Nullarbor – Sun 12th Apr
A few facts about the Nullarbor; (a) it’s the largest limestone bedrock exposure in the world, (b) it only gets 200mm of rain a year and (c) its name comes from nullus arbor, or “no trees”. Oh and the first crossing by bike was made in 1896….
To be honest we had expectations of this big, dusty void; with nothing living as far as the eye can see. Wrong. The place is a continually changing botanist’s dream, assuming said botanist has a liking for grass and shrubs. The vegetation is constantly changing and the bloke who coined its name must have been used to pretty tall shrubs, kind of like small trees in places.
Aside from the plants there’s not a great deal else to see. The exception is the cliffs, for which there are a number of lookout points where the road runs close to the coast. The most developed is at the Head of the Bight, which in whale season is a prime viewing sport; however as the whales were off on their holidays we passed on spending $10 a head to look at the sea.
One other sight was not listed on the map. Poggy at Coorabie farm had told us about a large sinkhole in the bush near Koonalda. Fascinating to see how the limestone had eroded leading to collapse of the clay above; the resulting hole was about 75m across and he reckoned 150m deep.
Camp for the night was about 10km from the border. According to Wikicamps there was one at the back of the beach, however with a large escarpment in the way it looked like a one way trip so after a 10km bush bash we ended up back with the nomads in the main area.
Now, remember the 200mm rain a year. Not much really, and would imply it does not rain a lot. So just our luck to get some….made for a decent sunset though.
Twilight Cove – Mon 13th Apr
Crossing the border brought to mind the old England / France ferry crossings, before open borders in Europe – all line up and get ready for a vehicle search. A few dangerous cloves of garlic later and we were free to go; unlike the poor chap who had had to unpick his carefully taped up tarpaulin and was stood morosely on the roadside, gaffa tape in hand.
Stopping at Eucla the kangaroos suddenly got a great deal bigger.
Also at Eucla we ran into Geoff and Damon of Seriously Series. Eschewing all modern comforts they were driving Geoff’s Series 2 from Tasmania to Bunbury, what a great adventure. They also had the same thoughts as us for the next stop, Twilight Cove. We however had seen comments, albeit from last year, mentioning deep impassable sand and were in two minds A quick chat later and we were on our way as a team of 2, albeit a rather sedate one as 1960’s petrol engines aren’t that fast.
Although off the Nullarbor proper the landscape along this stretch is no less fascinating. Running alongside an escarpment, through a grassy / shrubby plain dotted with umbrella shaped trees it could be mistaken for a scene from the African savannah.
The track sets out from Cocklebiddy roadhouse, with the chap there looking at us askance when we mentioned a trailer. 2 hours later and we could see why; it was alternately soft sand and very rocky and then, in increasing darkness, a couple of steep drop offs. Steep enough to give some serious thought to a trailside stop, but nothing ventured etc. and we found a great spot for the night at the bottom.
Towards Balladonia – Tue 14th Apr
A recce of the climb out was thought wise, without the trailer in tow. So with Geoff fiddling with his radiator Damon jumped in with me. The 110 skipped up without a problem, a good tonic for the nerves.
Having arrived in the dark, a recce of the beach was a must before we left. It soon became clear that although I had the power advantage the Series definitely won on weight, skipping up slopes the 110 was having to work at.
The drive was well worth it, the dunes were incredible and so white; the beach faded off into the distance, from the cliff behind us, just a windswept expanse of sand.
So to the moment of truth, how would we go towing up the climb. Happy to report no problem at all. Some interesting side slopes in the run up, testing the 110’s wheel articulation; then up the main climb in low 2nd without a murmur.
Returning to the tarmac was almost an anti-climax. Certainly it didn’t require much navigation as we hit the longest straight road in Australia; oh for cruise control.
Target for the night was Afghan Rock, so named for the Afghan camel driver found by thirsty travellers sitting in the last fresh water pool, and therefore promptly shot. However darkness overtook us, and camp for the night was a non-descript roadside spot along with a number of other travellers.
Lucky Bay – Wed 15th to Sat 18th Apr
Rather than go via Norseman there is a shortcut, departing the highway at Balladonia and heading towards Cape Arid. Being dirt it is normally sensible to seek advice at the roadhouse as to conditions; at least it is when the staff aren’t European backpackers. They must have a different view of what rocky means, as despite her assurances we were soon picking our way. The addition of rain didn’t help, turning the patches which weren’t rocky into slippery mud sprays.
Halfway down the track, just onto the Parmango Road, was the only real point of interest. Deralinya is an old homestead partially restored and open for travellers to use, even with beds to sleep in. With reports there was a large carpet python in the rafters the girls weren’t keen to explore, despite me being sent in first as sacrifice. So lunch was outside.
Back to that mud. Coating the 110 and trailer it set like cement, $17 in a car was just to get the 110 clean.
Lucky Bay is part of Cape Le Grand National Park, about 50km east of Esperance, and is reported to have the whitest sand in Australia. Being school holidays, and arriving late in the day, we were concerned it would be full; but finally the rain did us a favour – it seems many had left the day before.
This is truly a beautiful place, and with hot showers to boot (so long as the sun shines, they are solar heated). The beach is a long curve of sand between two rocky outcrops looking out to a bay dotted with small islands.
It is also home to some very friendly Wallabies, so much so they seem to quite enjoy a pat; although the girl’s enthusiasm seemed to wane when the odd tick was spotted
Nearby is a curious rocky outcrop named Frenchmans Peak by the French in 1792. The Aboriginal name for it is Mandooboornup and in the dreamtime story it is an eagle, constantly looking out to 2 rocky islands. These islands are 2 children who raided her nest and took away her future (her eggs). She picked them up and dropped them in the sea never to return, with the springs running off the base of the peak being the tears of the children’s parents.
There is a marked trail to the top of the peak, very steep in places but with great views from the top. A bonus for the girls was if you climb it you get a certificate from the camp hosts at Lucky Bay.
Aside from a couple of trips into Esperance for supplies, laundry etc. this was a great place to chill out and enjoy the end of the school holidays, before term 2 started for the girls the next week.