Crossing of the Nullarbor Plain (26.10. - 12.11.)
26.-28.10.07 - Liebeck farm
We set off from Esperance quite late in the direction of Norseman, the gateway to the Nullarbor Plain, some 200 km. We cycled only a few km when a car pulled over on the side and a lady from the car asked: “Are you the cyclists from Czechoslovakia? I’ve got a message for you from Monika Liebeck. She wants you to call in the airport where she works. It’s only about 10 minutes ride ahead of you on the left.” We didn’t know Monika, but were very happy to meet her.
We didn’t find Monika at the airport and her colleague several times failed to contact her on the phone. In the meantime, it got dark and started to rain. Finally, when we were about to give up, her colleague managed to reach her. Thanks God. The rain was a beginning of 2-day absolutely horrible weather, impossible to ride in. It was colder than in winter (about 10 degrees) and extremely windy with showers and hales.
We agreed to meet Monika at the local pub. It was already pouring when she arrived. We put our bikes in Monika’s car and she took us to their farm.
Monika is a very nice Czech lady, who married an Aussie farmer Mick and they have two kids – Oscar and Britney. We spent a lovely weekend there, they showed us round their farm, gave us a ride in their huge tractor on the dam mound edge, showed us how the sheep is sheered etc. I learned how to make a proper steak, we made Czech potato pancakes and apple strudel and Mick with Oscar showed us their mastery on motocross bikes. Mick gave us a ride too. Wow, I will consider travelling on a motorbike one day .
We were very happy and lucky to meet this family. Instead of being imprisoned in the tent for two days, we had a great time at their farm and a hot shower, proper food and a bed, mmmm…
And how did Monika knew about us? From her friend Jackie Smith from Esperance, where we stayed 2 nights before.
31.10.07 - Nullarbor Plain
We had to replenish our food reserves in Norseman for 2-3 weeks. There are very few and limited groceries at Nullarbor. We also carried 20 litres of water, which turned out to be more than enough.
Nullarbor Plain is a dry semi-desert. The name “Nullarbor” comes from the Latin meaning “no trees” (but for the most part, there are trees) and it stretches over 1200 km from Norseman in WA to Ceduna in South Australia (SA). There is a single sealed road, the Eyre Highway, with 11 roadhouses along the way. Otherwise, it is virtually uninhabited, except Eucla, the former telegraphic station, with population of about 40 people. Most roadhouses rely on “bore” water, which has to be desalinated. The only place, where they refused to give us water, was at Border village, but we had enough water to survive to the next station. There are also some water tanks along the way, but sometimes the water may not be safe to drink. We knew where the water tanks were and used the water for cooking, washing and cooling our over-heated bodies.
1.11.07 - The first day at Nullarbor
Nullarbor greeted us with heavy rain and cold. It was only 9 degrees in the morning and about 15-18 during the day. It was cloudy the whole day, ideal for cycling. We cooked our meal at Balladonia, the first roadhouse on the way and had a chat with a local road worker. “There are quite a lot of cyclists crossing Nullarbor each year”, he said. “And not only cyclists, some people run or roller-skate across. One year, a Chinese guy was pushing one of the green rubbish bins. He had his stuff in the bin and each evening, he would take it out and sleep in it. He managed to push the bin to the sign – South Australia. He chained the bin to the sign and jumped on bus heading for Sydney”.
2.11.07 - The longest straight road in Australia
We had a south-west wind today, so we managed to cycle over 150 km. It’s going really well so far. We cycled the whole day on the longest straight road in the country, which is 146.6 km long and it wasn’t boring at all. We saw eagles having a feast on the freshly killed kangaroos and other animals. The ravens were helping them. The scene has changed and it is looking harsher. There are only some clumps of trees every now and then, the rest is just dry grass and low scrub.
03.-06.11.07 - Head wind and road trains
For 5 days, we had a very strong head wind making our cycling really tough. At times, we couldn’t cycle more than 8-10 km/h and a coming road train would almost stop us completely. We met an Aussie guy pedalling westwards. What an easy job! He cycled with the wind about 30 km/h in average and made over 200 km that day. We could have only dreamed about it.
The traffic is relatively light on Nullarbor, only the road trains are potential hazard to the cyclists. They usually consist of a truck and three trailers. The drivers are generally good giving us a wide berth. In WA, there is a road shoulder of adequate width for the cyclists. In SA, we have to be more careful. The only problem may occur if we happen to be where two road trains going opposite way meet. Then we have to get off the road. We had to check what was going on behind us, because the trucks were hard to hear if coming from downwind. A rear-view mirror would be very useful.
07.-09.11.07 - Wildlife
It was getting dark when we saw a dingo. We were about to finish for the day, we never cycle at night. So, we put up our tent very close to where we saw the dingo. We cooked red lentils and had had it with a sausage. I thought the dingo had to smell our dinner as the wind was going his way. We had the last sausage and I already had to share it with Martin, so I wasn’t ready to share my half with anyone else. Luckily, dingos are timid like all wild animals, so I didn’t have to go to bed hungry .
Some animal bit through my thick waterproof pannier the other night and ate a hole in the bread. No idea what it was. I could hear some strange noise during the night, it felt like in the tent. I checked the tent, there was nothing, so I didn’t bother and went to sleep. I didn’t realize that something was trying to help us with our food reserves. We saw only one snake on Nullarbor. It was rolled up on the road side and we almost ran over it. It was a small snake with yellow bands. Martin always saves animals and tries to get them off road. He was very close to the snake and was throwing pebbles on it to make it go away. I tried to discourage Martin from his activity thinking that the snake may not understand he was being rescued and I didn’t want to finish the trip on my own if the snake decided to defend itself. So, Martin let it be, uff, good!
08.-11.11.07 - Summer has come at Nullarbor
This morning was much warmer than usual. I checked my thermometer later and it was 33 degrees. The maximum temperature I measured at Nullarbor was 37 degrees. We felt a bit dizzy from the sudden heat and drank a lot of water at once. It took us some time to get used to this change.
The wind remains still quite strong and instead of coming from the ocean (usually south-east), it is now bringing hot air from inland (north-east), never the direction we want. We had to learn to get up early and cycle as much as possible before the heat comes, then rest for several hours and continue in the evening. Everything melts in this heat we have to rethink our diet and eat more packet food. When we soak ourselves, we are dry in ten minutes. The wind is like a hair dryer. And it will be a lot hotter here in Jan and Feb. We are now annoyed by the flies much more, they constantly are trying to get to our noses, ears, under the sunglasses, so we have to wear a head net.
12.11.07 - Ceduna – end of Nullarbor Plain
We arrived at Ceduna today, the first town after Nullarbor. It is a clean and nice town on the coast. We had to go through a fruit fly checkpoint. We are not allowed to bring any fruit or vegetables in SA.
Cycling across Nullarbor was a good experience and a challenge. We made it in 12.5 day and cycled 1250 km, so 100 km a day in average. We enjoyed it over there. I will miss the beautiful quiet sunsets and camping in the wilderness. It is much more energizing to cycle through bush than hundreds of hectares of cultivated land. We are both fit and my legs are getting harder , only my left hand is a bit weak and numb from the constant push against the handlebar.
We said good bye to WA, had a great time and met some special people there and now let’s see what South Australia has in store for us.