It’s another hot evening. There’s almost no breeze.
We miss the free campsite we were going to stay in, and it’s late-ish as we reach Ceduna. The sun is starting to set over the Great Australian Bite, as we fill up with water in tow, wanting to avoid staying there for its reputation. We continue on to the next rest area. “Don’t want to risk the emus and kangaroos at dusk,” we agree as we oull in for the night.
Replaced all the brakes. Replaced both batteries in the car. Changed all the fluids and oils. Four new tyres on the campervan. What an expensive month for car maintenance! (Thank you to our good friend Robbie Aiton, the travelling mechanic for helping us). Now we’re ready to keep driving,even though the bank account is considerably lower after all the repairs. Oh, and the air conditioner? Turns out that the motor had rattled apart. It’s now back together again, and working just fine.
It has been thirteen months since we headed down from Northern Territory to South Australia. I’m thinking that just possibly that thirteen months to see South Australia may be some kind of record. Now we are finally heading towards Western Australia, and pretty excited to finally be heading to a new state.
We’ve settled into bed when a car pulls in to the rest area, driving a little too slowly past each campervan, and then stopped with its high beams pointing straight at our campervan. We watch as three people get out of their car. Our hearts sink. We’ve not had any problems before, despite all the bad stories we’ve heard. Now, it is our turn.
We watch from our window as our would-be robbers go to the boot of their car and get something out. We strain our eyes in the moonlight to see what it is. A tent. Our would-be trouble makers set up a tent for the night. We relax into a restless sleep listening to vehicles passing, as we try and get comfy in the heat.
We pull out early to start heading across the Nullarbor from South Australia to Western Australia. The land around us is all grain farming regions. We travel through the tiny township of Nundroo. We are surprised to see that fuel is 156.9 cents per liter for petrol, and 160.9 cents for diesel; the same price it was in Streaky Bay and Ceduna.
The grain farming gives way to empty paddocks, that in turn gives way to bushland with many trees a couple of meters tall. This is not what we’d expected at all.
We pass Yalata, which no longer has any fuel or supplies. It’s just used as a base for police dealing with cultural issues.
A sign tells us we are at the “The Eastern End of the Treeless Plain”. This is more like what we’d imagined. Lots of grass, saltbush and sand.
The sign we pass points to the Head of Bite, the most southerly point of the Great Australian Bite. We want to go in and see it. It is land that has been handed back to the Aboriginal people, so they choose to charge for admission.
We’ve heard it is expensive. It turns out it is $5 per adult and children are free. It is the off-season price.
We walk along the platforms and watch two sea lions playing in the water. There are a few lizards on the track, and two hovering birds of prey. The sand dunes to the east offer a beautiful contrast to the cliffs to the west. The sign tells us that the sanddunes are moving at a rate of eleven meters a year.
It’s OK. We’ve seen better. Wish it was the right time to see the whales, but we are months too late. It just isn’t anything special. Certainly not worth paying for.
The drive continues along, passed the Nullarbor Road House where they don’t even bother to sign how much the diesel and petrol cost. We take that to mean it’s bloody expensive, and are thankful for our long range fuel tank.
We pull in at each marked scenic rest area. The flat land just suddenly stops. The cliffs drop sharply down to the ocean below. There is 800 kilometers of coastline like this, coastline with cliffs of 70 to 140 meters. I hold three-year-old Edmund tightly as he struggles to get down, and yell at Lucy, Susan and Peter not to jump, run or climb on the fenced barriers. Jarrad tells me to relax and takes some more photos. I respond by tighten my grip on Edmund, and tell the others to move further back.
We’re excited about crossing the border, but we are really not looking forward to the quarantine check point. Actually, I’m dreading it. We have six bikes to get out before they can even start. Underneath the couch is chock full of food. I am hoping and wishing that they choose not to tear the campervan apart looking for stuff. In my imagination, I think once they see that six overhead cupboards, the car fridge, the campervan fridge and freezer, under the fridge, under the oven, under the sink and under the couch are all laden with food, they’ll just keep searching.
We avoided buying new honey, and we’ve cooked all our onions and potatoes. Almost everything else we’ve allowed to run out over the last few days. I cut up the last few oranges for the kids, who are eating them as we drive into the 24 hour quarantine point. I reluctantly hand over the one red onion and avacado, as well as the orange peels.
He starts looking in the deep cupboard above the fridge. I offer to take it out so he can see better. He tells me not to worry. He continues to check cupboards as I offer to take the couch apart, telling him its full of food. Again, he tells me not to worry, but nods at an empty cardboard box on the table that is labelled “fresh strawberries”. “I’ll have to take that,” he apologises, “But I can give you a replacement one.”
We continue on, relieved how relatively painless the quarantine crossing had been. We pull in at Eucla for fuel, and notice how delapidated the township is, and all the rubbish over the ground. Diesel is still $1.89, but we top up with a little,
I did want to stop up Eucla Telegraph Station, but it’s getting late now so we want to get out of town to camp for the night.
We head down a hill and wish we could pull over to look at the beautiful views. There is a sea of green in front of us (all the low shrubs) and the ocean off to the left.
We pull in at a rest area for the night … With trees. And dust. Lots of dust. The kids are covered with dust within minutes. I draw a hopskotch in the dust for them, and insist they play. It’s only seven but it seems late. Turning the clocks back two and a half hours might actually help us to get in bed earlier.
Thanks to the time change, we actually manage to leave the rest area before nine o’clock. We spend most of the day just driving. We go to have a look at the Eyre Bird Observatory and Cocklebiddy Caves, but both are too far off along dirt four wheel drive tracks to bother. We travel along the “90 mile straight” – the longest straight stretch of road in the country.
It feels good to finally have made it to a new state. We’re glad to have made it, but disappointed that the Nullarbor wasn’t more interesting. The things we are looking forward to never seem to live up to our expectations.
Oh, and for other people contemplating the drive and wondering about the fuel prices:
Fuel prices late January 2012.
Nundroo petrol 156.9 and diesel 160.9
Border Town petrol 199 and diesel 199
Eucla petrol 189 and diesel 189
Mundrabilla Road House: petrol 176 and diesel 180 cents per liter
Cockabiddy Road House: petrol 191.6c and diesel 190.6c
Telstra at Border Town and Eucla only.