Day 8

Not as much to write home about today.

We didn’t sleep particularly well which was surprising as the bed was comfortable and the motel quiet. We were both awake at 5:30am and decided there wasn’t any point in hanging around so got up, packed, had breakfast and were on the road by 7:20am. As Eucla is in WA we’d had a time change so it was actually previous days 6:30am.

We left Eucla which is on the plateau and dropped to the flats to ride to Madura. Not much to see. The flats were scrubby and to the north the escarpment to the plateau ran parallel with the road all the way to Madura.

Coastal flats and the escarpment

And straight roads

We stopped for a cup of tea and petrol at Madura. The Roadhouse is halfway up the escarpment and as you leave you break out onto the plateau and there is a spectacular lookout back the way we’d come.

The view from Madura Lookout

After Madura we didn’t see much other than scrub, lots of smelly road kill and low woodland. Surprising given its called the Null-arbor. I feel an intensive harvesting operation is called for to reinstate the integrity of the Plain’s name.

Next stop was Cocklebiddy which as roadhouses go was pretty average but did have a diverse group of residents.

Results of the 2018 Census

After Cocklebiddy more of the same to Caiguna for the last petrol for the day and then onto the longest straight in Australia.

Did I mention the roads are straight?

The 90mile straight wasn’t in fact as boring as we’d thought. The road was undulating and again there was low woodland which made for some interest. My Advanced Motorbike Rider Trainer, Mick always told me ‘plan your corners’. Plenty of time, in fact an hour and a half, in this case.

After the straight we rolled a further 30kms into the Balladonia Hotel Motel. We arrived quite early given the early start but still covered a respectable 523kms over the day.

And that was the end of day 8.

Day 7

A gorgeous, but cold morning started with a walk to the end of Ceduna Pier a respectable breakfast and departure at about ten past eight. A certain amount of difficulty navigating the 3 parallel streets of Ceduna before we found the Eyre Highway and were on our way.

First town to pass through was Penong which has a lot of windmills! Apparently initially to extract water from the underlying basin but now more of a tourist attraction. I’m afraid I was in more of a ‘destination’ mode as opposed to Della’s ‘journey’ so we sped through without stopping. I’ve felt bad about that all day so cheated with the following photo which I picked up off google!

To be fair we did see some from the road ….

We then headed to Nundroo through ever harder looking country but still farmed for wheat on large tracks of land. Nundroo is a Roadhouse run by a young Indian couple with two cute kids but who were clearly drain challenged with both loos blocked. This was inconvenient but not insurmountable for boys and lead me to find that the local sandy soil was covered in small sea shells.

I see no sea

Cross your legs

Leaving Nundroo we quickly left the farming country and went for some way through low woodland on very long straight roads with some hazards.

No saw logs in this lot

The surveyor wasn’t challenged by this alignment

To be avoided

After about 100kms the woodland rapidly ran out and before we knew it we were at the start of the Nullarbor – an incredible expanse of not very much.

Finally we’re here!

Nothing to see here

We then travelled for about another 80kms to the Nullarbor Roadhouse. About 12kms before the roadhouse there was a turn off to the Head of the Bight which was 12kms off the road and coincidentally 12kms from the loos at the roadhouse – given the malfunctioning facilities at Nundroo the loos won. These facilities however were not without their own challenges.

I have no idea what they are doing in the ladies

According to the young German Petrol Station Attendant these warnings were not without merit as his girlfriend had recently gone for a shower only to be beaten to the hot water by a brown snake.

We avoided the bar and had a light lunch of cheese tomato and ham toastie, a very good cup of coffee and some conversations with people getting the most out of life and we were on our way again.

I wonder if the snakes go in the bar too?

We then started to ride more seriously to get to Eucla before 4:00pm when the roos start waking up. We did stop at three scenic viewing spots where the views at nothing short of breathtaking.

