Monthly Archives: December 2022

Day 202 – Monday, 12 December 2022 

As we had only a reasonable distance to travel we set the alarm for 8:30am and had left the caravan park a little after 10:00am. 

We pulled into the BP Service Station and refuelled (we forgot to do it yesterday without the caravan attached). Fuel at Burra was $2.06 cents a litre. We finally bid the township of Burra a fond goodbye at 10:11am. 

It rained last night and on into the early hours of the morning, so the night was humid. It was only a gentle rainfall but enough to wet the ground and the windows of the van. When we woke up the sun was shining brightly, but the temperature was cool. 

To leave Burra we had to climb a long incline to get out of the valley and onto the Goyder Highway, and of course it was spitting with rain again (a passing sun shower) but at least today we had a tail wind. 

Today, for the very first time while towing the caravan, the fuel range increased as we continued. Normally the fuel range will only increase when we have stopped towing the van and started out on our sightseeing adventures. We sat on a fuel range of 494 for 28 kilometres – that’s the difference between a head wind and tail wind. 

By 10:30am there were only a few clouds left in the sky and the sun was shining brightly. We went past the turn off for World’s End Highway – an amazing name once more. The highway goes to Robertstown and Eudunda in the Flinders Ranges. 

We pulled over at one stage to stretch our legs and made a chiropractic appointment for later in the week. 

When we went past Morgan the temperature sat on 23 degrees and the flood waters could be seen from the highway. At one point when we went across a floodway the water was only about one metre from the top of the road surface and almost up to spilling over the road. 

After Morgan we encountered a section of road that had been resurfaced and our speed was restricted to 60 kph. This particular stretch of roadworks extended for approximately ten kilometres, and there was another section of two kilometres in length further along the highway. We have not seen such an extensive length of roadworks since leaving the north end of NT and WA. 

They had widened the road surface and put in roadway safety barriers but had not taken the bumps out of the road before doing the works. 

We stopped on the highway near Overland Corner (which is closed due to flooding) and took several photos of the inundated floodplain stretching out before us. The road to Barmera from the Adelaide direction is also closed, but there was a road further along that was the detour. 

Once we had travelled onto the Sturt Highway just before Renmark there was a decided increase in the volume of traffic going both ways. We saw as much traffic in the first two kilometres here as we had seen for the rest of today’s journey. 

We ate part of our lunch with our coffees while driving along and then finished the rest of our lunch in the layby after Yamba. We then crossed the SA-Victoria border at 2:22pm Victorian time. 

We did have to continue down the Sturt Highway once we got to Merbein as Ranfurly Way was closed to traffic due to flooding. So, we went towards the airport then turned into Walnut Avenue before making our way along Ontario Avenue towards home. 

When we finally parked the van om pour driveway it was 4:10pm. We did notice that the roadside verges alonmg the highway between Lake Culluleraine and Merbein has been taken over with the weed – Ice Plant – which is a type of succulent, so very hardy. 

We took the rest of the afternoon off after putting the power supply back onto the van for the fridge which will not get emptied until tomorrow some time. We won’t mention all that needs to be washed. 

It was lovely to see Brett when he arrived home from work at 6:15pm, and we had already been warmly greeted by Spook and Solly. Unfortunately, Solly is losing body tone as she is getting very frail, so I don’t think we will have her with us for much longer. She also appears to have lost the sight in one eye. It is so sad to have to say goodbye to your fur babies. 

We will head across to Benalla, via Bendigo due to road closures from flooding, and stay at Mum’s place on Thursday. We will finally be able to pull our weight with the house and assist Ann and Trevor.  

Mum has tested positive to Covid, and this is the first time she has contracted the dreaded nuisance. Hopefully, she will be out of isolation by the weekend, and we can spend some time with her on Christmas Day. She has just recently moved from Respite Care to a permanent resident at ESTIA Health. 

We travelled a total of 24,015 kilometres for the 202 days we were away from home. During that time, I took 38,233 photos, while the chauffeur managed a creditable 18,505 photos for a grand total of 56,738 photos. 

Out of all those photographs we put 2,556 photos into the Best folder, so you can see how many of them were either repeats or much of a muchness, so they weren’t worthy of featuring.  

All in all, we both had a wonderful time on the road with some good moments and some not so good moments (think snake). We tried to figure out what were our most enjoyable times and which Caravan Parks were worthy of a mention.  

We both enjoyed Kalbarri NP, probably comes out right after a wonderful month in Darwin with Kaye and Bruce. And Fogg’s Dam rates a mention for our two visits and the variety of bird life found there. We also enjoyed our rambles looking for wildflowers and birds in every vicinity, and the wreathflower would have been the highlight for me, probably the orchids for Russ. And the novelty of the first time across the Nullarbor with its magnificent views at the Great Australia Bight was another highlight.  

We enjoyed Mingenew, Moora and Ravensthorpe Caravan Parks, and Coober Pedy bears an honourable mention if only because it was freezing cold, and the scenery is different to most other places. In Russell’s opinion the worst park was at Kununurra because each site was close together, and our site was over the fence from the hotel so there were bottles being collected and making noise very early in the morning. 

There is still so much to see, but next time round we will return to WA across the Nullarbor both ways (stopping at places this time) and concentrate on the south-west section where we didn’t get to go this time. 

Day 201 – Sunday, 11 December 2022 

We slept in this morning, and it was a lovely luxury. We then proceeded to laze about for most of the rest of the day, with the air conditioner going since just before 11:00am. 

