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NULLARBOR FROM THE DRIVER'S SEAT
Anita Ryan © 2003

MISSION: To travel from Bunbury (WA) to Sydney (NSW) via Adelaide (SA) and Melbourne (Vic) recording the events and images along the way from a very attractive (and modest!) Single White Female's (SWF) view from the driver's seat.

TRAVELOGUE  *  ARTICLE

TRAVELOGUE - A Travel Log delivered as a Monologue.


DAY     1      2      3      4      5      6      7      TOP-FIVES      TIPS      top

DAY 1 Bunbury - Esperance.  680 km; 6.5 hours
Today's Challenge: Test theory: Every town must have a Chinese restaurant before they are valid to apply for a Post Office.
At 20 klicks Already sick of counting white road markers in a bizarre attempt to add to my collection of mundane trivia. Decided to count calories instead. Assuming that: a) driving uses 60 calories per hour (70 if you count writing in my journal at the same time), and b) 1 cheese cracker = 12 calories, Then I am allowed 6 crackers per hour to maintain current weight. Can't be done.
60 k Arrive at Collie and find the "Golden Eagle" Chinese restaurant. Let rip a "yeeeeeeee-haaaaaaa" Dukes of Hazard style.
91.5 k Encounter my first road works road block. Consider drinking a quick slab and flying over the top Dukes of Hazard style, but decide one DoH action per day is quite enough. At 180 I see my first sign to Esperance (right).

113 k Still haven't come across a sign to Melbourne, so stop to check my map. Realise I've been spelling Nullarbor wrong all this time. Surely that middle R is redundant? I mean, imagine if we all went and put an extra R in our names? Barbara would become Brarbara. Rodney Rude would be Rodney Ruder. And the title of my next book would be "Sun-Smacked and Road-Furcked".
154 k Lose Triple J at Arthur River. Forced to tune into Hot-FM. Toy with the idea of drowning myself to end sorrows, but cannot find river.
183 k Refuel at Wagin @ 92.7 cents. Gaze at a really big ram by the roadside.


Look hard - there is
a really big ram... a well-endowed ram at that!

260 k Lose Hot-FM reception. Regain will to live.
296 k Pass the salt bed of Lake Grace. So glad there is no water to trigger the bladder because the Diet Coke I drank in Wogin is ready to come out! Feels like there is enough to fill the empty lake.
303 k Wee stop at Lake Grace roadhouse. Can't be sure, but I reckon they have the thinnest toilet paper in Australia here. Have taken a sample for analysis. Hope it survives the trip - it looks very fragile. Pick up a rogue traveller...
  ... a fly running away from home and his thousands of relatives. I call him Frankie to relieve the boredom and start talking to him. Oops. This is the first sign of Nullarbor madness, I've been warned.
335 k Get my first steering wheel wave. The camaraderie between adventurous spirits begins, only 17km from Nudey-something town.
341 k No wave from the next car I encounter. Realise the first one could have simply been a response to me brushing Frankie away from my damn face.
355 k Newdegate. Not Nudey-town as originally thought. Oh well, can't have it all. No Chinese restaurant, but they do have a Bankwest housed in a mobile trailer.
? k At Lake King, a sign saying "welcome to the outback". And a very odd looking tiny  building called a Goods Shed. So puzzled I forget to check odometer.
443 k Getting windy. Sit up straighter as though this will balance the car better.
452 k Enter the Fitzgerald Biosphere, look for men in white suits and bubble helmets, but none to be found. Do not invest time into working out what the biosphere is.
455 k Getting windier. The trees along the left-hand side of the road lean away from the road. The trees on the right-hand side lean towards the road. Lends an Alice-In-Wonderland ambience to the journey. I stop applying lip-gloss in order to steer the car with my hands instead of my knees. 
597 k First glimpse of the Southern Ocean in the very far off distance. Or it could just be an illusion across the millions of acres of cleared land.
666 k Hit the "Welcome to Esperance" sign. Hope the number of klicks isn't symbolic. Eat way beyond my cracker allowance out of worry.
680 k Arrive in Esperance township, which is just as well - my fuel tank is empty. Esperance is so pretty I forgive them for positioning the entry through the industrial area. Find my first Chinese restaurant since Collie - the "Golden Orient". Very excited about that.
  I miss the Tourist Info Bureau by 10 mins, but they thoughtfully leave a map out for recalcitrant visitors. Cruise around town checking out dozens of accommodation options lining the Esplanade, but settle on a cute B&B a block from the Jetty. Happy to hear I will be sleeping with Henry tonight (pictured).


