Day 4 was the biggy. We had planned to drive from Ceduna to Balladonia across the Nullarbor. Wiki says:
‘The Nullarbor Plain is part of the area of flat, almost treeless, arid or semi-arid country of southern Australia, located on the Great Australian Bight coast with the Great Victoria Desert to its north. It is the world’s largest single piece of limestone, and occupies an area of about 200,000 square kilometres (77,000 sq mi). At its widest point, it stretches about 1,100 kilometres (684 mi) from east to west between South Australia (SA) and Western Australia (WA).
Crossing the Nullarbor’, for many Australians, is a quintessential experience of the ‘Australian Outback‘. Stickers bought from roadhouses on the highway show ‘I have crossed the Nullarbor’, and can be seen on vehicles of varying quality or capacity for long distance travel. The process of ‘beating the crowds’ on overbooked air services at the time of special sporting events can also see significant numbers of vehicles on the road.
Crossings in the 1950s and earlier were significant, as most of the road back then was unmade dirt track. Round-Australia car trials (The Redex Trials) used the Nullarbor crossing for good photo shoots of cars negotiating poor track.’
Fortunately, these days, the road is no longer just made of dirt but still, the sheer distance when you set off, is quite daunting. Knowing there is no petrol station, no mobile signal, just you, your car and its contents made me thankful the car had 4 new tyres and a full service a week before we left Melbourne.
To give you an idea of how remote it is, every so often the road turns into a runway for flying doctor planes. I am not joking, look I have proof…
You are literally driving on the runway! Who the doctors could be treating, I have no idea, there are no houses and certainly no phones!
We set off early, probably a little too early but the time difference hadn’t changed from Adelaide and so it was still dawn at 6am. You should really avoid dawn, dusk and night-time driving given that you are much more likely to have kangaroos and the likes playing chicken with you. We were ready however, and had loaded the car. Given the enormous drive we had ahead of us we tentatively set off, taking it slow and steady.
Oh, there you go, another silo-town before we enter the wilderness!
One thing I forgot to mention in the other blogs about this journey are the South Australian signs on the side of roads. They are hilarious! Only in Australia could you get away with them.
They have a few of these long the roads, one refers to driving like a circular door handle (knob, in case you are a little slow). Here’s the link to another. Fortunately the kids were too engrossed in their little iPad heaven to pay attention and ask any questions!
After about 150km we hit Nundroo. The road after here runs through the Yalata Aboriginal land. You do not need a permit to travel along the main road but if you’re venturing off it, you’ll need to obtain one. This stretch of the road lasted another 150km or so when we found ourselves behind this car, which was in convoy with two other equally antique looking cars.
At this point, we were only a few minutes from the Nullarbor Roadhouse, the entrance to the Nullarbor. What were they thinking of?!
Matt was hoping we wouldn’t get stuck behind too many of these, and fortunately, we didn’t.
We filled up with petrol at the roadhouse and I had a chat with the guy there. I was asked what sort of wildlife they get there. He said they get dingoes, brown snakes oh and king brown snakes to name a few. Noice! Want to see what a roadhouse looks like? Look no further. Not exactly up to Hilton standards but when needs must…
As we set of we were reminded of other wildlife we may ‘bump’ into. In case you are looking at this road sign and thinking ‘Camels? CAMELS? In Australia?!’ There are more feral camels in Australia (1 million) than anywhere else in the world.
By now we had seen the terrain change and although there were bushes there really were no trees to speak of. The first thing would say is, yes it is remote, but you don’t feel anywhere near as isolated as you might expect. For some reason I felt more vulnerable in the drive from Port Augusta to Ceduna than here. I think maybe because it isn’t far away from the ocean it doesn’t feel quite as intense as other places where you are surrounded by deep bushland.
We stopped off (yes, an unscheduled stop, a first for us) to admire the view. It was truly breathtaking. Totally unspoilt, and truly spectacular. A kind man took this rare shot of all 4 of us together. I think maybe the kids are getting a little large for picking up!
Before we knew it, we were at Border Village. Good bye South Australia, hello Western Australia! We did a little ‘YAY’ to mark our arrival in WA. Well, Matt and I did and the kids stared blankly at us shaking their heads in disapproval. Border Village is home to a ‘Big Thing‘ known as Rooey II and a sign post to pretty much everywhere!
A while later we also went through a quarantine station and then were met by huge tablelands, the Nullabor Plains.
It was beautiful…and hot!
When you are in the middle of the longest drive you are ever going to do, what you don’t need is 42 degrees heat. Thank goodness for air-con. I have no idea how those guys in the morris minors got on. Unless somebody ‘pimped their ride’ I doubt they had air conditioning.
We also drove along the longest straight road in Australia. As you can see, there wasn’t so much of a kink in the road for 146.6 km (90 miles)! You could argue that it is the longest in the world. Highway 46 in North Dakota, USA, claims to be the longest straight road in the world, but that actually bends a little here and there around trees and rocks an the like, so, although it is apparently 123 miles long, I don’t think it can claim to be the longest. Of course, I may be a little biased.
You see the guy there? The one stopping to take the picture? I wasn’t afforded that luxury. Mine had to be a through the windscreen (aka bug cemetery) shot.
I can’t remember where we stopped again for petrol as all the towns, despite being 150 kms apart seemed to merge into one, but I do know that the next place we would stop would be Balladonia, our intended destination for the day, some 1000 kilometers from Ceduna. So, guess what we did? We did what would any rational person do on a 42 degrees day after already driving for ONE THOUSAND kilometers? They would, of course, fill up with petrol for the third time and decide to carry on for another 250 kms to Norseman.
In fairness, we had entered at least two different time zones that I knew of and so, throughout the day we had gained 2 and a half hours. How weird is that. Pretty normal for air travel, but in a car?! Gaining two and a half hours in the space of about 10 hours…that is just plain weird! So what better way to spend those hours than by knocking some more kilometers off the journey. A couple of hours later we arrived in Norseman having travelled over 1200 kilometers. Quite an achievement, even if I say so myself. It took me all my will power to not buy a t-shirt with plastic writing on the front saying ‘I crossed the Nullarbor and survived’. Even now l would be tempted if I happened to see one 😉
I have bored you enough for one day so will tell you a little more about Norseman some other time. Until then, safe travels!