Burra is a lovely town filled with lots of history. We are determined to come back and stay a few days – when it is cooler, says Russ. 

We both had a chat with mum who is sounding much more settled. We both told her we were looking forward to seeing her as soon as we can get across to Benalla once we are home. 

Brett had a good party with his friends who are all turning up again today for a BBQ lunch to celebrate Jimmy’s birthday – Brett’s mate, and a thoroughly lovely guy. 

I took most of the afternoon to get the diary entries in order and onto the computer and Russ watched some movies. 

As much as we have enjoyed every moment of our journey it will be good to get home once again. Hopefully the flood waters will not cause too much hassle around the Riverina area and Lake Cullulleraine. We will have to take the longer route to the airport at Mildura as parts of Merbein and most of Ranfurly Way are closed to traffic. 

Day 200 – Saturday, 10 December 2022

Happy birthday, Brett. 

First thing this morning we sent birthday greetings to Brett who is having a BBQ tonight with some of his friends. He said he has cleaned the house from top to bottom. 

At 9:57am we drove out of Kimba and the temperature was already 30 degrees. 

As out travel had been hectic, and we actually have a booking at Burra for two nights, we decided to have a bit of a sleep-in and woke up with the alarm at 8:30am. 

There is a gusty and hot northerly wind blowing and a fire warning for both Kimba and Burra areas. 

We travelled a total of 366 kilometres today and a lot of the travel time was with a head wind with lots of climbing. 

We also had a bit of a scare today. A very large road train was approaching from the opposite direction (lots of wind remember) and as he passed us by a large piece of bark flew off one of the trees and hit our windscreen with a very loud bang. We almost had to change out underwear. 

There is also a lot more roadkill on this section of the Eyre Highway, but then, it is also in a more populated area so more road traffic. 

At 11:04am we drove past Iron Knob. The country here reminds me of some of Namatjira’s paintings. 

We travelled past a lace monitor crossing the highway and it was a point of interest as the tip of its tail was white. 

When we reached Port Augusta the temperature was registering 35 degrees. We re-fuelled here and noted we had descended quite some height down to three metres above sea level. 

Russ also checked the total kilometres travelled on this trip and so far we gone 23,473 kilometres with more to be added before we reach home. 

Horrock’s Pass begins shortly after you leave Port Augusta. It was even worse than the first time we came through going the other way at the start of this journey. The climb from the Port Augusta side is very steep all the way up to 480 metres above sea level, and with a head wind it made for interesting driving conditions. 

We concurred that if you have to travel this Pass it is much better to do it from the other side on the way to Port Augusta. In any future travel we will look at an alternate way to leave Port Augusta on the way home. 

Just outside of Port Augusta we came across another one of the interesting town names – Winnowie. IT appears that strange names were contagious in the early settlers’ days. 

When we had reached Port Augusta we had closed the circle of our travel for the trip. Horrock’s Pass was going over already traversed ground and I think of it as the handle to the loop (so to speak). From this point on the GPS positioning on the map will look like a squiggle. 

After Horrock’s Pass we ventured into new territory for us and took a different pathway to Burra, coming down to 340 metres along the way. 

We had held off lunch until we had passed through Port Augusta so now we ate our breakfast biscuits and had our coffee before stopping to complete our lunch outside the cemetery at Melrose. 

We had now changed direction to the southeast and had a much-desired tailwind, so fuel economy improved out of sight. 

Melrose is the oldest town in the Flinders Ranges of SA. The town was once named Mt Remarkable as it rests in the mountains’ foothills, and we went past an awesome array of beautiful river red gums along the way. 

History has several explanations for the origin of the name Melrose for the town. One states that a surveyor named the town after George Melrose who had assisted him when he was ill.  

Another explanation offered is that a landowner, Alexander Campbell and his family, settled in the area in 1844 and named the region after his hometown of Melrose in Scotland. 

An historian, Geoff Manning, has found that the town was located on a property claimed by the Mt Remarkable Mining Company, and it was subdivided in 250 sections of 80 hectares each in the 1850s. However, he is convinced that a prominent director of the Mining Company, staunchly Scottish, named it for Melrose in the Roxburgshire. We may never know the true story. 

The Police Station in Melrose in those early days was not only the first permanent police station in the region, but the base of the largest police district in the world – a constable, two troopers and an Aboriginal tracker were responsible for an area that extended into the Timor Sea. 

After we had continued on our way out of Melrose we went past a Dust Bowl Road. It is probably a very apt description as we were travelling through grain country and at this time of the year is very dry. 

Murray Town was our next location on our travels. It is located on the east of the lower Flinders’ Ranges and was settled in 1883. It served as a rest stop for bullock and horse teams carting grain to Port Germain. 

Today, it has a population of just 58 people. The buildings are mostly from early settler’s period and have been well maintained and updated tastefully. 

The town was named for Alexander Murray who introduced the Murray Merino sheep breed. The local hotel has not been open for many years. 

On our travels Russ say a magpie kill a starling. 

We passed other town along the way – Wongyarra and Wirrabarra. Apparently the caravan park at Wirrabarra is excellent. 

While pulled over at the side of the road for a leg break I found a beautiful flower that will undoubtedly turn out to be a weed, and we watched a canola field being direct harvested, but I could not get a good photo as there were trees and bushes in the way, and without gaitors on I was not going into the scrub at the fence line. 

