Nullarbor 2011

A Sunday Drive

It took 4 Sundays and the 18 days in-between for our “Sunday Drive”.  Follow our journey’s story and pictures below or click on the map to see where we went. Bruce’s photos are also published at Moustache.

Of course I found flowers – lots of them. I still haven’t got round to sorting those photos out yet.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

Sandringham to Nhill – 28 August 2011, 412km (=412km)

Giant Koala
I couldn’t resist catching this big grey fellow somewhere between Stawell and Horsham.

Nhill Lake
After 5½ hours drive from Melbourne, it was delightful to find this tranquil, quintessentially Australian lake with noisy birds, in the evening light.

Dinner at the Union Hotel under the television. Last to leave at 8pm – they were ready to shut up, it was a Sunday night.

Nhill to Nuttbush Retreat – 29 August 2011, 708km (=1120km)

Couldn’t find breakfast in Nhill, it was too early. Cafes weren’t open and neither was the supermarket, so we hit the road just after 8am, with a full tank of petrol and a couple of bottles of juice, hoping to find something en route.

We found sticky buns in Bordertown, and headed on before coffee. We finally found coffee at Mt Barker, close to Adelaide, before driving through Adelaide and on to the Princes Hwy to Port Augusta.

No rooms were available in Port Augusta, however the tourist centre rang ahead and booked us into Nuttbush Retreat about 40km west of Port Augusta. A quaint room without private facilities and a pre-booked dinner in the dining room. Salt bush mutton chops were indeed mutton.

We chatted with a couple from Wollongong who had done an anti-clockwise tour of 12 weeks through the centre to Broome, down the west coast and across the Nullarbor. They had had enough of caravan life and were anxious to get home.

Nuttbush Retreat to Nullarbor Roadhouse – 30 August 2011, 731km (=1851km)

Shared bathrooms is not what we are used to, however we managed that and up and out by 8am. Breakfast was fresh fruit, juice and muesli bars from the boot of our car.

We stopped at Kimba for a coffee. There was plenty of sightseeing as Kimba is the home of the Big Galah and also the half way point across Australia.

The road to Ceduna was easy to drive, and fringed by the beautiful green and gold of the Australian bush. We were overwhelmed by the enormous fields of wheat and other grains.

As we left Ceduna, the landscape changed slowly, agriculture was replaced by salt bush and shrubby gum trees. Sometimes the skeletons of older trees were being overgrown by young green shoots. Bush fires or just dehydrated trees?

By the time we reached the Nullarbor Roadhouse, and the Eastern Edge of the Nullarbor Plain, the landscape was reduced to shrubby salt bush. Nullarbor is Latin for “without trees”.

The Nullarbor Roadhouse is an oasis in the long drive west and you pay for it. Steak dinner is $40 and a litre of unleaded petrol is $2.00. We have now travelled nearly 2,000 km in three days.

Nullarbor Roadhouse to Caiguna – 31 August 2011, 598km (=2449km)

We left the Nullarbor Roadhouse early and backtracked to the Head of the Bight which is a Whale Nursery. There were whales from the cliffs below to as far as you could see them, frolicking. We most enjoyed watching a mother and calf close in. Great experience.

We drove on to Caiguna where even the car had an undercover spot for the night. We were desperate to exercise our legs, but the lady at the roadhouse suggested we just stay in the roadhouse area as there are so many tracks to get lost on. Instead we wandered out the back and found the local airstrip. We didn’t get lost there! We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks in the bar and sharing experiences with other travellers, then dinner – more roast in the “diner”.

Trucks roared past all night, so big and so fast.

Caiguna to Kalgoorlie – 1 September 2011, 564km (=3013km)

Caiguna is at the eastern end of the Ninety Mile Straight, 90 miles (146 km) of seriously straight road, not a single bend, headed at 262°. There were ups and downs, but no curves.

We stopped at Norseman for lunch, proud that we had reached the other end of the Nullarbor Plain. It wasn’t entirely treeless, nor was it boring. The terrain and the vegetation changed constantly – no trees, tall trees, scrubby saltbush, grasses waving in the breeze. There was some roadkill, predominately kangaroos, the roadtrains obviously cause damage, however crows were always there to clean up the carcases.