Where the Nullarbor meets the sea – The Great Australian Bight

Lost for words

…………

The final act of the day was to pass through the West Australian Quarantine Inspection Check Point. Felt like an episode of Border Protection with a throw a way ‘are you serious?’ requiring a pannier to be taken off the bike and opened, ditto the squishy bag and the top box.

Finally though we made it to the Eucla Motor Hotel where it has to be said, albeit late in the day, that they serve a very good curry!

And that was the end of day 7.

Day 6

‘Go west young man…..! and so we did.

We left Port August’s with few regrets at just before 8:00am. A lovely morning. Fetching and carrying in and out of the unit to the bike it actually felt quite warm. Sensibly we decided we’d put on the thermal long johns and tops, plus T shirt, plus jacket and in my case the rain jacket on top of that. We needed them as although it was sunny the air was cold.

Leaving Port Augusta we headed into very barren country with knee high scrub and a range of imposing hills with the morning sun on them.

Scrub and hills in the morning sun

We turned right and rode For about another 50km to Iron Knob through similar low scrub, dessert country. Iron Knob is so called for the high yielding iron ore deposits in the hill behind the town. Originally owned by BHP there were two mines, Monarch and Iron Duke. The ore was exported and used locally with 21% of the steel in the Sydney Harbour bridge coming from ore from Iron Knob smelted at Port Kembla.

The mines closed a number of years ago but are now owned by OneSteel and have been reopened.

A long way from Kirribilli

From Iron Knob we headed to Kimba for our first petrol stop. The countryside changed to chest high scrub and the low woodland with some farming as we came close to the town. Kimba is well known for three things: silo art, the Big Galah and being half way across Australia. Looking at the map I’m not so sure about the last thing but the lady in the appropriately named cafe who served us pretty average coffee assured us that it is ‘as the crow flies’. I think that crow needs a new GPS.

We met a couple of grey nomads at the Silo Art and talked to them for a while. They’d come from Queensland and were going across the Nullarbor, up to Kalgoorlie then back home through Alice. We asked how long this would take and got the dry response: ‘as long as it takes.’ Aahhhh retirement!

Silo art

The Big Galah

Coffee not so good

From Kimba we broke out into massive wheat farms and were pretty much in agricultural country the rest of the day. You know they grow a lot of wheat when each little township you pass through has a battery of large grain silos owned by Viterra

We stopped at Widunna for lunch and more petrol and then went to Poochera for a final fill before going off the A1 and down to the Coast at Streaky Bay. Not a bad little town but we only stayed long enough for a quick photo.

Happy snap in Streaky Bay

From Streaky Bay it was only another 100km to Ceduna. The road runs along the coast but you only get glimpses of it. We called in to Smokey Bay and had a cup of tea at the local, petrol station, restaurant, general store, bottle shop and Post Office all in the one building. We met a few characters there. One couple from Brisbane who no longer go to the Territory to fish for Barrumundi as ‘they’re not shooting the crocs anymore and they’re getting as long as our 12ft tinnie’. So they drive 5 days from Brisbane to Smokey Bay instead. A local boy told us the driving record from Smokey Bay to Ceduna was 10 minutes. Given its 42kms this was hard to believe but having now driven it and found only 2 gentle corners maybe it is possible?

We however took a more sedate pace, getting to Ceduna and finding the Ceduna Foreshore with no problems.

And that was Day 6

Day 5

A shorter day today.

Given only 300kms to travel and rain forecast early this morning on Adelaide we decided we’d leave late and try and avoid the worst of it.

We got away at 9:40am and headed out towards the A1 through the ubiquitous light industrial sites that could have been on the outskirts of any Australian city. We then passed through the market gardens which looked like they had seen better days. Apparently the original Italian farmers are selling up as the land is worth more for subdivisions and their kids are finding alternate careers in the city.

Once free of the Gardens the countryside is rather uninteresting, flat, scrubby with the occasional farm.

After about an hour we pulled into Port Wakefield. No water to see, just a bunch of petrol stations and roadside restaurants. We stopped for coffee and I took the opportunity to put the liner into my jacket and get out under gloves and a neck warmer. Della had sensibly done all this before we left Adelaide. I thought it would have warmed up but it hadn’t. In fact it was bloody cold!