Further along the way we watched the cool change pass us with a few drops of rain in celebration, but it remained overcast although the wind dropped. The temperature was still sitting at 30 degrees. 

After the township of Spalding, we started to climb once more but it was a much gentle climb than Horrock’s Pass. 

Spalding is located north of the Clare Valley and has a population of 215 people. It is mainly a farming community and his home to a slate quarry. 

We then turned east before once again heading in a south easterly direction on the Barrier Highway. The surface is not good at all and has become even worse than the first time we travelled it in this journey. There are now huge potholes making it extremely hazardous to safe travel and is urgently in need of major repairs. 

We finally arrived in Burra around 2:00pm and set up quickly. The park is a long slender one without much shade, but I was warmly welcomed by Aaron in the office when we got here. 

The air conditioner went on as soon as there was power to the van. It is not worth putting the awning out for the remainder of the day and tomorrow as we would then have to pull it down again. 

We opened the van up after tea – we went out and Russ got a hamburger with the lot (no onions), and I got a chicken schnitzel with mushroom gravy and chips. It was a reasonable cost and tasted delicious. 

I then went through the photos I had taken and pulled out the best ones for later upload. 

Day 199 – Friday, 9 December 2022 

We fell asleep pretty early as we were both tired from our travel, even though our body clocks were still on WA time. When we woke up this morning the sun was shining brightly in a very blue sky. The park was dark and quiet overnight, which is how we prefer it. 

When we pulled out of Penong at 8:14 am the temperature was already sitting at 23 degrees, and the Eyre Highway now has significant shoulders in excellent condition. 

We encountered a very friendly road train driver – twice – and he was happy to chat on the UHF radio. When Russ indicated the way ahead was clear for him to pass he called to say he was carrying 2.3 tonnes of fuel and would need a bit more time to get up to speed, and thanked Russ for the indication. 

Later along the way we gave him the clear ahead signal and then slowed down as he proceeded past us, and he thanked us and wished us safe travels. He indicated that he would be home by nighttime. 

We chatted to him later at Ceduna when we both pulled into re-fuel at the OTR, and then again as we repeated the process of passing us further along the highway. 

We were heading in a south easterly direction when we arrived at Ceduna, and fuel was $2.17 a litre there. We also took the opportunity to change over drivers and I began my stint. We turned to the east for a short time before coming back to a south easterly direction. 

By 11:00am the temperature was 28 degrees. I had to pull off the road completely at one stage to allow two very large semi-trailers to go past. They were transporting enormous mine trucks with ginormous tipper trays but without their tyres and took up most of both lanes of the road. They were being escorted by two pilot vehicles (one in front and one at the back) and two police vehicles. Russ took photos. 

We travelled through typical grain and sheep country and some of the town names we passed were almost as good as WA ones. In no particular order we passed Mudamuckla, Nunjikompita, Puntable, Pimbacia, Wirrulla, Yantanabie, Cungena, Poochera, Yaninee, Buckleboo and Pygery. 

Most of the Eyre Highway travelled has been in good order except for a couple of spots of wear and tear. 

We passed a monument at Koongawa, via Kyancutta, (love the names) called Darke’s Monument. It is close by a small town called Darke Peak and takes its name from the explorer, John Charles Darke, who was injured in a spear attach by previously friendly local Aboriginal people whilst travelling through the area in October 1844. 

He died the next day and was buried at the foot of the large peak. Governor Grey (of SA) expressed a wish that some landform in the region of the grave be named to honour him, so we have the town and a monument. Darke was the first European explorer of this area. 

The monument reads, “Sacred to the memory of John Charles Darke, Surveyor, who was mortally wounded by the Natives when exploring in this locality. Erected by South Australian Government, 1910.” The grave site was restored in 1994. 

Darke Peak was named by Thomas Evans who performed a trigonometrical survey of the Gawler Ranges in 1865. The Peak is 1,564 feet high. 

We had lunch at a wayside stop outside Wudinna and changed over drivers again, then topped up the fuel in town. We have climbed steadily since Ceduna, got up to 148 metres above sea level at Minippa and at Wudinna we had come down to 89 metres. From there we climbed further so that by the time we arrived at Kimba Caravan Park we were at 272 metres above sea level. 

However, there was a major disappointment – there was no white lion! (Brett assures me that only those born before 1990 will even get that reference). 

We decided to have another early night and went to bed soon after tea. 

Day 198 – Thursday, 8 December 2022 

Happy birthday to my dad who would have been 107 years old if he was still with us today. 

We left Eucla at 8:12am and the temperature was sitting on 15 degrees. The day was overcast, and it was spitting rain with a chill breeze. 

The Eyre Highway now runs on top of the escarpment, and we can see the sea from the cliff tops of the Great Australia Bight. 

We entered Border Village where we did not have to stop at all going into SA, but there were cars waiting to go through into WA. Apparently the SA government finds it very difficult to get staff at the Border Village as it is so far away from everything on the SA side, and so then we had to stop and be inspected just before Ceduna by the biosecurity staff.  

I thought that having par-boiled the potatoes was a bust at the border but was glad that I had done so as they passed inspection at Ceduna. A lovely young girl did the inspection and wished us a Happy Christmas as we were leaving. 

Much to Russ’ disappointment (again) the policeman waved us through the Breathalyser Station just past the inspection gates. We promptly lost another one hour and forty-five minutes, so we jumped from 8:18am to 10:03 am. Weird on the body clock. 

