'The vastness engulfs us all'
Tuesday 21st February:
We woke up early with the sun shinning through onto the train tracks and the flies swarming fiercely around our face...it was going to be another hot day today. The next leg of our road trip was to travel across the remote Nullarbor plain travelling along the Eyre highway; a stretch of road 2700km long spanning all the way to Norseman from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. The nullarbor Plain is a region of so many contrasting geographical features, unspoilt landscapes, breathtaking ocean views and diverse Australian wildlife. The land is one of extremes, but, this is the way to travel. To feel the remoteness of this unremittingly harsh desert is exciting and a feeling of freedom. It really hits you when you are driving for hours on end without seeing another car or truck and when you do you give them a friendly little wave to let them know their not alone. It felt like we were driving for hours on end covering great distances but getting nowhere; the roads just disappear beautifully into the sky like a mirage on the distant sun baked horizon.
It was reaching about 40 degrees as we passed through the small town of Ballodonia, 193km east of Noresman. There were warning signs along the way indicating the risk of bushfire as severe. We stopped off at a petrol station to fill up and I noticed the remains of a satellite on the roof. It turned out to be the remains of a 78 tonne NASA space station that crashed here in 1979. NASA said that they would give $1,000 for every piece of satellite found and sent back to the USA. This sparked a frenzy with thousands of people converging on to this part of Western Australia's outback taking part in a mass search that lasted over 2 weeks putting this small town on the international front pages. I found it funny to find that the Shire of Esperance slapped the US Government with a $400 fine for littering...Quality touch. It was my turn to drive when unbeknown to me I found myself driving on the longest straight road in Australia, a massive 146.6km better known as the the 90 mile straight. I put the car on to cruise control sat back not even having to steer the whole way...it was hard to stay awake believe me. Dotted along the highway are signs that read 'Emergency Airstrip'...that's how big and straight this road is. Along the way on this arid desert we saw a lone Emu foraging about in the shrubs and up in the sky a couple of eagles soaring high with that graceful beauty that they possess. The wildlife is amazing. We stopped off at a little town called Cocklebiddy for lunch and outside was a sign that read 'population 8 + 1 dog'. These folk are little strange too...the best way I can describe it is....'League of Gengleman' sketch "Are you local"?-enough said. After a long drive we came across the town of Madura, 83km east of Cocklebiddy. We set up camp and had a well deserved beer. We were exactly halfway between Perth and Adelaide.
Wednesday 22nd February:
We woke early with the sun shining through our tent it was going to be another great day on the road again. I remember getting into the car and as we drove off the song; 'Sombody I Used to Know' by Gotye came on...this was to become our road trip song. The landscape was slowly changing now the further east we travelled. We were leaving the flat red arid outback behind for more greenery with lots of small windswept blue bush shrubby and small tress. Ancient mountains and the ocean could be seen in the distance as the road veered closer to the coast, but, the sheer vastness and nakedness remained the same. We passed through Eucla just before we crossed the South Australian boarder scoffing all our fruit first as strict quarantine restrictions when crossing the boarder apply. As the road veered towards the coast of South Australia we were greeted by the majestic cliffs soaring high over the Great Australian Bight. This coastal drive was simply stunning. We stopped off along the way to take in the beauty. This is prime real estate...to think that I am not the first person to observe such natural beauty; aboriginals have came to these spots for thousands of years to look out in wonder. Sitting on one of the biggest slabs of limestone in Australia looking out over the ocean in total calm and peace, thousands of miles from anywhere and from anyone, only us three in this remote country was special. I looked out over the ocean and to my amazement I spotted a dolphin swimming in the current enjoying the simple tranquillity of solitude unaware of me watching him. It was so good we decided to camp next to the soaring cliffs, the best camp spot one can imagine. We had our tea and watched the best sun set- all mesmerised as this big orange ball disappeared into the ocean. As the day turned to night the stars came out to bless us with their beauty and you cant help but star gaze looking for a chance glimpse of a shooting star. To think that the nearest star is 100,000 light years away from us and the light travels 300,000 km/s...mind blowing.
