Tag Archive | Nullarbor Plain

The Nullarbor and Beyond Day Three

Round Australia Road Trip #23

On day three there’s not much more to go before we reach Ceduna, at the eastern end of the crossing of the Nullarbor. The landscape changes dramatically as the saltbush is replaced by broad fields of wheat ready for harvesting.

P1080362

The little town of Penong, known as the Town of 100 Windmills, relies on the windmills on its outskirts to draw water from deep underground.

P1080359

P1080360

After Penong it’s only another 75 kilometres to Ceduna and we’ve achieved our goal. We’ve crossed the Nullarbor Plain from west to east, a distance of 1194 kilometres. Our first stop in Ceduna is the Visitor Centre, where we claim our “Across the Nullarbor” certificate.

20151206_164929

Ceduna is the main town of the north west Eyre Peninsula, in South Australia. Located on Murat Bay, Ceduna’s main industry is fishing. A memorial to local sailors who’ve been lost at sea overlooks the coast at Thevenard Port.

P1080363

P1080367

The name Ceduna comes from the Aboriginal word “chedoona” which means “resting place”. There’s no time for us to rest though, as we leave Ceduna and head south on the Flinders Highway to Streaky Bay, a seaside town at the eastern end of the Great Australian Bight.

For one last look at the Bight we drive round the Cape Bauer Loop, past towering cliffs, wide sandy beaches and rock formations carved out by the pounding seas of the Southern Ocean.

P1080447

P1080390

Boardwalks through the dunes lead to lookouts over the coast. Where seawater has reacted with the limestone, shafts have formed in the rock platforms, creating spectacular blowholes.

P1080404

P1080407

P1080413

P1120707

From the Indian Ocean to the Southern Ocean, from Western Australia to South Australia, from Norseman to Ceduna – our crossing of the Nullarbor is complete.

Crossing the Nullarbor Day Two

Round Australia Road Trip #22

When we’re camping in the bush, the birds wake us long before sunrise and we make an early start. From Moodini Bluff Rest Area we continue heading east on our crossing of the Nullarbor.

P1080184

The highway parallels the escarpment of the Hampton Tablelands as it crosses the Roe Plains. When sea levels dropped 25 million years ago these cliffs and plains, made from the skeletons of sea creatures combined with layers of sand, emerged from the Southern Ocean. The limestone shelf, up to 700 metres deep, was eroded by wind and water to form the cliffs and sand dunes of the Great Australian Bight. At the eastern end of the Roe Plains the road rises again to the pass at Eucla where we see the Great Australian Bight and the vast Southern Ocean for the first time.

P1080178

P1080196

P1080203

For 200 km from Eucla to the Head of Bight is a series of dramatic limestone cliffs up to 90 metres high. After leaving Eucla, the highway hugs the coast and there are four lookouts with spectacular views of Bunda Cliffs. From the car parks there is little indication of where the land ends abruptly and the ocean begins. Signs at each lookout give plenty of warning; this is a dangerous coast line, with undercut shelves and strong ocean winds. Stay on the paths.

P1080261

P1120619

P1080276

There are three distinct layers of limestone in the cliffs. Closest to the ocean is the pale Wilson Bluff Limestone, formed more than 25 million years ago when this part of Australia was underwater. The central dark layer of Nullarbor Limestone was laid down as the ocean receded. The top layer of Bridgewater Formation is sandstone just a couple of metres deep. It was built up by the wind between 1.6 million and 100 000 years ago.

P1080255

The Nullarbor Hotel/Motel is located on the edge of the treeless plain after which the area is named.

P1080304

P1080300

This is Yalata Aboriginal Land and the Head of Bight Visitor Centre is a premier Aboriginal tourism site. Head of Bight is where the Bunda Cliffs meet glistening white sand dunes and remote beaches. Southern Right Whales migrate from Antarctic waters to spend the winter here but by the end of October they’ve moved on.

P1080322

P1080313

The whales might be gone but there is plenty of wildlife around. Tiny flowers bloom brightly despite the arid soil and painted dragons dart out from under the saltbush.

P1080277

P1080257

P1080329

P1080330

At the end of Day Two we camp at Kidnippy Rest Area.

P1080225

Crossing the Nullarbor Day One

Round Australia Road Trip #21

When the explorer Edward John Eyre completed his crossing of the Nullarbor Plain in 1841, he described it as “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams”. Perhaps his opinion was coloured by his experiences. Three of his horses died of dehydration, his expedition partner John Baxter was murdered by two Aborigines and the rest of the party took seven months to complete the crossing from east to west.

Travelling by car when crossing the Nullarbor makes the journey faster and easier; it’s an iconic adventure and, despite Eyre’s lack of enthusiasm, there is plenty to see along the way.

P1080110

The west to east crossing of the Nullarbor Plain, the world’s largest area of limestone bedrock, begins at Norseman in Western Australia and ends at Ceduna in South Australia. The word Nullarbor is derived from the Latin words nullus meaning no and arbor meaning tree and, although the first section is covered by eucalypt forest, saltbush and bluebush scrub dominate the land for much of the journey. The plain extends over an area of 200 000 square kilometres and the actual treeless part is more than a day’s drive from Norseman.

P1080073

Crossing the Nullarbor by car means travelling 1200 km on the Eyre Highway, named for Edward John Eyre who was the first European to cross the plain.  There  are no real towns between Norseman and Ceduna; isolated roadhouses separated by hundreds of kilometres supply fuel, basic supplies, and camping. Water availability is limited and travellers need to ensure they are carrying plenty.

100 km east of Norseman is Fraser Range Station, once a working sheep station and now a campground. The granite hills of Fraser Range rise up out of the Great Western Woodlands, the world’s largest hardwood eucalypt forest.

P1080115

P1080113

A further 90 km east at the Cultural Heritage Museum at Balladonia Hotel/Motel and Roadhouse, there are interactive displays about the history of the area, from the indigenous peoples to the pioneers and cameleers who first settled in the area. One fascinating exhibit details the crash landing of Skylab. Debris from the NASA spacecraft fell to Earth near Balladonia in July 1979.

P1120507

A little further east is the beginning of the longest straight stretch of road in Australia – 146 km of black bitumen lined by mallee scrub and not a bend in sight.

P1080147

P1120525

The limestone karst of the Nullarbor Plain is littered with underground caves. Because of their fragility and concerns about visitor safety, most of the caves aren’t open to the public. Just before the next roadhouse at Caiguna is a blowhole, the entrance to a subterranean cave system which extends more than 20 km to the coast. Air chilled by the ocean is drawn through the caves until it makes its escape through these holes in the limestone. The breeze coming out of the blowhole is cool and refreshing. In the heat of the desert, Mother Nature’s air conditioning system is much appreciated.

P1080155

According to the sign at Caiguna Roadhouse, this remote outpost on the highway is the hub of the universe!

P1120535

P1120531

Occasionally the highway doubles as an emergency airstrip when the Royal Flying Doctor needs to land. The landing zone is clearly marked and if there is going to be an emergency landing the road is temporarily closed beforehand. The cleared spaces on either side of the highway are turning bays for the aircraft.

P1080142

P1080143

Just before Madura, there’s a sudden change in the landscape. A lookout at Madura Pass reveals the flat expanse of the Roe Plains which lie between the escarpment of the Hampton Tablelands and the cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. After descending through the pass, the highway tracks the ancient cliffs of the tablelands for 180 km between Madura and Eucla.

P1080176

P1120539

P1080169

There are free camps on the side of the highway for truckies and for travellers. At the end of day one we stop at Moodini Bluff Rest Area for the night.