From Ceduna we climber slowly but steadily to reach 148 metres above sea level at Minippa, and the odometer clocked over the 109,000-kilometre mark along the way. 

At Wudinna we had climber down again to just 89 metres, but then continued to climb once more on the way to Kimba. 

Along the way we stopped off at one of the viewing platforms to take photos of the cliffs of the Great Australia Bight from the top of the escarpment. 

We travelled about 160 kilometres with the vegetation on the treeless plain being salt and blue bushes, before we entered grasslands dotted with the occasional small tree. The Nullarbor Plain is a tribute to the tenacity of Mother Nature. 

Once in the grasslands it stopped spitting with rain. 

We refuelled at Yalata where diesel was $2.21 per litre. The township of Nullarbor is ninety-eight kilometres before Yalata when travelling from WA and, if we had joined the queue there, we would have been paying $2.98 per litre. 

At 11:59 am (new SA time) at Yalata the temperature had reached 24 degrees and it was still overcast. 

We stopped for lunch at Nullarbor in the carpark area, and I took over driving for the next hour. So far, the Eyre Highway is in excellent condition. 

We drove past many bores, wells and windmills. At Nardoo the surrounding vegetation changed again, and we were back in grain country, so fairly flat with an occasional hill here and there. 

About thirty kilometres south of Penong we reached 230 metres above sea level and then climbed higher to 272 metres around the town of Balumbah. 

Today we travelled 384 kilometres which takes our total travel for the last four days up to 1,715 kilometres. No wonder we are feeling a bit tired. 

The caravan park at Kimba is very nice and well set out. The staff were friendly and very welcoming. Penong is home to the largest windmill in Australia. 

The Penong Windmill Museum opened in September 2016 and has featured in several publications including Australian Geographic, Weekly Times and RM Williams Outback Magazine. 

It had over 40,000 visitors in its first year and now attracts up to one hundred people on a good day. It is a tribute to the farmer’s whirling workhorse that nowadays had mostly been replaced by solar panels. 

The museum is outdoors at the side of the Eyre Highway and features a unique collection of around twenty donated and restored windmills from as far away as Marla, the Riverland and Alice Springs. 

Restoration work is performed by community volunteers. It had won the KESAB (Keep South Australia Beautiful) Best Community Project Award in its first year of operation. 

The small community of Penong has a regular population of around 75 people. It is a popular stopover on the iconic Nullarbor Crossing. 

‘Bruce’ is the biggest windmill in Australia. It was built in 1932 and first used by the Commonwealth Railways at the McKinnon Dam to provide water for the railways at Kultanaby Railway Siding. It was later purchased by Coondamo station in 1977 and used until 2003 when the fan of the windmill was destroyed by high winds. 

It was resurrected and restored in 2016 and called ‘Big Bruce’ after Bruce Nutt, the owner, who has loaned it to the Museum. 

Bruce was one of fifteen 35-foot Comet windmills made and one of only two erected outside of Queensland. It is capable of drawing water from 150 metres and pumping over one million litres a day, or 250,000 gallons. 

The Museum is preserving an important part of farming history. A swing sits among the windmills which, at first, seems out of place. However, a closer look reveals that taking a swing activates the water pump and water begins to flow (I didn’t get to have a swing this trip as we had a long way to travel in the day). 

I put all the washing into the machine and got it done, and then used the dryer for everything except the socks. I was afraid I might run out of jeggings before I got home, and Russ was out of singlets (not that we are expecting to need that from here on, but you just never can tell.) 

Chatted to several ladies in the laundry while waiting for the loads to finish. 

Day 197 – Wednesday, 7 December 2022 

We were very obviously tired after yesterday’s travels. We were in bed by 9:15pm (8:30 on WA time) and sounds asleep shortly after that. In fact, the caravan park inhabitants all left, and we didn’t hear a thing. 

We decided on a lazy day of catchups. I completed typing the diary entries into the computer and Russ then printed them out ready for posting tomorrow. Eucla does not have even a post box so it will be in Penong. 

I also took the time to parboil my potatoes so I can take them across the border tomorrow. 

We re-fuelled the car in the later part of the afternoon and uploaded the latest photos to the website. Russ sent out the emails with the diary entries and we also caught up with all things electronic, emails, text messages and news reports. 

We had a chat with Trev and Ann who provided us with an update on mum and her affairs. 

The caravan’s water tanks are half full and hopefully, we will have an opportunity to top them up when we stay at Penong overnight. If not there, we will hang out for Kimba. 

Another early night is on the cards as we need an early start in the morning. We will lose time going through the border check point and then more time as we cross the border between SA and WA. 

The manager here at the park in Eucla talks very slowly and distinctly. As I paid for the fuel he told me never to drink vodka with Russians and Serbians. I looked at him enquiringly and he said many years ago he went across to France to learn about wine making. 

One evening in France he went out drinking with some Russians and Serbians and woke up enlisted in the French Foreign Legion – I kid you not. 

During his time with the Legion, he saw a lot of action, and at one point he was shot. He was starting to straighten up after picking something up from the ground and the bullet travelled from the centre of his neck up across his head – I saw the scars. 

When he recovered and left the Legion he had lost some of his vision and hearing and had to learn how to walk and talk once more. He has three screws in one leg and plates across the front of his rib area. 

