24th April, 2021, Venus Bay to Ceduna: It’s an eventless dry trip through more wheat fields alternating with saltbush desert – can even wheat grow here? Ceduna is a sophisticated relief after the dishevelled shanty town of Venus Bay, even though the sight of the beginnings of the Great Australian Bight were exhilarating. We’re still after oysters though, and the hotel does us proud with large, fresh, juicy natural oysters.
We love the stay, wandering the streets, also gearing up in a Caravan Park on a powered site for the next few days across the Nullabor where fuel, water and food might be hard to get. A new best friend and neighbour Jim, travelling with his wife Venra, a veteran of dozens of trips across the Nullabor, warns us that the Western Australian Government is very strict about quarantine. I spend a day cooking and freezing all our fresh fruit and vegetables, glorying in the plentiful electricity to cook them.
27th April, 2021, Ceduna across the Great Australian Bight.
Now there’s a famous Pink Lake in Western Australia, which we hear is not pink any more, but Jim tell us there’s one in South Australia as well. So we find ourselves in a VERY corrugated road for far too long to find SA’s Pink Lake, a salt lake on the edge of the Southern Ocean. Charlie is keen in his Jack Russell way, as usual, to get out of the van when we arrive there, but when I open the door he shrinks back from the hard stony ground “You think I want to jump down THERE? You have to be kidding!” – has to be lifted down. Spoilt dog? Nah, not really.
Next we’re headed for the Bunda Cliffs, a hundred metres high, facing the Southern Ocean, one of the few places where you can drive right to the shore. The way is either salt bush country or wheat fields, but mostly desert vastness.
I realise what I realised so long ago when sailing oceans – it’s the sky that makes the experience so enthralling. Impossible to capture with a camera, impossible to convey no matter how good the movie, impossible to describe – so little land, so much sky. Below, down here is wheat stubble, pink sand and saltbush, but above is 80% of our world, a mysterious, life-giving, infinity.
When we get to Bunda Cliffs, however, it’s exceeds everything I had imagined, borne of photos and videos watched across the years. For me, it’s better than seeing the Pyramids, better than the first time I rode the lift to the top of the Empire State Building, better than seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. The adrenaline is high, but all I can show you here is the photos – so inadequate. Certainly the highlight of our journey so far!
April 29, 2021, Bunda Cliffs, Border Village to Cocklebiddy: Sure enough, the small quantity of fruit and vegetables that I couldn’t cook up – a lemon, an onion, the remains of a lettuce – is carried off by the police at the border. We have our digital passes ready, however, so make them very happy.
So further and further west we go, eating up the miles. Cocklebiddy is going to be a convenient stop, but we have no idea what to expect. Still the vastness of the sky, the sparse flatness of the land, subtle colours, blue-greens, yellow-greens, olive greens, always against the glow of the pink sands and the wild clouds above amid the blue. Several times we pass over the “piano keys” before we realise the road has turned into an airfield for a thousand feet or so – emergency strips that are scattered across Australia for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. We drive over four of these
Well, Cocklebiddy is just another roadhouse, but at least they have a sense of humour.
Sometimes I wish I were still a journalist – one meets so many interesting stories. This English girl, Alice, from Birmingham, is creating her own Wonderland, by riding her bike around Australia. I met her sitting ‘under shade for a while’ on the loo verandah in Cocklebiddy. She left Melbourne a couple of months ago and that’s her entire kit you see beside her. But no time… Ted and Charlie are waiting, time to go. I wish her luck and am sad I can’t ask her much more.
30th April, 2021, Cocklebiddy to Norseman: The Nullabor is made up of thousands of caves, or blow-holes, which breathe softly in and out with the winds – sometimes gentle, sometimes up to 75km strength. There are signs warning the danger of going searching for the caves as they are not stable. We get to see one ‘owned’ proudly by Cocklebiddy.
We’re almost at the end of the Nullabor Plain now, and travel the longest straight road in the world (we’re told, not just Australia) – 146.6km without a turn.
Finally we arrive in the old gold-mining town of Norseman and find an RV field for self-contained vehicles which is covered in – to Charlie’s delight – grass! – probably the first grassy field we’ve seen since we started the traverse of the Nullabor. Everyone’s happy and Charlie is running in circles!
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