|Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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26 April 2006 - Crossing the Nullarbor - Ceduna to nr Eucla
We left Ceduna intending to spend the night at Fowler Bay a bit over 100 kilometres along the coast but were not impressed by the place when we arrived. More importantly, the road into Fowler Bay was gravel with long stretches of clay which would get slippery when wet; and rain was forecast for this evening. We could see ourselves stuck in Fowler Bay so decided not to risk it and returned to the Eyre Highway and continued towards Western Australia.
Once we were back on the Eyre Highway we made good time at 92 kph on the cruise control on a reasonably good road. As we moved into an area of less than 300 mm annual rainfall the amount of wheat dwindled and then all signs of agriculture or pastoral activity faded to be replaced by endless mallee with an understory of bluebush and saltbush making an interesting colour patchwork. Then the mallee began to thin out and over a distance of about ten kilometres disappeared completely so that it had all gone when we reached the sign near the Nullarbor Roadhouse proclaiming the beginning of the treeless part of the Nullarbor Plain. This plain is also very flat and fuel consumption improved after we got away from the earlier mallee sections with numerous short hills which pushed up consumption.
The turn-off to the Head of The Bight whale watching lookout near the Nullarbor Roadhouse was closed. Unfortunately, it is too early in the season for the Southern Right Whales to have arrived from sub-Antarctic waters so we could not repeat our experience of 2004 when we spent a couple of hours watching whales lazing around in the water just below the cliffs at the Head of The Bight.
We noticed how few roadkill carcasses were splattered over the Eyre Highway; although the bloodstains can easily be seen on the road the carcasses have been removed, presumably by the local council. Roadkill carcasses are a feature of outback roads usually with a gathering of ravens and kites feeding on them. These smaller birds (about half a metre wingspan) are agile enough to fly away safely as a vehicle approaches; although sometimes they leave it so late to take off that the driver expects to hit a kite. But we also see much larger eagles feeding on road kill and they are not so agile. We were told at Alice Springs last year that the calici virus has depleted the rabbit population so much that eagles have changed their diet from rabbits and now habitually feed on road kill carcasses. The bad news is that these much heavier birds can only take off into the wind direction and they gain height very slowly. We passed one dead fox on the side of the road and nearby was the carcasse of a large eagle that had failed to gain enough height to avoid being hit by an approaching vehicle. Later in the day an eagle taking off from a carcass in the road only cleared the Territory by a metre or so and would have had no hope of clearing a much higher road train. We were not sure who has been clearing up the carcasses but were thankful that we did not have to deal with many big birds feeding in the middle of the road.
For much of the distance between the Head of the Bight and the border with Western Australia the Eyre Highway runs less than two kilometres from the top of the Bunda Cliff at the edge of the huge slab of colour banded limestone forming the Nullarbor Plain. Several lookouts on the Bunda Cliff are signed on the Highway but one is particularly good and I had recorded the co-ordinates (31° 34' 35"S, 131° 28' 02"E) on an earlier visit so I could find it with the GPS. The wind was offshore so the sea was calm at the base of the cliffs and there were no breaking waves to distract from the pictures of the cliffs. As a bonus a large pod of dolphins swam past the base of the cliffs.
|The Eyre Highway crossing the Nullarbor Plain.|
The weather had been deteriorating all day; there had been strong gusty wind for a while but that dropped towards dusk and light rain began. Quite heavy rain began falling as we approached Quarantine Inspection on the WA border, fortunately it was under cover. I was asked to open the A-van and the fridge in the Territory. The carrots and peanuts we had were OK; we knew honey was not permitted and had dumped that before we got to the check point.
After leaving the border check point we went down Eucla Pass (92 metres to 20 metres elevation) onto the Roe Plain. By now it was late afternoon and time to stop for the night. We intend to stop for the night in a rest area off the highway and like to have tank water available for washing so we don't use as much of the fresh water we carry. Petrol stations on the Nullarbor don't provide water, even the caravan parks we have stayed at on previous trips don't provide water to sites so water has to be used carefully. One possible rest area with water available was on top of Bunda Cliffs, but the area was very exposed and a site with vegetation half a metre high on the top of a 60 metre cliff facing the Southern Ocean was not the place to be when there was a strong wind warning current. About 30 kilometres past Eucla we pulled into Najada Rockhole Rest area while there was still sufficient daylight to find our way in and to set up before dark. This rest area had enough trees around it to be a little sheltered and secluded, although close enough to the road to be disturbed by heavy trucks and B-doubles which can make an alarming amount of noise as they pass.