Day 196 – Tuesday, 6 December 2022

The alarm went off again at 7:00am. As previously noted, we have to carry our own supply of drinking water and have full tanks for the beginning of the journey across the Nullarbor. A such I had a thorough wash in the basin, but Russ insisted he have a shower.

By 8:13am we were leaving Balladonia Roadhouse in a light mizzle which had been falling most of the early hours of the morning, and the temperature was sitting on 16 degrees.

We had battled a side wind yesterday, and we battled a side wind again today. Even travelling at 80 kilometres per hour our fuel economy took a hit. We used 17.9 litre per 100 kilometres when we generally sit between 15 and 16. It all makes a difference, and this is the worst fuel economy so far for this trip.

Today we actually overtook a van towed by a ute which had a motor bike tied down in the well. He was going heaps slower than we were. It is the little things like this that make for interest to us on the trip.

So far there had been no dump points along the way, so we pinned our hopes on one of the 24-hour Rest Areas. The first one we came to was locked because it was full, and there were several other vans beside us who were beginning to get a bit worried.

We can generously thank Colin and Mary that we were not in the same boat as one of their gems of advice had been to buy a second cassette, which we had done.

The dump point at the next 24-hour Rest Area was open so we made use of the facility before continuing along.

Because our day’s travel was the longest stretch Russ and I shared the driving, each doing an hour block before changing over. The ENE wind was causing very difficult driving conditions.

We encountered much more traffic going both ways today than we had yesterday, and by mid-morning the sun had come out to play although there were still some clouds around.

Let me just state here that ‘The Nullarbor is not flat!’ It rises and falls up to ten metres as you travel along.

While I was doing the driving today I actually got some waves from the truckies, and there were lots of big rigs on the road both ways.

We travelled along further east and onto the beginning of the longest straight stretch of road in Australia – 146 kilometres (or 90 miles) of black bitumen lined by mallee scrub and not a bend in sight.

If you start this journey from Kalgoorlie, which many people do, you can begin to play the World’s Longest Golf Course.

The Nullarbor Links golf course in WA’s Golden Outback has captured the imagination of the world. This unique 18-hole par 72 golf course spans 1,365 kilometres from Kalgoorlie to Ceduna in South Australia. A single hole can be played in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, each featuring a green, a tee and a fairway of rugged outback natural terrain.

Providing a quintessential Australian experience, the Nullarbor Links golf course is a unique attraction to the great Australian drive across the Nullarbor Plain. The course is clearly signposted, with golfing equipment available for hire at every tee.

A couple of the bigger places have two holes.

Hole 1 – Kalgoorlie – Cy O’Connor is Par 4 and Hole 2 – Golden Mile is Par 5.

Hole 3 – Kambalda – Silver Lake is Par 4.

Hole 4 – Widgiemooltha – Golden Eagle is Par 3.

Hole 5 – Norseman – Ngadju is Par 5 and Hole 6 – Golden Horse is Par 4.

Hole 7 – Balladonia – Skylab is Par 3.

Hole 8 – Caiguna – 90 Mile Straight is Par 4,

Hole 9 – Cocklebiddy – Eagle’s Nest is Par 4.

Hole 10 – Madura – Brumby’s Run is Par 3.

Hole 11 – Mundrabilla – Watering Hole is Par 3.

Hole 12 – Eucla – Nullabor Nymph is Par 4.

Hole 13 – Border Village – Border Kangaroo is Par 3.

Hole 14 – Nullarbor – Dingo’s Den is Par 5.

Hole 15 – Nundroo – Wombat Hole is Par 5.

Hole 16 – Penong – Windmills is Par 4.

Hole 17 – Ceduna – Denial Bay is Par 4 and Hole 18 – Oyster Beds is Par 5.

And no, we didn’t play the hole at Eucla. In my opinion golf is a game spoilt by the white ball and I am hopeless at it.

I forgot to mention previously at Ravensthorpe when we were visiting the Fitzgerald River National Park for the last time, Russ picked up a hitch hiker. We found a large tick on the back of his right arm above his elbow.

We travelled through almost continuous stretches of salt bush interspersed with shrubs and small trees. We haven’t yet encountered any area that did not have some form of vegetation growing on it.

After Cocklebiddy we began a slow and steady climb up one side of the Hampton Tablelands and after Madura we went through the Madura Pass to the other side of the Tablelands. I was driving at this stage, so Russ was our photographer – there are lots of photos of trees (it was the play of shadow and sunlight amongst the top of the branches that captured his attention).

We came across two separate instances where a crow was being attacked by a minor at the edge of the road, and there was a surprising amount of bird life to be seen.

Apparently just before Caiguna is a blowhole, the entrance to a subterranean cave system which extends more than 20 km to the coast. Air chilled by the ocean is drawn through the caves until it makes its escape through these holes in the limestone and the breeze coming out of the blowhole is cool and refreshing.

According to the sign at Caiguna Roadhouse, this remote outpost on the highway is the hub of the universe!

The flat expanse of the Roe Plains lies between the escarpment of the Hampton Tablelands and the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight.

Once across the top of the Hampton Tablelands at Madura Pass it became very sunny. The Tablelands were an unexpected development as there is no literature about them to be found, and once down on the plain once more you could see how the land drops from the plateau. The

Tablelands stretch alongside the Eyre Highway for approximately 180 kilometres and maintain their average height of about 90 metres.

