Norseman (Pop 1000)
Next the gateway to the Nullarbor, Norseman.
The legend goes that an early prospector, Laurie Sinclair, stopped over to visit his brother in the 1890s. His horse, Hardy Norseman, pawed the ground during the night, uncovering a large gold nugget. This led to his discovery of a rich reef, and 5million ounces later a town looks back in gratitude. On my photos you can see the gold tailings, a statue of the famous horse, and the metal camels (paying tribute to the role camels played in this area).
It was also worth going up the steep little road to the lookout. Panoramic views of the town that includes Lake Cowan that stretches 6km from Norseman 90km to Widgiemooltha. Previously used for (salty) water to the mines, today they mine gypsum (for ceilings).
We stopped over to get stocks up and fill up with water. Next is the Nullarbor (Nullus Arbor) meaning ‘no trees.” One of the first things you see after leaving town, is a road sign that reads “Adelaide 1985km” – yip, intimidating)
The Nullarbor Plain that we will reach in 2-3 days is the world’s biggest single piece of limestone measuring 200, 000 square kilometres (it is also 300m thick and used to be ocean floor). It is also famous for the longest golf course in the world. Each participating town or roadhouse features a tee, a green and a fairway consisting of rugged outback terrain (you can hire equipment at every tee, but neither of us play golf).
We camped at 10 mile rocks (free camp with toilets) in Dundas Nature Reserve, 70km past Norseman. Good shade and ready for the big stint ahead. Third catch up with a Brisbane couple… becoming friends (ended up seeing each other 5 times on the trip).
Balladonia (190km in from Norseman)
Loosely translated “big red rock” made world headlines in 1979 when space debris from Skylab landed 40km east of Woorlba sheep station. There is a cute little museum worth visiting (filled with information about the Skylab incident and more). Bought a really good cappuccino here!
So far we saw trees everywhere. We’ve actually passed through the biggest Eucalypt hardwood forest in the world. Beautiful.
Caiguna (368km from Norseman)
This roadhouse is famous for the longest straight stretch of highway in Australia (146.6km). It was the first time I’ve tried using cruise control on the Prado whilst towing. Worked so well! It was time (just past Caiguna) to wind our clocks 45 mins on.
Cocklebiddy motel (pop 8 people, 25 budgies, 2 quails, and 1 dog) 332km in from Norseman
Cocklebiddy is famous for its cave systems, which are some of the largest in the world. Saw the ugliest caravan park I’ve even seen. It has power… so maybe if you really needed air con? See the photo.
After doing 485km, we found a great free camp called Moodini Bluff. Nice shaded sites and very clean toilets. It has been the longest drive we’ve had in a day so far on this trip. The scenery got a bit monotonous. Just felt OK to keep going until we found a nice spot. We were very fortunate with maximum temperatures around 24-27 but getting started at 7am to beat the head winds.
Mundrabilla (Population: roadhouse)
Australia’s biggest meteorite was discovered nearby, weighing over 10 tonnes.
Eucla (Pop 86)
Opening in 1877, up to 11000 Morse code messages were sent through here annually. A century ago the population was 100, when this was a busy telegraph station. There are beautiful ruins today.
It is the world’s largest limestone karst landscape covering an area of 270,000 square km. This is almost the size of Victoria.
We stopped at every turn off to great views of the Bight and the ocean (the first really good one at 800km past Norseman). The whale season had passed, so we knew not to expect any. The best stop was at rest stop number three, where the views across the Bight just blew us away. It was windy, and chilly, but we just stood in awe of the magnitude of cliffs that stretch for 100s of kilometres and reach up to 30 storeys.
After another long day (300km) we pulled over into a 24 hour free camp (named 143 Peg free camp site) that had nice trees to shelter us from the strong sea breeze. How nice to camp under the stars with no one around. Just absolute silence.
Penong (Aboriginal word meaning “waterhole) Population 200
Penong is known as the town 100 windmills, and where we decided to stop in a caravan park again. We did more than 1000km of travelling using free camps, and now we needed to stop where there were washing machines. Again we camped unpowered, our solar doing its job brilliantly. As it turned out, we were overly cautious about the Nullarbor, carrying a lot more water than we needed. We also used a fair bit more diesel because we had head winds all the way, pushing our diesel consumption to 13 litres per 100km as opposed to our normal 11.5 for towing (to be fair, I also pushed our speed up to 100km/h instead of the normal 90km/h because it became a bit monotonous). In the end we had a bit of a scare as we almost ran out of diesel when Penong’s fuel station was closed for renovations… so much for planning to fill up there!
In Penong we saw the windmill museum including the biggest one in in Australia (35 feet across) able to pump 1 mil litres per day.
Ceduna (Pop 2289)
Ceduna is the major commercial centre of the far west of Eyre Peninsula (derived from the Aboriginal word meaning “resting place”). Not as big as it sounds, but nice on the beach. We camped in a caravan park right on the beach. It was time to catch up on washing and recharge phone batteries etc.
I had a great conversation with the local pastor and leadership of Ceduna Uniting Church just as they were about to start “Messy Church”. Pastor Gary also leads worship in Penong and Smokey Bay. Great, hospitable people.
The Nullarbor was an amazing, demanding adventure. It was tough towing into winds up to 30km/h. The first and last 200km were filled with beautiful dense forests, with low, but dens shrubs in between. Not something I would want to do regularly, but still special.
Windmill museum in Penong
Watch out for the natives
Views across the Bight are spectacular
Typical free camp in the Nullarbor
Travelling with 2 dogs and 2 horses 2 people in one home since Feb
Tracking Skylab path
Sheer drop of 90m at the Bight
Salt encrusted rams head
Only camel we saw apart from a dead one
Nullarbor part two
Nullarbor part one
Longest straight road in Australia
Harsh area spot our caravan
Hard core Nullarbor where the trees end
First cyclist with helmet to cross the Nullarbor in 1962
Ceduna after 1200km
At the border post to South Australia