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19 The Nullarbor Experience

overcast 16 °C

30th August
Kalgoorlie-Boulder to Fraser Range Station
The overnight showers did not help us to sleep, however, we managed an early start to Kambalda for the next golf hole. The road was wet on a number of road stretches with several large mud patches caused by road trains entering the highway from off-road location causing potential traffic hazards.

We noticed the tree height reducing as we travelled south and small hills added to the variety. After completing the golf hole we drove through to Norseman to complete the next two holes then lunch with Maureen and Brian in a small park. Very pleasant.
After getting petrol and checking the tyre pressures we then had an easy drive on the Eyre Highway towards Fraser Range Station for our overnight stopover. We set up quickly, however several insisted on coming to watch the golf hole that I had to play there. Quite a few enjoyed the watching, perhaps due to lack of knowledge of golf! Saw a lot of emus on this very large station (over 400,000 acres for the statistically aged). From the homestead to the farthest fence-line is 160 kilometres. In other words it is a large property. The van park catered for over twenty vans plus the cabins. At only $25 per night per van site it was a bargain.

After the golf event all the campers settled in around a roaring fire and enjoyed a lot of yarns, jokes, and travel intelligence material. A jolly good time was had by all, and at dinner time we trouped off to enjoy that too. The power supply was two large generators however, they often did not manage to provide sufficient power for all the campers to use all their electrical appliances so we had blackouts. Too dangerous to fire up the laptop in case of this problem, however, a few hardy souls braved to cold breeze and got together around the fire again.
Overnight it began to rain, however, we slept well.

31st August
Fraser Range Station
We awoke to a steady rain falling so we did not venture out other than toilet breaks. Mary & I read for most of the morning, and after lunch we were invited next door to Brian and Maureen’s van for afternoon tea. Maureen had generously gone to the trouble of baking a large batch of pikelets – a most enjoyable time for all.
The rain eased in the early evening but then gusty winds grew in intensity all through the night.

1st September
The first day of spring? Not here it wasn’t!

Increasing rain and wind so we reluctantly agreed to stay another day to keep of the wet roads and avoiding possible van damage. We pulled our van awning down to minimise the impact of the wind that was now buffeting the van quite often. However, that meant that we also had rain at the van door so things started to get rather damp.
The staff recommended that we visit their kitchen block as a place to spend a warm day. “We’ll light up the log fire for you”, they said, and boy was it lovely and warm. We all spent most of the day in the comfort of this lovely old stone cookhouse reading or playing games.
After chatting with later arrivals we headed off to our respective vans about 1600 to prepare for dinner. At Fraser Range Station there was no TV reception, newspapers, and the radio reception was very poor – just like in the old days that I recall on various farms on which we then lived.

2nd September
Fraser Range Station to Cocklebiddy Road House
Although we were up quite early we were a bit late in actually leaving. The weather was overcast and breezy and cold! We took a few more photos and headed back to the Eyre Highway nearby enroute to the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse quite some distance away and where I had the next golf hole to play.

The main road to our first stop, Balladonia, was very good and time went quite quickly.
At Balladonia Road House we obtained petrol, coffee and a few trinkets in their shop. Balladonia enjoyed a brief moment of world-wide fame in 1979 (?) the Skylab landed in many pieces from inland Australia, across Balladonia, the Great Australian Bight, the coastal town of Esperance, and then into the Indian Ocean. A sizable chunk of the Skylab skin is held in the museum there. Suitable refreshed we hit the road for our next stop at Caiguna Road House for my next golf hole. The golf was less than exciting as it was wet and muddy and absolutely unlike any other golf complex in the world!

As we left Caiguna we hit the longest stretch of straight road in the world, at 147 Klms long. After about 20 Km Mary took over the driving on this excellent piece of road and managed about 90 Km. It was decided to head on to Cocklebiddy Road House for the night as Caiguna was very wet indeed. Through light showers of rain we managed the additional 66 Kms and arrived there pretty tired. There were lots of Road Trains on the highway (that is, articulated trucks with (usually) three large trailers attached) however, they are generally courteous and excellent drivers and so nor problems with them at all except to make us cautious when being passed by one because of the snaking behaviour of the last trailer.
On checking in we found that the wet weather had arrived before us and the CP had many very large and muddy puddles. A light dinner and then read for a while accompanied by the incessant wind outside.

3rd September
Cocklebiddy Road House to Eucla
Blustery wind and rain through the night ensured that we did not sleep well. However, all this rain did not manage to cause us any problems in our food cupboard, so the morning in Esperance spent fixing the probable problem area was well spent indeed.
When we awoke about 0615 we saw that the puddles had been greatly enlarged in area overnight and we almost awash in a sea of muddy water. A quick breakfast and then, dressed in my swimming trunks, a sweater and a plastic mac, and wearing my pseudo croc footwear, I headed off to play that golf hole in freezing wind and driving rain. I am surprised that I managed to hold onto the club, let alone manage to get the ball to safely to its destination. On my return Mary tried to insist that I have a very hot shower to thaw out but I decided that the probable outcome for me would be too serious to contemplate, so I rubbed down and got dressed ready for travel!