From Norseman we drove to Kalgoorlie, passing numerous mining sites.

Our first impression of Kalgoorlie was the wide streets and beautiful old buildings, especially the pubs. We also found bubblers there to add to Water Water!

Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie – 2 September 2011, 136km (=3149km)

We started the morning viewing the SuperPit. This is the Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCGM) massive hole in the ground, working 24/7 to drag as much gold out as possible. It was Alan Bond’s dream of buying up the smaller miners and consolidating it to one massive operation. Today there is a continuous line of trucks carrying massive amounts of dirt out, up the side of the hole. The dirt is processed to extract tiny amounts of gold.

From there we drove into Boulder, more beautiful old buildings, but many damaged by an earthquake last year. Nearly a ghost town.

Mount Charlotte lookout is the site of an early gold discovery, then later the home of water storage, piped in from Perth in 1903, in the greatest engineering feat of its day. Water had been as precious as gold in the early days of prospecting in this regions.

Next stop was the Miner’s Hall of Fame, where we did the underground tour. Jim the tour leader and old miner was a colourful character who did a great job of explaining life in the mines. He never did tell us how he lost the top of his middle right finger.

When we came up from the underground tour the weather had changed and it was pouring – just the second rain storm in Kalgoorlie this year – just our luck!

Rain really limited what we could do, so we drove 38km to Coolgardie to look at the original goldrush town. It is small, just a few lovely old buildings still standing. Back in Kalgoorlie, we drove around the ‘urbs to get a feel of life in a mining town.

Dinner on a pub balcony was delightful, but those miners eat big meals.

Kalgoorlie to Mandurah – 3 September 2011, 677km (=3826km)

Big drive, 677 km, 8 hours to reach the South West corner of Western Australia. First stop is Mandurah, about 78km south of Perth. I read that it is one of the most expensive places to buy land, but it wasn’t until we left, travelling south, that we understood this bit of trivia. On the southern side of town large houses on small blocks fronting water inlets were the standard.

Mandurah to Busselton – 4 September 2011, 176km (=4002km)

Since it was Sunday and also Father’s Day we decided to make a quick escape from Mandurah to the long awaited “Margaret River” region. We reached Busselton in time to find accommodation and somewhere for a longish lunch. We also managed a return walk along the 1.8km pier to build up an appetite.

In Western Australia “long lunch” is an oxymoron. Service is generally very prompt and meals are enormous. Lunch at “The Goose” was pleasant, but not especially long.

Cape Naturaliste – 5 September 2011, 159km (=4161km)

The northern end of the Cape to Cape track is Cape Naturaliste. The lighthouse is set high on top of the cliffs and amongst native vegetation. The start of the Cape to Cape path is well signed and tarred, suitable for prams and wheelchairs, and very easy walking for us. Wild flowers are abundant and we come across many other walkers with buts in the air and cameras pointed to tiny coloured flowers. And, yes – the flowers are beautiful.

We walked to Sugarloaf Rock, about 3.5km south, and back again. We then followed the track around the lighthouse, including a detour to the whale watch post, where we saw whales breaching in the distance.

After a quick visit to Dunsborough, we finished the day visiting Yallingup, one of many small fishing/holiday villages between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin.

Cape Leeuwin – 6 September 2011, 204km (=4365km)

I badly wanted to “walk” the other end of the cape, so after coffee near Margaret River, we headed down to Augusta and Cape Leeuwin, the home of Australia’s tallest lighthouse.

We headed off in clear weather, however we had been warned by local tradies that rain would come. The track started on the beach over very slippery rocks, kept moist by water leeching out of the ground. The track then went bush, crossed a road and was often vague in its direction – a sharp contrast from yesterday’s well defined track from Cape Naturaliste. The wild flowers were more subdued, which had us realise that the track from Cape Naturaliste is well paved and well planted. Here we were seeing a far more natural bush.

We walked for 2 hours, covering more than 6km over rocks and then up and down overgrown tracks. It was slow going. The return trip was easier, more down hill than up and taking a road rather than the slippery rocks. The whole journey was 13.2km – a very good day.

