And the road trip re-cap continues. I hope you’re not over it yet, we’ve still got a little left! I promise I will go back to discussing all things German very soon – pork-knuckles, snow flakes and fairytale castles, it’s all coming.
I last left off in Esperance, where, after a day of absolute bliss, the weather had again turned. This didn’t stop us from trekking on.
Cape Le Grand National Park
Located approximately 45km east of Esperance, Cape le Grand set up some high expectations for us with its marketing campaigns containing the below:
Up until this point we had not made a single kangaroo spotting, a live one that is. For tourists and homesick natives, you can imagine how disappointing this would be. As we drove in to the Lucky Bay campsite, where we had planned to set up base for the night, we were pleasantly greeted by two roos, foraging for scraps left from campers (not the healthiest of options). We squealed, Alex jumped out of the van with the camera – nothing could wipe the smiles off our faces.
Despite the overhanging clouds, we decided to lace up the hiking boots and begin the coastal trail, which stretches over 15 km (one way) from Rossiter Bay to Le Grand Beach and crosses through Thistle Cove, Lucky Bay and Hellfire Bay.
Given the humidity, the flies were out – which only meant one thing: we sported the ever-trendy fly net over our heads. While very practical, we may have scared a few passers-by. We heard one boy say, ‘Mum, what are they doing?’ The trail was diverse – we made our way through narrow paths that were over-grown with native coastal plants (simply stunning), scaled up and down steep sections of bright red iron-ore rock and all the while I tried to squat crazy flies from biting my legs (painful!). It was a challenging trail – both balance and sturdy boots were a necessity – but this made the visit to the beaches with the whitest sand, spotting a starfish and snake and reading some aboriginal dreamtime stories – even more rewarding. Some dark clouds rolled over us as we hit Hellfire Bay, where we were to jump across some water to continue the path. It was at this point our sensible sides kicked in and we decided to embrace the view for a moment before we turn around, to avoid having to climb back over slippery rocks. It was a wise decision – the moment we arrived back at Lucky Bay, the storm hit.
Despite the plans to stay, we were too disappointed by the weather (including the 14 degree temperature forecasted for the next day) and decided to make a run for it. Next stop: Norseman.
Fraser Range sheep station
A road-side salad sanga fuelled us on the way to Norseman, where we had planned to stay before heading in to the belly of the Nullabor. Given that it wasn’t too late when we arrived, we’d driven around the camels (made of corrugated-iron) and overtaken some lengthy road trains – we decided to keep driving.
Some quick research led us to discover the Fraser Range sheep station – the oldest sheep station in the Nullabor. Situated off the Eyre Highway on a well-maintained property, we were excited to kick our heels in the red dirt. As a convenient stop for many travellers on their way through the Nullabor, the station was quite full. After watching the sun set over the hills we gladly took up the opportunity to have an Aussie beef-roast and some small talk with a pair of fellow travellers.
Latin for ‘no trees’, the Nullabor Plain proved to be just that. Before our trip, some well-travelled Australians (I won’t mention names) had tried to persuade us to avoid the Nullabor – with the idea that it would be too hot in Summer and thus too ‘dangerous’ given that I wasn’t the most experienced outback traveller. We didn’t listen – and instead equipped ourselves responsibly; with 30 litres of water and numerous cans of tuna stored in the back. It was only at this point of the trip that we thanked the cool weather that was on our tails – it still reached a toasty 27 degrees while driving through, but this would have been nothing like the mid-40 degree temperatures it would normally reach at this time of year. The Nullabor Plains is the worlds largest, exposed area of limestone bedrock and houses an underground system of rivers and caves – providing the dessert wildlife of wombats, red kangaroos and dingoes some welcomed repsite from the arid conditions above.
Being the ambitious couple we are, we managed to cross the massive stretch in one day. Throughout the drive we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were actually in the middle of nowhere. The truth was, the highway was only 40km west of Australia’s infamous coast: the Great Australian Bite. We made a stop to sample a piece of the coast – the low-hanging rain clouds didn’t stop me from grinning ear-to-ear as we parked- I was happy to see this. Even if it were just another piece of coast line – there was something special about being here.
We crossed the WA-SA border at Eucla and continued on to make a fuel stop at Nullabor – greeted by the most expensive fuel prices in WA (I wonder why!) as well as the couple we had shared dinner with at the sheep station the night before (another ambitious driving pair).
With a burnt-milk cappucino in our hands we headed on deeper in the Nullabor, the sun setting on our backs. Alex couldn’t keep from turning back – so I suggested stopping to better enjoy the view and avoid the risk of an accident. As a lover of the skies, this was a truly magical moment.
As the sun set lower to leave a dark purple horizon, we tried to remain cautious of any animals that might cross our path (the surroundings had changed, with vegetation now more obvious). Alex employed the german warning system: honking the horn every 300 metres to scare off/warn any potential animals deciding to make a dash across the highway. We were thankful not to spot any.
We reached Ceduna (SA) at 11:30pm – stopping 100m before the quarantine check to scoff down some fruit and vegetables that we didn’t want to hand over (no one in their right mind could pass up a juicy orange or an avocado). We were lucky to find a caravan park with 24 hour reception – and after scoring some much-needed insect repellant from the kind manager (dressed in her terry-towelling robe of course) we called it a day. We were knackered – we had conquered the Nullabor.
The Eyre Peninsula
Waking up to strong winds in Ceduna (yes, we were only marginally ahead of the bad weather) we hauled ourselves into town – and were once again welcomed by the cookie-cutter town layout. Situated just before the Eyre Peninsula and home to some popular Australian oysters, there were quite a few seafood takeaways and cafes to choose from. With another burnt coffee in our hands we wanted to check out the art work at the Indigenous Art Centre – acclaimed by many as a ‘must see’. Things didn’t look promising with its empty car park – and lo and behold, there was no one in sight.
With our heads bowed in disappointment we made it back to the van and continued the tour along the peninsula – stopping by Streaky Bay, making an afternoon-tea break of oysters and scones at Smoky Bay and stumbling across the Eliston Clifftop drive on our way through to the tuna fishing frontier that is Port Lincoln.
Whilst the Eyre Peninsula receives its water supply from hundreds of kilometres away, it is rich in agricultural farming and we were lucky to spot quite a bit of wildlife along the way – emus, lamas, sheep, cows, galahs (my favourite!) and kangaroos.
The Flinders Ranges
Severe storms in Port Lincoln meant we were forced to spend the night in a hotel and on the following day, hit the road north along the Peninsula towards the Flinders Ranges. We passed through Port Augusta, Quorn and Hawker to make camp at the Rawnsley Park Sheep Station – located just below Wilpena Pound, the mountainous rock formations.
We finished the days driving with a local beer and our plan-b salad option (the steaks we had bought went rancid!) and enjoyed watching the rabbits and kangaroos play ‘cat and mouse’ in the fields as the sun set.
Just as planned, the weather caught up with us the next morning. It was so bad that Wilpena Pound’s peaks (over 900m high) were covered in fog! That was definitely our cue to leave.
The rain had left some puddles of water along the road’s edge, meaning the animals were out for a drink. That morning we increased the road-side tally for live kangaroos : 13!
We rolled along the South Australian country-side that day, we admired the golden landscape of the Clare Valley, found a very good coffee in Ororoo and took some thrill in some german-style speeds along the well-maintained roads as we cruised back to civilisation in Adelaide.
The next day we peeled the layer of dead insects off the front bonnet, said our goodbyes to the trusty van and recorded a whopping 4,500km on the clock. We had made it!
Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions about the trip!