Wild camp 5 km West of Yalata

18th September 2015

We roll out from the Head of Bight campsite around 0730 and point ourselves east, made easy by the large sign simply saying ‘Eucla’ to the left and ‘Ceduna’ to the right.

Simple choice but you don't wanna get it wrong
Simple choice but you don’t wanna get it wrong

Within five kilometres we pass a sign stating it guards the Eastern End of the Nullarbor.

The Eastern End of the Nullarbort
The Eastern End of the Nullarbort
The Eastern End ... pretty flat and treeless
The Eastern End … pretty flat and treeless

A bit of rapid maths later and we realise THE Nullarbor Plain is but 20 km wide! Err … 20 km wide!? Going back to earlier thoughts … in order to do the Nullarbor all I needed to do was hitchhike to Nullarbor Roadhouse, walk one kilometre back to the Western End of the Nullarbor Plain and assuming five kilometres per hour walking pace in four hours I’d cross the Nullarbor Plain! Instead it’s taken me 18 days to get my ass to the Nullarbor Plain and 20 km later I’ve crossed it. As in, like, less than two hours riding. Not sure how I’m meant to feel about this. Cheated? Elated? Confused? Or simply put it into the overall narrative and enjoy that I am or have successfully achieved my dream of ‘doing the Nullarbor’ regardless of how it is defined. I’ll take the latter.

A closer view of the Nullarbor
A closer view of the Nullarbor

Shortly after low hills appear and low trees shortly after that. So, what is the definition of nullus arbor plain? Is it the height of trees? Coz there are trees on the plain only they grow along the ground and don’t rise above about half a meter. Is it topography? There is certainly no topographic variation within the 20 km of the official Nullarbor Plain. Then again there’s no noticeable topographic variation for about 800 kilometres. Trees, as in over a meter high and discernible hills, albeit not particularly high, do start within a couple of kilometres east of the Eastern End of the Nullarbor Plain.

There are emergency phones, few and far between, for those of us who's phones lack signal strength or frequencies, like mine :(
There are emergency phones, few and far between, for those of us who’s phones lack signal strength or frequencies, like mine 😦

The ‘Nullarbor’ as a concept is 1181 km of ride no matter how else it defined and by now I am less than 200 km from Ceduna, the official eastern end/start point.

Goalzero doing its thing in the frequent sunshine. Great system
Goalzero doing its thing in the frequent sunshine. Great system

We pull into an official parking place for lunch, to enjoy a table and bench seats. There are some vans and mobile-homes already there but a perfectly positioned table is free and we aim for it. We don’t even have time to get off our bikes before three Damers pour out of a mobile-home and aim straight at us offering lunch. Ceduna is a lot closer for them than us and there’s a need to get rid of fruit and veggies which could (possibly) transport fruit fly from the West into South Australia.

Consequently we enjoy wonderful company and brilliant fresh salad, sardines and bread.

Touring Santos with Racing Apollo
Touring Santos with Racing Apollo
Dave & Sue on a Mission, with Large Metal Object
Dave & Sue on a Mission, with Large Metal Object

Due to adroit negotiation with roadhouse owners/managers and Random Vaners disposing of fresh fruit and veggies before the border we’ve managed to address our food shortage issue very nicely.

One such vaner patiently slowed down and waited behind us until an oncoming truck passed us. Such behaviour is unfortunately rare and so we waved out thanks as the vaner passed. Immediately in front of us the vaner swerves to the side of the road and drives off onto the gravel shoulder spraying an alarming amount of stones over the road, startling Rob and I.

Cautiously we approach the now stranded van as the driver leaps out of the car. Not sure what to make of it: some kind of mechanical problem, flat tire, homicidal axe wielding maniac … endless possibilities race through my mind.

From the rear of his vehicle he pulls a heavily laden bag of fruit and asks if we want it. He’d been aiming to give to some cyclist at some point but kept forgetting, he explained, until he passed us and remembered. Always great to get fresh fruit.

Though we did wonder how many other cars and such got a broken windscreen from the spread of gravel across the road.

Mallees at tree top level
Mallees at tree top level
Yalata wildcamp
Yalata wildcamp

19 September 2015, Nundroo Roadhouse

Next stop Nundroo
Next stop Nundroo
No more camels to worry about
No more camels to worry about

As we pass Yalata Aboriginal Community, 5 km west of which we’d camped, it is very clear that yes indeed the Yalata Roadhouse is well closed and boarded up. But the campsite looks very much alive and active. Five minutes later a motorbike pulls up alongside us. Not only does the rider know about us – “I’ve heard about you guys” – but the Yalata campsite is alive and well and free with showers and a camp kitchen. In other words … heaven on earth for hapless smelly hungry cyclists. If only I’d/we’d known.