We left Port Wakefield and headed north to Port Pirie through Lochiel, where people looked like they were searching for pippies on the sand flats and then past Snowtown. We hadn’t been able to watch half of the ghastly movie about the Snowtown murders so sped past that hamlet without a sideways look! As we got further north the farms became bigger with huge acreages of wheat judging by the stubble.

Wheat stubble for miles

It was also about this point that the weather began to look threatening. We had, had a few sprinkles and were putting off the inevitability of stopping again to put on the as yet untried wet weather gear.

It’s looking like rain

Tactics and a good roadside pull in dictated the timing. Despite being big, wet weather gear is not that easy to put on when you’ve already got three layers on and are feeling like the Michelin Man. Once it’s on though it has to be said its very stylish!

Let it rain, oh let it rain ….

Turned out to be a very good call as it did rain on and off for the rest of the trip. Apart from keeping us dry the added layer further kept the wind out.

We got to Port Pirie, which is just off the highway, in time for a late lunch. Can’t go past Macca’s on a cold day – particularly when nothing else is open.

Port Pirie holds the distinction of being the sixth most populous town in South Australia with over 14,000 people living there. It’s a smelting town, lead, and grain rail hub. Amazingly in this day and age many people in the town have elevated lead levels in their blood and there are other unspecified environmental affects. The town is running the 10byten program with a target of having 95% of the children in town meeting the national goal of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of their blood. You couldn’t make this stuff up!

Grain silos

The smelter

I can’t say we were sorry to get back on the highway particularly as we couldn’t find our way out of town. I blame the poor state of South Australia’s road signage!

We had one more stop to look at the view of the cloud topped Mount Remarkable National Park and found our way into Port Augusta.

Remarkable?? National Park

Port Augusta has the largest solar electricity generator in Australia and a very large Coles hydroponic farm that runs off heat from sunlight reflected off 23,000 mirrors and desalinated water. apparently it provides their stores with salads nationwide

We checked into the Oasis Apartments and Della directed me to ramp up the kerb to park outside our unit. Front wheel went up fine, back wheel skidded, bike lent over, I cursed, couldn’t hold it up. Bother!!! Fortunately no damage done to me or the bike, just my ego.

Only other point of note is the security fence and gate at our accommodation.

Is this to keep us in or ….. ?

And that was the end of day 5

Day 3

A big day!

The day started at the Balranald Takeaway which opened early despite it being Good Friday. Two cups of surprisingly good coffee, a cheese and ham toastie and bacon and egg roll and we were on the road at 8:20am.

We headed west to Euston through flat country covered with scrubby bush and the odd sandy paddock. Not much to see apart from the inevitable road kill.

As we approached Euston we broke out of the bush to intensive horticulture with lots of grapes. The town is tiny, sits on the Murray River but has the very flash Euston Club Resort. A little incongruous in the circumstances and no doubt thriving on the pokies!

What gambling can buy

It was the first time we’d seen the Murray which was grey/green and despite the drought looking quite full. Environmental flows?

We didn’t stay long and headed further west to Mildura through more scrub – Mallee Scrub in this case. As we got closer to Mildura the farms became more organized. Huge areas of land tilled and ready to plant or covered with last season’s stubble. Nearer to Mildura once again more grapes. In fact it seems anywhere there is water Aussies grow grapes and make wine.

Mildura was actually a bigger and nicer town than we’d expected and is just across the border in Victoria. Population about 30,000. Probably a nice retirement location and again situated on the Murray with some lovely old houses in the back streets.

There was a vintage and exotic car exhibition going on in the Main Street. There was a huge crowd with lots of large people in singlets and shorts – what is it about big cars with big engines that attracts women with big bums? Is that Queen I can hear playing in the background?

Some of the Mildura crowd

A big car with a big engine!