That's Henry leaning on the pillows.

another coupla hundred Cruise the tourist loop around the Pink Lake (the circuit takes around 45 minutes) before the sun goes down. Pink caused by a green alga Dunaliella salina - the most salt tolerant plant known (survives in up to 35% salinity; ocean is only 3% saline).
  Drive some more, past Australia's first wind farm at Salmon Beach, where approx 250,000 litres of diesel fuel is saved every year due to wind power. Onwards around the coastal road, past the stunning Bluehaven and Twilight Beaches. Luckily the road has a speed limit of 60kph - the view is so amazing who wants to watch the road? Continue past 9 Mile Beach, 10 Mile Lagoon and 11 Mile Resort (no, I'm not joking, those really are the names of the beaches) and hang around for the sunset to see if the lake gets any pinker. It doesn't. 


The alga accumulates beta-carotene in high temps (carrots have 0.3% b-c while this alga has up to 14%). It is farmed for food colouring and dietary supplements (such as anti-oxidants and Vitamin A).

Evening Head off to Esperance's 30-year institution for dinner: Beryl's Eats - a mobile burger van on the Jetty foreshore. Then I do what every local does... I sit between the fishermen on the jetty, eat half the burger, and throw the rest to the sea-lions playing under the jetty pylons.
Night Go home to do what every good traveller does - study the map in a bath of epsom salts, then relax in my private lounge room at the B&B.


DAY     1      2      3      4      5      6      7      TOP-FIVES      TIPS      top

DAY 2 Esperance - Eucla.   915km; 10 hours.
Today's Challenge Forced to give up my original dream of travelling east via Cape le Grande - my 2-door coupe wouldn't have been up to the 4WD journey. So instead, decide to capture the locations of where other peoples' dreams are born or drowned: Pubs. Today's Challenge: to photograph every pub between Esperance and my next stop.
0 klicks
Set out at 8.15am
Pat, my B&B hostess, makes me the most amazing breakfast served on Wedgewood china! Over an early morning chat, I ask her what the cops are like on the road from Esperance north to Norseman. She says with a wink, "They're young. Wear your hair down dear, it helps."
23 k Gibson Soak Pub (right). It's there, just hiding behind trees.
71 k Swerve to miss a duck crossing the road. A duck. Why is a duck crossing the road? Uh-oh... I've started asking myself questions - the second sign of Nullarbor madness and I'm only 45 minutes on the road.
75 k Overtake a German tourist on a bicycle. I know he's German because he's wearing socks with sandals. Fortunately for him we're just moments away from Grass Patch, where the annual social is being advertised at the local pub. He might be able to stay a while.
104 k Arrive at the richest farming area in WA - Salmon Gums. Can't find the pub (and surely there has to be one with each farmer having an average of 5.2 sons?) so I take a photo of the CWA hall instead. 
  Toy with idea of moving here in winter, but my luck I'd end up with Mr 0.2... Well, as long as the 0.2 part was the right part... (the wallet), I'd give it a shot I guess. Then, just in time...
  ... I notice an obscure "Hotel" sign down a side street and go to investigate. The pub is at odds with the rest of the town - a fibro-cottage town but stone pub. Priorities hey? :-) A cyclist is heading out of town wearing a collared shirt and tie... I wonder if he is one of the 0.2's? Or just an English tourist?
200 k Arrive in Norseman, named after an old buggered horse who crossed the Nullarbor and founded the town. Got to wondering if the town is therefore made up of stallions and nags? To photograph this, I confess I got out of the car... but the purple glasses, orange shirt and red sandals may have scared the locals, so I left very quickly.
202 k
At the BP, petrol was 111.8c, and I face a sign that is my last chance to back out of this adventure. I don't back out. I charge onwards, credit card first.
208 k Encounter my first casualty: a pop-top caravan that has popped its top. Considering I've just visited the last clean toilet between Norseman and Adelaide, I don't know why I do this, but I take a big swig of Diet Coke to calm down.
250 k Invent a new game of car cricket: Trucks score one run each, cars are an instant dismissal. So far in this innings I'm up to 15 not out. Getting RSI from under-developed waving muscles.
303 k 28 and out. Outed by a dusty upstart, so caked in red dust I can't see a driver to wave to. 
306 k My cricket opponent (Frankie's ascendant Bob) racks up his first run with a truck whose cab is so heavily decorated with Xmas tinsel I can't see the driver. Concealment seems to be the name of the game, so I duck below my steering wheel to fool the next oncoming drivers.
312  Pass a piece of road kill that has started to skeletonise.
323 k Come over the crest of a hill, and any flora above car height has disappeared. Oh wait, 3 k's on in the gully, some scraggy trees do their best, but they disappear again by 329 k's.
395 k or thereabouts Blink and miss Belladonia. Which is just a roadhouse. Oops, it seemed such a big dot on the map.
411 k The Diet Coke from Norseman re-enters my consciousness. As I pull over at a pedestrian crossing to find a bush (good luck!), I vow not to use my bladder for anything other than fluids with nutritional value. Like beer. It's not 'til I'm back in the car that I think to ask what a pedestrian crossing is doing in the outback?


