Nullarbor ahead

Perth PSPI’m not sure when the idea of riding the Nullarbor germinated but it’s been floating around for a few years. It wasn’t a goal in itself; just curiosity about what’s there.

I decided in Canada in 2010 that bike touring is a perfect way to travel – fast enough to cover useful distance but slow enough to see the critters, ponder the late afternoon shadows and understand the terrain. You can’t miss hills if you ride them.

It’s a human scale; you’re part of the landscape rather than observing it like a specimen behind glass.

On a bike you’re open to the elements, but also open to approach. After riding home from Perth in August/September with Canadian friend Jan, I’m coming to suspect it’s an effect amplified for women. Perhaps we’re not very scary or people are politely checking we’re OK.

The kids who approach aren’t keeping an eye out for us, of course. They just want to talk about their bike, what you’re doing, where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Bikes connect – surely a powerful thing.

In any event, I apparently did mention the idea of riding the Nullarbor to Jan on that trip to the Canadian Arctic in 2010. I hadn’t got much further.

Hyden-Norseman Rd pandaI didn’t expect to find a ride buddy of similar speed and interests and I’d hesitated about a solo crossing. Eventually resigned to the idea however, I figured … let’s make it 2013.

Amongst the New Year email catch-ups I ran it past Jan in a throwaway line asking if she’d like to come. I didn’t expect for a moment she would, so I was amazed and delighted that she said yes.

It was the impetus I needed to start planning in detail – itinerary, timing, daily distances, food and water.

We quietly decided the goal would be Melbourne but we could bail at Adelaide if wind, rain, health or mechanicals intervened. We knew we could cover 100 km a day on dirt but the wind would be a bigger factor fully loaded on this route than in Canada.

We could spare five weeks plus some travelling time. The plan was Perth to Wave Rock through the Western Australian wheat belt and on to Norseman via 260 km of dirt. Then a couple of rest days visiting Kalgoorlie and Lake Ballard, before the trip east to Ceduna. There, we’d leave the Eyre Highway for the quieter Eyre Peninsula and a ferry across Spencer Gulf before turning south to Adelaide. And from Adelaide we’d head home via the Coorong and Great Ocean Road.

And that’s how it turned out.

The ride report is split into roughly weekly chunks …

Part 1, Perth to Norseman: 680km, 4080 m vertical gain, 8 riding days, 3 rest days

Part 2, Norseman to Border Village: 728 km, 1961 m, 7 riding days, 1 rest day

Part 3, Border Village to Ceduna: 484 km, 1187 m, 4 riding days

Part 4, Ceduna to Adelaide: 628 km, 1774 m, 6 riding days

Part 5, Adelaide-Apollo Bay:  804 km, 3431 m, 7 riding days

In total we covered nearly 3400 km over 32 riding days (36 total), averaging a bit over 100 km a day.

I’m forever grateful to have shared it with Jan. Her acute observations meant I saw the country through Canadian eyes as well as Australian, which was all the more interesting. Her sense of humour never faltered so it was great fun as well.

A trip within reach of anyone with reasonable fitness, some preparation, and a bike …


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