Occasionally the highway doubles as an emergency airstrip when the Royal Flying Doctor needs to land. The landing zone is clearly marked and if there is going to be an emergency landing the road is temporarily closed beforehand. The cleared spaces on either side of the highway are turning bays for the aircraft. We passed four of them.

There are free camps on the side of the highway for truckies and for travellers.

The highway parallels the escarpment of the Hampton Tablelands as it crosses the Roe Plains. When sea levels dropped 25 million years ago these cliffs and plains, made from the skeletons of sea creatures combined with layers of sand, emerged from the Southern Ocean.

The limestone shelf, up to 700 metres deep, was eroded by wind and water to form the cliffs and sand dunes of the Great Australian Bight. At the eastern end of the Roe Plains the road rises again to the pass at Eucla where we see the Great Australian Bight and the vast Southern Ocean for the first time.

Along the way Russ saw a Wedge-Tailed Eagle but forgot he was the photographer at the time. I saw one later while he was driving but it was too high up to be able to get a shot. We also sighted two dead kangaroos, one dead fox and one dead emu – no camels to be seen either dead or alive despite all the road signs.

Our total distance travelled today was 520 kilometres. We were able to choose our own site at the Eucla Caravan Park where there is power but no water, and a shower will cost you $1 for five minutes of water.

It was blowing a harsh, heavy wind when we finally arrived here and although the temperature reached 24 degrees it didn’t feel very warm if you were standing in the wind.’

And no one ever told us about Central West Australian Standard Time!!!

When I went to book into the caravan park the gentleman I spoke with was very quick to advise me that time here is different to other zones. Here we are 45 minutes ahead of Perth, one and a half hours behind SA

and two hours and fifteen minutes behind Victoria – just to make life totally confusing.

We ended up having tea as soon as we had set up so that we could fall into bed as early as possible. It was a thoroughly exhausting day.

Day 195 – Monday, 5 December 2022

The alarm blared out at 7:00am to get us straight out of bed. It was overcast with patches of mizzle and the temperature was 18 degrees when we left the Bushland Holiday Park for the last time at 8:11am.

We headed north on the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway until we got to Norseman, passing through several small (read tiny) towns, and some that were there during the heyday of the steam trains.

The Welcome sign at Grass Patch was very impressive and would be one of my favourites of the trip. However, there is no grass in Grass Patch. Rather, it reminds me very much of places like Walpeup – great community spirit but not a lot of cash to splash, so to speak. The area is covered with lovely mallee scrub and the town possesses the biggest grain collection area we have seen for such a small place.

From Esperance we climbed up to 231 metres above sea level, which took us two hours, and then it was a progression of hills and dales where the sand dunes were located. We also had a cross wind blowing which made driving a more difficult proposition.

I never knew that there was a Mildura in WA until we were almost at Norseman, and it appeared on the map. It is located about ten kilometres southeast of Norseman and it was not on the road we travelled so we did not pass through it.

At 10:54am the sun was shining, and the temperature had reached 26 degrees. We had passed a Poverty Lane (imagine how that one got its name) and the towns of Widgiemooltha and Speddingup.

By 11:09am we had re-fuelled at Norseman and turned northeast onto the Eyre Highway (Highway Number 1). Diesel at Norseman was $2.27 a litre.

We then came across Jimberlana Hill and Bekker Hill in the distance before reaching the Southern Hills 24 Hour Rest Area at Fraser Range West where we had lunch. We were still 110 kilometres from our designated overnight stop at Balladonia Roadhouse. We reached this august spot around 2:00pm, refuelled once more ($2.76 a litre) and managed to get there early enough to score a powered site, about which we were very happy as the air-conditioner went on for a couple of hours.

The area around here is spotted with large, dry salt lake beds.

When the explorer Edward John Eyre completed his crossing of the Nullarbor Plain in 1841, he described it as “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams”. Perhaps his opinion was coloured by his experiences. Three of his horses died of dehydration, his expedition partner John Baxter was murdered by two Aborigines and the rest of the party took seven months to complete the crossing from east to west.

Travelling by car when crossing the Nullarbor makes the journey faster and easier than Eyre had it. It’s an iconic adventure and, despite Eyre’s lack of enthusiasm, there is plenty to see along the way.

The Nullarbor Plain, the world’s largest area of limestone bedrock, begins at Norseman in Western Australia and ends at Ceduna in South Australia. The word Nullarbor is derived from the Latin words nullus meaning ‘no’ and arbor meaning ‘tree’ and, although the first section is covered by eucalypt forest, saltbush and bluebush scrub dominate the land for much of the journey. The plain extends over an area of 200,000 square kilometres and the actual treeless part is more than a day’s drive from Norseman but covered by low-lying scrubland.

At its widest point, it stretches about 1,100 kilometres from east to west across the border between SA and WA.

Historically, the Nullarbor was seasonally occupied by Indigenous Australian people, the Mirning clans and Yinyila people. Traditionally, the area was called Oondiri, which is said to mean “the waterless”.

Edward John Eyre became the first European to successfully cross the Nullarbor. He departed Fowler’s Bay on 17 November 1840 with John Baxter and a party of three Aboriginal men. When three of his horses died of dehydration, he returned to Fowler’s Bay. He departed with a second expedition on 25 February 1841.

By 29 April, the party had reached Caiguna. Lack of supplies and water led to a mutiny and two of the Aboriginal men killed Baxter and took the party’s supplies.

Eyre and the third Aboriginal man, Wylie, continued on their journey, surviving through bushcraft and some fortuitous circumstances such as receiving some supplies from a French whaling vessel anchored at Rossiter Bay. They completed their crossing in June 1841.

