Thursday, March 5, 2009

Port Lincoln to Esperance, or Crossing the Nullarbor

We'll begin the day with a froggy photo - taken by Andy on the brand new and very shiny Nikon D90 (which means I get to drive the not so new, not so shiny, but excellent D40) at Eucla Pass where we overnighted crossing the Nullarbor...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We stopped in Port Lincoln for two nights last week. As Andy had some work to do I was left to my own devices and wandered around town for a day. Port Lincoln is a seafood lovers dream come true - they have an internationally significant tuna fishery, as well as oysters, abalone, mussels, scallops, crays, prawns and scale fish. If it lives in the sea Pt.Lincoln is a good place to be harvesting from. It also has some of the sharkiest water around, Sydney perhaps a contender for that title this summer. As much as I would have loved to do cage diving I had to weigh it up. Would I rather spend the same $$ and go diving for 2 -3 DAYS on a coral reef somewhere I'll do 3-4 dives/day rather than 45min in the cold, dark and chummed water. The reef won. I really liked Pt.Lincoln, a pretty town with lots of jetties and pretty coastline and a visible wealth. We ate out one night at the Marina Hotel in the posh part, has to be one of the few places where tuna steaks are priced in with the rest of the fish. Hmmm, tuna steak or fish & chips?
*View from the deck at the Marina Hotel, Pt.Lincoln.

Needless to say the tuna was delicious and the view was pretty good too, looking over the Marina watching the fishing boats come and go.

From Pt.Lincoln we went to Lincoln NP. A stunning park encompassing the southeastern tip of the Eyre Peninsula. We had a beaut camp only metres from the waters edge. At one point we had a pod of dolphins swimming in the shallows AND a couple of seals acting like clowns to my delight. We'd had a bit of an afternoon where things weren't working like they should and
combined with the flies we were getting...tetchy. What is it about seeing marine mammals that eliminates ill-will?

*Point Donnington in Lincoln NP
*Emu mum and chicks strutting about in Lincoln NP

From Lincoln NP we travelled up the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula making a bee line for the start of the Nullarbor. We stopped in briefly at Coffin Bay (of oyster fame) before deciding to push on up the coast to Streaky Bay due to inclement weather.
Streaky Bay caravan park was chockers full of nomads when we pulled in in the late afternoon with such caravan/wheel cover gems as "adventure before dementia". A fishing mecca it was the site of the biggest ever shark caught on rod and reel in the world! By a 16 year old. They have a life size replica of the big fishy that I couldn't resist a cheeky snap with - to give you a sense of scale of course. Over 5m long!

After an evening spent in the caravan park BBQ shelter (to stay outta the rain) and trying to eat up all our fresh fruit and veggies (before handing over to quarantine matters at SA-WA border) we packed up for the big drive west.
We gave the troopy a big drink (the first of many) at Ceduna and pointed her west.

*Just a few of the critters one must look out for while on the Eyre Highway, that's Payniac on the left, not a bunyip.
Day 1 Streaky Bay - Eucla.
Crossing the Nullarbor is an iconic Australian drive. It's a bloody long way, and if you don't break down or run out of petrol there are the voices in your head that might get you in trouble. I have respect and fear for the truckies who do this crossing solo, although I did notice quite a few travelling in convoy so they could chat on their radios I guess. You stare at the white line and hope that nothing jumps out from the scrub at any point while you have your foot flat on the floor. To be perfectly honest I felt a bit let down, rather than feeling like I was on some incredible journey, I just wanted it to be over. And pretty soon it was.

*The classy Nundroo Roadhouse (=petrol station, hotel/motel, caravan park & restaurant/snack bar)

*Nullarbor Roadhouse. Yep that's a dingo. There were a couple hanging around.

We broke our trip up at Eucla, clocking just 611km the first day. The timing all got a bit confusing as we crossed the border and turned our clocks back the wrong amount not realising that Eucla has it's own time zone. This was not rendered until the barman started talking about last drinks and closing at 9, and we're thinking sweet, that's ages away. Wrongo! We squeezed one more beer in before heading back to a camp ground eerily echoing with howling dingoes. The first day we had not encountered the notorious headwind. That was all about to change.

*The limestone cliffs where the Nullarbor meets the ocean, Great Australian Bight NP.

*The view from the cockpit

somewhere/everywhere on the Nullarbor. Note the heavy skies - spoke to a bloke at Eucla who'd crossed the Nullarbor 20 times and reckons he'd seen rain only twice so I suppose we got lucky.
More straight flat road.

Day 2 Eucla - Esperance.
Due to time differences we got going a bit earlier than usual for us - by about 3 hours! Neither of us had slept particularly well as we were rattled around on top of the car as a change came through. Andy deals with these things by getting up and checking that pegs are banged in etc, I deal by putting a pillow over my head and pretending it's not happening.

*Self explanatory. Day 2 on the Nullarbor had us driving straight into that nasty old headwind and saw our fuel economy drop 25%. Eleven and a half hours in the car, period pain and podcasts.
Stopping every hour or so just to break up the tedium. We had decided to push on through to Norseman, arriving at about 4:30, then it was a case of Esperance is just 200km away, let's keep trucking. 918km. Further than the drive from Sydney to Melbourne without all the towns to break up the scenery. We arrived in Esperance the day before yesterday, wired, thirsty, hungry and a little bit tired. We've had a day to regroup, tidy up etc and are ready to face getting in the car again as we head bush for a couple of days.
*More Nullarbor. For us the Nullarbor was challenging due to the boredom. I didn't really get the sense of wide open space that I was expecting, perhaps due to low and threatening rain clouds but most likely because all of this journey stuff is relative. Before Christmas we did some remote, flat, wide open space driving. The Nullarbor is tarmac the whole way with petrol, food and hot showers nicely spaced across the expanse. I feel I'm being dismissive, and I guess if I hadn't done it I wouldn't be able to say there's nothing to see. It's just a big, flat nothing that makes your mind play tricks on you as you drive along. Maybe that's what it's all about.

*Out of the car at last for a break at Norseman, just 200km to go.

Today we are heading to Cape Arid NP, one we've heard good things about so stay tuned for the next installment of our Aussie Adventures.

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