Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Into South Australia

Week 8, 22 December 2009

I will never compain about the weather again. I have been moaning and groaning about how cool it has been and how late summer is in coming. Well, it caught up with me with a vengeance. Last Tuesday and Wednesday the temperature got up to 42degC (107.6 in the old money) with a hot north wind. Suffice it to say, I have learned my lesson and will take it as it comes. If you want to know what effects this sort of temperature has, have a look at this.
After celebrating my anniversary (12 months on the road) on Dec 13, I took off from Najada Rockhole and headed east the next day. Dropped in to Eucla to look at the ruins of the old telegraph station. I first saw this in 1979 and it doesn't seemed to have changed at all, perhaps it has stabilised.
The size of the sand dunes here is most impressive, incredible to think that this is solely the influence of the wind.
Big surprise at Eucla. Fuel was cheap!!! $1.54 for diesel, the same as Mundrabilla. Perhaps these people are waking up to the fact that we travellers talk to each other and we refuse to pay highly inflated prices.

Did the tourist thing at the border with the car in SA and the van in WA. I must stop doing that, I've done it at every border crossing, and seeing that I've now made 12 such crossings, it's getting a bit passe.
Through Eucla Border Village and into the wilds of South Oz's far west. Came across the obligatory sign designating the beginnings of the Nullarbor Plain just before Nullarbor Roadhouse. Strangest thing is - only about 5 kms down the road is a sign facing the other way denoting the easter edge??? Surely the Nullarbor is more than 5 kms wide. To be pedantic, the road doesn't traverse the Nullarbor plain anyway. The real Nullarbor is well to the North and you can only really see it from the train. I must admit that the sight of a whale in the middle of the desert is a bit of a shock, but the adjacent cliffs are one of the best spots in the whole of Oz for spotting whales on their migrations. I never get sick of the sight of these cliffs and I pull into every single lookout to have a gander.
Monday 14th Dec. Pulled into a rest area called Yalata West, 21kms west of the Yalata Roadhouse. The actual pull-off is nothing special, but there are plenty of tracks leading away to the north and about 700 metres from the road, there is an old quarry and just beyond that there are some great, shady, level spots perfect for setting up. The third test against the West Indies starts in a couple of days, so I'll rest up and listen in peace.

Wednesday 16th Dec. As I said above, the weather has changed with a vengeance. Too hot to do anything energetic, so I am just sitting around with the fan going, listening to the cricket and keeping the fluids up. The time-zone change of 2 1/2 hours in one hit is hard to take, especially being so far west of Adelaide. It is still light at 9:30 at night and the sun doesn't come up until about 7:00 am. As a consequence I am not getting to sleep until after midnight, but as long as I try and get up nice and early (local) I should get used to it in a couple of days.

Saturday 19th Dec. Weather is absolutely perfect. 28 deg. Hardly a cloud in the sky and a beautiful sea-breeze that comes in about 3:00pm. Went for a bit of a wander yesterday and today, but not much to see. The country is well-wooded with Mallee and appears to be old sandhill country which has become stabilised with vegetation. Discovered tonight from the scurryings, that I have picked up a couple of hitch-hickers of the mouse kind. I caught one, but I will have to pick up a couple of mousetraps when I get to Ceduna. Just another one of the things that I never thought to pack.

Monday 21st Dec. Checked out of Yalata West at about 08:30 and headed East. LOTS of vans on the road, but you have to expect that at this time of year. Through Yalata, where the roadhouse is boarded up, on through Nundroo and took the side-trip to Fowler's Bay. Not much here, but if you were ever looking for a sea-side location to just put your feet up and veg out, it would be hard to find a better place. More of those giant sand dunes, they look good enough to tire out the most energetic kids. The local historical society have done a great job of erecting interpretive signs all over the place.

Tuesday 22nd Dec. Booked in to the Top Tourist C/P in Ceduna for rest and refit. Get the washing done, re-stock the larder and the water containers etc. and I'll be right for another month or so. I'm heading down the West Coast of Eyre Peninsula, heading for Port Lincoln. This is all farming country and surf beaches, but seeing this is where the biggest White Pointers in the world live, I don't plan on doing much swimming. I'll be out of range for two or three weeks, so I'll catch up again then.

