South Australia

Port Fairy to Esperance – across The Nullabor

Port Fairy to Bordertown

Note: I apologise for the lack of photos in this post, but unfortunately hundreds of masterpiece photos were lost forever when I lost my camera. It was a very sad day for me, mankind, and the future of photography.

Having ridden what is reputed to be the best of the coastline between Melbourne and Adelaide (The Great Ocean Road), my AirB&B hosts Lachlan & Uta had recommended I ride north from Port Fairy through The Grampians for some cool, twisty roads through the mountains via Halls Gap, which is what I did.  And very nice they were too, although it had started to rain a little and so I didn’t have as much fun on the bends as I could have.  Later on the rear slipped out on me pretty violently as I returned to the highway, but fortunately I managed to keep upright; probably some oil or something on the road.

I didn’t dillydally too much because it was getting rather late and I wanted to try and get to Bordertown in South Australia before it got dark and I had to dodge suicidal Kangaroos (chosen because it’s as far as I’d thought I’d get when I looked at the map last night, 400km to the NW).  As it turned out, I had to dodge a car instead as its driver pulled out of a parking space directly in front of me as I entered Bordertown around 17:00.  I beeped her as she kept driving obliviously.  When she saw me close up beside her, she sped away as quickly as she could, and promptly crashed into the car in front that had stopped to park.  I tried not to laugh and pulled up to her to make sure she was alright, which she was.  I hope she looks twice next time.

Unfortunately this is one of hazards that go hand-in-hand with riding a motorbike, and is why riders have to develop a ‘6th sense’ if we want to survive, and even that doesn’t help every time.  I liked the road signs in New Zealand for this – always asking motorists to check their mirrors twice as motorcyclists can be difficult to see, particularly if you’re a Volvo driver (only joking Volvo drivers!)

 

Bordertown to Port Augusta

After a hearty breakfast of a bacon & egg sandwich and a sausage roll (couldn’t resist it as it sat there looking at me) I was ready to tackle my long 600km day from Bordertown to Port Augusta.  600km is usually a lot to do in one day, but the roads were straight and empty, and the speed limit in South Australia is 110 along most of the highways – Yippee!  To make it more enjoyable the sun popped out to say hello and it got hotter and sunnier the further northwest I went.

I originally thought I’d stay a night in Adelaide, but I hadn’t heard anything that particularly pulled me to it and was keen to press on across the Nullabor towards Perth (sorry all those that live in Adelaide – I’m sure it’s a fine city!).  I must admit the green, rolling hills around Adelaide looked nice though as I cruised by with the wind in my golden locks (hmm, I may have dreamt that last bit).

I’ve been having a few back aches lately and so I moved my luggage further forward to create a back rest, and thankfully this seems to have solved it.

The traffic became pretty scarce as soon as I left Adelaide behind, and the scenery became less green with fewer trees, no doubt preparing for The Nullarbor (which means ‘no trees’ in Latin).  I expected the road trains to become faster and bigger, but they presented no problem as I sped quickly past all of them – maybe they will be bigger crossing the Nullarbor.

I spent the whole journey cruising comfortably around 120kmph, guessing the police wouldn’t pull me over if I kept within 10% tolerance of the speed limit, and I guess I was right as I passed a couple of coppers without incident.

Everything was going well until it started to rain, and then I noticed the clutch starting to slip as I accelerated hard when overtaking.  I’ll have to get it looked at or replaced in Perth (if I make it that far!)  It also started to get windier and the bike wobbled occasionally as I hit strong crosswinds.  I wondered if the larger Givi ‘Airflow’ screen I had in New Zealand would make much difference, but to be honest, I’m not sure it does.

I arrived 600km later in Port Augusta at 16:00, which was really 15:30 as I’d forgotten to adjust my clocks to South Australia time, and found a hotel on the internet using the free wifi courtesy of the local library.  I don’t know what it is about wifi and Australia, but almost every place I have stayed in either doesn’t have it, or charges loads for it.  The cheapest accommodation I could find was ‘Flinders Hotel’ at $65 a night and no wifi, but at least I had my own bathroom to wash my underwear in peace for a change – something I find very therapeutic (right!).

After a steak sandwich dinner at the attached Pub I had another hot date with the local library to figure out my route and night’s accommodation tomorrow.  It looked like another long day ahead – 500km west across the Eyre Peninsula to a place called Ceduna and whatever lay in store for me there.

 

Ceduna

When I rolled into Ceduna it appeared to be a lovely coastal town with great views from the end of the peninsula and up along Seaview Terrace.  I was hungry and thirsty after my long 5 hour ride and when I rode past a fish factory on the headland I thought I’d treat myself to half a dozen large, fresh oysters, and then rode into town to buy a 6 pack to wash them down with.

Ceduna means ‘a place to sit down and rest’ in Aborigine and that’s quite a fitting name because all I could see were Aborigines sitting down and ‘resting’ around on the streets drinking alcohol.  Being the last major settlement before crossing the Nullarbor Plain from east to west, together with the large number of indigenous homelands nearby, Ceduna is a magnet for Aborignes looking for work, money or booze, and they can get quite ‘excited’ when talking to each other.