We had a cup of coffee, filled the bike with petrol and headed further west. Once again flat open country, more huge fields and very long straight roads. On one section we did 15, 8, 9 and 16km straights with only a gentle curve between them.

Flat as ……

Straight as …..

Just before Renmark and close to the border with South Australia we passed through a very smart, well set up fruit fly control stop. The idea being not to take fruit into SA in case it was infected. It was notable that the more public spirited travelers tossed their bananas and apples on the side of the road well in advance. By this stage it was getting hot so I guess any fruit fly would have been short lived in the conditions!

We got to Remark in time for a late lunch. Renmark again sits on the Murray. Seems to have a thriving tourist industry and has lots of gorgeous roses in public spaces.

Renmark on the river

More petrol for the bike and this time started to head south west.

We passed through lots of small towns each about 50kms apart – Barmera, Waikerie, Blanchetown, and Annandale. All close to water so some agriculture going on.

Getting close to Truro we went across a very large flat basin and then up onto the range at Accommodation Hill, Dutton East. There’s a pull in at the top of the hill with an amazing view back over the way we’d come and a fence covered with soft toys – hundreds of them! Apparently the local farmer started it all by putting a gorilla which he found on the side of the road on the fence and the idea took off.

The view from Accommodation Hill

Soft toys

The only other thing of note is that at the top of Accommodation Hill, in the middle of next to nowhere, they’ve got broadband! But not in Wahroonga on Sydney’s upper N Shore in Sydne.

In case you felt like streaming a movie

We went trough Truro and then Noriootpa and after that started to skirt the Barossa. At that point we joined the freeway and finally got to the outskirts of Adelaide.

A long day with 575kms covered and some amazing scenery and places to see. Pretty good to check into the Mayfair for a shower though!

End of day 3

Day 2

A much more interesting Day!

We left Wagga Wagga at about 9:40am having walked to town for breakfast and unsuccessfully searched for some tinting to stick on my helmet visor to help with the glare of heading west late afternoon.

Almost as soon as leaving Wagga the country looked different. East of Wagga the country still looks quite green, west of Wagga the drought was evident.

Not much to eat here

Very little grass cover and what there was, crisped beige by the sun with the red soil exposed. In some places the sheep were hard to see as they were the same colour as the ground.

We got to Narrandera at about 11:00am for coffee. If Narrandera has a horse it certainly wasn’t evident when we were in town so we didn’t stay long. The loos lack something in sophistication too.

Not one for the newspaper

Out of Narrandera we headed to Hay and we’re surprised to see extensive, as in kilometers long, fields of cotton. The area of cotton has grown by 50% over the last year now covering 72,000 hectares. The motivation is water and money. Margins on cotton are higher than rice given a higher international price and water uses about 9-10 mega liters per hectare versus 13-14 mega liters per hectare. Although there are said to be lots of small family cotton farmers a lot of it looked very corporate. The capital investment to level the fields and provide infrastructure for water distribution would be enormous.

A few sheets and towels in this lot

Getting closer to Hay the country became flatter with little vegetation and huge skies with sheets of dappled clouds and vapor trails of those taking a more direct route to Perth than us.

A big dry country

We stopped in Hay for lunch which was actually pretty good and then headed for Balranald. Very flat country. There were two large trucks about 3-4kms ahead of us most of the way. We didn’t catch them but could see them most of the time as there was nothing in the way. We did pass a lunatic on a push bike headed in the opposite direction with a fly net over his head. We hooted and waved enthusiastically while thinking how pleased we were to have 500cc’s pushing us along. Only other thing of note was the road kill. A dead and often very smelly roo almost every 600m. A very good incentive to keep off the road after about 4:30pm in the afternoon.

The only other wildlife we saw were nervous Emu’s who wouldn’t hang around for a photo.

finally the ‘only in Australia’ moment was the school bus stop. Middle of nowhere but still a bus route for any local kids.

School…… anyone? ….. anyone there?

We checked in to the Balranald Club Motel at the end of Day 2.