May 16, 2010
The longest stretch of straight road in the world finishes at a roadhouse at a place called Caiguna where the locals seemed friendly and there was an extensive menu on offer 24 hours a day.
We decided to call it quits there and took a room at the adjoining hotel.
After Geoff finally managed to get the right key – and discovered he’d accidentally purloined the key to his room in Norseman, we settled into our room.
It is the second key Geoff has managed to nick so far, leading us to suspect he may be a closet – or front door – kleptomaniac.
There was not much to do but work, but the footy was on the telly, we had beer and hamburgers, so survival was assured.
It turned out the footy wasn’t on – curses, but the burgers were good, so we settled for watching From Russia With Love, or at least half of it before we all passed out.
Apparently then I took Geoff on in a snoring competition, driving Paul to distraction and forcing him to abandon his bed in the middle of the night for the quiet of Matilda, so we don’t know who came out on top as there was no independent judge.
Next morning we had a chat with a young biker on a Kawasaki Ninja who had stayed with his mate a couple of doors down.
They lived just down the road at Cocklebiddy, and came up for the night to drink beer and see their girlfriends who worked at the roadhouse.
They were having beer for breakfast, before they headed off down the road, the mate driving and his pal screaming off on the Ninja wearing just jeans, trainers and a singlet, making my skin creep at the thought of what would happen if he fell off.
We passed them a while later in a layby, having yet another beer, as it seems the drink-driving stigma hasn’t permeated this far into the desert as yet.
Then they roared past us, the bike doing around 200kms with the mate in the car just behind going a lttle slower. We passed them once more standing on the side of a dam, beers in hand, waving. Guess that’s what counts as a big weekend out in Cocklebiddy.
We stopped there to fuel up, and headed on once more.
Along the road I noticed a strange phenomenon – various articles of attire hanging from dead trees.
One was covered in hats, another in what were once t-shirts but were now rags, yet another in what appeared to be women’s underwear. Yet another mystery of the Nullarbor.
As we were once more on unfenced roads, we passed signs warning of camels, cattle, ‘roos and emus, but nary a one appeared, which was a bit disappointing as we would have quite liked to see some camels.
Australia now has more wild camels than anywhere else in the world, the descendants of those released or which escaped from explorers and camel drivers working on the railroad and telegraph. Some are now sold back to the Middle East for racing as the ones here are thought to be the best quality in the world, having been toughened by years in the bush and virtually disease free.
All of a sudden we came upon the Madura Pass, where the flat plain suddenly drops away towards the Great Australian Bight, offering an astounding view of the plain from above. It looks like the Serengeti, minus the herds of wildebeest.
At Madura roadhouse a Toyota people carrier stood abandoned, its front end destroyed after hitting a kangaroo, showing just how much damage the animals can do if you hit one.
We had our usual pie for lunch, $4.20 and quite tasty, followed by a totally surreal and slightly worrying argument over who sang a certain ‘80s power ballad playing over the PA, which we then dragged the locals into.
Leaving with our manly biker credentials in tatters, we roared off, trying to recoup some street cred.
Our stop for tonight was Eucla, where the east-west telegraph was joined back in 1877.
Eucla was once closer to the coast but the town was abandoned and built four kilometres further inland after the coastal sand dunes buried it. Only the old telegraph station emerges periodically from the sand, standing forlornly in the dunes with only the wild camels and passing tourists for company.
So far, I was a little disappointed in the Nullarbor, as it was nothing like it had been when I last passed through here. Back then it was nothing but arid desert, hardly a bush or tree, looking like the surface of Mars, with rocks the only thing to look at. After all the recent rain it was now green, and trees, though small, were plentiful.
While it certainly made for an easier trip with more to look at, I couldn’t help feeling a little cheated that the mighty Nullarbor we had been almost dreading was proving to be a bit of a doddle. There are also many more roadhouses and fuel stops than there used to be, lessening the sense of challenge and conquest. Still, all things must change and it seems even the desert can be tamed