After having a much-needed rest in Esperance, it was time for us to cross the Nullarbor Plain. It’s a 1397 km drive from Esperance to our next town of Ceduna. Stef had read that travellers need to fill up with petrol when they can as it’s just baron land and there are no real towns along the way. You also need to stock up on food and most of all water. Although it turned out there was enough road kill to eat along the way, the lakes continued to be dry and the temperature in the summer can hit 40 degrees! I imagined one big desert with the odd man selling petrol from an old barrel in a run down hut. It wasn’t going to be easy as I’d been bored just looking at trees on the recent trips – now I’d have no trees to even look at! It didn’t turn out as I expected. But it still was a long boring journey. It’s a long blog entry as it covers the three days it took us to cross it.
Our first stop out of Esperance was a small town called Norseman. This was the real start of the Plain. You can pick up a certificate from the tourist shop to say that you had completed the drive but I didn’t think it was right to get one before we had done it. What if we’d ended up in a fatal car accident and never crossed it?
It was a very small town. VERY small. It started its life off in the 1890s when it became popular for gold mining. When the mining dried up, people left. We were staying at the Gateway Caravan Park. We parked up and went for a walk into town. It didn’t take long and when we got there, it was like a ghost town. They had a bar, chemists, newsagents, hardware store and a very small supermarket. They were all next to each other and looked like the only social interaction the town’s people had!
Saying that, we saw the town notice board, which had an advert for the town’s yearly photo competition. It had photos of the last 3 winners. It looked like the only person in town that owned a camera was a blind 4 year old as the photos were not up to my amazing standards!
But the most important advert was for the town’s cheesecake yearly competition. Now that would be a competition I’d like to be a judge in!
It says a lot about the town when in the tour guide, one of the main highlights are a few camel statues on a roundabout. They are made from tin. I took a picture or two. I’m such a tourist.
In the morning, before we started on our voyage, we filled up the van. The petrol stations are very wise to the fact that you are crossing the Plain and charge you a whopping 40c extra, taking it to about $2.07 a litre (Which is still only £1.20). We would be driving along Highway 1, travelling 1194 km along it (that’s not all of it, just the distance across the Plain). It’s a LONG road! A short time after starting our journey, the unthinkable happened – IT RAINED! We were near desert land, how could this happen?? Needless to say it didn’t last long, but it was enough to shock us!
I couldn’t have been more disappointed about the scenery of the journey. It was the total opposite of what I thought it would be. There I was, thinking it would be all desert, mirages and camels. It was exactly like we had experienced before – just green trees and bushes. It was like that for the whole journey. There was an interesting feature of the Plain. It had the longest Golf course in the world, the Nullabor Links. It’s 18 holes stretched along the route. We chose not to take part as we are both rubbish at golf and it would have added weeks onto the journey!
There were a few towns between Norseman and Ceduna. We were very surprised when we got to the first “town”, Balladonia. As we pulled up, we discovered that it was just a petrol station, motel, restaurant and museum all built into the one building on the same stretch of road we’d been travelling on. That was it! There were no roads off it. Just the one place! We had a little look in the museum, which displayed items from the “Skylab” which was a research satellite that crash-landed nearby in 1979.
A short while after Balladonia, we came to Australia’s longest straight road. It’s 145km (90 miles) and feels like it just goes on and on! It’s perfectly straight – not even a slight turn, luckily I’d purchased a caffeine hit to help with the journey.
The next stop was Cocklebiddy, where pets outnumber the human residents. Again it was just a petrol station, restaurant and caravan park so we just filled up and continued our journey.
After a long 521km drive, we made it to our next “town”, Madura. Again, it was just the same as the towns before. The Madura Pass Oasis Motel didn’t have communal BBQs or a camp kitchen, so, for the first time, we turned the gas on in the van and Stef cooked up a lovely ravioli meal. There was enough for a couple of days, however, we were hungry and devoured it all!
The next day was going to be a monster of a drive. 673km – which is about 7 hours of driving. We set off early having had a restless nights sleep. It had decided to rain again and the noise was like sleeping in a tin can. We stopped off at a viewpoint – The Hampton Tablelands and were met by a young cyclist from Cambridge, UK. He had cycled from Perth and was heading to Sydney. It had taken him 3 weeks so far. Good luck to him!
Along the route we passed numerous dead animals along the roadside. It was weird to see signs to advise you to be cautious of wild kangaroos, wombats and camels that run out in the road.
We crossed the border into South Australia and fuelled up on coffee and corn dogs. Shortly after we stopped off at another viewpoint – The Great Australian Bight, where during the summer months, you could see whales breeding there. Unfortunately we were too early in the year, but we did get to see an amazing coastline, which went on for miles. We could’ve spent ages there but typical of our luck, we had arrived at the time when flies mate and there were thousands of them! They were not shy. They would go into any orifice that they could find!
We made a few stops at some more tiny towns, and one even had the first bicycle that was used to cross the Nullarbor back in 1962!
We arrived at our final stop on the Plain, Ceduna Foreshore Caravan Park. We had to throw away loads of food to cross the border (to protect South Australia from the fruit fly), so we had nothing in the cupboards. To treat ourselves, we headed to the local pizza store and got two massive pizzas! Our first taste of pizza since hitting Australia.
The park was next to the sea and we ended the day and our longest journey ever, with a nice sunset.