It's really an emergency landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

429 k Hit the start of Australia's longest straight road. On the map it's called the 90 Mile Highway, but I think that's because it was built before imperial measurement was decimalised. Besides, "144 Klick Road" doesn't have the same ring to it.
494 k Change car cricket rules to points for road kill including inanimate objects, eg, blown tyres, 1/2 a ute, a boat rudder, and a yellow Hi-Ace converted to a message board: "Hi Pam and kids, I saw a yowie." And I thought they were only found near cash registers. I wind down window for a photo, and hot air blast melts my lip-gloss.


Landscape starts looking like a scene from Leunig. Only a scraggy tree here and there to break the horizon.

575 k Stopped at some roadhouse starting with C. Petrol was 123.8c / L.
577 k  Experience a time warp, jumping from 2.15pm to 3pm instantaneously. Make a note to buy one of their advanced clocks.


Sign advertising advanced clocks just down the road from Caiguna.

630 k Spot a kangaroo - a live one. No it wasn't. Yes it was. Oh no it wasn't <stamping feet>. Damn! The third sign of Nullarbor madness - debating with oneself.
657 k Pass the Eyre Bird Observatory. I aint seen any birds except for crows, so I don't stop. I start to play Crow Bingo. Set up a grid with numbers between 1 and 10. Count the number of crows picking at each road kill and that's your next Bingo number. Only problem is, game's over very quickly, so have a few game grids drawn up.
730 k Very stunning Madura Pass lookout. I'm told there are blow holes around here, but I'm too fagged to go and look for them. I'd be better off in a 4WD. Besides, when I look south and see a truck carrying everything from shovels to a row boat, I figure that's way more entertaining.
733 k I find a bar at the Madura Oasis, but I don't know... I do get out of the car to investigate, so ten points for bravery I guess. Behind the "Bar" is a large complex of budget accomm, but I decide to keep going - I still have a couple of hours of daylight left, and according to the map, the next dot is Eucla. Eucla has been recommended as the best place for a SWF like myself to stay. I'm not sure what that means exactly... the question keeps my occupied for the next two hours.


The remainders of the Aussie flag fluttering from one of the flag poles at Madura Oasis should have told me all I needed to know - if they can't get fresh flag supplies, then it's likely there's no internet access either. 


A bizarre concept at 835 k.
A bottle tree?

849 k

Another blink and oops, missed it! roadhouse. But the best thing about the Mundrabilla Roadhouse was the welcome sign. The Madura Pass can be seen behind the sign - an unrelenting rolling hill that stretches all the way to Eucla. Bridget Jones' Diary soundtrack is playing, appropriately: "(Don't Wanna Be) All By Myself."

907 k
  Above: an emu encounter has me shirting myself (with a redundant R). It's sooo amazing, but he used a pedestrian crossing to cross the road! I'm sorry I didn't capture that pic, but I was more concerned about stopping in time - as the scattered maps inside my car will attest to (right). You can just see him in the top left of pic above.


Result of sudden braking for road-ettiquette-aware emu.

914 k  After another two emu encounters in a short space of time, I take it as a sign that I should stop for the night. Then I see an almighty white cross on top of the Eucla Pass, and I take that as a sign I should move on. But dutiful traveller that I am, I stop to investigate. After ten hours in the car, I am so delighted to see it I almost convert. I don't, but it is a narrow escape.


The Traveller's Cross is dedicated to all Christians and the road builders. 
Counts me & 9,000,000 others out!

915 k
6pm
The cross is called the Traveller's Cross, which I think is pretty blordy obvious - after ten hours on the road all travellers are pretty darned cross. Especially when saline-free water costs $1 for every minute of showering, and requests for fresh water may cause offence upon refusal.
6.05pm As there are plenty of rugged men loitering around, (and I don't mean "rugged" in the Mills & Boon sense of the word), I take a safety precaution and in a loud voice ask for a double room please. Sadly for me, the Motel is booked out so I have to settle for a budget room in the caravan park. I wonder if brekky is on Wedgewood?
  The Motel complex houses a memorial to Eyre and his mates who camped in this spot in 18-hundred-and-something. A secondary monument over yonder is dedicated to all those who have fought in all wars. In the hazy distance the Bight. I am told the water is 4 klicks away to the old telegraph station then a short walk over dunes... ach, tomorrow. I am hot and dusty and hanging for a beer.


The Eyre memorial where Edward Eyre and his mates Baxter, Wylie, Joey and Yarry camped in 1841 on their way to Albany (WA).

7pm It's sooooooo nice to be able to cross my legs as I sit down in the restaurant. I ask what's on the menu, only to be told, "oh we have both kinds - chicken AND beef!" How about wine-by-the-glass? "Oh, the best cask wine money can buy!" I really love their enthusiasm - we are after all in the middle of very harsh terrain miles from bountiful fresh water and internet connections, and these girls can still smile. My hat goes off to them, but I draw the line at any other clothing - I am still in public. I order the garlic bread as an additional safety measure against rugged men surprised to see a SWF eating alone. Then I do what every other decent, self-respecting girl in my position would do... I head to the bar to get thoroughly pissed.


