When we had originally been planning our itinerary (back in Sydney around a year ago) we had intended on heading north from Kalgoorlie to check out Lake Ballard, near Menzies. There are a series of sculptures in the salt lake there which are supposed to be fairly impressive, but now that we have decided to make the big move to Queensland we are more and more keen to get heading there and less keen to make side-trips of a few hundred kilometres. Lake Ballard will have to wait for another day.
The drive from Kalgoorlie south again to Esperance is fairly uneventful, we passed through Norseman where most travellers head east across the Nullarbor and continued to the coast. Our Nullarbor drive would start a few days later, cutting off the first 190kms as we cut through from Cape Arid up to the Eyre Highway. We camped overnight near Bromus Dam, built in the mid 1920’s for a reliable source of water for the steam trains plying between Coolgardie and Esperance. There were a few yabbies in the dam, but a couple we caught had eggs so we let them all go on their breeding way.
Esperance is truly stunning, those blue seas, blue sky and white sand views were everywhere. The flies had gone too, replacing by a bracing southerly wind. Any swimming along the coast here was fairly brief and refreshing, those southerly currents are certainly more suited to the seals and whales than us humans.
After checking out Sammy the Seal at the Esperance Jetty we headed out to Cape Le Grand National Park to set up camp, we’d been advised to camp away from the popular Lucky Bay to get out of those prevailing winds and I’m pleased we did. We had a great sheltered spot at Cape Le Grand beach just back from the beach and Ben was able to launch the boat there very easily. We bumped into Sue and Mark again so Ben, Tobey and Mark went out a few times in the boat and bought home more than enough fish for dinner. We’re becoming accustomed to eating fish now, and even have some in the freezer for those days when the fish may not be so friendly!
The beaches all around the Cape Le Grand National Park coast are amazing and it’s at Lucky Bay that you get the famous shots of the kangaroos lazing on the beach. They come down to drink the fresh water that seeps up through the sand if you dig a little hole. We saw a mother and joey mooching around when we were there and Indianna was beside herself with excitement when the joey had a drink of milk.
It was too cold to swim at Lucky Bay, but just around the corner at Hellfire Bay was perfect. We even had a quick visit from a seal playing in the water.
Mum’s time travelling with us had come to an end, before we cross the Nullarbor and put a whole load of extra miles between ourselves and Perth she boarded the bus and made the 9 hour journey back to Tony’s to spend Christmas there before heading home. It’s been great having mum along with us and after about 4 weeks of constant attention Indianna in particular found it very hard to say good-bye. There were floods of tears that went on for hours after the bus departed and we had several relapses over the coming days. “I miss Nana!!”
Perhaps the timing for a long car journey on the day mum left wasn’t so wise in retrospect! We’d been set on making it to Israelite Bay while we were in the south west of WA. You hear the place mentioned so much on the weather reports that it seemed an intriguing place to go, so we set off on a three hour journey down a sandy track to get there, got out for 5 minutes to take a photo and get blown away by the wind and drove for another three hours back to camp. As you can well imagine the kids were not impressed! Neither were Ben and I really, but by the time we’d realised what an arduous journey it would be we were over half way there and we weren’t backing out! Anyway, we can say we’ve been there now and we’ve had our first glimpse of the Great Australian Bight, but we’re unlikely to go back anytime too soon!
We were pretty excited about starting our journey across the Nullarbor and as I mentioned previously we’d planned to take a short cut, coming out at Balladonia. From everything we’d read about the track it seemed as though we’d have no trouble, maybe a bit sandy and rocky in places, but if we take it easy we’ll be fine. Just to make sure we asked around the camp hosts and ranger at Cape Le Grand and they had a totally different opinion, they weren’t recommending the road at all. So we were really undecided, the short cut meant 200km less, but we all know that a short cut is not always a short-cut and after our journey to Israelite Bay the previous day we were a little weary. The scales were tipped by the advice from the guy who ran the fuel station/store at Condingup who actually sounded like he knew what he was talking about. He said we’d be fine, the road was definitely corrugated, but if we take it easy we’d be ok – well we’d seen plenty of corrugation! And he was right, the road certainly was corrugated, but we managed the 260km in 4 hours, so not too bad going. We even bumped into an English couple we’d seen in Hyden who were riding their bikes on the same route – now that would have been tough going, I wonder if by the end of the track they thought the 200km saving was worth the rough road?
