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.
Within five kilometres we pass a sign stating it guards the Eastern End of the Nullarbor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
19 September 2015, Nundroo Roadhouse
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.
We pull into the abandoned farm of Colona to check it out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nundroo is where agriculture fences and farms begin to replace mallee and salt-bush.
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.