The Great Australian Bight Wild Camp

14 September 2015

Well, it took a while but finally after days/weeks of highly variable weather we got a beautiful sunny day and a tail wind. Not only that, but that this momentous combination happened to happen whilst we are riding along that bit of the Nullarbor between the Western Australian border and the town of Nullarbor, 178 km to the east. Here the Eyre Highway hugs the coast. Something like 200 km of limestone cliffs up to 90 m high.

the wombat enters the stage
The wombat enters the stage as we move into South Australia
South Australia too is pest paranoid. I wonder though how WA got different invasive pest species than SA.
South Australia too is pest paranoid. I wonder though how WA got different invasive pest species than SA.
Western Australia slipping away
Western Australia slipping away

There are not enough superlatives to adequately describe to view, the landscape, the seascape, the sky, the sparse low vegetation. Breath-taking is as close as I got. The (many) photos will serve as a wonderful memory trigger but can otherwise never capture the holistic experience of being here.

On the other side of the cliffs is where we saw the shark, at Eucla beach.
On the other side of the cliffs is where we saw the shark at Eucla beach.
See, there are trees out here. Up to 200 years old rarely raising more than 1/2 a meter instead they grow laterally. Shades of the Tundra.
See, there are trees out here. Up to 200 years old rarely raising more than 1/2 a meter instead they grow laterally. Shades of the Tundra.
Trying to find a campsite out of the wind. Not an easy task.
Trying to find a campsite out of the wind. Not an easy task.
SA roads have a Dune of Death paralleling the asphalt, treacherous for any thin wheeled vehicle to traverse. And NO shoulder!
SA roads have a Dune of Death paralleling the asphalt, treacherous for any thin wheeled vehicle to traverse. And NO shoulder!

Cycle touring has its downsides, but today typing away less than 10 m from a 45 m cliff edge listening to the massive swells of the Southern Ocean consume yet more of Australia bathed in beautiful sunshine with a mild (if slightly chilly) westerly I fully appreciate the go-slow-lane-approach of cycle touring.

Australia being slowly consumed by the Southern Ocean
Australia being slowly consumed by the Southern Ocean
The go forever
They go forever
An endless flat plateau. One of land. The other of water.
An endless flat plateau. One of land. The other of water.

We quit riding at lunch content to enjoy the moment. I am certainly living the moment and enjoying it immensely.

Dreamer on the Edge
Dreamer on the Edge

Seagulls surf the long swells flying right at the face of the wave just above the water’s surface before switching back and surfing the swell until they glide effortlessly over the back of the wave to catch the next one.

Cliffs & Southern Ocean
Cliffs & Southern Ocean
The Bight 180
The Bight 180

I wonder about They Who Named The Bight. Did they know the irony of the name they chose? Bight sounds exactly like Bite. And for years I honestly thought they meant ‘Bite’ for on the map it really does look like the great Southern Ocean has indeed taken a ‘bite’ smack out of the middle of southern Australia. A H U G E bite. Eventually I learnt the coastal-nautical term ‘bight’ which also fits the description of geophraphical and topographical shape of the southern Australian continent. Still I wonder.

A Bight selfie
A Bight selfie
50m cliffs
50m cliffs

I’ve been looking at this view, these cliffs, that ocean listening to the sound of the big breakers smashing against the rock 50 m below, with the wind fickle as ever sometimes strong and chill, other times gentle and sublime for hours. I am still not tired of it. But dinner calls.

Camping on the Edge
Camping on the Edge
Soulo Sunset
Soulo Sunset
Soulo sunrise. Hillebergs in its element
Soulo sunrise. Hillebergs in its element

15 September 2015: wild camp north side of road.

The South Australian Departments of Natural Resources, Natural Resources Eyre Peninsula and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources have conspired to tear up all the unofficial tracks leading from the Eyre Highway to the Bunda Cliffs. In their place They have left but three ‘official’ lookouts.

3 lookouts 800km of cliffs
3 lookouts 800km of cliffs

That’s three lookouts for some 800 km of breathtakingly spectacular cliffs which are no less than icons of not only South Australia but also Australia. Sadly for the hapless and now constrained cliff and view viewer the three official lookouts do not provide anywhere near the quality of viewing experience most of the ‘unofficial’ lookouts provide.

Conservation efforts
Conservation efforts

Sadly the Good Departments’ work is likely to be in vain. The atrocious paucity of adequate and high quality lookouts are simply an invitation to the countless 4WDrivers to blaze new trails.

I sympathise with the conservation efforts of the South Australian Government since the wear and tear on the environment right at the edge of the cliffs courtesy of tourists and their vehicles is substantial. On the other hand sealing off iconic bits of Australia and denying people access is hardly the right way to go about conservation. Given that for the 200 km the cliffs are often less than a kilometre from the Eyre Highway I think an opportunity has been lost in which the South Australian Government could have made parking areas next to the Eyre Highway then build good quality walking trails to a fenced lookout.

We, as cyclists, made our way to the cliffs anyway. Sometimes we left the bikes by the road. Sometimes we weaved and meandered our way to the cliffs.

Australia, being a Nanny State, assumes people are unable to adequately understand the risk 50 m of limestone cliff being relentlessly eaten by the Southern Ocean poses to their welfare. Consequently as we make our way along access track to an official lookout first we are told of Danger.

The SA authorities feel you need to be warned that a 50 m shear cliff is dangerous
The SA authorities feel you need to be warned that a 50 m shear cliff is dangerous

Then twin Warning signs greet us as we walk along the path towards The Lookout.

The DANGER sign is not considered enough. Now, as you walk towards the DANGER you need to be WARNED
The DANGER sign is not considered enough. Now, as you walk towards the DANGER you need to be WARNED

Before being told there is No Access to anywhere outside the fenced off area which constitutes The Lookout.

Having corralled you into a tiny enclosed space you are WARNED again the there's NO ACCESS coz of the DANGER. It seems a tad overkill
Having corralled you into a tiny enclosed space you are WARNED again the there’s NO ACCESS coz of the DANGER. It seems a tad overkill

Oddly The Lookout is a good 50 m short of arguably The Best Place to see the cliffs without any ostensible reason why. Not quite able to buy into the Nanny State ethos Rob and I climb over the fence and take advantage of the better viewing offered outside the official Lookout.

A small spit of cliff juts out from the main ones offering the brave and foolhardy the chance to stand on the Edge of Australia with a shear drop of 50 m on no less than three sides a meter away from where I stand. Rob cited “my balance isn’t so crash-hot” as he declines my invitation to stand out there so I can take a photo of him.

Amaaaazing lookout. Mind you, well outside the 'enclosure' the SA govt believes is the best place for me to see the cliffs. Sorry
Amaaaazing lookout. Mind you, well outside the ‘enclosure’ the SA govt believes is the best place for me to see the cliffs. Sorry
The Bight
The Bight
Me and the Bight
Me and the Bight
Maxing the Edge
Maxing the Edge
Endless Ocean Timeless Land
Endless Ocean Timeless Land

As attractive as the cliffs are any vegetation capable of offering shelter from the near-relentless winds tends to become increasingly sparse as we approach the cliffs before giving away completely several hundred meters before them.

The Nullarbor in bloom
The Nullarbor in bloom
This Is The Nullarbor (up close)
This Is The Nullarbor (up close)

Consequently we made our way back to the road and found a camp on the north side of the Eyre Highway where mallee trees dampened the wind somewhat.

Wild camp out of the wind (not!)
Wild camp out of the wind (not!)

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