|Sign post at Eucla...we had traveled 1435km in 4 days|
|First look at the ocean|
|Over looking the Great Australian Bight|
|To think the Great white shark's hunting ground is behind me|
|The deep blue colour of the sea is beautiful|
|In need of a hair cut|
|The foot of these majestic cliffs where I saw a dolphin swimming in the current|
|On the edge of these 100m cliffs|
|lost in thought and contemplation|
|The Subaru on the edge of the cliffs|
|The air is so fresh up on the edge of these soaring cliffs|
|Windswept on the cliffs|
|An aesthetic voyagers dream...stunning scenery|
|The best campsite of my life...|
|Taking this surreal sunset in|
We woke up early and was greeted by the spectacular sight of the cliffs again...I could stare out to sea forever; to think that there is nothing but open ocean until you reach Antarctica. This is the driest state of the driest continent, wild and untamed. Surrounded by small shrubs there is a real chance of disturbing a snake here, and remember 18 of the deadliest snakes in the world are right here on our campsite. As we were packing up we watched a car slowly approach. It was the ranger and he told us that we shouldn't be camping here. He said there was a real danger of parts of the cliff collapsing into the sea. With a slap on the wrist we headed off further east. I was aware of passing a number of what I assumed were golf courses since Norseman. It was only when we stopped off at Cocklebiddy a couple of days ago did I realise what it was...it was a very unique 18-hole par 72 course indeed- it was only the longest golf course in the world. The course from hole 1 to 18 spans a whopping 1,365km with one hole in each participating town along the Eyre highway. I wanted to play a least one hole to say I had done it. So we stopped off at Penong, hole 16, a par 4. It was another baking hot day. We hired some dodgy clubs out and played a practise hole in which I hit a 6. We walked back and played it again. I was determined to par it. After a great tea shot and a good second near the green I pitched on 5 ft away from the hole for a par put. I thought yes I am going to par a hole on the longest course in the world. I read the green, looked at all possible angles, took a number of practise puts then putted with a tentative swing. I watched the ball role in slow motion...it was going to go in. But then the ball deviated to the left, rolled around the cup and lipped out....NO!!!! I was gutted, but, what a unexpected laugh and it was the first time Laura or Nader had played on a real golf course...and what a first course to play on- only the longest in the world. We passed thought the town of Ceduna, which is 480km from the Western Australian boarder. We had planned to stay at the famous Cactus Beach but decided on making time up and heading towards a more secluded beach at Streaky Bay. We arrived there just before sunset and was greeted to more spectacular scenery. This time rather that camping on the cliffs we camped on the beach. Surrounded by sand dunes and about 20 meters away from the sea this was another unreal campsite, and to top it off we were greeted by yet another surreal sun set. By now it was very dark when we sat down for tea. It was going so well until I shone the torch onto the beach to be greeted by the sight of thousands of black beetles. Laura freaked out. We got it together based on the fact that they are absolutely harmless. Then, as we settled down again I caught something in the corner of my eye. Shinning the touch I saw right next to my foot not 1 but 4 big Scorpions. We all jumped onto the chairs, now Laura really freaked out...to be honest I did a little. When we got into the tent the noise of all these insects joined by a couple of mice all running around the fly sheet was a little unnerving. But, none was more unnerving that waking up in the middle of the night and right next to my face on the out side of the inner fly sheet the silhouette of big Scorpion. It was the end to a eventful day on the road.
I woke up with the sound of the tide coming in and was greeted by a beautiful fresh morning on the beach. We went into town for breakfast. I checked my emails and found out that one of my best friends had asked me to be the Godfather of his new baby girl...great stuff. We planned to travel up north to the Flinders National Park before heading to Adelaide were we had planned to stay with a family we had met way back in October in Vietnam. We passed through Port Augusta and picked up some food and more importantly a few beers. After a couple of hours of driving the procession of glowing red mountains of the Flinders NP, folded and crumpled with age came slowly into focus. It is so hot and dry here, so wild and vast that there must be few areas on this planet that feel quite so isolated or hostile to human habitation. Disused and desolate 19th century farm houses that dot the landscape like ghosts from another age serve only to reinforce this fact. The only Kangaroos I had seen since we had left Perth were dead ones on the side of the road, victims of road kill; now as we entered the NP we were treated to the sight of hundreds...this was well and truly Kangaroo country.
This week I had been treated to some spectacular mornings and when it can't get any better it just does. As the sun was coming up I looked out of my tent to see two Kangaroos only 2ft away foraging about...I just sat there thinking you just can't beat this. We explored the NP and visited a cave with some interesting Aboriginal paintings that were thousands of years old. We left in the afternoon for one more big drive to Adelaide, were we could rest before driving to our final destination, Melbourne via the 'Great Ocean Road'. When we arrived in Adelaide we had drove the equivalent distance of Liverpool to Moscow...It was time to take a big breath.