Ambergate Reserve and Margaret River region – 7 September, 156km (=4521km)

We started the day at the Ambergate Reserve, a remnant of coastal plain woodland in the Busselton area. When we arrived the reserve warden Jeni Jones was at the site. She is quite a character and very excited that we were visiting. The flowers were magnificent and I was excited to find some orchids amongst the scrub.

After a 4km walk in the reserve, we then headed to Cowaramup in the Margaret River region for lunch. Then we hit a couple of wineries and a brewery.

Finally, we checked the coastline at Gracetown. The western coast is stunning – rugged with tiny bays and brilliant sunsets.

Busselton to Albany – 8 September, 438km (=4959km)

We left Busselton early for the drive to Albany with lunch in the bag. We had coffee at Pemberton, where we met other travellers Chris & Yvonne from New Zealand and shared notes.

Next stop was the Valley of the Giants to see the giant trees. The tree top walk was fantastic, swaying40 metres high in the tingle canopy was a great experience. A little maintenance was happening, and it was amazing to see the equipment being used to manage the tree tops.

Then it was a reality check at ground level for the Ancient Empire Walk, to see the trees from the bottom up!

We acquainted ourselves with Albany, checked the lookout at Mount Clarence and then finished the day watching the sun set over the wind farm.

Albany – 9 September, 75km (=5034km)

Albany was the home of whaling. Cheyne Whaling operated from 1956 to 1978, and were the last whaling company to operate in Australia. It is distressing to see the way whales were chased in the ocean and caught and butchered. Very little of the animal was discarded. It is comforting to know that whale numbers are now increasing, since most countries have stopped whaling.

We explored the Marine Drive Scenic Path, flowers, ocean views and lots of lizards sunning themselves by the path.

Albany to Esperance – 10 September, 520km (=5554km)

470km drive to Esperance. Lunch stop at Ravensthorpe, where surprisingly there was a flower show – a nice stop on the journey. It is amazing to see so many varieties of the wattle, the banksia, the grevillia and even orchids – just in this region.

After orientating ourselves with Esperance, we found the Kepwari Walk Trail around Woody and Wheatfields Lakes. It was late in the day and we saw the sun set over the lakes. Beautiful!!

Esperance – 11 September, 181km (=5735km)

After breakfast in Esperance, we headed out to Cape le Grand, the nearest national park, approximately 60km to the south and west.  Our first stop was the Frenchman Peak, a rock in the park.  Not Ayer’s Rock but in the area an amazing landmark.  There were warnings not to climb during strong winds and rain, the climb was dauntingly steep.  Bruce with his camera bag and me with a camera, water bottle and binoculars strapped around me and my trusty walking poles hit the track.

The climb was steep, but we discovered that traversing it, goat style was far more manageable and the view from the top amazing.  Of course the wild flowers were beautiful and colourful.  And of course I got very involved in taking photos of these wonderful flowers.

Next stop was Lucky Bay, well known for kangaroos lolling on the fine white sands of the beach,  We didn’t find the kangaroos on the beach, but a mother with babe in pouch and youngster in toe calmly crossed our path.  We found evidence of kangaroos on the fine white sandy beach.

After returning to Esperance we took the 25km Ocean Beach Drive through to the Pink Lake, which didn’t look at all pink.

Esperance to Balladonia – 12 September, 416km (=6151km)

The first day driving back along the Nullarbor.  We leave Esperance and drive north for nearly 200km to Norseman.  Norseman appears to be a great meeting place for the grey nomads.  Today there must have been 30 caravans, camper trailers and campervans and their drivers congregating, sharing experiences before travelling east, north east or south east.

Balladonia is a comfortable place, just 200km into the Nullarbor.  We chased the quintessential Aussie sunset in the nearby desert scrub.

Balladonia to Eucla – 13 September, 531km (=6682km)

A big drive from Balladonia to Eucla.  The road is quiet and easy to drive.  Thea insisted that it was her turn to drive the 90 mile straight east, and it was good to see a curve in the road after 146.6km.  Along the way we saw road kill, mostly kangaroos and wallabies, but also the occasional lizard – makes great fodder for the crows.  White cabbage moths constantly got in our path, making a nice mess on the front of the car.

