Cross Country Road Trip Part 1: Perth to Adelaide
Wow, it’s been a wild and wonderful past 12 days. We’ve been on the road, heading from Perth towards the eastern states, and now we’re in the first capital city of our trip, Adelaide. Getting here has led us through some of the most isolated regions of Australia, including the long journey across the Nullarbor. The Nullarbor is iconic and after hearing so much about it, it was a real treat to get to do it. I must admit that it wasn’t half as lonely or ‘boring’ as I‘d imagined. The scenery was vast but rugged and beautiful and there were plenty of roadhouses along the way, so we never really felt too far from civilisation.
Anyway, I should start at the beginning! We left Fremantle on the 19th of October (also our anniversary!), handed our apartment keys into our property manager, jumped in the van and headed east into the Western Australian wheat belt towards Esperance. It was bittersweet leaving Perth – I’d really created such a lovely life there and I was sorry to leave, but I was also excited for 5 weeks on the road. All that passing rural scenery filled me with a feeling of Que Sera as we drove further and further from the west coast.
We spent a night in the small rural town of Lake Grace and made it to Esperance on day 2 of our journey. We had heard that Cape le Grand National Park is extraordinary and a ‘must see’ so we headed straight there in the hopes of securing a camp site at one of their popular camp grounds. Lucky we did too as we got one of two last spots! It was a wild and windy, whippy afternoon but we ventured down to the sea and took in what has been described as one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches! It was beautiful indeed, pure magic to behold, even on a miserable afternoon. It was all white sand and turquoise water - so pristine and idyllic. It took my breath away.
The next two days were spent walking and exploring as much of the park as we could in between showers and hectic winds. The weather wasn’t what we were hoping for but it blanketed the park in mystery and added to the adventure of climbing Frenchman’s Peak (I only made it two thirds up as my vertigo kicked in, but Ben got to the top.), and exploring the exquisite bays and beaches. I spent the nights in our little van drawing my impressions of the landscapes we had just explored. It was incredibly lovely, and it was difficult to leave Cape le Grand. Next time we visit we will make sure we have a week to really enjoy everything this park has to offer.
It's about 1000 kilometres from Esperance to the South Australian border - a long way, much longer than I had expected! I tell ya, driving from Western Australia to the East really gives you a sense of appreciation of how isolated WA is. We just rolled on without great haste through the countryside, stopping at points of interest and taking in the scenery. We spent one night at a quiet country town called Norseman and one at the Caijuna Service Station before reaching Eucla where it's only 12 k's to the border. In Eucla we spent a few hours exploring the remnants of the old town which is half buried between the shifting sand dunes. We walked to the nearby beach where the wind was fierce and we photographed the historic jetty which was adorned by a big flock of cormorants. As soon as I saw the jetty a sense of familiarity crept in - I must have seen it on a few postcards I think!
After Eucla we crossed the border at the aptly named Bordertown where I hitched a ride with an oversized kangaroo holding a jar of Vegemite. Yes, the absurdity of it was not lost on me!
We drove on and on reaching the border of the Nullarbor National Park and made our way through the vastness. I found it mesmerising, all this passing 'nothingness'. Though I suppose it is full of life as evidenced by the extreme number of kangaroo carcasses on the roadside. It was full on - I have never seen anything like it! There must have been a carcass every 100 metres or so, at least. I found it rather macabre and disturbing, not to mention sad. The strange thing is that we didn't even see that many kangaroos - a few, to be sure, but even driving at dusk we weren't confronted with any incidents of mad kangaroo road hopping. We did however see a feral cat and a fox, so no doubt the Nullarbor is feeling the pain of introduced and feral species. I read recently that biodiversity loss there was at one of the highest rates in the country, testament that our actions can have devastating effects even in truly isolated regions.
Still, the countryside is awe inspiring in its vastness and when you start to get glimpses of the sea the land gives way to a blueness that reaches on forever to the horizon. Standing on the cliffs that make up the edge of the Nullarbor, and indeed the country, is like standing on the edge of the world. You look to either side and those cliffs recede into the distance as far as the eye can see. They stand like sentinels to the land beyond their edges, keeping the sea from washing us all into its liquid realm. The ocean beats tenaciously against the hardness of the rocks like it believes it can consume this whole damn island. I suppose that one day, it will.
Our overnight stop on the Nullarbor was the Nullarbor Roadhouse, which, as strange as it seems, turns out a pretty good feed for the middle of nowhere. We had planned to get up early the next day to visit the whale centre at Head of Bight, but we woke up far later than we had hoped, forgetting that we had lost 2 and a half hours when we crossed the border into South Australia. We showered and packed up as fast as we could and made it to the whale centre an hour after we had hoped to, but it didn't matter anyway as we were actually far too late to see any Southern Right Whales. We were told that the last ones had left the bay 9 days ago! Aaah well. I knew it was the pointy end of the season but I was hoping that we might catch a few stragglers. Not to be. Still, we spent a good hour or so just looking out at that fabulous coastline. What a magic place Head of Bight is! It is well worth a visit, whales or no whales!
After that we rolled onwards towards Ceduna where we got to meet up with some South Aussie family for a lovely, chatty lunch by the ocean. Then we turned the van in a south eastern direction towards the Eyre Peninsula and Port Lincoln. We spent a night in Streaky Bay where we saw some spooky masked owls and where I found lots of tiny pieces of old painted porcelain washed up on the beach, all smooth edged from having been tumbled in the sea. We visited a mysterious set of strangely shaped boulders called Murphy's Haystacks and explored the cliffs and wild coastline at Talia Caves before we made it to Port Lincoln at the very bottom of the peninsula. Unfortunately the weather in Port Lincoln was woeful while we were there. The wind was so fierce that it was really unpleasant to be outside, but I tried to make the most of it and explored as much as I could before I got swept away! I can see what a beautiful outdoorsy place this must be in the warmer months with lovely beaches all around.
From Port Lincoln we rolled on back up the other side of the peninsula, staying in Port Neill (a small seaside fishing village) one night and in Port Wakeley (a sleepy historic town) on another. We had covered a lot of ground and we were almost in the first capital city of our trip, Adelaide! Benny was to do some work in the city for a few days so I was looking forward to having a hotel room, watching some tv, having our own bathroom and sleeping in a proper bed. But before hitting Adelaide we were in for a surprise as we discovered Bumbunga Lake along the highway. Oh heavens, what a place! Lake Bumbunga is a pink lake the likes of which I have never seen before. It looks fascinating from the road, but the full wonder of the place is exposed once you are on the lakebed. The lake is covered in pink salt crystals which shimmer in the sunlight. It's such a surreal landscape to walk upon. I can't even explain it so here are some pictures to give you an idea of how unique and beautiful a landscape it is:
Pretty amazing huh?
Then, all of a sudden we were in Adelaide and the longest and most remote part of our journey was over. It was only here that I understood we were no longer residents of the West and that we were back in the East to stay. Perth seems so far away! 12 days away! It will get further still...
Tomorrow we start the journey to Melbourne. We have a week and I can't tell you how excited I am to be visiting Great Ocean Road again. I LOVE this part of Australia. C ya on the other side!
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