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Travels

Continuing across the Nullarbor

The other day I left you on the South Australian/Western Australian border on the Eyre Highway, about half way across the Nullarbor.

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This was the full journey we were on, from Melbourne, Victoria to Bunbury in Western Australia, a trip of about 3,500 km.

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Let’s continue the journey……

Right on the border is the quarantine station. It is staffed 24 hours and stops all traffic entering Western Australia to check for produce, especially fruit and vegetables. It is to stop diseases and pests from entering WA. So the very nice young woman inspected all the nooks and crannies in the van, but, as we had already ‘donated’ at the SA/Victorian border, there was nothing to be found.

Eucla is just down the road. It is the only stop on the Nullarbor that could almost be called a village. Not only does it have the quarantine station, the usual motel/camping ground/cafe complex, but also a health service and the police. Many people visit the old telegraph station too.

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Any where is a long way from home in Eucla!

Eucla sits on top of the plateau that we have been driving on, that amazingly flat landscape.

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Just out of the town the road descends down the escarpment onto the plain below. On the South Australian side the land must have sheered off to create the cliff into the Great Australian Bight. On this section there is a coastal strip that runs alongside the escarpment for many miles. Every time I thought we were seeing the end of it, more would appear on the horizon.

This sketch was done in the car. That funny, semi-circular shape in the sky at the right is actually the moon. It was large, and the bottom edges of it dissolved into the cloud  haze.

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Now the vegetation changed again. It is more salt bush country, but with the most glorious silver, shimmery trees, with sculptured trunks and branches. I think they must be Acacia papyrocarpa or Western Myall. In his book “A guide to plants of inland Australia” Phillip Moore describes them as

“Usually a short, thick-trunked tree with a broad dense rounded silver canopy….this stately tree is most noticeable on the Nullarbor Plains and along the Stuart, Lincoln and Eyre Highways, north, south and west of Port Augusta.”

I have discovered that it is so difficult to take decent photos from a moving car. We pulled over a few times, but the trees were always better just down the road! But here are a few offerings of the acacias. (Maybe you had to be there to fully appreciate their splendour!)

The road is so flat and straight that it makes the perfect landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, if they should be needed. There are four strips along the highway. (You can see the escarpment along the horizon.)

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About 70 kms from Eucla is Mundrabilla, a windswept roadhouse and motel. Travel on about another 100 kms to go back up the escarpment at Madura. Then it seems like a short jump to Cocklebiddy, another motel/roadhouse/camping area.

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Someone here has a sense of humour, which you would need, to live in such an isolated spot!

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It’s probably the time to tell you about Nullarbor Links, the world’s longest golf course. The link will tell you much more, but is is described as

The Nullarbor Links concept is unique. The 18-hole par 72 golf course spans 1,365 kilometres with one hole in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. Each hole includes a green and tee and somewhat rugged outback-style natural terrain fairway. The course provides a quintessential Australian experience and a much-needed activity/attraction for travellers along the renowned desolate highway.

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I’m not a golfer, but if I was, I would have done the course!

There is also a cave at Cocklebiddy, which I didn’t know about until Anna mentioned in the comments from my first post. Even if I had known, I would not have gone down there! But it would be interesting to see the entrance.

Caiguna is the next  fuel stop. It is also the beginning of the straightest stretch of road in Australia ~ 146.6 km without a curve ~ which ends at Balladonia.

Balladonia’s special claim is that in July 1979 the re-entry of the Skylab space station left a trail of debris across the nearby countryside.

Then we finally pulled off the road to camp in a wayside stop. We had covered about 1000 kms since leaving Penong.

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The peace of our little camping area was so welcome. And that night the moon was so bright….magic. Worth every kilometre.

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We left with the sunrise the next morning, and reached Norseman, the end of the Nullarbor. Here the road turns north to Kalgoorlie or south to Esperance. We went south, and stopped in Esperance for a meal ~ was it breakfast? Lunch? ! Then headed on further and eventually ended up in Wagin. It was another long day, through wheat land and salt lakes, but at the end was a powered site and a shower with hot water! Blessings!

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I guess the only other thing to say is that we had to do the whole thing again on the return. You may be surprised to know that I enjoyed as much the second time! We spent New Year’s Eve camped at Moodini Bluff, another peaceful place. I wrote about it a couple of posts ago.

Thanks for coming along for the journey. It may have brought back memories, or it may have sparked an interest or it may have just been a good armchair journey!

Categories
Plants Travels

East to Menindee

I want to leave the Flinders Ranges now and head almost due east for about 500 km, to Menindee. It is a small town, about an hour south-east of Broken Hill, on the Darling River and right on the edge of the Menindee Lakes system and Kinchega National Park. It is big sky country — it is so flat that the sky arches from horizon to horizon. And it is red dirt country, semi-arid. So, why there?

Well, it is fascinating. The lakes and the river attract birds from far away. The habitats away from the water are full of secret treasures — plants, insects, reptiles. (Fortunately I didn’t see any snakes, but I know they are there.) Secret because driving past in the car it all looks like boring saltbush. But stop and investigate and a world opens up.

Once you start to explore you can see the diversity, and begin to appreciate how plants can survive in such harsh environments.

But also because it is an area that features in the Burke and Wills story. For Australians those names are legendary. For others I will explain in the next few posts who they were and why their story sent me and other botanical artists to Menindee. For now, enjoy some of the beauty of Copi Hollow, and the caravan park where we stayed.

We saw this view of the lake, Copi Hollow, every time we went outside the caravan.
Looking back to the caravan park, evening light
The beautiful evening light