on site. They each weigh 685 tonne, have a bucket scoop which can carry 60 tonne of dirt and drives at a maximum speed of 2.1kph! Each cost $10 million to buy and have a fuel tank that can carry 11,000 litres of fuel. This means that if they were to fill up at the Nullarbor Roadhouse the fuel bill would be (if I have done my sums correctly) $22,979 dollars!!.
We visited the fabulous museum there and saw a very old push-bike made entirely of wood except for the tin hammered to the outside of the wheels.
From here we travelled almost 350kms, (a third of it on a red dirt road
which left our van and car looking impressively dirty!), to arrive into a crowded van park in the middle of no-where at the amazing Wave Rock. This granite formation is 2,700 million years old which is pretty old, I reckon!
We left Wave Rock and headed to Perth travelling alongside the large pipe carrying water more than 500km's from Perth to Kalgoorlie!
So now I am now sitting here in Perth by the van-park swimming pool in the sunshine. Ok, the truth is I am in the van which is on a bit of a slope, it has been raining, it's dusk and the mozzies are out and Sue is chopping onions! But... still, all is good!
We head off to the South-West tomorrow to visit Bunbury, Margaret River and the huge Karri forests.
So here I leave you.
More stories and photos next time as we continue our journey doing one lap around the beach road!!
Ros (and Sue)
PS Go to page 2 for more photo's...
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