So now we’re on the Nullarbor! Well, strictly speaking we’re on the Eyre Highway and the journey through the Nullarbor Plain is only a very small part of the journey, but everyone refers to the whole trip as the Nullarbor and so will I. There’s not a lot to say about most of the journey, the whole Nullarbor route from Norseman to Ceduna is 1200kms and we’d knocked 190kms off that coming out at Balladonia, but until you get to the South Australia border there is very little to see unless you take the time to get off the highway and explore either down to the coast or inland further. Because we’re keen to get going we did neither of those. You do get to travel on the straightest piece of road in Australia though – 146.6kms without a turn, it looks like this all the way:
Other than that there was a lot of not much and a few road signs to pass the time away. I’d never given the name “Nullarbor” much thought before, named by a surveyor (Alfred de Lisser) in the 1860’s, Null-arbor literally means “No-trees”. It seems so obvious now! The Nullarbor Plain certainly lives up to it’s name, but the rest of the Eyre highway is relatively treed it comparison.
We still have a little way to go before we make it to our destination though. The signpost at Eucla, on the WA side of the border makes it just short of 3,000kms to Brisbane. And that’s direct no doubt, I’m sure we’ll be making a few detours on the way yet.
Once you hit the South Australia border the main road runs right next to the coast for quite a way and you get your first look at the spectacular Bunda Cliffs. These remind me a lot of the cliffs along the Great Ocean Road, but seem to go on for miles and miles. We were a little late in the season, but during winter this is supposed to be a great vantage point to see the whales in the Great Australian Bight as they nurse their calves and prepare to journey north again.
Our first stop in South Australia was at Fowlers Bay and although we’re not at the end of the Nullarbor yet we have certainly done the long hard section – 1159kms over two days were a couple of the longest days we’ve done in the whole year. We arrived at Fowlers Bay hot on the heels on Mark and Sue (stalking them now!) who had left Cape Le Grand a day earlier but taken the Norseman route – so our short-cut had paid off. Mark launched his boat at Fowlers Bay and boys had a very successful day of fishing. Throwing back just as many Spotted Cod as they bought home and they bought home about 30. South Australian fishing quotas are certainly generous and we were pleased to be able to freeze a little fish for another time. Tobey reckons he was responsible for most of the catch, but Mark and Ben say otherwise… perhaps Tobey’s learning that fisherman’s skill of exaggeration very quickly!
The other highlight for the kids at Fowlers Bay were the sand dunes and especially for Indianna, a local dog who would come into the caravan park to see if he could get a few pats and cuddles. Of course she was very obliging.
Ceduna marks the end of the Nullarbor journey and for us the first stocking point after we prematurely threw all our fruit and veg out on the border (if coming from the west you have until Ceduna to dump any items not allowed to cross the border). We stocked up on food and water, bought a whole lot of Smoky Bay Oysters, went to see the Ceduna weather balloon being released and carried on through. With so many brilliant spots on the Eyre Peninsula to get to we wanted to make tracks.
For the first time this year we’ve made a forward accommodation booking. We’ve been worried for a while that we’ll end up with no place to stay over Christmas, but have never been sure about where we’ll be to commit to a booking. With a more certain plan about the new year in mind we’ve managed to decide on (and more importantly have been able to get into) Yamba for a week over Xmas. The kids are very excited at the prospect of a caravan park with great kid facilities for a WHOLE week. How they can make you feel like you’ve had them living the hard life!