I’m breaking this trip up into multiple posts. Check out Part One.
Crossing the Nullarbor: An “In-Tents” Ten Days
March 6th – March 8th, 2010
Day 4 – Koonalda Homestead to Western Nullarbor
It rained a bit overnight, which is a bit of a shock when you’re in a swag and all of a sudden your head gets wet while your body stays dry. I had to pick up and join everyone else on the covered veranda of the abandoned homestead.
At sunrise while everyone else was eating breakfast and taking down their tents, I took a tour through another abandoned car graveyard, as well as the main house on the homestead. A rather upsetting discovery was the homestead’s toilet, which hasn’t flushed in 20+ years, yet some visitors keep trying to use it with disastrous results.
Nobody realized I had wandered off from the main group, and a few times people who ran off into the bush to do their morning business ended up positioned behind shrubs such that while the main group couldn’t see them, I got an eyeful from my vantage point. Anywhere else there would have been plenty of trees between me and these people taking their A.M. constitutional… aah, the joys of the Nullarbor.
It was to be another big day of driving with few stops (800+ kilometers for the day), so we decided to give the old, unpaved highway a try for an hour or so, since it eventually met up with the modern highway before the South Australia / Western Australia state line. Ow. Bumps galore. Driving cross-country must have been incredibly painful before the new highway was put in. As a plus, we saw some wombats and dingoes as we drove along.
The agricultural border checkpoint was no joke — no fresh fruits, vegetables or honey are allowed to cross the state line. We stopped before the border and feasted on as many oranges and bananas as we could, throwing the rest into the trash. Officials actually boarded our bus and searched all of our bags for contraband, which felt like a bit much since I’ve never had to stop at the station on the California/Nevada border. We saw a guy in the SUV next to us get busted with a few giant tubs of honey in his trunk — he looked like he was about to cry as they confiscated it and wrote him a ticket.
The time changed at the border, and we gained 2.5 hours which helped us continue our super long day of driving.
We stopped at the abandoned ghost town of Old Eucla, which was destroyed 100+ years ago by the unchecked non-native rabbit population. The rabbits came to the town and ate so much vegetation off of the nearby sand dunes that they destabilized and covered the entire town. Modern Eucla was then built 5km north, on higher ground. We played around in the graffiti and sand filled ruins of an old telegraph station, while being mindful of the recent death adder sightings.
There wasn’t much else to see during the day, except for a few very special trees that travelers have decorated to break up the monotony of the drive. The Booze Tree, Underwear Tree and Shoe Tree were all worth a look.
Shortly after the famous 90 Mile Straight, we camped out overnight just off of the highway, next to another small salt lake. Thanks to the time change we were going to be able to sleep in, so we had a big night around the campfire.
Dinner: Spaghetti with meat-substitute bolognaise
Day 5 – Western Nullarbor to Cape Le Grand National Park
We officially crossed the Nullarbor once we hit the small town of Norseman. Our first cell phone signal in days was quite a treat.
A few hours later we arrived in Esperance, a town which has repeatedly been voted as the home of Australia’s most beautiful beaches. We did some shopping and restocked on beer, and headed to Cape Le Grand National Park which would be our home for the next two days — staying in one place was a luxury we earned by doing so much driving on the previous days.
We stayed at the campsite at Lucky Bay, which featured such perks as potable water, solar-heated showers, and an actual camp kitchen. No electricity though — a shame since everyone’s gadgets were dead after our Nullarbor crossing. Most iPods, laptops, camera batteries were completely out of juice — finally we had flushing toilets, but couldn’t blast The Thong Song at will. Talk about a trade-off!
The beaches really were amazing — the sand was some of the whitest, most fine-grained stuff I’ve ever seen, giving the shallow water that amazing aqua blue color you rarely see outside of movies.
In the afternoon we climbed a local mountain called Frenchman’s Peak, and got a great view of the park. It started to rain, so we spent some time hiding out in a cave until it was safe to climb down.
The weather was questionable for the rest of the day, and we considered breaking camp and heading into town to stay indoors overnight, but in the end we toughed it out. As soon as I went to sleep in my swag on the beach, it nearby started raining buckets. Like a flash, I was up and dragged my bed under a sheltered picnic area to ride out the night… except the picnic area already had some of our people sleeping under it. Two people who had planned on getting a little “privacy”, without everyone else in the group knowing what they were up to. Sorry guys, I discovered your dirty little secret, and I’ll be sharing this shelter with you tonight! My head got soaked, and I tracked a bunch of wet sand into my bed, but in the end it wasn’t too bad.
Lunch: Sandwiches on BACON CHEESE rolls!
Dinner: Chicken stir fry
Day 6 – Cape Le Grand National Park
Woke up at sunrise and hit the beach to take some photos. After last night’s rain it looked like things had cleared up, but there were some dark clouds on the horizon.
The dark clouds rolled in, and we decided to do a 6 kilometer coastal walk despite the weather. Simo dropped us off 6km away and told us how to find our way back to camp. Everyone dressed for bad weather, and as soon as he left us the sun came out. 3 hours of hiking under the hot sun with no sunscreen, sunglasses or camera. We were supposed to stay in one big group, but after awhile of getting scorched, Stephanie and I took off by ourselves and high-tailed it back to camp, 45 minutes ahead of everyone else.
After lunch we had the entire afternoon free to do as we pleased — an entirely alien concept during a trip based on sitting on a bus. While I tried my luck boogie-boarding, Cecilie decided to sculpt an anatomically correct man out of sand. When the other guys and I finally had a chance to see it, we were in for a good laugh — the balls were all wrong. If the poor guy were real he’d be completely unable to wear a belt without squeezing his testicles off. We gave our feedback and she fixed the problem, then hurried away before she asked for a model.
The rest of the day was reserved for card games, dominos and beer. Not a bad way to spend a day in paradise.
In the evening I tried to speak French, but failed rather miserably despite studying it from 7th-12th grade — it’s been around 10 years since I’ve given it any thought. All I really managed to do was sing a few songs about my love of steak and potatoes that I learned in my very first French class ever, and explain that I stuck with French instead of Spanish because our middle school French teacher was an absolute hottie who liked the same bands we did. Somehow, the French girls found this all very impressive.
Lunch: More sandwiches on BACON CHEESE rolls!
Dinner: Burgers, sausages, lamb chops
On Flickr: Full trip photoset