23rd September 20125
Departing Penong. Ceduna, end of the Nullarbor, our next stop 76 km to the East.
I must consider what to expect of a town which prides itself on its windmills. Wind. Lots of it. And in this case headwinds as we battle strong cross-headwinds as we progress, slowly, east towards Ceduna.
Looking at the map there are two ways to Ceduna. The Eyre Highway, with its smooth asphalt, no shoulder, gravel dune and dangerous vaners. Or a back track, gravel and likely to be devoid of traffic.
The copper in Penong reasurres us the track is fine, but recommends we skip the very first bit out of Penong coz it’s “fairly up and down and sandy in places”. He recommends we ride “about five ks out of town and take a right to join up with the track”. Good advice we decide to follow.
Five kilometres later we turn right onto a good quality track and follow it for about another five kilometres until a T-junction where we turn left on the track to Ceduna.
Indeed the track here is undulating, hard and brutally rocky in places, plagued by deep corrugations and awash for tens if not hundreds of meters in soft deep sand.
We come to the conclusion as we gingerly navigate our way through this that car drivers are not the most reliable when it comes to distance and directions. What really is the difference between “5 ks” and 15 when you’re barrelling along at 110 km per hour?
It is clear the copper has directed us to ride on the very bit of the road he advised us to avoid.
I let my tires down by 25% – from 4 bar to 3 bar – to help with the track’s conditions, thankful that the boat-builder did a good job on Ziflex and think to myself that this track may well be symptomatic of what’s to come as I push north from Adelaide through the centre. Perhaps 1000s of kilometres of such type of track.
Rob swears and curses and spits fire as the sand conspires to rob him of steerage and threatens to dump him, as it does me, on our sides as the front wheel disappears suddenly in some random lateral direction.
Fifteen brutal kilometres later the road improves delightfully, at a junction to a track from the Eyre Highway. The road the copper probably meant when he advised us the day before. What really is the difference between “5 ks” and 15 when you’re barrelling along at 110 km per hour? What indeed.
William McKenzie settled the area a lifetime or so ago, opening it for other pastoralists. The ruins of his house and buildings remain. His favourite sayings … “You can’t grow wheat with your hands in your pockets”. Sound advice for most things in truth.
Rob is a true Gentleman, when he’s not being obstreperous cantankerous and eccentric which is part of his charm. He very generously allows me to tether to his phone so I can update this blog. He also allows me to indulge in my pet reptile passion and thus doesn’t freak when I suddenly apply the brakes do a sharp U-turn and catch something. In this case a heavily pregnant Bearded Dragon. Give Rob his due, he takes part and (seems) to enjoy the experience.
And finally, a good number of hours later, our track re-joins the Eyre Highway just before the quarantine station 1 km from Ceduna.
Fifteen minutes later, having passed through the station we pull into the BP service station, take an ice coffee and an icecream and celebrate that we have Done The Nullarbor. One Dream lived. We snap a few photos in front of the Roadtrain behemoths as they wait to take on their own Nullarbor odyssey.
The Nullarbor Has Been Done! 1200 km, 21 days, 10+ near death experiences with two reported to the police in Penong, countless dead kangaroos, 21 billion flies (at least), 1000s of kwh of headwinds, a tiny dose of rain every-now-and-then, plenty of sunshine, a dozen whales, severe food shortages, 26 hamburgers, water deprivation and a lot of great experiences with fellow travellers.
All now part of the thrill of having Done the Nullarbor.
It’s a great feeling. It was surprisingly easy. Plenty to do and see and keep me interested. The challenge more about taking on 1200 km of a single road without a shop to source supplies. Headwinds were the most demanding obstacles. When it rained it hardly lasted more than a few minutes. The Nullarbor only gets 250 mm of rain per year so it’s unlikely to ever get sustained downpours – though they do occur. The dreaded Roadtrains turned out to be the least of our vehicular threats, giving us plenty of room and the vaners, albeit a tiny minority, the most dangerous. People were wondrously friendly and giving often completely spontaneously. Everyone has a story to tell and there were many told.
Chilled out in Ceduna. Though the manager of the Ceduna Foreshore Caravan park was a law and an attitude unto herself for which I was barred any challenge since she emphatically threatened me with eviction if I even opened my mouth. Since she chased me around the park to keep trying to goad me I could only think of Franz Kafka’s The Trail. No matter what I tried nor where I went she was going to evict me. I literally stared at her whilst she ranted and kept my mouth shut. Comical in truth. Malicious Manager … delving deep into my inner reserves of patience and tolerance I survived and was Franzly happy to leave.
A brilliant experience.
Smoky Bay 30 September 2015