In freezing cold winds and light rain we headed out at about 0840 heading to Madura Pass (sadly, we bypassed the Lookout vantage point above the village as it was hidden in low cloud when we arrived) for the next golf hole. We arrived for morning tea and decided to buy a warm coffee instead of our usual thermos flask one. The golf hole actually passed over a service road to the Road House, much to the amusement of the couple who parked their van very close to the trajectory line and stood around enjoying their morning tea. Amazingly, I managed a really good shot to the green and the chap told me he had videoed it! Finished that job and rejoined the others for my cuppa before hitting the road again.

We lunched beside the Mundrabilla Road House which was surrounded by even more water than previous stops had experienced. The golf tee point was isolated by water and so we drove the car and van into the former Caravan Park site and parked there so that I could attempt this hole too. However, the weather conditions were so bad and the ground so muddy that it became quite dangerous to finish the hole, so, when I managed to lose two golf balls in the mini-jungle, I called it quits.

We then drove through the rain to Eucla village near to the West Australian/South Australian border for the night. Although we enjoyed a fairly brief period of fine weather we managed to arrive as the rain did. However, we set up in the Eucla Caravan Park, atop a range of hills that followed the coastline. A long time ago (but not millions of years) the present hill/cliff had been the shoreline of the Southern Ocean prior to the ocean floor being raised. Of course it was windy up on top of that ridge, however, we managed to get ourselves surrounded by a number of other vans so we enjoyed some shelter from the elements.
As we expected to meet the South Australian quarantine station the next morning where we expected vegetables and fruit to be confiscated to eradicate the possibility of bring the dreaded fruit fly into SA, Mary set about cooking up all vegetables and fruit to avoid this possibility.

4th September
Eucla to Nullarbor Roadhouse
We decided to move on as early as possible as everywhere seemed significantly affected by the rain. No flooding as such, but very wet along roads and side-roads making things unpleasant. Golf was therefore not possible here at the WA/SA Border, especially at the Border hole with a massive lake of water around the tee in which the tee appeared to be floating on top.

For once we actually had a tail-wind for most of the trip as we passed through increasingly smaller tress until there was only low scrub, or heather as far as the eye could see. Strangely, we did not find that boring as there always seemed to be some point of interest along the highway.
Just after leaving the border we were stopped by the local cops doing a licence and RBT check. When asked if I had had any alcohol to drink (before 1000???) I told him the last drop was in 1987. Not impressed.

The trip was otherwise uneventful but quite interesting and got a good park at the Nullarbor CP. After setting up I managed to get the long par 5 hole completed in spite of the long grass fairways and the many massive rabbit warrens in which you could easily lose the ball.
We all enjoyed a great sunset over the large rain puddles.

5th September
Nullarbor to a Free Stop near Penong
We were all ready for an 0830 departure, however, as we reached the Eyre Highway from the CP we were all stopped by the police with a road-block. There was a B Double semi trailer that they were trying to retrieve from the bog on the side of the highway about 400 meters on our exit from town. It had somehow gone slightly off onto the edge of the roadway the night previous and had bogged seriously with a serious lean that indicated a complete rollover may be imminent. However, after about 40 minutes they reopened the highway as we were all allowed through.

A pleasant and quite sunny drive down the highway about 20 minutes to the Head of the Bight turnoff. There was a nice new Interpretative Centre there covering the local wildlife, especially the Southern Right Whales that spent the winter in the Great Australian Bight giving birth and nurturing their calves. We saw over a dozen whales and calves right at our feet below the Bunda Cliffs on which an excellent walkway had been built. Many tourists flock here as the whales are so close and observable without impeding their life in any way. A must for anyone passing through in the winter months.

Morning tea and we hit the road again with Brian and Maureen heading on through to Ceduna direct as we trundled along to Nundroo and Penong for the next golf holes. At our lunch stop we had a an interesting chat with a couple in a Merc about the parlous state resulting from the indeterminate Australian election. While chatting over lunch an old Ford Falcon, with two females came racing through the stopping point, dragged around on the gravel and then, without even looking charged back onto to the highway – right in front of a large semi-trailer with great big EXPLOSIVES plastered across the front of the truck. Needless to say the truckie gave them a real blast!

I played the Nundroo golf hole and we then drove quietly through the rolling hills until we found a free overnight site near to Penong. A pleasant afternoon tea in the very welcome warm sunshine adjacent to massive wheat fields and peace and quiet, apart from the passing trucks on the highway. Another couple also pulled in to enjoy the stopover and came over for a chat. They had been on the road for about nine years! Later, as the four of us chatted we heard a scrunching of tires on the gravel and a raucous group of youngish women noisily piled out and greeted us, beer bottles in hand! Apparently they had been celebrating a clean-sweep in their end of year sports and had been celebrating at a nearby coastal village all weekend. They soon left us in peace and raced off to complete the weekend nearer home!
We had a peaceful night, with no electricity but the camp lanterns worked fine.

6th September
Free stop to Ceduna
We awoke to a beautiful sunny morning and, as not much packing up was required we were soon on the road to Ceduna and the end of our Nullarbor experience. We stopped at Penong, a very small road-side village, and I completed that golf hole while Mary caught up on her reading. This hole was quite short, almost dry and a nice hole to enjoy.

Ceduna soon appeared on Tomtom and we arrived at the very pleasant Big 4 Ceduna CP and quickly got settled in. The washing had accumulated so Mary got the first lot completed. Although somewhat windy this is a very pleasant small coastal town with a new IGA store at which we managed to get some shopping up to date. No TV reception on our laptop so enjoyed a quiet read before a welcome sleep.

Posted by psstevo 15:51 Archived in Australia

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