Notes of a traveller

Alan Dodds – photographer (among other things)

Notes of a traveller

Adelaide and crossing the Nullabor

Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2018 at 6:34 pm

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.

The trunk of a tree in the botanical park next to the river Torrens in Adelaide, and example of the amazing colours often displayed by Australin trees

Just love the colours in the bark of this tree – Botanical Park, Adelaide
This image is of a sign warning against feeding the pelicans. It says Pelicans may bite and cause injury. Pack away food, shoo pelican away, wave arms, jumper or umberalla or leave the park

Just watch out for those arm eating Pelicans!
Image of Tara Samaya next to a poster for her forthcoming show called Spinners

Tara in person next to the poster in the Adelaide Market, advertising Tara’s forthcoming show, the Spinners
The Beehive Corner building in Adelaide is like a fairy tale castle with Haigh's Chocolate shop in a prominant position.

Chocolate boxes in a chocolate box – Adelaide’s Beehive Corner

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.

Gawler street is the main shopping street in Mount Barker in the Adelaide hills. We enjoy a coffee in the Gawler Street Cafe.

Love the red dragon flying towards the Gawler Street Cafe. Street art has really come on!

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.

This 1839 cottage is typical of the old building lining the street of Handorf in the Adelaide Hills.

It seems settlement arrived here a long time ago. Hahndorf – Adelaide hills.
The obelisk on the summit of Mount Lofty is used as a navigation aid. on the day we visit a film crew has taken up the whole area blocking access to the view of Adelaide.

The Obelisk on Mount Lofty taken over by a film crew. Adelaide Hills.

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 full moon rises over the Pink Lake in Lochiel next to a Telstra Phone Box.

Full moon rise over the Pink Lake. I wonder how many use the phone box these days given that you need a Telstra phone card to make a call.


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.

The jetty at Ceduna is popular with fishermen.

A walker on Ceduna jetty with the sun setting over the bay.
Advertising signs for Bill in Ceduna

In a small remote town like Ceduna it pays to have a number of strings to one’s bow – just like Bill.

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.

An abandoned horse, bullock or maybe even camel drawn cart reminds us of days gone past.

The crossing of the Nullabor wasn’t always as easy as it is today. This cart is a reminder of how the pioneers lived before mechanical transport arrived.
A sign warns that camels, wombats and kangeroos could be on the road over the next 88 kilometres

We really don’t fancy hitting a camel which has strayed onto the road – I suspect the camel would win!

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.

The limestine cliffs of the Great Australian Bight stretch off into the distance.

The limestone bedrock meets the southern ocean forming these spectacular cliffs, made especially dramatic after lots of very flat 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 the border of South and Western Australia a sign a show distances to the worlds major cities with a giant kangeroo looking on

Helpful sign, just in case you are lost.

As we settle into our campsite for the night we are treated to a beautiful sunset through the gum trees.
Image of the tin drop hole toilet at the Rockleigh Camp.

It’s all very civilised here, there’s even a toilet (although here it would be known as a dunney)


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”.

The road to the west

Following in the slip stream of the explosives truck gives a magic carpet ride out of the headwind. Ladybird cheers us on! (photo by Jacqui)

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.

A miners camp in the museum in Calgoorlie, Western Australia

An idea of what a prospectors camp might have looked like.
A black and white image of a prospector and his cart full of posessions making his way to the goldfiends.

The prospectors pushed their carts for weeks along the rough tracks from Perth. How did this man manage to be clean shaven?
A display of glass bottles

The museum has extensive displays of glass bottles in all the colours imaginable.
A coffee shop in Coolgardie

Cappuccino is the magic word to attract passing tourists.

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.

The main street in York, Western Australia

The rich farming area around York was first settled in 1831 and the small settlement of York had developed by 1836. It’s a popular weekend destination being just a short drive from Perth.
A 1946 Allard J1

In the excellent York Motor Museum, this Allard J1 is my favourite and we were born in the same year!
A 1904 L48 Samson, first British car to reach the magic 100 miles per hour.

One hundred miles an hour in that! You must be joking!
A group of people taking a selfie outside the York Motor museum

Mass selfies are just the go these days!
Jacqui standing on the footpath alongside the Avon river in Tooday Western Australia

Jacqui admires the Avon river near Tooday.
The stumps of a previous bridge across the Avon river in Tooday

All things must pass and this bridge has long gone.

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 Kalgoorlie Pipeline in Sawyers Valley, Western Australia.

The pipeline ran next to our house in Sawyers Valley where we lived for 5 years.

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.

The John Forrest Nation Park in Hovea, Western Australia

Helen and Jacqui stand atop a huge granite formation in the John Forrest National Park.

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!”.



7 responses to “Adelaide and crossing the Nullabor”

  1. […] part of the crossing is fairly well covered in my earlier tales “Adelaide and Crossing The Nullabor” and “Alice and the Red […]

  2. lynn says:

    Hi. Thank you for sharing your trip with us. We enjoyed reading as always. Lovely to see family pictures too. xx

  3. Tony Dodds says:

    Hi Both,
    I remember ’46 as well, home between jobs,a twinkle that became a being and me, trying to be helpful doing the mashed potatoes, no spooning them out, they poured!!
    What a trip again, and here was me expecting to see desert like terrain and nothing but beauty and coastline and, I expect it wasn’t as hot as it is here at the moment, 30 c +- we ‘aint used to this!!
    Nice to meet up with your old friends, better still to join them in their nuptials – have a lovely day, and our best wishes to them both.
    I’m glad your mode of transport is roadworthy again, not a Ford lover but they are durable but you’re very brave with that kind of expanse to navigate!!
    Again, thanks for keeping us in the loop and safe journey back.
    Tony & berylxxx

  4. Dr Ian Gawler says:

    Your photos just get better and better Alan 🙂

  5. Olly says:

    Another brilliant travelogue! Thanks for introducing us to yet another part of the world that we may never see but will as result feel we now know.

  6. Pippa Samaya says:

    What an adventure- we loved our surprise bonus time spent crossing paths in Adelaide! Lovely to sit here in the Scottish Highlands and read this! See you soon for the next big mega desert drive- this time into the red centre!! =) p.s. that photo of the cliffs going into the ocean at the bite is just incredible! =) bravo!

  7. Jac says:

    Absolutely Amazing…👏👏 Had been missing you both, and pondering the possibilities 🤔🙏😳☺️ Tara n Co, those cliffs, the huge distances, the flavour of the desert! Top job you travellers of life – slipstreaming ‘all the way’ – Love fr the timeless bush ❤️😘🙏 and thank u, for sharing 😇☺️

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