Fight in the Bight.
You last left me sitting at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, slowly meandering my way onto the Eyre Peninsula, the first of the Big 3. I left the roadhouse late afternoon with Head of Bight in sight, just a cheeky 20 kilometres east. I was greeted on the road by perfect afternoon winter light, a slight tail wind, and a welcome warmth in the air. The view in front of was the matched by mood, I was starting to gain momentum and find a comfortable rhythm for the journey. The view to the rear however wasn't as pretty. I was being chased by a vigorous storm front, something which would normally get my photographic juices flowing but being the highest point on the Nullarbor as far as the eye could see and with the lightning and thunder seemingly nipping at my heels it was time to get the legs churning. I was in for my own private time trial to get to the safety and shelter of the campsite. I made it with enough time to setup the tripod and capture a few bolts before the rain hit. It hit hard, hard enough for everyone camping at White Well to duck under the shelter of the abandoned building at the centre of the camp. Bolts were flying thick and fast and the thunder was phenomenal. One of the unique aspects of the Nullarbor landscape is the silence, it is deafening, truly something you have to experience. Apparently the same is true for overwhelming sound, the thunder out here was ground shaking. The next strike however didn't seem to have a sound, at least that's how I remember it. Only seconds after making it to the shelter the sky was lit up and sparks flew, we had just witnessed a strike only 20 metres from where we were standing. The fence around the campsite had been hit and the bolt flew along the length of the cyclone fencing a screaming light show as it did. There would have been 15 people camping there that night and every one of us let out a 'holy shit.' The storm continued to rage the rest of the night, but fortunately well away from our camp. The next day's ride would bring me to the end of the treeless plain and into the warm embrace of trees, shelter from the wind and anymore storms that decide to chase me down.
The country had changed, the flat plain had abruptly reared into a hilly wooded landscape, again beautiful in its own way. The midday sun beating down to reveal the hidden scents of the Australian bush. One of the small pleasures of bikepacking is the subtle olfactory notes that change with the winds, lands and seas. This land was eucalyptus country as the sun revealed. As the smells became evidently more pastoral it was time to hit the dirt and make my way to a small farm Myf had discovered for a couple of nights. Coorabie Farm was the perfect launching point for me to explore the more untouched regions of the Eyre Peninsula. Coorabie Farm is a working sheep station where you can camp and put your feet up, complete with wombats and warm hosts. It's worth the small detour if you're in the area.
I spent a couple of the toughest days in the saddle yet getting lost on dirt roads that have yet to enter the digital world. 40kms off track before I realised my mistake, I'd swung left when I should have gone right. The directions included the fact that when I found the right road I'd know because it was a 'bugger.' An hours climb up the bugger of a road with the unenviable choice of deep corrugations in the middle of the tracks or deep sand on the shoulders. Deep sand was the lesser of two evils and it meant a serious battle to keep my wheels going in the right direction. The rewards weren't always immediate, but when I did manage to conquer the snaking tracks and unmarked roads I was rewarded by some isolated beauty, just me and the hidden beaches, a few whales and the occasional seal.
I would camp along this stretch of coast, finally enter the water for a swim and not see a car for 2 days. This was the South Australia that I had come to see and show the world. This was the South Australia so few know. Roaring open ocean and protected bays, glistening white dunes and azure seas. The winter sun and winds making the raw landscape much more inviting.
From a campsite named Mexican Hat I would once again make my way to the wondrous Fowlers Bay and into the welcoming hospitality of the Fowlers Bay Eco Park. I'd bumped into the crew of the Steve Irwin atop the cliffs overlooking Mexican Hat (the only car I'd seen that day), they were moored in Fowlers Bay and hosting a BBQ the next day to Fight for Bight. Sounded as good an excuse as any to get back to Fowlers, the bay of whales, White-Bellied Sea Eagles on the point, dunes out the back and squid from the jetty. The caravan park put on a vegan spread, the fire was lit and the crew made landfall. It was a chance to meet a few crew and locals here some stories of our coastline, told from the deck of the Steve Irwin. Guitars and banjos kicked off after dinner, friendly banter and passionate campfire discussion followed. The people of the west are a proud and resilient bunch and it shows best by firelight. For me it would be an early night. I had got the call up to explore a few waves and I would be on the road at 6 the next morning, this time not in the saddle but in the back seat of a 4x4 piloted by a few Adelaide surfers, Jye Demmrich, Tim Sobels and Francis Harsing.
They'd checked the forecast, downed tools and decided to make the dash west, leaving at 6pm on the Saturday night and rolling into Fowlers some ungodly hour before sunrise. I piled in and we started putting the ks under the tyres, the wave we were chasing was still hours away by car, over dunes and dusty tracks, not easy to get to, not easy to surf. The warm morning light revealed an unruly lineup, chop and bump on the sea surface but as the first set rolled through it became obvious that it was on. The boys suited up hit the brine, stoked that their last minute dash was producing the goods. It would be the beginning of two days of waves back on the Nullarbor. 3 waves surfed, countless barrels, hundreds of kms of dirt track and not a soul in sight. I'll let the images do the talking.
Their strike mission would end and they would once again pile back into the 4x4 to drive overnight and back to the grind in Adelaide, grinning, having just had a west coast soul-shower and only one reef injury to report. Jye would skewer himself, spine-first on one of the many underwater reef castles. A not-unexpected injury surfing out here.
I would return to Fowlers Bay where I now sit. My day post-surf ended in the dunes here as they so often do, treated to a light show again, just me and the white sands of the bay. It was a fitting end from my new favourite bay this end of town. I'm now heading towards Ceduna, via Penong, hopefully to catch up with a few friendly faces we've already met on this journey and a few more I'm yet to. It's been a truly remarkable week on the land, the organic nature of LAND SEA YOU ME meaning I've already had a few surprises and no doubt in for a few more.
Cheers to you as always! The LAND SEA YOU ME Book is now available for pre-sale here. Secure your copy and catch you on the track.