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Crossing the Nullarbor

From Western Australia to South Australia

sunny 26 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

After an enjoyable stay in Esperance with Dave & Pat we then went our separate ways. About 40 minutes from town I kept seeing flashes of dark red in the bush and Judith managed to find a convenient layby for us to investigate. The red was from many kangaroo paws but unlike the WA state emblem which is red and green and quite large, these were just dark red with smaller flowers. In the same area we found blue sun orchids, a few spider orchids which had mostly seen better days and many other wildflowers, red, blue, yellow, mauve etc. The bush had a fairly bland overall appearance but, as so often, closer inspection reveals the richness of WA’s flora.


In Norseman we found Hole 15 of the world's longest golf course which starts in Ceduna, South Australia and ends in Kalgoorlie - a distance of 1,365km! We had a cup of coffee in the town but found nothing else there to tempt us to stay longer, so carried on to the motel at Balladonia, getting into the general area of the Nullarbor Plain as we did so. Dave & Pat had warned us about the water situation in Balladonia but it was still rather unpleasant to have brown water for flushing the toilet and to feel that the tinted water from the tap was probably best used just for washing. Luckily we had our own supply of water for drinking. Balladonia's main claim to fame is that it was near here that large fragments of Skylab came to earth in 1979. We saw one surprisingly large piece in the little museum attached to the roadhouse. The museum also housed some relics from the Redex Around Australia Rally from the 1950s. The photo gives an idea of the long straight roads we drove, often through apparently unchanging countryside.


The bush quickly became sparser but not as desert-like as we had been given to believe. We pressed on eastwards, travelling over Australia’s longest straight piece of road (just over 146km) which included landing strips for the Royal Flying Doctor Service! We had planned to stay at Cocklebiddy but made such good time that we cancelled our booking there and drove on to the Madura Pass Oasis Motel where our ‘budget’ room was definitely budget-price but had brand new and excellent bathroom fittings, although the bathroom door was still propped up outside – clearly a work-in-progress! Just before reaching the motel we had stopped at the pass where there was a lookout point giving superb views over the plain – we had not realised that either we had climbed as high as we had or that the land dropped away so sharply. To our pleasant surprise the motel had a rather smart restaurant where we had a delicious dinner. Near the end of the day's trip, we were pleased to see two or three live kangaroos after the carnage that we had witnessed while driving. Madura featured relics from the Redex Rally and in earlier days had been a military establishment which trained brumbies (wild horses) for use by British cavalry regiments.


From Madura to Mundrabilla, where we stopped for coffee, the number of dead kangaroos increased markedly. We have found the Nullarbor thus far less boring than people have said. The bush changes quite subtly sometimes and the mind boggles thinking about early explorers such as Edward Eyre after whom the highway we are travelling is named. A remarkable man – I am now looking for a biography as he seems to have been a fascinating bloke. He crossed the Nullarbor in 1840-41 with his Aboriginal companion, Wylie, travelling some 2.000 miles - they were lucky to survive the trip as two other Aborigines who started out with them murdered Baxter, the other European, and stole most of the supplies. However, near Esperance they chanced on an American ship commanded by an Englishman and they were able to obtain supplies for the rest of their journey. Our drive this day was quite short, ending at Eucla, close to the South Australia border. Before checking into the motel, we visited the Travellers' and Eyre Memorials and the ruins of the old Telegraph Repeater Station. This was set up in 1877 with the original town around it but the old town was abandoned in the 1890s due to a rabbit plague and has disappeared under sand dunes. The Telegraph Station remained in use until around 1927 but is slowly disintegrating. Sadly, most walls had either been daubed with graffiti or had names or initials carved into them – some people should be put down at birth! As we were in good time, we took a short drive over the border to look at some of the lookout points on the South Australia side which is more elevated than most of the WA side. We had two nights here and used the full day here for a bit of R & R and exploring the local area on foot.


As we had already taken a short trip over the border to look at a couple of lookouts over the top of the cliffs we were able to get quite a way along our trip to Ceduna before stopping for a couple more clifftop views. Along a stretch of about 200km, we saw little or no roadkill but as this area truly lived up to the name of 'Nullarbor', perhaps few animals lived here! This stretch did become a bit ho hum although when we stopped for a leg stretch, even this rather drab bush produced surprises with several plants having colourful but tiny flowers. Then we reached the Head of the Bight where the local Aboriginal community manage the tourist facilities which were excellent. Once through the shop, we walked down a zig zag boardwalk to a point close to the edge of low cliffs from which we had great views of five Southern Right Whales - two females with calves and one other. For most of the rest of the drive we were flanked by low scrubby brush which was finally relieved by a single distant tree. Finally we reached Ceduna which did little to add to our memory banks, although we did have the pleasure of looking out onto flocks of waterfowl in the water behind the cabin.


Posted by SteveJD 20:53 Archived in Australia

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Finally found your blog. Enjoyed it - thank you.
Hope I will be sent future episodes.
Keep on keeping on !

by Sue McCarter

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