AWOL Around Australia… Beach bums. Part 1.

Being this far west was doing our body clock in, relative to the time of day. The sun wasn’t setting till 8.30/9ish at night, and wasn’t rising till 0730. Anyway, sunrise over camp.

Mister Rollo patiently waiting for his breakfast.

At the border you have to hand over any fresh fruit, etc. We’d consumed everything we had last night, in fact the fridge was looking about as bare as it had for some time.

Looking down from the cliffs I could see the tracks that you can follow nearer the sea. I had elected not to join these just yet, but to make some mileage today. Fortuitous as it turns out.

SA/WA border control.

Nothing to see here, just a man running across the Nullarbor. Beep beep!

So a bit light on supplies, and water also getting lower than normal it made sense to pound some bitumen today. Plus the fact we had been on dirt almost everyday since we left home. No matter how much you love that shit, and we do, a break is always good. Handily it was overcast for most of the day. So set the cruise to 90 and put some tunes on.

So we did about 500km that day. To get us to Balladonia Roadhouse, at 5pm ‘our time’ but 2pm local time, weird. Going to be a silly early bed tonight…

Food was getting pretty simple by now!

Our overnight stop and refuel before taking our last offroad detour, down to Israelite Bay, then along the coast to the town of Esperance. Where such modern wonders as internet, fresh produce and washing machines awaited…

Coffee made, and bacon and egg rolls procured from the servo (after 6 days without resupply for food or water, we would save what we had for the last dirt section).

Whilst waiting for breakfast I had a mooch around the frankly excellent museum in the roadhouse, Amazing how some of these servos are just little gems in the country.

Back in the late 1970’s Balladonia was thrust into the international spotlight. In July, the world was captivated by the plight of a wayward NASA space station called Skylab. For weeks there was a lot of speculation about where it would come crashing to earth. NASA scientists predicted South Africa but in the early morning of July 13, 1979 they were proved wrong. On the centenary of Balladonia’s settlement, fiery pieces of Skylab landed around the grounds of our hotel prompting a call by then president Jimmy Carter to apologise for the mess!

We headed out. The track we needed to take was just across from the roadhouse, and that was as far as we got.

There were a couple of likely lads with a 70 series, tinny on the roof and a ATV on a trailer at the end of the track on the UHF. No doubt trying to determine if the track was still closed and the bushfire still an issue. As where these tracks lead (Israelite Bay) was still closed 4 days later (as we approached that area now from the west), I would guess they got the very firm Ba Bow, to going round that sign.

So nothing for us to do but pound bitumen again, so and easy but boring drive to Norseman then due south down to Esperance on the coast.

Spectacular Red Gums along the way.

Always makes me hum this tune.


So two days in a caravan park in Esperance. After camping on various forms of dirt for the best part of two and a half weeks, a couple of nights on grass, in the shade with showers and stuff to hand, made a whole lot of sense.

Esperance is a cool town, a mix of tourist seaside (but good tourist seaside) and various industries, helped keep it real.

So rest day stuff done, we restocked the food and water and headed back out. Back in the caravan park we had struck up a couple of good and useful conversations with other travellers, about this area and where we were eventually heading (the North). It never pays to judge a book by its cover, most grey nomads look the same but some are significantly more adventurous than others.

One of those included a beach drive not far from Esperance. So we would do that today and then check out a campsite further down the coast.

Now south WA is known for being a 4×4 Mecca, as the proliferation of YouTubers from this region will attest. With good reason. When we did our first big road trip around this land, most of the people we met declared that wherever they came from had “the best beaches in the world” often with an accompanying photo in the wallet! (pre mobile phones, yo). Well, I’m sure all those beaches were well and good, but I thought then, that by far the best beaches I had ever seen were in south WA, and twenty years later I’m still of that opinion.

The combination of green coastal shrubbery down to the beach, bright white sand and then turquoise ocean that fades to dark blue, with a few islands scattered in it for good measure. Pretty hard to beat in my book.

Great beach drive. I knew the straightforward way out was through the National Park, but this sign, plus all the warnings back in Esperance about fines, etc, (even though our dogs stay in the car in NP’s) meant we started to hunt for a way out through the dunes.



A couple a promising tracks got us nothing but yet more scratches, plus plenty of big revs and momentum to get us through the softer parts. Then there was patches of slick rock just to make sure you remember to take out all the differential locks (thanks, pin 7 mod). We got real close to a dirt road but the end of the track had been closed for revegitation? People had got round it, but I ain’t that guy, so in the end we back tracked to the beach. We had enough internet for google earth coverage, I was ready to take another promising track when N said “ what if it is another ‘track closed’ or ‘private property’, etc. All good points, and sometimes you need that second opinion. So we just back tracked down the beach till we hit the bitumen. Aired up, we were out.

An hour or so down the tarmac road we turned off onto dirt to head back to the coast. The road gets a bit patchy towards the end (our fellow campers pulled some backpackers out of one of these soft sections earlier that morning), but also looks like a Walt Disney set.

Not a bad campsite, especially once I’d spent 15 minutes with the shovel sorting out previous campers mess.

‘You left that empty cardboard box, just in case that’s what we needed when we got here? Or you really didn’t have the space to take it out after you brought it in…?’ No worries, we’ll pack it out for you.

I tried a bit of a fish off the rocks, but didn’t catch any fish, didn’t see any either.

It was stinking hot that day, in SA the temperature normally peaks between about 2 and 4 in the afternoon. At 11.30 that morning I was thinking ‘if it’s this hot now who knows what it will be like this arvo’ but as it turns out that was the worst of it. It peaked late morning and got progressively more pleasant from then on. By 3pm it was about perfect. We all had a paddle and I dropped the dogs in for a shallow swim, which they tolerated… but they forgave me.

Roxy, looking a bit punk rock after her swim.

I should mention I was reading the first of the two books I picked up in Kimba. Thoroughly recommended. If you have any interest in the ecology of the Australian Outback or just fancy a good read of someone who has lived life, this book is for you.

That night I cooked the first of the haul we had scored at the butcher in Esperance. After previously working with food retailers my sense of a good shop is pretty acute. I got a good feeling about this one, and the spidey senses were not off.

Shark Bay pork chop, pickled salade and mustard vinaigrette.

That night we were treated to an amazing red sunset. Which we found out the next day was from the bushfires in the nearby Cape Le Grand National Park. The same park we had been on the edge of whilst chasing dead end dune tracks two days before…


Thanks for reading.


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