16 October 2012

16th October 2012 – Whyalla.

Well, we made it. We have conquered the Nullarbor. But, to be absolutely pedantic, the Eyre Highway only traverses about 20 to 40 km of the true Nullarbor. The majority of the Eyre is just to the south of the treeless plain, but the journey remains as one of the great drives of the World. From Norseman to Ceduna is approx 1200 km and during the drive you will pass through one true town (Penong), plus Eucla which is listed as a town, but really only qualifies as a slightly elaborate roadhouse. The remaining 6 named locations are roadhouses with very rudimentary caravan parks (showers, toilets, electricity and water which you cannot connect to your van). The roadhouse at Yalata has closed.

East of Balladonia

The majority of the vegetation is bluebush as an understory of eucalypt mulga with patches of low saltbush scrub. However the biggest visual impact is the straight sections of road – 90 Mile Straight (145.6 km) gets all the PR focus, but the entire trip is dominated by a series of other straights, many of up to 100km, and each connected by the merest slight curve. Some relief is found at Madura Pass where you drop about 180 metres to the Roe Plain, and then, after 120 km, pop back up at Eucla.
The longest of many
 A Pedestrian Xing out here?  No, a landing strip for the Flying Doctor.
 Yep, that's the ocean in the distance - from the top of Madura Pass

Our campsite at Moondini Bluff.

Communication is ...... no, it isn’t, it just doesn’t exist: no TV, no Radio, no Mobile, and zero Internet. Of course you can use satellite type access for some of these, but the ordinary services are nonexistent. One of the excellent trade-offs for these privations are the outstanding dark nights with the accompanying brilliant star display.
We stayed at Balladonia Roadhouse (190km), Moondini Bluff bush camp (550km), Nullarbor Roadhouse (900km), then onto Ceduna. About 45km before Nullarbor R/H we caught up with our cyclist friends who were nearing the end of their most successful day. With the aid of a great tail-wind, they did 185km in one day, and this was done with bikes heavily laden with camping equip, food, and clothing!  We all camped together at Nullarbor and shared a big hearty pot of meatballs in homemade Italian sauce on a bed of rice – those boys sure can eat!
 They arrive at Nullarbor Roadhouse
The Fairway - Dingo Den Hole 14 on the Nullarbor Links
And the Green

As you head across this iconic piece of road you regularly come across signs that alert you to some of the potential hazards. It always amuses me to wonder just how the animals know that they’re not to go past the sign – this side is okay, but not the other!
Note the animals that you might run into! (note the 3 bike riders in the distance)

 This is about 300km west

However, some of them just seem to take advantage of the warnings. We were travelling along quite happily when we spotted something up ahead and as we got closer we realised that it was a pair of kangaroos. They remained stationary in the middle of the road, until such time that we had come to a complete halt. Once they had asserted their superiority, they bounded off before Shirl got the camera out.
Perhaps they were trying to warn us of the 5 foot brown snake that was just up the road – With the van on behind, I couldn’t swerve far enough, so his trip across the road became his last.
Just to the east of Eucla you get to see your first close-up view of the sea cliffs for which the area is famous. There are a number of lookouts in fairly quick succession, and each offers truly awe inspiring views. The cliffs seem to go on forever, as I suppose they should given that they are among the World’s longest sea cliffs.
 Looking to the West
And looking to the East - note the safety fence .... not!

A further few hundred kilometres along the road is where you find the “Head of Bight” which is the most northern part of the bight. It is here that each year hundreds of whales come to calve, and then remain while their new babies grow and build strength for the return to the Antarctic. We arrived at the very end of the season, but were rewarded with a mother and calf frolicking just below the lookout, plus another single adult about 100 metres off the cliffs.
 The "True" piece of the Nullarbor Plain (just east of Nullarbor Roadhouse)
Mum and Baby of Head of Bight. (it's hard getting a good photo - they don't send you an email to say they're about to breach)

Not long after we passed Yalata we came across a cattle grid in the road. This was the southern end of that great Aussie dog fence which runs for 5614 km from the bight, through South Australia, NSW and Queensland. Built in the 1880s it is the World’s longest fence, and also one of the largest structures.
Ceduna marks the accepted end of the crossing and we arrived to find that, to our delight, the annual oyster festival was underway – Ah, let me think of how many ways that I can eat an oyster! Just as Ceduna is the end of the Nullarbor, it is also the start of the Eyre Peninsula which can be split into two clear areas of focus – the southern coast is very much a series of fishing towns: each one a gem. Inland from the coast is wheat growing country: and a lot of wheat there is. To support this enormous grain growing, there appears a seemingly endless supply of large silos and grain loading jetties. Our route took us along the south coast with a 4 day stop at Streaky Bay where we set up right on a beach. However, our site had ground so hard that we couldn’t drive any pegs into it even when we resorted to trying to drill a hole with an electric drill. Our solution was to grab a couple of very large rocks and tie the awning ropes to them.

View near Streaky Bay
Oyster Festivities at Ceduna

Our 2nd evening and a knock on our door revealed that our intrepid cyclists had found us. This presented a small problem in that there’s a limit to how many rocks you can use to tie down 3 tents.
The local info centre has a somewhat unusual display in the form of a replica of a 5 metre White Pointer Shark which was caught off the local coast. Over 1500 kilos, and caught on a 24 kilo breaking strain line, by a bloke who was fishing for snapper! I bet he had a job to fillet it.

I think they're waiting for some Shark Fillets
 Murphy's Haystacks - east of Streaky Bay
I spy you, Ya can't hide from me.

Once we got to the tip of the peninsular at Port Lincoln, we found that we had also found the peak of the wind – we got tired putting the awning up each morning (very little wind), and then dropping it each night. This seemingly pointless exercise was necessary because, you guessed it, the cycle guys had caught up to us once more so we again had campsite guests. The weather on the day that they left was very strong winds plus rain, so at first it seemed silly for them to go. We heard from them that evening and they had had one of their best days so far – marvellous what a strong tailwind can do for your average speed.
 Taken from the front of our van - Port Lincoln
Statue of 3 x Melbourne Cup winner - Makybe Diva. Owned by Port Lincoln Tuna Boat owner.

I’m not sure that many people know that the underwater shark scenes from the “Jaws” movie were shot around Port Lincoln: True. If anyone would like to replicate those scenes, you can do a shark cage dive where they guarantee real deal white pointer(s) will come along and try and eat you. Only $400. If you don’t like that, perhaps a dive with friendly sea lions is more to your taste.

We are now at Clare in the epinonomous wine valley. After Port Lincoln, we stopped at Arno Bay to catch up with a former workmate whom I hadn’t seen for 25 years. We spent a lot of time reminiscing and recalling both old colleagues, and funny happenings – interesting to think that some of these ‘moments’ were maybe not thought of as significant at the time, but since they are the ones we’re recalling many years later they must’ve had some impact on us!
Whyalla from Hummock Hill - The entire beach disappears at high tide

We also stopped at Whyalla so I could have some physio, and while there we did a quick drive around. Clearly the steel works are the big thing for the town, but the snapper fishing is also a large component of Whyalla’s economy.
We have decided to give Adelaide a miss as we were there last year. So now we’ll go via Burra to Mildura where we’ll stay for 4 or 5 nights before pushing down to Bendigo. After a brief visit to Melbourne to get some warranty work done on the van, we hope to be home very early November.
I’ll post another update perhaps from Bendigo or Melbourne.

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