DAY     1      2      3      4      5      6      7      TOP-FIVES      TIPS      top

DAY 3 Eucla - Ceduna. 500km; 8.5 hours including photo stops and another time change to + 1hr 45 minutes.
Today's Challenge If music helps plants grow, then I'm going to turn my car into a mobile disco during the Nullarbor National Forest stretch and infect the trees with my looooooove.
0 k,
8am
Surprisingly, the two Crownies I had last night didn't knock me out as much as I hoped they would. I spent the whole night listening to people in their double-pluggers flip-flopping to the amenities block next door to my room. Consequently I was tired and cranky setting out this morning.
  Hope was restored however, when, in the middle of refuelling at Eucla (117.0 cents), I sighted my first sign to Melbourne. Dukes of Hazard moment? Or wait 'til later? I decide on delayed gratification and save a Yeee-haaa for later on. I skip breakfast and head off to the Old Telegraph Station 4 k south of the Eucla Pass to Les Miserables blasting on my CD player. Appropriately "On My Own" is playing. 
8 k round trip from Eucla Motel. The station is over a sand dune, so I have to leave the car for this one. I am surprised at how soft and feathery the sand is under my bare feet. Can still only glimpse the Bight over the dunes, so I leave it for another time when I'm not wearing strappy sandals.
12 k  Cross the border between WA and SA. Eat all the fruit I'm carrying as I'm not allowed to take it across the border, not even after a Daisy Duke "hello boys!" Sadly, border guards aren't forthcoming with hot coffee, even despite fluttering eye lashes and a threat to put my hair down.
25 k The first of the Great Australia Bight Marine Park lookouts. I thought it was good, until I saw the views from the 55 k, 88 k and 126 k stops! The scenery took my breath away - seeing these cliff faces in person is one of the most amazing sights I've ever seen. I had to get out of the car for all of these - most of the carparks are a 1.2 k - 1.4 k round trip from the road, but are definitely worth the detour. At right is the view West at the lookout 88 k from Eucla. There is no railing so you can get close to the edge, but be careful - it's windy.
88 k If you suffer from vertigo, go with a friend so they can hold onto you and stop you from jumping off. The water is so stunning and clear, it really entered my mind as a good thing to fly off the edge. I don't know how far down it is, but I sensibly dragged myself away before I could find out.
126 k By the fourth stop, really started to know some other travellers. It's easy to strike up conversations when everyone's so gob-smacked. It made me feel safer knowing who was before or behind me on the road. At right is the view East at the 126 k lookout.

Until around 180 k I really enjoy this section of road which wraps closely alongside the Bight. Most of the way, I can see the endless stretch of water. I have a couple of emu sightings though, so have to be careful to keep my eye on the road, the peripherals, and most of all, OPEN!
200 k
Here it is! This is what people think of when they say "Nullarbor" - the Treeless Plain. I think this goes for around 90 k - I'm not too sure as there was no "end of Treeless Plain" sign. Just a gradual easing into the National Park and then the Yalata Aboriginal Land.
202 k,
295 k
The Nullarbor Roadhouse is a welcome sight, where I stop for a good lunch (ie not deep-fried). I stop out of curiosity at the Yalata Roadhouse (right) and am seriously the only white face there. Refuel @ 121.8
In between Achieve Today's Challenge and create a Nullarbor Disco for the trees. I sing the only song I know about "rain" in an effort to influence the Universe... not quite sure what the trees would do if it really did start raining men.


Click to see:
Nullarbor Disco
 

Avi file requires Real Player.
Sorry there's no sound... Actually, no, this is probably a good thing!

347 k Emerge from the incredible desert wilderness, its wild beauty a spiritual experience in a way, to commercial sign advertising Crafts and Email. I use the term very loosely when I say "civilisation" - the cleared land is an eyesore, the land looks brutalised. I don't enjoy this section and for the first time in this whole adventure, feel tired while driving. 
349 k Stop at the Nundroo Roadhouse for emergency repairs. (My footrest was an unfortunate casualty in the Nullarbor Disco.) I get National Radio reception and hear the temperature has reached 41 degrees Celcius. Buy an icy-pole as a Pavlov's Dog reaction, but I don't really want one. It will only interrupt my waving technique. I soon discover it doesn't matter - people have stopped waving. I feel a sense of loss.


To wave, keep right hand loose at the 12 o'clock position. In the event of an oncoming driver, lift fore and middle fingers and "point" at him/her.

427 k Arrive at the first town since Norseman: Penong. It is big enough to justify a 60kph speed limit, but not big enough for a Chinese restaurant. Their biggest industry seems to be windmill blowing.
500 k Arrive in Ceduna at what I thought was 2.45pm. Turns out I missed a time zone change at the border and it's really 4.30pm in Sth Australian time. Decide to camp here for the night and find a motel with running fresh water. Yeah!! The three SH's never felt so good... Shower, Shave and Shut-eye. ;-) Ceduna claims to be home of the Smoky Bay oysters (served at Sydney's Wokpool), so I use this as an excuse to try LOTS of them at around $10 per dozen. Yummy.