Eucla is one of the old telegraph posts, so after checking in to our room we headed 6km down to the coast to see the old telegraph post and an amazing collection of oceans birds at home on a disintegrating pier.  Against the setting sun, it was a very graphic experience.

Eucla to Streaky Bay – 14 September, 604km (=7287km)

This was our last stretch of the Nullarbor, to Ceduna and then the Flinders Highway to Streaky Bay.  We made a fuel stop and driver change at Nundroo, lunch near Koonibba.

We found good accommodation at the Streaky Bay Hotel, and after a walk on the pier and the waterfront, had dinner at the pub.

Streaky Bay and Venus Bay – 15 September, 183km (=7047km) (Astra =100,070km)

After exploring the recommended drives, and finding them all on unsealed roads, not suitable for the Astra, we decided to stay safe and head for Venus Bay, the next major bay south of Streaky Bay.

On  the way we stopped off at Murpy’s Haystacks a truly graphically arranged group of granite rocks that have made their way out of the  landscape.  Highlight for Thea was coming across a lizard hunting for his daily fillup.

At Venus Bay we found a flock of Pelicans who were monitoring a couple cleaning fish.  Such patient birds – just ready to pick up the odd  fish skeleton, compliments of the local fishermen.

Today the Astra clicked over 99,999 to 100,000km.  The old girl is performing well on this long Sunday drive.  Mind you, she was treated to a new set of tyres and a water pump for this long tour.

Streaky Bay to Clare – 16 September, 599km (=8069km)

A long day, 60km to join the Eyre Highway and then leaving it just after Port Augusta.  The drive from there was on less used roads through wheat, lucern and canola, a patchwork of yellow greens, blue greens and yellows.

We arrived at Clare, centre of the Clare Valley wine region.  It is a pretty town with lovely sand stone buildings, but not a great choice of restaurants in the town, so it was  a very Aussie dinner at the local pub.

Clare to Mildura – 17 September, 407km (=8476km)

Between Clare and Mildura we drove through two quanrantined areas for Renmark in SA and Mildura in Vic.  These are major furit, vegetable and wine production areas, so bringing frsh fruit and vegetables through is not permitted.

In Mildura we found a great ice cream shop, offering 48 flavours – will have to come back and try the other 46 another day.

We stretched our legs by walking to the Lock 11 island on the Murray River.  Lock 11 is one of many locks used for controlling the flow of the Murray River between New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.  Really – who has the right to control the flow of water.  I don’t think it should be the state governments.

We had a slow dinner at the Working Men’s Club, once the home of the longest bar in Australia.

Mildura to Sandringham – 18 September, 568km (=9044km)

The car was pointed home, on roads not quite as good as the Nullarbor.  The only stop we made was for lunch and a driver change at Charlton, where one of the fish that floated down the Yarra River during the Commonwealth Games in 2006 is now displayed.

5 Responses to Nullarbor 2011

  1. Margaret Bradley says:

    Boy, you two are doing it tough – you need to take a caravan so as you can have a meal wherever you like! If you are returning via the Nullarbour, call into the Whale Centre at the Great Australian Bight – it is sensational.

  2. Sandi Mast says:

    Yeh !! Glad you made it across safely. If you are visiting Xanadu winery in Margaret Rv
    say ‘Hello’ to anyone who knows us. It is owned by the Rathbone family, same as Langi.
    Have fun. See you in a couple of weeks.
    Sandi and Trev

  3. Margaret Bradley says:

    You didn’t go to Questa Casa the brothel in Kalgoorlie? Thought that was the reason why you and Bruce took off so fast! Glad to hear that you made it across the Nullarbour and especially thrilled that you back tracked to see the whales. You are correct that are absolutely gorgeous especially the baby calves with their mothers. It was an experience which we will never forget. Keep safe and love your blog.

  4. Margaret Bradley says:

    You certainly are covering a vast area in a short time. Good to hear that you are having a great time. We are in Gisborne staying with friends at the moment. When will you be home so as we can catch up with you and Bruce?

  5. Brenda Devers says:

    What an amazing experience you two, fantastic photos – it just goes to show you don’ty need a huge car and caravan to enjoy the wonderful outback!!!

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