For the next part of this trip, I start by doing some rough calculations, in particular for those who are less familiar with Australia. To drive from Adelaide to Perth, which we intend to do when we get our transport back, is around 2,600 Km. This is approximately like driving from London to Palermo in Sicily, or to Sofia in Bulgaria.
On a similar length journey in Europe one would pass through several countries and through numerous cities never mind the English Channel. In our case we will pass through one large town, a couple of small towns, then 1,200km passing a number of remote roadhouses with food and fuel, after which come a couple more small towns and then Perth. And that is only half the distance from Brisbane!
Adelaide is both sweet and sour. The sour bit is having to hang around, at first in a caravan park and then in hotels, while we wait for our engine to be fixed; the sweet bit is having to hang around in Adelaide because Pippa and Tara are here. Tara is involved in the development of a show called “Spinners” which will be performed first in Adelaide and then at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in Scotland.
We spend lots of time with them and their boys (two chiwawa brothers) and are even lucky enough to get a sneak preview of Tara’s show since we will be leaving before any performances.
We enjoy Adelaide as a city, and for most of our time we are within walking distance of both the city and Pippa, an ideal situation. Looks like an extra weekend to fill in, so we opt to go up into the Adelaide Hills to an AirBnb in Mount Barker, with a couple of days exploring in our hire car.
Hahndorf is next on our list. This very German settlement is set up to attract the tourists. Then it’s off to Mount Lofty and its view of Adelaide. Mind you, we can’t get near the view because an Asian film crew has set up shop here and is rather taking up the space.
The crossing begins
Winnie will be ready by this afternoon, and so we have to check out of the hotel, get up to Van Works which is about 12km from the centre. I drop Jacqui off and go back into town to drop off the hire car bafore catching a train back to Van Works.
… and off we go!
It is late afternoon before we set off to the north. After 130km we pull into the RV park in Lochiel next to the so called “Pink Lake”. It’s the full moon tonight.
The 650km leg from Lochiel to Ceduna takes us round the top of the Spencer Gulf at Port Augusta before heading west through the South Australia wheat belt. Ceduna is the last substantial town in South Australia and an opportunity to spend the night in a caravan park located on the foreshore.
Crossing the Nullabour Plain
The road to Western Australia runs along the coast of the Great Australian Bight. Most of the 1200km crossing is on a huge area of limestone bedrock the most famous part of which is the Nullabor Plain, which literaly means “treeless plain”. And it is just that … at least the relatively short stretch that we cross before the more usual low vegetation reappears.
Remoteness quickly asserts itself. The road stretches on into the distance across the increasingly flat country. Our main companions are huge trucks and the odd caravan. We battle the wind which increases in strength as we cross and are buffeted as trucks pass going east.
We arrive at the Nullabor Road House and the most expensive fuel on the crossing – something over two dollars a litre.
It would not be easy for us to live in this place but it is actually teaming with life with many birds, animals and insects adapted to it’s semi arid climate. The ravens and wedge tailed eagles do well by clearing the roadkill, mostly Kangaroos.
Before we reach the border with Western Australian, the road runs right next to the coast and the dramatic cliffs of the Bight. This is a good place to stop and review where we are actually standing. Turning around to face towards the north west, the next surfaced road is some 2,500 km away. In between are a handfull of dirt roads and a great deal of very remote country.
Eucla and into Western Australia
The small settlement of Eucla lies on the border of Western Australia which in turn constitutes around one third of the landmass of Australia into which the entire United Kingdom would fit eleven times. Quite big then!
Eucla is also the site of the Agricultural Quarantine Station, which has been quite a successful program to stop plant diseases in particular moving across the remote country between east and west by catching a ride with us humans. “I’ll take that honey”, the inspector says, “and those vegies”. After taking on fuel, we start on the seven hundred kilometers to the next town.
On this leg of the journey, we have a win. The wind has been very strong and we are headed right into it. Somewhere along the road, a huge truck carrying explosives overtakes us and as it passes we get caught in the slip-stream. I increase our speed a little (keeping outside the three second following rule) to keep up with the truck and we are on a magic carpet ride which lasts for the next three hundred kilometers. We pull in next to the truck on reaching Norsman and thank the driver for the ride! “That’s ok mate”, he says, “I knew what you were up to”.
After four days driving from Adelaide, we reach the now declining mining town of Coolgardie, having only passed through the small town of Norsman since we entered WA.
When gold was discovered here, Coolgardie became a mighty town and the third largest town in Western Australia. Now it has a population of less than 1000 people and continues to decline. They have sensibly provided a place for RV’s to park next to the old railway station, and the next morning we set off to see what we can find. The excellent museum is already open and gives us a glimpse of what life must have been like for the early settlers.
The Perth Hills
We are on the final leg of our journey and into the hills which lie to the east of Perth. First stop is York, and a visit to the renowned motor museum, then on to Tooday and a caravan park next to the Avon river for a clean up before we arrive at our destination.
Back in the early nineties we lived next to the pipeline in Sawyers Valley. In 1986 the water supply situation in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie had become critical since the gold rush had increased the population there dramatically. C.Y.O’Connor was commissioned by the state government to build a pipeline from the purpose built reservoir in Mundaring to cover the five hundred and thirty kilometers to Kalgoorlie.
Many said it would never work, and although the pipeline was nearly completed, following years of criticism C.Y.O’Connor committed suicide in 1902.
In spite of all the naysayers, the pipeline he designed and built was a great success, finally delivering water to Kalgoorlie in 1903. It still supplies water to more than 100,000 people, and the farms, businesses and mines of the Goldfields.
The Reason for the trip
Our excuse for making this trip across to the West, was to attend the wedding of our good friends Helen and Michael. It is great to catch up with them and share their day of celebration.
This part of our journey is complete. It has taken us seven days to cover the two thousand six hundred kilometers from Adelaide. That is just over half of the journey from Brisbane, some four thousand seven hundred kilometers in all. All we have to do now, is return!
Along the way we found that the people we have come into contact with in so many remote communities and roadhouses, have been nothing but friendly and helpful, and have provided such good service to those like us who are just passing through. Without them we could not have got this far. To them I take my hat off. “Chapeau!”.