DAY     1      2      3      4      5      6      7      TOP-FIVES      TIPS      top

DAY 4 Ceduna - Adelaide.  822km;  12 hours including one sooky-lala.
Today's Challenge To get some new CD's!!!!!!!  I've listened to Les Miserables more times than I can handle right now!
0 k,
7.50am
The sign out says I only have 778 k to Adelaide. Before I leave, I phone a friend to say "I'm nearly in Adelaide!" Which is ridiculous really. It's just like someone in Sydney saying "I'm nearly in Byron Bay!" Ha! Anyway, I said it at the time because I thought it'd be a walk in the park compared to where I've just come from. Yeah right...
12 k  I pass my first cop car since leaving Bunbury. Naturally, I have no photo because like a good citizen I had both hands on the wheel. The radio station is playing the best of both kinds... country AND western. The alternative is the religion station, and I already know how god feels about me from my visit to the Traveller's Cross, so I don't intrude on his space by tuning in. No-one is waving, but my hand is lifting of its own accord.
90 k SA have a system of "Injury Markers" by the side of the road, marking the place of an auto accident. Black signifies a fatality, red an injury. When I come across my first one, it's very sobering, and I sit below the speed limit the rest of the way.
240 k Triple J back in range. Words cannot describe my joy!
254 k Pass a tourist sign to Darkes Monument, but it means getting out of the car. I whiz by with barely a glance - it's a sure sign Rrrrrr Disease is kicking in... the disease of the road fatigued driver who can smell his/her destination, and there aint nothin gonna get in the way. Rrrr = the relentless hum of tyres on the road.
280 k Spits of rain... oops, should have done my rain singing earlier in the piece.
Approx
300 k

Arrive in Kimba - the half way point of Australia. Apparently... I'd like to know their Point A and B. Kimba's the only town along the Ceduna - Port Augusta stretch that has made a half-way effort to accommodate tourists, so maybe that's the meaning behind their sign?
  The   stretch between Ceduna and Port Augusta would have to be the most boring, desolate, disillusioning drive ever. Nothing but cleared land, grain silos and a long pipeline. The past three days of spine-chilling adventure and discovery were perhaps to blame - too much of a contrast - but next time, assuming I have the 3 necessary resources (time, money and will), the coast road of Eyre Peninsula is the go.


Where's the White Lion? ;-)

Between Kimba and Iron Knob The landscape resembles the Nullarbor - low-lying scrub as far as the horizon. My spirits are restored. Iron Knob is the birthplace of the Australian steel industry. What I though was a mountain range turned out to be a chiselled "mountain" of mining substances.
440 k New Car Cricket rules. Wave at everyone for 1 run. If someone waves back, it's out. Eyre Highway meets Lincoln Highway.
462 k Arrive in Port Augusta, the Crossroads of Australia. Why are they cross? The biggest question I think, is why the tourist road winds past the town dump, and through the industrial area? I visit the Historic Water Tower, but pass by the School of the Air Homestead, the RFDS and the Power Station tours.


Why are the roads cross?

476 k There is no sign pointing to Adelaide as I leave Pt Augusta. Instead I follow a sign to what I thought said Fort Germein. Hello boys! But it turned out to be Port Germein. Oh well, never mind... by this stage I'm completely sun-smacked, road-furcked, wave-whacked, white-line-outed sign-swiped and travel thick. Not to mention the Rrrrrrr Disease. Every thought is underlined with the Rrrrr soundtrack.


Port Augusta's version of the Pink Lake. But I don't think this one's due to alga.

490 k Pass the turn off for Horrocks Pass that would take me to Sydney. I hesitate... should I? The short cut is tempting. But I decide to press on to Adelaide - it can't be that much further?
517 k Whiz by the Mt Remarkable lookout sign. Rrrrrr Disease is rampant now - I'm even thinking about abandoning the Clare Valley - a wine region I've been looking forward to visiting.


Serendipity leads me down this path. I am secretly pleased to discover a road with bends in it!

536 k Accidentally follow a tourist sign to Crystal Brook via a town not on my map. I surrender. It could be a big oops to go this way, but I'm beyond caring. Rrrrrrrrr Disease.
  The road leads me through the beautiful Southern Flinders Ranges. I am gob-smacked by the beauty of the trees, rock and hills - such a contrast to where I've come from. The road is dotted with historical buildings dating back to the early 1800s. Some ruins are marked by monuments and stories describing the early days of our pioneers. This ruin used to be the Gorge Hotel in Bangor, 1905.

