I savour the taste of the freshly brewed coffee purchased from Esperance knowing we will hit the Nullarbor Plains in a couple of hours.
We top up the tanks at Norseman, as it is the last stop for…well who knows? After a scan around the town, and a very quick one at that, we decide to push on and make our way to a rest area. Mike, who has travelled the Nullarbor previously, had mentioned on several occasions that there is nothing out there and be prepared for boredom.
During the first leg of the 1,207km stretch (Norseman to Ceduna) we noticed several large bodies of water by the road and plenty of dense bush, which is completely unexpected on my part, particularly considering the word Nullarbor means ‘treeless’. We remain highly alert as we keep an eye out for the town of Balladonia (not really a town but a roadhouse) that was made famous back in 1979 for having Skylab debris strewn across the landscape… if you can call that famous; really, it was more about Michael’s Italian heritage and namesake…ha ha. Just to the eastern side of Balladonia the landscape becomes sparse with open and arid farming land. Some of Australia’s largest stations sit north of this location and as we look ahead a sign reads ‘Australia’s longest straight stretch of road – 90 mile straight’, a total of 145.6km or 90 miles in the old money.
There are plenty of rest areas to choose from and as everyone is beginning to become a little agitated we start looking for the next stop. Up ahead we spot a sign, ‘Baxter’s Rest’ and it looks like there are plenty of people pulling up stumps for the night.
With plenty of room for the kids to run around well off the highway, we set up and watch the sunset in the direction we have just travelled from.
Rising early and we are mobbed by millions of flies and yet more wind; I thought we may have left the wind behind on the coast, although we are not that far from the coast as the crow flies. Out in this great arid land there is a sense of isolation, as you can imagine, however after a short distance the number of travellers becomes ever increasing. I do notice that the Big Rigs are not so big any more, merely 36.5m long, according to the sign. We finally hit our first bend in the road at the end of “90 mile straight” and the kids cheer as Mike beeps the horn in celebration. Immediately afterwards both Yasmin and Liam comment on how short a distance that was; well I guess after travelling in excess of 700km some days, that was merely like a trip to the corner store for them now.
The kids have been playing car tips and an extremely long game of bingo, which had started back in Norseman. We pass the “Australian Central Standard Time” sign, indicating we should wind our clocks forward by 45mins.
The bitumen is so smooth on this highway and we are convinced it must have something to do with the large number of Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) landing areas. We pass quite a number of these “RFDS Emergency Landing” signs, particularly close to the roadhouses. Accompanying the “RFDS” signs are pull over areas should you sight the RFDS heading straight for you, or behind for that matter.
I have now lost track of the number of roadhouses. We then see a lookout… ha… a look out… this far inland. All of a sudden we start descending an escarpment and we then arrive on a lower level which surely must have once been a shallow ocean sea bed. At this point the coast must be sitting some 30km to the south with the ridge immediately to the north. This coast line is known to be the longest single piece of limestone in the world, covering an area of about 200,000 square kilometres. The large white blobs we sight far in the distance are a mystery to us. We debate what they may be… clouds, round bales, salt mines. As we approach the haze and begin to ascend the ridge we realise the white blobs are massive sand dunes. We climb higher onto the ridge and stop at Eucla for a deserved break.
After having lunch next to the Moby Dick replica we travel a few more kilometres before crossing the SA border.After the standard photo opportunity at the border crossing, and having been baled up by a strange Nullarbor local type, we pile back into the car for another coastal photo opportunity.
We find an amazing lookout with the feature sign ‘ Great Australian Bight’, as we look into the extremely calm Bight (no doubt this must be rare) we see the many shades of blue and breaching before our eyes are some southern right whales.
Yes, I now have some of the classic photos of the Nullarbor, so it’s everyone back in the car again, as I mention to everyone there are further stops down the road…they are thrilled. Much to Mike’s dismay, as we pile in again dozens of grey nomads leapfrog us. The Bunda cliffs are quite impressive as I take a few more shots.
We have been told to stop at “the head of the bight” however with the purse now holding not much more than coins, and at $15 per person to enter, we continue driving. Apparently whales are often sighted in this area however given we had just seen whales, it hardly sounded like a good deal.
After clocking up just over 730km for the day we pull into a rest area just to the East of the Yalata Aboriginal land and set up camp. I was a little scared as there was only one other van in the rest area and as a result I didn’t get much sleep. Nobody else seemed to worry and they all slept until 6am.
Up at 3am, I watch the sunrise as I listen to the roaring sounds of the approaching road trains, then as they disappear with an echo like whoosh. Unbelievably I have some internet service and I find some solitude in reading various news articles until everyone else rises. We hit the road by 7am and arrive in Ceduna. Well inside the SA border we pass through Quarantine and they take much of our fruit and veg. I am now delirious from very little sleep so we pull into Ceduna for a coffee. Mike notices a clock in the coffee shop reading almost 2 hours in front of what we thought it was…great, another 2 hours lost today with yet another time zone change, although I guess I am 2 hours closer to sleeping… really I don’t know one way or the other.