Some time that night, N woke me up. There’s someone coming, driving up the beach… Not overly concerned, but knowing she is a bit of a worry wart I got out to investigate. Having a little chuckle I assured her that it would be a while before they got here, and then pulling back the mesh of the tent so she could see the moon clearly…
“It looked like headlights…” and it did, bright enough to light up the tent, and distorted through the mosquito netting. Also, in her defence the position of the night sky seems to change out here. The moon and say Orion might be in one spot one night, then 20km up the coast they are in a totally different spot the next night, maybe its just me but I definitely got that impression. The moon was particularly low that night.
Also the night sky itself is worth a mention. As we grew up in the UK, tended to holiday in Europe, we had never seen the night sky. I mean we had seen a version of it, but not the real one, the one you get are truly away from any light pollution and you get brilliantly bright stars horizon to horizon, and the Milky Way clear and vibrant. No wonder ancient cultures were so obsessed with it.
Come the morning. I thought we might just have a cheeky little explore of the last part of this coast before we hit the Yalata indigenous lands (that we had tried to get the permit for back in Ceduna) and then we would definitely have to head back to the highway. Couple of hours, tops…
Main dirt roads to get there from our beach campsite. There were potentially tracks along the coast but I didn’t want to burn hours of dead ends this morning. Into the conservation park and initially I was a little disappointed. This rocky scrub road was a bit of a let down after some of the great landscapes we had seen the last few days. Thinking ‘oh well, maybe we’ve seen the best bits of this part of the coast, can’t complain’ then the mallee scrub starts to close in, looking like the magic forest.
Coming out at the edge of some sand dunes. Mezmerising as ever.
The track just skirts the edge of them, so the soft sections are short. I use lockers and a bit of momentum, rather than letting the tyres down.
Now back into the mallee trees. Just too tight for the Hundo and the paintwork cops a hiding again… (not for the first time I question the benefit of having anything bigger, or newer. How would I feel about pushing a $100k 200 series, or Tundra through here? Something like a Unimog? Forget about it…)
Evidence that this was pastoral land before being declared as a conservation park.
So we get to the end of the trail we were intending to do, finishing on this cliff top.
The trail out of here, marked clearly on our mapping didn’t present itself when it should have done. However, there is a track that follows this old fence line (the posts made out of the local mallee wood, so they’ll probably still be here long after I’ve departed this earth) it is heading in roughly the right direction and there is no other option out, only routes deeper into the park.
We take it, after a while we cross out of the park, and now we seem to be following the edge of whatever farming property is adjacent to the conservation park. The fence is more modern and this must be the track to maintain it.
We are well off any track on the map by now, but of course with GPS we know we’re we are and what direction we are heading in. So lost, yes, but in the modern way. Somewhere between an hour and two, multiple navigation misadventures later, we finally pop back out onto a dirt road.
The mapping generally of this area has been useless (even by Australian standards). However I would rather deal with that and have the place to ourselves, than have it mapped within an inch and hoarders of fair weather 4×4 visitors to contend with. There aren’t too many areas left this quiet and this picturesque. Hence I’ve been intentionally vague and the exact places we went and stayed, they are not hard to find. If you are that sort of traveller you’ll find them no problem.
So just as we finally turned back to the highway, we almost came a cropper when old mate wombat had decided to dig his hole for the night, smack bang in the middle of the road.
Seems he later saw sense and set up just off to the side.
Airing back up before the tarmac, I noticed the BFG’s were not looking so new anymore.
When we first traversed this patch of the earth twenty years ago, we stuck mostly to the highway. Even though we were now sticking to mostly off it, the bitumen road is still one of Australia’s greatest road trips in my opinion.
We pulled into a lay-by for some (very) late lunch. The bush around the entire lay-by looked like this…
I’m not sure why Hollywood always celebrates humans winning at the end of every alien/apocalypse movie, I mean look at what we do. Does any species actively ruin its own environment like we do? What is wrong with us…
/rant (we had obviously been spoilt by a few days of nearly unspoilt wilderness)
Anyway, onto the Nullarbor proper (from latin, Nullas – No, Arbor – Tree). We book into the Nullarbor Roadhouse campground, we are in need of showers and water is at a premium for us and everyone else out here. So we pay to use someone else’s rather than our own, this will serve our purpose after a few nights in the bush.
Not the most glamorous campsite in the world, but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.
There is a golf course that stretches across the entire Nullabor, with a hole at every servo or settlement. A guy we passed several times on the way here was stopping to play each one, I wondered we he stopped so much…
This Unimog was travelling with a Nissan Patrol, they were effecting repairs to the Patrol when we arrived. I checked they were ok for tools, etc. But of course being Germans they had it all under control (joke!). The Mog strikes me as about the most absurd answer to the off-road touring vehicle question one could imagine, but I’m not in a position to ever have to worry about that being an option, so what does it matter what I think. I mean everyone takes a photo, so there’s that…
Big day, I totally fall asleep about five minutes into the movie we settle down to watch that night.
Awake in the middle of the night I wonder if road trains were called that as in the night from a distance they sound just like a train, and you’re lying on the tracks!
Morning light was good.
We took the old road today. The Eyre Highway used to be a dirt road and the Nullarbor used to be pastoral leases. The original road deviates from the current one for 200 odd clicks, worth a look.
The Nullarbor is only truly tree-less in places.
First out to Murrawijinie Caves.
Despite the sign, worth the 20km round trip in my opinion, but everyone is different. At the third cave there was a group of European back packers camping, as we arrived one of them though it was a good time to take a very public piss. On our way back another decided it was a good time to head a (short) way out into the bush to deficate, no shovel in hand. Safe to say backpackers don’t have a great reputation in Oz. In the interest of balance, many of the ones we meet are great.
N said “why are they like that?”, “That is not the question my dear, just be glad they are not your boyfriend’s. There is probably a nice young girl sat back there right now thinking, I’m not so sure about Sven…”
We headed back to the old road and hung a hard right, due west.
Again the mapping let us down. We tried to find three more sights, a rockhole, and cave and a blow hole. Despite being dead on top of each one according to the GPS and searching around on foot and by vehicle, these sights remained hidden.
Signs of attempts to ‘colonise’ were abundant though. Crows/ravens particularly like these covered over water tanks for some reason.
The modern world still has a use for this road. No phone service across the Nullarbor yet, but it’s coming.
However, the old Eyre Highway did serve up one treat for us. A wild Dingo, the first we had seen in the bush. White like the rock around him, I could only get so close the standard issue zoom lens on our little Sony mirrorless. Anyway, I don’t claim to be any sort of photographer, that shit takes time and dedication, we were just happy to have a record of seeing this fine beast.
Just before the border we head back to the main highway, and find a clifftop campsite. Not quite as clifftop as we would like, as there was no getting a peg in on the cliff itself. A bit further back I got a few in, and the hardy coastal shrubbery provided sturdy tie downs otherwise.
Just as well because the wind came that night. Not all night luckily, and I slept heavily after managing to stay up for the movie this time.