4.30pm Finally! I arrive in Clare, the capital of the Clare Valley wine region. The town is so historic my eyes water, and I make myself a promise to return. And to spend more than a few minutes.
4.35pm I make a mad-dash visit to Sevenhill winery. A wine producer that started out making wine for church services, and eventually expanded to a commercial operation. I didn't stay too long because I was on a mission to visit a favourite producer of Cab Merlot: Annie's Lane. Just 5 minutes down the road.
4.55pm Heartbroken, slumped on the grass outside Annie's Lane.... they shut early. It is a disappointment too great for me to bear on top of the days of travelling I've done, and I have a little sooky-lala on the grass outside the tasting room. They must have thought me pissed! But just looking at my car and the thought of having to get back in it is enough to make me want to puke, so I don't care what they think! Not one person stops to check my wellbeing, which I take personally. Definitely time to rest!


Just moments before a phone call from a friend that cheers me right up again! It's only one hour to Adelaide, she says, and I feel strong again.

822 k
7.30pm
Finally, FINALLY arrive at Sue's place in Adelaide. I am shaking when I get out of the car, and can barely talk any sense. Whether it's because of the relief at reaching my destination (Part A of the journey), or whether I'd have been like this no matter where I was that day, I don't know. I suspect it was the manifestation of the Rrrrrr Disease.
11pm After dinner and home-brew beer, I'm off to bed to ask myself one last question. Where was the rabbit-proof fence?
Next Day Spend a day in Crafers West, in the Adelaide Hills. Tour the townships of Crafers, Stirling, Aldgate and Bridgewater. Toot the horn while passing residence of Alexander Downer (right), although I'm told later this would have been taken as a sign of support. Doh! 

  My host suggests Lobethal Lights. At first I think she is offering a low-fat salami. It turns out to be a Xmas festival (in Lobethal) where the whole town turns on Xmas lights and 1000s of people wander up and down ooh'ing and aah'ing. I shamelessly join them - it's quite an amazing community who would be prepared to put up with yobbo's gawking at their yards.


DAY     1      2      3      4      5      6      7      TOP-FIVES      TIPS      top

DAY 5 Adelaide - Warrnambool
Today's Challenge To determine why Coonawarra wine region folk believe their region is better than Margaret River.
0 k
10.15am
Start the day with a European brekky of salamis, cheese and black bread. Natural really, considering I'm in German- settled territory. Refuel at Crafers @ 89.9c and wash my windscreen. Feel very grown up doing so.
Host Ruth preparing yummy strong coffee to keep me buzzing.
84 k See my first sign to Melbourne on the Dukes Highway. Wind down the window to Luke Duke style Yeee-haaaaah! the livestock on the roadside. Traffic and heavily policed roads means it's harder to stop for photos now.
209 k Stop in Keith, refuel @ 94.9 c. Ask for directions to the ladies toilet. "Birds in there" I get told. Follow his nod and find there really are birds in the bathroom - a whopping big aviary full of them. Leave Dukes and join Riddoch Hwy south.
217 k Try my luck with a radio scan and get the Toyota Outback Program (pronounced "Teeyoda"). Top of the pops with "Stars on 45", and Genghis Khan's "Moscow".
Others might think Christmas Sucks, but I admire their optimism.
240-ish Pass a curious sign pointing to a Christmas Disco. I feel like Miranda wandering around a deserted pile of rocks, do I don't linger too long. Get sand in my sandals, and wonder if that's how they got their name.
259 k Enter the "Limestone Coast" region, home of the Coonawarra. Have a feeling of doom as I pass a Naracoorte winery called "Highcoorte" - the double entendre almost kills me.
365 k In the mood for double entendres, so I "track" down the Coonawarra Train Station.
  I visit Wynns, Majella and Leconsfield to quiz staff for answers to today's mission. At Wynn's I get a diplomatic "they're completely different styles." At Majella I get a puzzled look, head scratching and a flat "dunno." At Leconsfield I get nothing but a correction on how to say Leconsfield. I score doughnuts for today's mission: zero, zilch, nada.
380 k A few k's down the road at historic Penola, I  bypass a tourist sign to Vulva Cottage (I don't want to know...). Turn east here towards the  Victoria border and the Southern Grampians. I resist following the Mary McKillop tourist trail (Australia's first Blessed, but not yet a Saint) simply because I thought the signs were for a peg-puppet show. But I end up following it by default, as I see peg-puppet symbols all the way. 
Red Coonawarra dirt stays red well into Victoria.
398 k Enter Victoria. I know because of the tiny little sign saying "Welcome to Victoria", followed by dozens of warnings to stick to a 100km/h speed limit. 
440 k Arrive at Casterton, the heart of the Australia Felix. Whatever that means. The roads from here on in look like a Christmas curling ribbon wrapping around the rolling terrain. Pretty. 
Casterton: a cute little town with a friendly Xmas greeting etched into the hillside. 
468 k See my first road sign advocating a Powernap. Good to see modern vocab used by towns such as Coleraine that are stuck in a 50's time warp. Their brag board boasts an Arboretum (a gum tree display), but the Powernap areas are treeless. Go figure. I couldn't.
503 k Arrive in Hamilton - the Wool capital of the world. Bypass the Big Wool Bales - looking in vain for a toilet and / or sign to Warrnambool. 5km into Hamilton and still no luck with finding either.
536 k Drive through Penshurst, which is the first Victorian town I've come to with no brag board at the town entrance. What, no pride? At 564 k, Hawkesdale likewise has no brag board. I give them titles of "Pens" and "Hawks" to make them feel special.


