The long drive home – part two

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December 2, 2010 by jessperriam

So where did we leave the long drive home?

Somewhere in country South Australia:

For those just joining us, I was driving 3800 kilometres home from Orange, NSW to Perth within five days. With my parents. You can head back to the first part of the story to catch up, we’ll still be here waiting for you.

The night before we’d eaten schnitzels and other varied breadcrumbed pub grub at Kimba’s finest (and possibly solitary) dining establishment. We had a long drive ahead of us: The Nullabor.

The Kimba – Eucla leg was probably the longest at 836 kilometres. But I was on the look-out for something very much worth photographing, a special species of tree, or perhaps shrub because if it was a tree, the Nullabor would hardly fit its no-trees-in-Latin name. But more on that later.

We had a few hundred kilometres before we hit the Nullabor proper. Before that we had to pass through the last town larger than a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ village for about two days. Ceduna is delightful, but nothing more than a stop for overpriced petrol and a bite to eat. It’s also by the seaside, so bonus!

After Ceduna, the most memorable place my little Yaris went through is the picturesque yet poorly named hamlet of Penong.

Penong... funny name, loads of windmills

It’s also the windmill infested village that my dear friends Nick and Lauren had the misfortune to endure a car breakdown in. After staying there a week while waiting for a spare part to arrive, they almost went spare themselves.

But our convoy took some windmill happy snaps and continued on our merry way.

And it’s about that time on the road trip that we had no radio reception whatsoever and we encountered a certain iconic road sign:

Camels, kangaroos and wombats...

And with no talkback radio to talk back to, Mum did the next best thing: snooze away.

But someone had to keep the car going and it’s at this point I thought I’d mention that my car doesn’t have cruise control. Not a major problem until you’re driving at the same speed for eight hours. Your foot begins to feel funny for staying on the accelerator for so long.

But luckily the Nullabor region has spectacular coastal views, which is one reason why you should definitely drive it. Who can pass up amazing cliffs such as these?:

Great Australian Bight as far as the eye can see

We crossed the Western Australian border (and passed through the pedantic quarantine)  and arrived in Eucla by late afternoon and I was excited. We made it there just in time for magic hour (gorgeous sunset lighting time for the non-photographers).

The best bit of Eucla is down the dunes from the hotel-motel-campground-truck stop area on the side of the highway. Back in the early 20th Century, Eucla was a key telegraph station, keeping up communication between the two sides of the country.

But technology being technology, the telegraph station was soon superceded and left to the  mercy of the shifting sand dunes.

Shifting sands at Eucla

I’ve often threatened to drive all the way back to Eucla just to spend more time photographing the telegraph station, simply because it will never look identical to the previous visits. I think I still might someday.

Eucla is one of those places that exists mostly out of necessity but partly through eccentricity. It most importantly serves as a place to stay overnight to break up the monotony of the drive, but it’s also home to some adventurous fishermen as well as the obligatory Irish backpackers who keep the bar and the cafe ticking over. This place has a golf course – we tried to drive the limestone dirt track out to the course, but it soon became too much jagged limestone and not enough dirt…

So the next day we continued for the next leg, Eucla to Norseman. I knew that this was the stretch I’d find my unique shrub species. Mum and Dad had made the Perth to Orange journey the week prior and they waxed lyrical about these odd trees on the side of the road. The WA side of the Nullabor is particularly tedious and these trees really break up the monotony of the watery horizon.

The rare and exotic nullaborius underpantus

There were also glove trees and bottle trees. You have no idea how much stuff like that makes me grin on the fourth day straight of driving. Soon after the undies tree was the beginning of something a little less exciting but novel, nonetheless.

Long and straight

The rest of the Nullabor drive to Norseman is samey landscape punctuated by the odd roadhouse. Some are kitschy 1960s roadhouses, others are pre-fabricated 1990s concrete blocks and others admirably try and get costumers by harping on about this semi-naked lass called the Nullabor Nymph. I don’t think I’m quite the right target audience for this gimmick, but I’m sure there are a lot of postcards featuring this blonde, busty Nullabor Nymph in the cabins of many a long haul truck.

We arrived in Norseman and what can I say? It’s just your typical WA country town where the locals turn and stare when you enter the pub for a counter meal.

What was on the menu? Chicken schnitzel, of course.

The next morning we drove the Great Eastern Highway home and back to the rest of my life.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. Given the luxury of time and a good car (or even a passable car) I’ll always drive the long distance. And if there’s one long drive to do, this is a brilliant one.

Next time? Friends, a few good books to read to one another and, a spirit of adventure.

Next time, next time…

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