It all began in Streaky Bay. The biggest ever Great White Shark was caught by hand line here in the 1990s, it was over 5.5meters long.
It was also the place where, despite the median consumer age of 65, Triple J is played in the caravan park ablution blocks. I’m definitely not complaining, it was so much more pleasant than struggling to listen to ABC Radio National talkback above the showers and the flushing toilets. We had a lovely relaxing few days here, but knew it was time to leave when I found this guy as I took the clean washing off the line.
Now, the Nullarbor Plain has long been a fascination of mine, and recently, has been hanging over our heads as we made our way ever closer along first the East, then the South of the country. It’s one of those things that is just inevitable. If you are doing the ‘Big Lap’, at some stage you will do the Nullarbor crossing. And as an Australian, it is one of those iconic things that should be high on your bucket list. The launch point is usually Ceduna. For us, it was more a lunch point! A great place to refuel at normal prices and to a grocery top up. We did our big shop in the Port Lincoln Woollies, so were stocked up, but had to be mindful of the quarantine restrictions that prevent taking fruit, veg or honey into Western Australia. Our first stop was the famed Cactus Beach. You turn off the highway at Penong with it’s 45 working windmills, and drive along an uncertain dirt road, past salt lakes and salt bush to a wonderful camping ground amongst the dunes at the top of the famous break. The place and the surrounding 500 hectares of Point Sinclair is owned by a fellow called Ron. Think ‘Doc’ from Back to the Future but remove the manic excitement, add some chill, and you might be close. He was a character all right, but he loves his surf and Cactus Beach and he looks after his campground. It was spotless and so so pretty. I’m sure he would have painted these sunsets for us if he could.
But we were here to surf.
There were finally enough surfers for Brian to have himself a posse and not be too concerned about the possible dangers lurking beneath the dark reefy waters. He kept researching the fatal attack that occurred here in 2000, and tried to do everything opposite to that guy. As in don’t surf at dawn’s crack, alone, for 2 hours (it’s all in the coroner’s report)…… Hey, it worked.
Beautiful and vibe-liscious though it was,
we knew we couldn’t stay forever. Goodbye Cactus Beach. Until next time.
The great plain awaited us still.
The word Nullarbor comes from Nullus – Arbor which literally means ‘no trees’. Whoever did the naming really got it right! There really were no trees. It was much prettier than we expected, and not boring at all. Though the 146km section with no bends at all was a little bit of a stretch. Actually, we stopped overnight halfway!
The plain was spectacular in its arid vastness. The bluebush and saltbush was interspersed with red dirt and green grass bringing a colour and diversity to what we thought was going to be drab and ugly. The truth was, it was stunning!
The Bunda Cliffs are where the Nullarbor Plain meets the Great Australian Bight.
It was like the edge of the world looking along these seemingly endless cliffs with the sea pounding away at them, steadily eroding away the base. There was a pod of about 50 dolphins at the bottom frolicking in the waves but we couldn’t get too close to the edge to get a picture without fear of falling in!
The road followed the coastline for a while before traversing inland again and along the world’s longest golf course, the Nullarbor Links.
Every 200 odd kms, there was a par 3 or 4. The fairways were rough, the roughs were extreme, the greens were super fast fake grass, and we had a great time on them! It helped having a Prado for a golf buggy!
Apart from losing a few balls along the way and having to cope with thousands of flies and millions of ants, dodging snakes, or juggling the kids, or trying to pick our way down the prickly fairway in ever-unsensible thongs, it was actually a lot of fun and a great way to break up the drive. I think it was originally an initiative for road safety and it certainly worked, giving us something regular to look forward to, and then to talk about as we drove away from each hole.
Our campsites each night were also better than expected. We just drove until early afternoon, covering only about 250kms a day, then we were usually the first ones in the rest area, and the last to leave the following day. A very relaxing way to travel!
The traffic was surprisingly sparse, we figured there must be a lot of rail and ship transit instead.
Actually, there were more caravans than trucks. We even saw a horse and cart making the journey and a gyrocopter filling at a servo.
With the price of fuel sitting around $2.08, we were happy to have our long range fuel tanks. Thank you Prado!
The wildlife was disappointing. Apart from a couple of dead kangaroos, we saw none of the fabled 3.
Oh, there were the dolphins. And some Wedge-Tailed Eagles, a speckeldy snake, and this guy:
It would have been cool to see a real feral camel, that’s all.
We did see a couple of other animals crossing the highway. I think they were lost…..
And what were our 3 little cherubs doing in the back while all of this driving and golf was going on I hear you ask? Well, they were actually being cherubs the absolute majority of the time.
They watched movies on the laptop with headphones, played the Ipad, read books, or slept. Or ate. It seems that getting in the car now provokes a call of “Mummy I’m hungry” from both the boys and by day 3 it was getting harder to please even the most discerning palate, let alone these 2.
In the old days we would do a 10 hour trip virtually without stopping between Mackay and Brisbane. Back when we had 1 child, or even 2, I would be able to get in the back seat and breastfeed (yes, while travelling) or entertain the tots, but now, its constant craning around to pick up toys, to do puppet shows and to hand out snacks as there is no room left in that row anymore!
Between the golf and the dodgy roadhouse playgrounds, we stopped a lot anyway so they all had room to run around and eat plenty of overpriced ice blocks.
We were reminded why these old style playgrounds have gradually been replaced with the sterile moulded plastic ones. They are scary, even for grown ups! I mean, maybe we are lowering the thrilling adventure levels for our kids, but I would rather feel content while they play, instead of have my heart in my throat all the time!
The Nullarbor is unpopulated mainly due to the fact that there’s just no water. And nothing will grow in the limestone sheet except salt and drought hardy shrubs. So the only people that live there are the few at each roadhouse. Very interesting places these roadhouses. They all had some oddity to check out. ‘Belladonia Roadhouse’ was the site of the Skylab re-entry back in 1979 – they have a piece of the wreckage on display – and enjoyed moment of fame when then-president of USA Jimmy Carter personally rang and apologized for the carnage!
We crossed the 12ookm Nullarbor plain from Ceduna SA to Norseman WA in 4 days.
It’s definitely one of those journeys that’s all about the journey!
And the sunsets.