1001 km from Norseman
1001 km from Norseman
Be prepared only 300 km to check point
Be prepared only 300 km to check point
Dog proof fence
Dog proof fence

We pull into the abandoned farm of Colona to check it out.

Abandoned farm & car
Abandoned farm & car

Greg, riding a Guzzi is already there and the three of us explore the ruins exchanging thoughts and musing about it’s long history and tragic demise.

The old shearing shed. A large structure, near 100 years old with massive wood beams which must have come from a Galaxy Far Far Away ...
The old shearing shed. A large structure, near 100 years old with massive wood beams which must have come from a Galaxy Far Far Away …
Wombat skritchings are every where but I've yet to see a live one
Wombat skritchings are every where but I’ve yet to see a live one

Accepting Greg’s offer of coffee we find shade under the awnings of one of the buildings to enjoy it and lunch. Dreamer is but a meter behind and to my left. Something catches my eye and I get up to investigate. It is not some anomaly of the light. Ziflex really does have a near catastrophic failure where one of the cantilever arms is welded to the down-tube which fastens to the trailer body. This down-tube allows the trailer to articulate behind the bike. The cantilever arms attach the trailer to the bike. Important stuff. And now one of four welds is all but ruptured. Serious stuff.

Ziflex brutally injured
Ziflex brutally injured

No idea when the rupture happened nor why. It is clear though that Ziflex is gravely injured and may not even make it to Nundroo but 20 km to the east. It has done 3000 km before it failed but failed it has.

Put another way … I cannot risk that Ziflex won’t make it to Nundroo 20 km away. Time for some serious Bush Doctoring.

Out comes the Grunt twine – “Nothing Tougher” it states on the label and with a 140 kg breaking strain it should be ok. Add a couple of stout cable-ties and we have enough to keep me going.

Ziflex bush doctored. Seems Swedish tailored equipment struggles a bit in Australian conditions
Ziflex bush doctored. Seems Swedish tailored equipment struggles a bit in Australian conditions

It’s a work of art. Now all I need it to do is make it to wherever I can find an aluminium welder to fix it. Easier said than done. I am grateful that Ceduna is about 150 km or so to the East. Only we want to go to Fowlers Bay which a) is along gravel roads and b) adds a decent dose of kilometres to the distance to Ceduna.

I am on an aluminium fabrication tour of Australia little by little modifying, fixing and strengthening it: Perth, Albany, Ceduna, Adelaide … . By the time the trip is finished Ziflex will be a full-blown Bob-Yak equalling endurance cycling trip supremo.

At the moment however Ziflex is critically injured and may not survive.

Time to panic ……………………

I need to have Cyklorama send me a new front end, which I can then have strengthened in Adelaide. No idea why it failed when it did, given that since Walpole 2000 km to the West I’ve not really ridden on any really demanding terrain or tracks. But it has failed. I expect the new one to have the same inherent weakness as the old one. If the down-tube’s aluminium is too thin then eventually I can expect the new one to fail as well. It’ll be a good test of Cyklorama’s commitment to my ‘testing’ their new product – Ziflex. I truly hope they send me new arms coz if they don’t, then I’m going to have to source a new trailer. And soon.

Mallee country
Mallee country

Nundroo is where agriculture fences and farms begin to replace mallee and salt-bush.

A green field. A green WHEAT field. Farms fences and agriculture make a comeback after a 1000+ kms
A green field. A green WHEAT field. Farms fences and agriculture make a comeback after a 1000+ kms
Perth a long way behind
Perth a long way behind

There is more than one building in Nundroo. In fact it is a town. There are farms around. Even a mechanics’ workshop. Despite pulling into and asking all and sundry no one is able to weld aluminium. Sorry, they say, but you’ll have to wait until Ceduna.

The bush doctoring looks pretty solid so we decide to risk the ride to Fowlers Bay the next day.

Camp Nundroo
Camp Nundroo

2 thoughts on “Wild camp 5 km West of Yalata

  1. Interesting, exciting,itch making stuff!! Well told/written bringing back memories of another time/era regrettably not likely to be repeated for this old timer!!
    So pleased you are doing it and sharing it with such detail and hopefully learning and enjoying the experience as much/more as I can enjoy the reading of it and the memories it evokes – most of which you will of course share!
    Much love, Dad. PS: go easy on the Ziflex – they are people too!!!

    Like

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