Nullarbor & Eyre Peninsular, WA/SA
When planning a lap around this huge island of ours most people, like us, choose to go anti-clockwise to take advantage of the prevailing winds. Where this has the most beneficial effect is crossing the famous Nullarbor. Unluckily, when we drove the never ending straight lengths of road we had strong head winds the whole way!
The down side of a head wind is of course the extra petrol usage, and it was significant for us. We were getting 100kms less out of each tank! However, every experience has an up side, and on this occasion it meant we slowed right down and got to see and experience the Nullarbor at a more leisurely pace. We were surprised at how scenic it was! Ok, maybe living in the Pilbara dessert has given us a new found love for open spaces, but there was certainly more trees and scenic views among the salt bush shrub than we were expecting (especially since the Nullarbor earned its name from nullus arbor – Latin for ‘no tree’). On a section of the stretch, we particularly loved pulling over into the bush to set up camp, surrounded by the stunning salmon and gimlet gums.
A highlight of the Nullarbor was standing on the edge of Australia at the Great Australian Bight. The towering sea cliffs and rough seas made it feel like the edge of the earth. These stunning raw features also made it easy to imagine Antarctica jig sawing into place from back in the Gondwana days. Very humbling.
Of all places around Australia we had to get a tyre puncture while crossing the Nullarbor. All good, we can just chuck the spare on. Believe it or not we haven’t had to use the spare tyre once on this entire road trip. Before setting off around the country I did the right thing and checked that the spare was in good condition, the jack worked, the wheel brace fitted, etc, etc. The one thing I didn’t check is that the spare actually fitted! This should be a given right? Boy was I wrong. The rim looked like the right size but the centre hole for the hub was just a smidgin too small! This could have been a showstopper but luckily I had a puncture repair kit. So I repaired the puncture and we were back on the road. I then bought a second hand Hiace rim from a roadhouse mechanic and we were good as gold with a spare that fits!
We successfully crossed from WA into SA and headed straight for the Eyre Peninsular. We thought the Eyre Pen was going to be a quick token drive to the south point and back up, but we couldn’t help stopping at all the bays and small towns along the way! We will always remember the Eyre Pen for two things: the amazing seafood and swimming with sea lions and dolphins!! Swimming with the sea lions was so playful. As soon as we arrived in the boat the juvenile seal lions started running off the beach like puppies to come and have fun in the water with the humans. There’s no coaxing them with food or anything else. They just genuinely loved playing around in the water. It was so much fun. I actually got a kiss on the forehead twice from one of the pups! Swimming with the dolphins was in a slightly more risky area (closer to where great whites could be lingering) so there was definitely a more adventurous side to this swim! The dolphins were not as playful as the sea lions however diving down and having a dolphin swim past and look at you in the eye is simply mesmerising and magical. They did numerous ‘drive-bys’ and we were stoked when a mum brought her calf along to check us out. Swimming with dolphins is a life long dream come true for Chelsea, and despite the freezing cold water, her eyes were full of excitement and bliss all day. A memory that will never be forgotten.
The views we were soaking up while driving down the peninsular were rolling golden plains of grain and sheep farms. Many of the farms date back to early settlement days and we were spotting the stonework ruins of old homesteads everywhere we went. We stopped in at a place called Murphy’s Haystacks, which are unique natural rock formations that are in the middle of a grain/sheep farm. Chels and I ran into the owner of the property and got chatting. Mr Cash (The name Murphy came from his wife’s side) was a classic Aussie farmer who loved to have a yarn. It turns out the property has been in the family since the first settlers who established the land, and one of his sons will be keeping the dream alive. They still live in the original homestead as well! We were blown away by this history and it was great to experience it.
As it turned out, we also got to walk around the old stone ruins of another property. While swimming with the sea lions, Chels and I got chatting to the diver who swam in the water with us, keeping an eye out for us and for sharks. He offered for us to camp on his property rather than paying camping fees in the village, so we jumped at it. He was renting a house on a grain farm which had historic stone ruins. It was really cool just wandering around and checking out the homes of the first settlers. There was also an old sheering shed and your typical old cars that are always found on a farm.
I finally found my groove with fishing in these southern waters so Chels and I were eating many fresh caught seafood dinners, including our new found skills in making salt and pepper crumbed calamari and home made tartare sauce. We tried the famous Coffin Bay oysters and Chels went all out to make an amazing Oysters Kilpatrick!
It took us over a week to make our way down the west coast of the peninsular. When we were hanging out in Lincoln NP, near Port Lincoln, we got a message from my traveling cousin, Tracy, and her family. They were on a 3 month lap of Australia with their 3 kids. Not only were we super psyched to catch up with Trace and Andy & Co, we were also really inspired to see such a cool family travel around this awesome country with kids on board. Something that Chels and I are inspired to do when the time comes. It was so much fun spending time with family/fellow travellers. We spent a few days hanging out, sharing travel stories, and having fun at the beach with the kids. If you want a sneak preview of what it is like to do a lap of Oz with 3 kids on board then check out their website! http://www.adamsawol.com/wp/
After Coffin Bay we decided to bee-line up the East Coast of the peninsular because we are really keen spend time in the South Australia River land, country Victoria and the Victorian Alps! But then again, who knows where we will end up next on this Unknown Journey…