The Great Australian Road Beckons
Eucla, up until now just a name of a town on a map. An arbitrary starting point for our adventure. When Myf and I sat down 18 months ago and began to literally map out LAND SEA YOU ME, we picked out Eucla as our diving board, a tiny town in Western Australia just over the border from SA. We Googled sights to see in Eucla and again and again the Telegraph Station would come up, so that was it, that was going to be our official starting point, a Telegraph Station buried in the dunes of Eucla. When the Telegraph Station first opened in December 1877 the first messgae stated simply, 'Eucla line opened. Hurrah.' So with little fanfare, LAND SEA YOU ME departed, hurrah.
The first days in the saddle would be easy, light winds, wintry comfort, and only a handful of kilometres. I would be making sure my bike setup and gear was running smoothly and Myf would be doing the same with her formidable roving base camp and our precocious daughter in tow, slowly finding our groove. 30 odd ks to my first campsite, a snaking 4wd path off the highway to a welcome vista of bone white sand dunes and an azure sea brushed clean with light offshores. The night however, would not be as smooth, my first lesson about being on the Nullarbor Plain, little shelter and extremely variable weather. I expected freezing mornings but not shorts-and-t-shirt afternoons. Thunderous winds whipped up throughout the night have now come to be expected, the decision of shelter vs view is now one of the easier of my day. Shelter wins, every time.
The next couple of days sees me pick up the pace and distance covered in the saddle and really start to take a bite out of one of Australia's great Road Trips and one of the world's iconic endurance bike rides, crossing the Nullarbor Plain.
My tyres have seen the Eyre Highway, the crushed limestone, the red dirt and sand dunes of the Nullarbor but not the beach. Stopping me from getting down the sea level are the phenomenal Bunda Cliffs, one of SA's great landscapes, the kind of vista that makes you want to stand up and applaud.
On my third night I was approached by a Japanese cyclist crossing Australia from Sydney to Perth, solo. He wanted to know how far it was to the next rest-stop, he'd already knocked out 100ks to that point and was despondent to hear the next stop for him with facilities would be another 40. His name was Taka and he was doing a ride completely different to the journey I was on, seldom stopping to see sights off the highway. I took him to see the Bunda Cliffs, just a short ride from where I'd camped, he broke into laughter at the sight that greeted us, a fitting response to the majesty of the environment, one that I fear my photographs could never convey. These cliffs extend for a 100kms along our coast, an apparent remnant from when Australia broke away from Antarctica, however long ago. The beating heart of Antarctica continues to shape the cliffs by sending swells thousands of kilometres across the ocean, to relentlessly pound out a beat at the base of the continent that will continue for millennia more. If you're offered the chance to see these cliffs, take it, please.
I've had four days of flat, limp, lifeless light, the photographer's worst enemy for majestic landscapes, and I've so far not made the Bunda Cliffs photograph I came here to make. That same light, however, has ensured comfort in the saddle.
Back of the Nullarbor Plateau the landscape extends beyond the frame. Apparently lifeless and featureless, it slowly reveals its beauty and the hidden sounds of life amongst the Porcupine Grass and Salt Bush. The long silences between road-trains and motorbikes are beautiful in their simplicity. Pulling over and taking in the bird calls, occasional dingo howl and breeze from head to toe is one of pleasures of the land. I'll stop for lunch and enjoy a slow Nullarbor symphony that grows slowly after each passing car or truck. During the evenings, in a brief interlude between winds, the symphony is punctuated by waves clapping against the cliffs, hundreds of metres away.
From here, I'll make my way to the Head of The Bight, a sanctuary for calving Southern Wright Whales and an integral part of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park Whale Sanctuary. It also signifies the unofficial end of the Bunda Cliffs and an opportunity to finally hit the water. Hopefully The Light arrives for one hurrah along the cliff tops before I put them to my back.
I write this post from the comfort of base camp with Myf and Juno at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, after some 250ks in the saddle, or 185kms if you wanted to do the journey by the Eyre Highway. A welcome shower, my first in 4 days, a surprisingly good vegetarian meal at the Roadhouse, and a cold beer. We camp next to a airstrip-come-golf course, awaking to a thick sea fog on the western edge of the treeless plain. It feels like we've been on the road far more than a week, with the false start and confidence hit from round one, we've had to overcome another hurdle to get this far but we are finally on the road and putting the rubber to the asphalt. My feet are splintered, my lips are cracked, my eyes are salt encrusted and my bum is sore, but the road beckons.
Thanks for joining us on this journey and if you know a truckie, please thank them for me, I have been shown courtesy and kindness in the extreme on the road by our truck drivers.
You can find Myf's succinctly elegant account of our first week here;
First week done. Feeling "camp clean" as Che calls it.
Current counts: Getting lost-1 Baked bean meals- 3 Showers-1 Dreads-3 (Juno x2, Che X1) Whales- 30+🐋🐋🐋 Dingos-1🐕 Sleepless nights- 1 (cliff edge and wailing winds) Reversing with trailer-2 💪 Bush poos- 2 🙈💩💩. Stickers- dwindling 😬 Tshirt weather-2days 🌞👏👏 Flies- 100000 Morale is good, slowly getting our groove on 😊💪💃🏼