The orchid given to me from Ruth's garden in Adelaide Hills stayed fresh in the cooler Victorian weather today.

581 k The Kirkstall residents, however, show they have a sense of humour. A "Rough Surface" sign on the road has been modified with "Years Of" at the top. Signs of a slow council?
600 k
6pm
Arrive tired into "Australia's Southern Right Whale Nursery": Warrnambool. I thought it was only 5.30pm, but when I raced down the main street (when in Rome...), I realised I missed another +30 minutes time-zone change at the SA/Vic border. The shops were shut. Went instead to have a gawk at the bay from the Cannon Hill lookout (below). It can be found just past the Dirty Angel - the unfortunate nick name of the town's war memorial (right). On approach, the reason for the nick name all became clear... tee hee hee.


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DAY 6 Warrnambool - Melbourne.  311km; all day.
Today's Challenge Report Apostrophe Abuse. To expose the rogue apostrophe's and absentee one's that are being mis-used in sign's.
0 k
10.30am
Leave Warrnambool after refuelling at 89.9c and saying good-bye to my new baby - a Golden Retriever named Blaze. Find my first rogue apostrophe at the Timboon Cheese Factory on a bottle of Serendipity Sauce. 
Good for stir-fry's.
50 k Gob-smacked by the stunning beauty of the Great Ocean Road. Bay of Islands below right.
78 k Flying visit to the Loch Ard Gorge, awed by the feat of Tom the sailor who managed to climb out of the gorge when the Loch Ard was shipwrecked there in the 1800s. Disappointed that he didn't hook up with the female passenger he rescued though. Mental note to rewrite story but with romantic ending.
62 k Photo opp at the London Bridge that fell down on 15 January 1990, marooning two people on the sea-side part of the bridge. I remember the day well. When people ask me, "where were you when the London Bridge fell down?" I say, "hey, I have an alibi." They leave me alone.
153 k 

At Colac I find my second rogue apostrophe, and a third in Geelong (right).


Report apostrophe abuse:
call  1800-Bite-Me
  But nothing could prepare me for the bamboozling name of the highway: Princes. Surely it should be called Prince's. Or Princes'. Or Princess. ?? Somebody STOP me!
228 k My travelling companion from Warrnambool to Sydney, Thelma, wakes up and actually starts being a companion.
240 k Enter Geelong to Melbourne Fwy and suddenly remember I wanted to go to Torquay (other side of Geelong). No turning around. :-( Doh!
260 k ish Pass the You Yangs - a mountain range built by my grandfather with a long-handled shovel. True story. According to my father, anyway.
311 k Arrive in South Yarra (pronounced Yar-RAHHHH just to irk the locals). 
  Drop our bags off and head straight for the beach: St Kilda Beach. Put my toe in the southern ocean. It's cold. Find another apostrophe crime on the way home.
9pm Get stuck into the world's best coffee in the Chapel Street cafe scene. Enjoy the huge choice of cuisine, beer, and doof-doof music coming from the stream of show cars crawling along the street. Don't enjoy the pathetic pick-up lines so much... eg: Stud: "What's your favourite car?" Girl: "Jeep Wrangler." Stud to diners: "Anyone here drive a Wrangler?"


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DAY 7 Melbourne - Sydney.  855km to the M5 toll booth; 11.5 hours.
Today's Challenge To count all the white horses between Melbourne and Sydney. But there was a massive zone of sans horses, so Thelma and I made up a new game: Word Replacement. Klicks = Licks, Car = Bars, Truck = oh, never mind.
0 licks
8.30am
After spending an hour running the gamut of red lights out of Melbourne, we see our first sign to Sydney. Only 886 licks to go. Petrol 89.5c.
31 licks Spot my first white horse, and two others within the next 20 licks. It turns out this is the last white horse we'll see for another 600 licks.
223 licks Wee stop at Glenrowan - the site of Australia's last outlaw's last stand. "Described as a rebel, bushranger by necessity, a bush battler, underdog, sometimes gentleman, sometimes larrikin and a man with a strong sense of family." But oh no! Another apostrophe crime has been committed on the plaque:

Oh well, to use the very words of the great man himself, "Such is life."