Some agricultural interests are on the fringe of the plain including the 2.5-million-acre (1-million-hectare) Rawlinna Station, the largest sheep station in the world, on the WA side of the plain.

The property has a short history compared to other properties of its type around Australia, having been established in 1962 by Hugh G. MacLachlan, of the South Australian pastoral family (think Hamish and Gil and you will have the family).

An older property is Madura Station, situated closer to the coast. It covers 1.7 million acres (690,000 ha) and is also stocked with sheep.

Madura was established prior to 1927; the extent of the property at that time was reported as two million acres (810,000 hectares).

In 2013, a huge area of the Nullarbor Plain, stretching almost 200 km from the WA border to the Great Australian Bight, was proclaimed as the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area under the Wilderness Protection Act 1992 (SA). It doubled the area of land in South Australia under environmental protection to 1.8 million hectares. The area contains 390 species of plants and a large number of habitats for rare species of animals and birds.

The Nullarbor Plain is a former shallow seabed.

One theory is that the whole area was uplifted by crustal movements in the Miocene, and since then, erosion by wind and rain has reduced its thickness. The plain has most likely never had any major defining topographic features, resulting in the extremely flat terrain across the plain today.

In areas, the southern ocean blows through many caves, resulting in blowholes up to several hundred metres from the coast. The Murrawijinie Cave in SA is open to the public, but most of the Nullarbor Caves on the WA side can only be visited and viewed with a permit from the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

The Nullarbor is known for extensive meteorite deposits, which are extremely well preserved in the arid climate. In particular, many meteorites have been discovered around Mundrabilla, some up to several tonnes in weight.

Frequently the Nullarbor is expanded in tourist literature and web-based material to loosely refer to all the land between Adelaide, SA and Perth, WA. Through observing satellite images, the limits of the limestone formation of the plain can be seen to stretch from approximately 20 kilometres west of the original Balladonia settlement (now abandoned) to its easternmost limit a few kilometres west of the town of Ceduna.

Vegetation in the area is primarily low saltbush and bluebush scrub.

The fauna of the Nullarbor includes communities of crustaceans, spiders, and beetles adapted to the darkness of the Nullarbor Caves and the underground rivers and lakes that run through them.

Mammals of the desert include the southern hairy-nosed wombat, which shelters from the hot sun by burrowing into the sands, as well as typical desert animals such as red kangaroos and dingoes.

An elusive subspecies of the Australian masked owl, unique to the Nullarbor, is known to roost in the many caves on the plain. The grasslands of the Nullarbor are suitable for some sheep grazing and are also damaged by rabbits. The caves provide roosts to large colonies of wattled microbats.

32% of the ecoregion is in protected areas which include the Great Victoria Desert Nature Reserve, Nullarbor National Park, Nullarbor Regional Reserve and the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area. The latter three of these protected areas are administered by SA.

The need for a communications link across the continent was the spur for the development of an east–west crossing. Once Eyre had proved that a link between the two states was possible, efforts to connect them via telegraph began.

In 1877, after two years of labour, the first messages were sent on the new telegraph line, boosted by eight repeater stations along the way. The line operated for about 50 years before being superseded, and remnants of it remain visible.

The railway line of the Trans-Australian Railway crosses the Nullarbor Plain from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Construction of the line began in 1917, when two teams set out from Kalgoorlie in WA and Port Augusta in SA, meeting in the centre of the Plain at Ooldea, an uninhabited area noted for a water supply.

This original line suffered severe problems with track flexing and settling in the desert sands, and journeys across the Plain were slow and arduous. The line was entirely rebuilt in 1969, as part of a project to standardise the previously disparate rail gauges in the various states, and the first crossing of the Nullarbor on the new line reached Perth on 27 February 1970. The Indian Pacific is a regular passenger train crossing the Nullarbor from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide.

The railway line has the longest straight section of railway in the world (478 km).

Most of the inhabited areas of the Nullarbor Plain can be found in a series of small settlements located along the railway, and in small settlements along the Eyre Highway that provide services to travellers, mostly spaced between one and two hundred kilometres apart.

The Eyre Highway, which connects Norseman to Port Augusta, was carved across the continent in 1941. At first it was little more than a rough track but was gradually sealed over the next thirty years. The last unsealed section of the Eyre Highway was completed in 1976. Unlike the railway, though, it crosses the plain at its southernmost edge rather than through the centre.

The unsealed Transline Road closely follows the Trans-Australian Railway, running all the way from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta and onward. It services the numerous cattle and sheep stations that populate the Western side of the Nullarbor and affords access to rail maintenance teams. It is a brutally rough road and—despite the amount of traffic it carries—is apparently poorly maintained.

The Nullarbor represents the boundary between eastern and western Australia, regardless of the travel method.

Crossing the Nullarbor in the 1950s and earlier was a significant achievement, as most of the route then was a dirt track of variable quality and caused real hazards to the motorist. It presented one of the major challenges in Round-Australia car trials (the Redex and Ampol Trials) and gave photographers many opportunities for shots of daring driving and motoring misfortune.

The Nullarbor features in the Australian 1981 thriller film Roadgames. The film was directed by Richard Franklin and starred Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. It has often been cited as one of the best Hitchcock films Alfred Hitchcock never made.

