|Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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27 April 2006 - Crossing the Nullarbor - to Ten Mile Rock
The night was quite cool and very dark in our rest area with not a light in sight except for the occasional vehicle passing on the highway. There had been heavy continuous rain overnight and into the morning and large puddles lay in the gravel of the rest area. No other travellers had come into the rest area. Traffic on the Eyre Highway had not disturbed us after a few large B-doubles shook the ground and van as they passed. We used a long break in the rain to pack and fold the van and were away into light rain with a double rainbow to see us on the way. Fuel consumption for the morning was higher than expected because of the strong, blustery head wind; fuel consumption improved as soon as the wind eased early in the afternoon. Traffic all day was very light.
The road on the Roe Plain is at an elevation of 10 to 20 metres running through scattered acacias with bluebush understory; the escarpment on the right marks the main part of the Nullarbor Plain. At Madura Pass the road climbs the face of the escarpment leaving the Roe Plain. At Caiguna we left the Central time zone extending from the WA/SA border to Caiguna. This small, but apparently official, time zone is 45 minutes behind South Australia so clocks should be put back another 45 minutes to WA time.
|Looking across the Roe Plain from Madura lookout at the top of Madura Pass.|
|A morning rainbow over the Eyre Highway.|
Cocklebiddy and Caiguna are in an alkaline limestone area with low rainfall (less than 250 mm annually) which can support only low-growing vegetation including grasses, saltbush, bluebush and some acacias. For much of the area around Cocklebiddy only
scattered grasses and a few acacias are seen and the roadhouse looks a bit forlorn in the middle of the poor quality grasses and a few trees. Towards Balladonia the vegetation becomes thicker; more fertile soil and slightly higher rainfall support extensive temperate eucalyptus woodland stretching to Norseman and beyond. Around Norseman this goldfield woodland is being developed as a tourist attraction because of species diversity. The tourism project is assisted by the attractiveness of many of the gum trees in the woodland.
The Eyre Highway is being progressively upgraded in Western Australia. At Balladonia we entered the area currently being upgraded and drove along 30 kilometres of road works, including one long patch (about 7-8 kilometres) of gravel-clay with speed limit of 40 kph on road works. This was a very large project, when we finished making our way through the road work we were on an upgraded section which was very pleasant to drive on. After driving on this wet clay and gravel it was good to see that the mud-flaps I had installed on all four Territory mudguards work well. Part of the road upgrade clears the vegetation back from the road for several more metres; this is useful as it gives drivers a bit more time to react to animals bursting out of the trees and scrub to cross the road. On a previous journey along this road three emus burst out of the scrub about ten metres ahead of us; demonstrating the emus' twin characteristics of curiousity and confusion they then dithered in the middle of the road ahead (alarmingly for us) before continuing on their way. We now have wind driven whistles mounted on the Territory which have proven themselves by alerting kangaroos to our presence, but don't workmnas well with birds.
Several sections on the Eyre Highway have been established as emergency landing strips for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Two landing strips in South Australia were well done with wider pavement and a good, flat, well draining surface. The first two we drove over in Western Australia were not nearly as good as the South Australian ones, they had the same mediocre surface as the road at those points and no widening of the pavement. The third Western Australian strip, near Balladonia, had wider pavement and looked like a proper job but road signs at each end warning motorists of the narrowing road were nearly 2 metres high and would impact the wing of an aircraft landing there if somebody forgot to remove them before an aircraft landed.
As the afternoon was drawing on we decided to stop for the night at Ten Mile Rock Rest Area which I remembered from our 2004 trip along the Eyre Highway. This was about 79 kilometres east of Norseman. We turned off in time to be all set up before sunset after driving 596 kilometres today, the longest distance I have towed the A'liner for in one day since we started travelling in 2003. After the sun had gone it got very dark in the rest area since there was no moon.