Ned Kelly was hung at 25 in 1880. Famous last words: "Such is life." 
250 licks Police are crawling the roads. Pass our 4th careless driver in less than 2 hours. According to a plethora of billboards, cops are clamping down on speeding, drinking, seatbelts and mobiles. What about driving?
270 licks Pass the turn off to Howlong, and ask the natural question. How long to Howlong? Same again when we pass Binalong at 578 licks: It's been a long time since Binalong. As for Bogalong Creek, well...
312 licks Cross the border from Victoria to New South Wales. At 325 licks, we give the Ettamogah Pub a big miss, but stop for coffee in Holbrook at 380 licks... their biggest attraction, despite being many licks inland, is a submarine. Many ??? abound but information is not at the fore.
448 licks Zoom through Tarcutta - "Half way on the Hume" town.
482 licks Still no white horses, but we do pass a bull and cow doing the cha cha. Dukes of Hazard yeee- haaaaa. (Naturally). Fly past Gundagai to find the "Dog on the Tuckerbox, 5 miles from Gundangai" (as the song goes). At 500 licks, we find him. Heh???? More questions abound. The monument was erected in honour of a loyal dog who sat by his master for days on end when he... something. Can't remember, can't care. It doesn't compare to the dog at Shibuya Station in Tokyo, so I pretty much file it in the "Mum's old-fashioned music, do not revive" file. Food at the roadhouse is skanky, so we back-track to Gundagai and head for the Famous Niagara Cafe for a liquid lunch...
Is this it???
509 licks ...Thelma: beer. Me: Iced Coffee. Dragged info from the waitress about why the cafe might be famous. "Because John Curtin visited here in 1942," she says. Spy the sign celebrating the 50th anniversary of his visit, and realise that we are nearing the end of his 60th anniversary. Resist the urge to photograph Apostrophe Crime: "John Curtins Anniversary." I forgive them - the cafe has an exquisite charm and amazingly delicious food (and drinks).
The liquid lunch at the 100 year old Niagara Cafe can be recommended.
  The cafe opened in 1902, yet there is no Centenary celebrations for the cafe. Hmmm, me sees an opportunity for a marketing mentor. Ach, look around and decide I really do need to live near the ocean.
609 licks See our first white horse for so long we  are shocked. Speechless when we see two.
669 licks Spy another 4.5 white horses (the half is a little foal). Thelma sees her first white horse at 683 licks, and nearly has an... ah, what I mean is... oh never mind.
703 licks Drive by the Knickers Tree. Many years ago I hung a pair of my knickers on a branch. Going too fast to determine whether trend has been continued by others.
824 licks We see our "Welcome to Sydney" sign. Licking frenzy ensues.
836 licks  Spy another 4 white horses. Turns out to be our last. Total white horses between Melbourne and Sydney: um, my guess is 13 not including the foal.
855 licks Arrive at the M5 toll booth. $3.30 for the average car. I tried persuading Kevin the collector that my car is far from average, but he wouldn't have it.
890 licks Park in Sydney's only unlimited time-zone in Glebe, and decide that this is where my car is going to live forever more. I'm flying back to W.A. But first I'm going to have little fun in Sydney! tee hee hee. Se you in the soup! :-)


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TOP FIVES

Most fun bits 1. The "zone" of spirituality while crossing the Nullarbor Plains.
2. The easy connection with other travellers.
3. The constantly changing landscape.
4. Not knowing what was around the corner (or "down the road"!).
5. Writing this.
Most painful bits 1. My belly button pierce.
2. The callous that developed on my right heel (from leaning against the accelerator for so long).
3. The Penong to Ceduna stretch.
4. The over-full belly gorged on Smoky Bay oysters.
5. Learning to talk again after so much isolation in the desert.
Most impressive bits 1. The Great Australian Bight lookouts.
2. The women who work in these areas!
3. The silence of the desert.
4. The road-aware emu ;-P
5. How pissed I got on one beer.
Most
surprising bits
1. The amount of vegetation in the desert.
2. The dots on the road map were just roadhouses, not towns.
3. The feeling of loss when I left the desert.
4. Lack of phone coverage and internet connection!
5. The spelling of "Nullarbor".


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TEN TIPS

I would like to think that the fact that Iím writing this today is testimony to my pre-trip research and preparation. But itís more an indication of the degree of safety and resources available across the Nullarbor. Staying alert and keeping a level-head helps, along with a bountiful supply of fresh water, a reliable car and pre-trip surgery to remove your dependence on internet access. Here are some more tips:

  1. If staying in touch with civilisation is your bag, take a CDMA phone.
  2. BYO drinking water to save paying $4 per bottle on the Plain (assuming they have any).
  3. BYO fresh water for radiator and windscreens as roadhouses won't give you any.
  4. Bring a jerry can of petrol only if you are not prepared to pay more than a metric dollar in the desert. Roadhouses are no more than 200km apart, so generally speaking you have no fear of running out of petrol.
  5. Book motels ahead during school holidays. Pack a pillow and sleeping bag *just* in case you have to sleep in the car (while parked, need I say?)
  6. Buy a map with tourist attraction notes.
  7. Be your own best friend. Whether travelling alone or with a partner, you're the only company you'll have for a while.
  8. Be kind to your body - don't eat junk food and drink lots of water. You are already abusing your body by sitting for so long - don't abuse it further by blocking your system with junk. It will only lead to zits and a pot belly.
  9. Don't promise 10 tips if you can only think of nine.
  10.  


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