To those who read this in time - can I take this opportunity you send you my best wishes for the holiday season. See you soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Nullabor

Week 6 - 11 December 2009

Well, the 12-month anniversary of this trip is coming up and it seems more like 12 days than 12 months. What a blast! 12 months on the road, close to 30,000 kms covered, spent a little more than I had anticipated, but there's more where that came from - Oh! wait a minute - No there's not - I better start pulling my horns in and watching the pennies.

1st December. Did the obligatory round trip around the Esperance area, (Twilight Cove, Observatory Point, (Where's the observatory?) Pink Lake (Pink? Coul'da fooled me)
They call this the Great Ocean Drive - Hmm, that sounds familiar. Probably would have been a lot more pleasant if the weather had been better, but it was a dull, drab day and hard to get enthusiastic.

I headed out east and called in to Cape LeGrand ($11 admission JUST to enter the park and then $9 per person per night to camp - a bit steep if you ask me)and Cape Arid. Again, if the weather had been fine, I could have done a fair bit of bushwalking, but the temperature never got over 16 degC and the wind was bitingly chilly.

Came back to Condingup and spent the night in the grounds of the Recreation Centre (Free Camping)

2nd December. Up the Balladonia Track. I had checked with Dept. Environment a few days previously, and they said that the track would be open on the 1st. I headed north on what is called Parmingo Road and there were no signs saying the road was closed, so off I went. About 45 kms in, the bitumen ends and there was a sign saying "Road Closed - Track - Proceed with Caution" Seemed to be a mixed message, so I decided to proceed with caution. The road was quite good, except for a few patches of deep bulldust, but I was sitting on about 80 km/h without any trouble.

Not marked on any maps that I have, but I came across an abandoned homestead which just has a "historic site" marker on the road. I seems to have been maintained by the local historical society and is very interesting. I would have camped here, but it was very early in the day.
For the uninitiated, "double-gee's" are Caltrops or "Three-toed-jacks" a seed burr which has 4 vicious spikes set so that anyway the burr lies, one spike is always pointing up and, boy, do you know it when you step on one. The spike will go straight through the sole of a flip-flop.

A couple of interesting granite outcrops/waterholes, but otherwise just mallee and gimlet scrub.

About 60 kms south of Balladonia, you reach the border of the Shire of Esperance and immediately the road deteriorates into a bush track. Narrow, rocky and bumpy. From the look of the claypans I definitely wouldn't want to come through here when it was wet. I reckon you'd bog a duck. Only averaged about 50 km/h on this stretch. Curious what souvenirs people seem prompted to leave.
Balladonia's prices were as we have come to expect, outrageous. It beats me how they remain open, I would have thought everyone in Australia would know by now what rip-off merchants they are. $1.72/L for diesel, when I paid $1.54 500 kms further on at Mundrabilla.

Pulled up for the night at Woorlba Homestead Rest Area, about 50 kms east of Balladonia. I was first in and got the best spot with some nice midday and afternoon shade, so I will do a full setup and stay for a few days.

9th December. Ended up staying a week at Woorlba. Bottom line - couldn't be bothered packing up. Quite a nice spot - Plenty of room, toilet (no dunny paper), tables and one rather sad looking BBQ. Went for a bit of a wander a couple of times, but not much to see. Still in fairly large timber, but that will run out soon.

Ran through Caiguna, Cocklebiddy, Madura and Mundrabilla, but the Nullabor hasn't got anymore interesting than it was the last 5 or 6 times I drove across. Diesel was 1.65 at Caiguna, 1.69 at Cocklebiddy and I loaded up with 100L at Mundrabilla at 1.54. - Crazy.

11th December. I have pulled up at Najada Rockhole Rest Area, 30 kms west of Eucla. No facilities, but quite nice. I went for a wander over to the escarpment yesterday (10th) about 1.5 kms from the road, but probably 50% more than that wandering through the saltbush, 'cos there isn't a track. The rockhole is a big bite out of the front of the escarpement where water erosion has worn back to the base limestone. Easy enough to scramble up and a fantastic view from the top. I could see the sea about 10 kms south and off to the east I could just make out the sand dunes at Eucla. The weather is still pretty rotten. Only got up to 22 degC today and mostly overcast with a chilly wind.

More in a couple of weeks.