By Bicycle – On 25 December 1896, after an arduous journey of thirty-one days, Arthur Charles Jeston Richardson became the first cyclist to cross the Nullarbor Plain, pedalling his bicycle from Coolgardie to Adelaide. Carrying only a small kit and a waterbag, he followed the

telegraph line as he crossed the Nullarbor. He later described the heat as “1,000 degrees in the shade”.

In 1937 Hubert Opperman set a record fastest time of 13 days, 10 hours and 11 minutes for the transcontinental crossing from Fremantle to Sydney. His time cut five days off the previous record.

During their three-year cycling trip around Australia between 1946 and 1949, Wendy Law Stuart and Shirley Duncan became the first women to cycle across the Plain.

Between 29 June and 3 July 2015, brothers Tyron and Aaron Bicknell recorded the fastest-known crossing of the Nullarbor Plain on single speed bicycles. Their ride took advantage of the low temperatures in the Australian winter months and was completed over 4 days, 5 hours and 21 minutes, making it one of the fastest bicycle crossings and the fastest done with a single-geared bike.

The first non-Indigenous person to walk across Australia from the west to the east coast, Henri Gilbert, crossed the Nullarbor Plain on foot, with no support team or stock, in the middle of summer. His walk across Australia, from Fremantle to Brisbane, was achieved between August 1897 and December 1898.

For two winter months in 1985, six young Jesus Christians walked 1,600 kilometres from Port Augusta to Norseman without taking any food, water, additional clothing or a support vehicle- although supplies were given to them by passing motorists.

In 1998, runner Robert Garside ran across the Nullarbor without a formal support crew, as part of an authenticated run around the world. Unconventionally, Garside obtained water and other support from “passing traffic” who would leave water cached ahead for him at agreed drop-offs, to achieve the feat.

In 2010, columnist Dan Koeppel ran the 320 kilometre heart of the Nullarbor with a friend the same way, to vindicate Garside. Garside commented in his diary, that “the key to running the Nullarbor turned out to be Australian hospitality”, and Koeppel concurred that “From an armchair it is completely impossible to run the Nullarbor. Once you’re out there, however, there is a way”.

Crossing the Nullarbor by car means travelling 1,200 kilometres on the Eyre Highway, named for Edward John Eyre who was the first European to cross the plain. There are no real towns between Norseman and Ceduna; isolated roadhouses separated by hundreds of kilometres supply fuel, basic supplies, and camping. Water availability is limited, and travellers need to ensure they are carrying plenty.

100 kilometres east of Norseman is Fraser Range Station, once a working sheep station and now a campground. The granite hills of Fraser Range rise up out of the Great Western Woodlands, the world’s largest hardwood eucalypt forest.

A further 90 kilometres east at the Cultural Heritage Museum at Balladonia Hotel/Motel and Roadhouse, there are interactive displays about the history of the area, from the indigenous peoples to the pioneers and cameleers who first settled in the area. One fascinating exhibit details the crash landing of Skylab. They have a piece of debris from the NASA spacecraft which fell to Earth near Balladonia in July 1979.

Several more vans and motorhomes joined us in the caravan park during the remainder of the afternoon, and by teatime the wind had become very cool, so we were able to turn off the air-conditioner and open the windows for a while.

While Russ was napping I chatted with Jeannie as we now have some access to both phone signal and internet – thank goodness.

Day 194 – Sunday, 4 December 2022

It rained in the early hours of the morning. Luckily it woke me up so that I could go outside and remove the towels from the clothesline, so they didn’t get any damper.

As I was finishing up my shower I glanced out the kitchen window this morning to spot two minors. One was hanging tightly to the awning rope trying to catch the drops of water as they fell, and the other one sat on the clothesline trying to get drops of water off the pegs. That one was in a much slippery area, and it was quite amusing to watch it’s antics.

After my shower I headed over to the laundry and placed the items from the clothesline into the dryer. It takes $2 for a twenty-minute drying cycle and the washing machines are $3 a load, and usually take about 25 minutes.

We then travelled to our favourite roadside spot for good reception and rang mum for a chat. It is funny how many cars slowed right down when they spotted us there. The drivers must think we were an unmarked police car.

After talking to mum, we went and fuelled up and then we started out along the Great Ocean Drive again. Russ thought that with the overcast and mizzle it was possible that the wave action would be better than last time in the sunshine. It wasn’t. However, we did get to see a group of three kite boarders and got some shots of them before deciding the rest of the Drive would be a bust.

Once back at the caravan park we took down the awning, took up the matting and then positioned the car ready for tomorrow’s hook up. We also walked along the track at the caravan park to familiarise ourselves with where we would need to travel after reversing from our site, as other people have arrived and blocked some of the passage out.

Day 193 – Saturday, 3 December 2022

We had to race into town to do our shopping when we found out that Woolworths (and all other stores) did n ot open on Sundays in Esperance.

We also spent time in the car with our computers. It is definite that we will leave Esperance tomorrow and start on our way home. Luckily, the dump point is not far from where we get the hot spot for internet and phone coverage, so we emptied the cassette also in preparation. The stopover areas ahead do not have dump point capabilities.

It started out as a sunny day but became overcast in the afternoon. Once back at the caravan park I did the washing (nothing available ahead of us). When I took the clothes off the line later some of them were still damp, so I put up my clothesline, partially under the cover of the awning in case of rain and pegged out the clothes and towels.

We had an early night to prepare out internal clocks for the early morning alarms in our days ahead