Part 2 – Land of sweeping plains

The 1200 km of Eyre Highway from Norseman to Ceduna would be home for the next two weeks, punctuated only by 10 roadhouses.

The Eyre had a good surface and shoulder and the vast majority of road trains and grey nomads gave us space. The road trains were shorter on the Eyre too – 36.5 m versus 53 m on Hyden-Norseman Road.

We made good time the first day with a brief tailwind early but slowed in the afternoon so called in to Fraser Range Station for afternoon tea. The station has a mix of accommodation, excellent camp kitchen and good water, but no phone reception.

After chatting to regular guests from Norseman and Esperance we decided to stay the night. Their family was hunting feral cats that evening so we heard lots more about the area before the night finished with ukulele and songbook.

One of the young blokes next morning happily reported successful spotlighting – ‘shot lots of shit – five wild cats, 30 bunnies …’

IMAG1443We passed through the first of the remote roadhouses the next day – Balladonia. From here on you pretty much don’t ask for water, except for the cyclist-friendly Mundrabilla roadhouse.

IMG_5224

We also met our first fellow tourer, a young Japanese guy.

We had a good routine for calling the traffic by now. The Eyre is comfortably wide for bikes and trucks, but not bikes and two trucks passing at the same spot, so we often rolled off the road if we were likely to meet in the same place. We weren’t in any hurry anyway.

90 mile straightThe rest areas were frequent here with gravelled alcoves among the trees providing good campsites, but also some weathered toilet paper blowing in the breeze.

Nullarbor road edgeThe shoulder mostly vanished the next day with a 5 cm drop to loose gravel in places but riding inside the edge line meant most drivers gave us more room than when riding the shoulder.

We had a hot, dusty day to the Caiguna roadhouse. The Garmin maxed at an unseasonal 40C and we spent a little while in the shade at a rest area where some Townsville nomads kindly offered a water top-up. As a result, we arrived at Caiguna just after dark and took a budget room – $80 but the water in the bathroom is free.

The following day was one of the toughest of the trip. The stats show just 66 km and an average temperature of 36C, but not the early headwind (15 km in two hours) that turned to even stronger gusty northerlies.

We had a light quarter tailwind for the last hour but the damage was done and we called in to Cocklebiddy roadhouse for food. As the wind strengthened, a room was more appealing than another 20 km and camping in gale force wind.

It wasn’t all bad though. Slugging along, we spied a Mini parked on the side of the road and started to fantasise that the occupants would offer cold Coke. The driver took some photos as we approached and laughingly wondered if we were mad. It wasn’t Coke but they did share some lemon barley water!

We really enjoyed these encounters although the novelty of photos gradually wore off and I tired of being tooted after a while too, even though most were friendly.

Benjamin on the NullarborWe met one walker, Benjamin, who had trekked Eucla-Sydney last year and was two days from completing the Perth-Eucla stretch, mostly on the beach. He had a massive load including surfboard, fishing gear and 50L of water.

Madura lookout

Madura Pass, overlooking Roe Plains

We called at the Madura Pass lookout before the descent to the big Madura truckstop for a stunning view of the pancake-flat Roe Plains. Madura is a popular stop with a lot of rooms, clean bar and awesome eggs and bacon.

About 10km down the road a caravan stopped while we were taking photos of a sign. It was Don and Jan from Kondinin, making good on their offer of a cup of tea. Biscuits too! It made our afternoon and was a welcome respite from the wind. A very social day.

Right across the Roe Plains we enjoyed having the escarpment alongside. Up close I was amazed at the road kill though, calculating around two snapped tie-down straps and a dead roo per kilometre, and a dead bluetongue lizard per 5 km here, but it declined in the most remote areas where the land supports less wildlife.

What I hadn’t expected was the amount of litter all along the Eyre. There’s no Clean Up Australia day campaign out here, no service clubs to adopt a section of highway and no rubbish collection besides the bins at the roadside stops (and it’s a long round-trip for those trucks). Not cool.

The calves were a bit tight one morning and my knee a bit niggly after days of wind but an easier spinning afternoon seemed to settle things down.

We camped at a rest area 30 km east of Madura with excellent alcoves, tables, corrugated iron toilet and a few vans for neighbours.

Day 17 felt like a transport stage from rest area to bush camp past Mundrabilla roadhouse. It was unbelievably flat – 42 m ascent over 113 km.

Mundrabilla roadhouse was clean with good eggs and bacon, clean toilets and free water for cyclists and we left late around 4.20 with a cache of bread for the next few days.

The flatness finally ended with Eucla Pass and I stopped to photograph the ocean on our right. Big mistake; it was a Strava segment of course, which I discovered when I uploaded at home. I really should finish these climbs and roll back for the photos (as if). Photo stops half way up climbs have cost me a lot of Strava cups!

Bike touring food, Eucla

Our food parcel, posted to the Eucla roadhouse

The Eucla roadhouse is a veritable oasis with impressive gardens and pool deck overlooking the ocean, numerous rooms and a few provisions. We also collected our second satchel of food here and I voted in the federal election (which was interesting for Jan) before we continued on the 12 km to Border Village. After a few nights of bush camping we opted to stay the night in a backpacker room; we could use the clean up.

Both Eucla and Border Village had phone reception (Telstra) but the wifi advertised by most of the other roadhouses was broken.

All through the west, there’s a lot of big stuff – big mines, big properties, big trucks carrying grain harvesters and mine trucks and silos. Many of the trucks have pilot cars so the extra warning meant we often had time to grab the camera:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We awoke next morning in Border Village to heavy rain and after delaying a start, eventually called a rest day. The rain itself is less of a problem than poor visibility but it turned out to be quite a fun day watching truckies, football and the election coverage. And eating.

Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s