I opted to leave them to it and camp at Shelly Beach Caravan Park a couple of miles outside the town on a quiet and beautiful beach front.  There I quickly threw up my tent and sat watching the sun set eating oysters and drinking beer.  Not a bad life.

 

The Nullarbor

West of Ceduna there is only one place you can go; across The Nullarbor – da da DAAAA!

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The Nullarbor (courtesy of my friends Norman and Kirsten)

The Nullarbor (Latin for ‘no trees’) can be seen from space as a light tan area signifying the world’s largest single piece of limestone.  Funny to think I’ve been riding all day across what 20 million years ago was the ocean floor made up from billions of skeletal fragments of marine organisms.  It must have been much more interesting back then, with plesiosaurs and megatooth sharks attacking giant squid; today it was just… well, nothing.

The Nullarbor is famed for having Australia’s longest straight piece of surfaced road at 91 miles long (146km) and I rode it today.  It ends at a small bend, and then Australia’s second longest straight piece of surfaced road begins.  Oh, what fun!

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Camels are notoriously bad at going round bends, and must be the reason they come here for their holidays (photo courtesy of my friends Norman and Kirsten)

When I told people I was riding my motorbike across The Nullarbor, I was stunned by their horrified response:

“But you’ll die!  There’s no food, fuel or water for thousands of miles!!”

I imagined scenes from Mad Max, with burnt out cars, bandits running wild and Grace Jones cracking my cylinder head between her thighs…

However, as it turned out, it was fine.  No problem whatsoever.  In fact it was a very peaceful, pleasant and enjoyable ride allowing me to switch to autopilot and enjoy being at one with my bike and my surroundings.

Fuel stops were easily made with plenty of fuel left (my tank range is about 300km) and there were copious amounts of fried chicken and pies at the numerous roadhouses, which was exactly what my slowly clogging arteries were craving for (it’s difficult to eat healthily on the road!) (Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

Over the next 3 days I rode 500km a day and sailed across The ‘No Trees’ in record time, camping at a place called Eucla the 1st night (just across the border into Western Australia) and Balladonia Roadhouse the 2nd.

One stop certainly worth a mention along the Nullarbor is the ‘Head of Bight’, one of two locations on Australia’s south coast where Southern Right Whales come to calve during their winter migration.  I was lucky enough to see one pretty close up from the cliff top as it frolicked in the water beneath – amazing!  Other beautiful views are afforded at various lookouts along the 100km stretch of the Bunda Cliffs, standing up to 120m high and dropping sheer into the vast ocean below.  Kool and the Gang.

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The beautiful Bunda Cliffs near the Head of Bight, SA – layers of limestone falling up to 120m into the sea (photo courtesy of my friends Norman and Kirsten)

Rolling into Eucla Roadhouse at sunset, I quickly threw up my tent and opened a beer I had been warming in my pannier all day – not ideal, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Camping next to me were 2 BMW R1200GS riders, Roly and Tim.  These guys were taking 3 months out to ride their huge bikes (I thought mine was big!) up to the Gibb River Road and back down the centre.  It was thanks to them that I first heard about the Gibb River Road, one of the highlights of my trip, and added it to my list of destinations.  At that stage my list of destinations was quite small (Darwin) as a result of my poor planning and poor time management which generally only allows me to plan the next day’s travel the night before.  Well at least I am living for the moment!

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The dramatic cliffs flatten out further west across the Nullarbor (photo courtesy of my friends Norman and Kirsten)

Roly had temporarily repaired a long split in his rear tubeless Tourance tyre and so was taking it easy on the back roads until he could change it in Perth.  As I had somehow expected, they both got up before me and set off for the next stop at Balladonia while I waited for the sun to come out and dry my tent (I hate packing up a wet tent!).  Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long, and was soon taking a detour down a gravel track to the ruins of Eucla’s old telegraph station, if you like that kind of thing.

Speeding like a bat out of hell in the approaching drizzle (sticking to the speed limit of course), I soon caught up with & passed the Beemer Boys and rolled into Balladonia in good time.  The forecast was rain all night, so I opted for a ‘backpackers cabin’ which wasn’t too expensive considering it was a Nullarbor roadhouse; camping in the rain is not much fun.  After a short deliberation Roly and Tim abandoned their thoughts of camping as well and joined me in the cabin next door.  Then it was time to check out the Roadhouse Pub to try and see if Patrick Swayze had sorted out those bad boys yet.

 

Esperance

The last day across the Nullarbor from Balladonia to Esperance was also wet (occasionally very wet) and windy (occasionally very windy), so me and my 2 BMW buddies hightailed it most of the way there without stopping.

Because it was again forecast for rain all night, we opted to share a caravan in Esperance at the Pink Lake Tourist Park (not a gay campsite, but one actually close to a pink lake caused by pink halobacteria growing in the salt crust bottom, of course).

That evening we wondered down to the local pub and had a delicious meal of Thai (some) Fish and a few pints, but not enough to get cajoled on stage to partake in the evening’s Karaoke contest (well, at least they didn’t!).  I would easily have won anyway with my spectacular rendition of ‘EYE OF THE TIGER’ (had they let me sing it).

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