Sunday, 30 November 2014

Across the Nullarbor (Perth to Melbourne)

We travelled along the south coast of Australia in November with two different tour groups.  Not many people do this, as it is almost 4000 km with few people or towns.  However the scenery is spectacular if you love outback harshness.

Perth to Adelaide with the Nullarbor Traveller

From Perth to Adelaide, we travelled with Scotty and his partner, Jaz, who were very interesting folks in a laid back bush ranger sort of way.  We slept in swags after long days of exploring interesting bits of the Nullarbor and fantastic food cooked by either Scotty or Jaz.  The folks we travelled with also made the trip an interesting one. Here is a link to the itinerary if you want to know the details.

What I will remember:
Watching Scotty (with the help of Andrew, an upper crust Brit who started the trip wearing a white linen shirt and socks that matched his shorts) set up a tarp in minutes flat complete with trenching to keep us dry from a torrential downpour AND cook an incredible meal.  Don’t tell me it never rains in the desert of Australia, because we had two nights of drizzle as well as this three hour downpour in 8 days.
The Tarp

Scotty's part of the bus.
  The prayer flags are related to the fact that he has put up the stage for the
Dali Lama the last seven years when he visits Australia.


Scotty and a shingle backed lizard

out patient surgery to remove ticks before releasing the little fellow

The everchanging ocean as we travelled along the Bight.  It was cold and breezy with the wind coming directly from Antarctica. It is taking a long time to get used to “normal” temperatures.
wave rock

Another gorgeous sunset

Eucla Telegraph station now abandoned

random sculptures along a scenic drive

sailboats playing off Port Augusta

When local people post signs, they get to the point.

Head of the Bight
Camping at Koonalda Homestead which is now just a place to camp as the road got moved 14 km south and there was no more need for the service station.  Wandering the homestead and seeing items, including old vehicles that would have fit perfectly into any northern Alberta farmer’s back field.

Coodlie Park, the home of the owners of Nullarbor Traveller, and the very inventive shower facilities.  Even if there was only one toilet.  It seems to be the way it is where we have been travelling – one flush toilet in the middle of nowhere (where a few long drop dunnies would have been more helpful).  Jo (Mrs. Coodlie Park) was delighted to sign my travel quilt while everyone else was with a quote she first heard while visiting Calgary.  Small worlds.

Mikkira Station where this lovely older lady fosters koalas.  There were so many in the trees that it almost became boring to watch them.  Almost.


  • Aboriginal Culture center in Ceduna.  Yes the artwork was interesting, but we also heard about the nuclear testing done nearby by the British that has made large areas of the Nullarbor uninhabitable.  Along the way, you learn a lot about politics and history.
Heat from the underground explosions fused the sand into these rocks

Aboriginal music stick with beautiful wood grain.
Underneath is the map of areas that are closed due to radiation.

Eating mussels and oysters al fresco at Port Augusta with Andrew, Sam, Marc and Hans.  Mmmm.

  • Other assorted plants and animals along the way.

Some of us have red light torches which have come in very handy.
It also seems that the local insects don't see the light.

Sea lions on the beach from WAAAY up in the cliffs.
My little camera is constantly amazing me with what it can do.

If you catch a white shark on your rod (you can't any more),
 the only thing you save is the teeth and then make a model around it.
The meat is cut up for bait.

The locals waiting at the fishing station
hoping that a few bits will get dropped by the fishermen.

Full disclosure.  I was on a "sail with the tuna" boat for these photos.
Didn't even get wet.

Yellow fin tuna

Adelaide to Melbourne with Groovy Grape

After a very quick stop in Adelaide (10 hours) we headed out with Steve toward Melbourne.  This was a very different tour in that it was more upscale – nary a swag to be seen, snacks between meals and desert with dinner.  Steve was an energetic bouncy guy who made sure that everything was “brilliant” and even knew the names and nationalities of all 21 of us by the end of the first day.  Once again, having a good guide makes the trip. Check here for the details.

From Adelaide to Melbourne, we were definitely back in civilization.  Farms and ranches made the countryside look like we were in Southern Alberta.  We were only one of many tour groups seeing the sights.  I took few pictures because everything seemed familiar.  We even had one night in the mountains.... OK maybe not as high as the Rockies, but we did travel a steep and windy road into the Grampians.

What I will remember:
Conversations with our group – two nurses, a family of Danes, a French teacher, German  and Swiss backpackers.  I remember reading in Lonely Planet (about hiking in Thailand I believe) that when you travel you don’t often get to know the locals, but rather you get to know the people you travel with.  That was certainly the case with our group. We've also noticed that our style of travelling doesn't see very many North Americans or Japanese or Chinese tourists.
The Great Ocean Road for its history.  It was built by hand by returning soldiers from WWI as a means of giving them employment and as a memorial to those who had died.
The Twelve Apostles rocks for their incredible PR spin.  The rocks used to be called the Sow and her Piglets, but some years back the name got changed.  There aren’t even twelve rock formations.

Wedding photos
We watched the bride hike back a km or so to the steps up the cliff.

Checking out the graffiti on the soft limestone walls

  • And here are some of the beautiful plants and animals we met along the way

Pig face cactus.  Beautiful and it is edible.

peacock chicks

Grapelings.  I'm sure that's a word, right?

Responsible shell collecting

Parrots, rosellas and cockatiels so tame
they were almost a nuisance


We spent four days in Melbourne checking out the sights. Another big city meant museums, checking out the harbour, finding the green spaces. Here’s some of the highlights.

ACMI (Australia Center for the Moving Image).  It was free and right next door to the Visitor Center.  It captured us for three hours as we wandered through displays that combined what was happening in Australia with what was happening in the world.  Interesting fact – television came to Australia (well, Sydney and Melbourne) finally in 1956 to televise the Melbourne Olympics.  So, twenty years after it was available in other parts of the world. The store was full of interesting goodies and the restaurant next door provided a lovely lupper complete with sparrows flying in and out of the doors.
Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance.  Once again, the Aussies understand how to remember their war dead in a very moving and honourable way.

Regatta on the Yarra River

Yes, the cox is wearing a pirate hat.

One of the many boat sheds on the river bank

Here's some things that make me think about quilts and quilting.
Yes I found a quilt store in Esperance.  This one is by Alison Schwabe

One more Singer sewing machine.
This one in the little museum with the pieces
of Skylab.

Inspiration for the next quilt square

Next stop, Tasmania. But first, here's some of the quirky bits of Aussie humour I found.
Yes, a dog cemetary.
And the Guinness record for the most dogs in a ute.

Parts of Skylab actually fell on the Nullarbor

This bike.  3000 km.  Gravel road.
Australia built their east west road in the 1960s for the
1962 Perth Commonwealth Games.
Lots of stories about travelling the gravel road.

Our crew

Sign defaced.
Ranks up there with the bump signs turned into cassowaries in Queensland

The dingo fence.
We were all lying under the grid to see what it was like as vehicles went over top.
Sadly, there were no big road trains.  

More loos with a view.

Read this carefully - posted in one of the roadhouses on the Nullarbor.  I suspect a Canadian connection.

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