Perth to Esperance
Back to Perth We reluctantly left Peter and Nikki’s place in Perth and headed out into wet weather. Once clear of the city we could appreciate the lovely countryside. Or we would have if it hadn’t been obscured by gray drizzle. Arriving in the historical town of York we were cold, wet & miserable. The on site vans were a temptation we couldn’t resist & we cranked up the heater to thaw ourselves out & snuggled up for the evening. It was such a luxury to be toasty warm and snug while the elements raged outside.
We continued along quiet country roads through rolling wheatfields. Lovely stands of eucalypts set the scene. Nights were cold and breakfast in bed became more of a necessity than a luxury as we tried to postpone the moment of having to exit the tent. Arriving at Wave Rock near Hyden we were mildly disappointed at the tacky development around it. Generally though it was a pleasure to be away from the traffic that was so hard to avoid down the west coast.
Soon we were in Esperance and looking forward to some more remote areas. Got a cabin again, boy were we getting soft.. Cape Le Grand was magnificient & we were lucky to score a perfect day to ride around the National Park. We even plunged our pasty white bodies briefly in the inviting turquoise waters. Pristine white beaches bordered by rugged granite headlands & lovely heathlands just starting to flower – it would be one of our favourite places.
After the good day here another storm arrived battering the area. We plugged our way slowly along to Duke of Orleans Bay through some mysterious “sucky mud” which didn’t exactly stick to the tyres but somehow still managed to reduce our speed to a pathetic 12kph despite a howling tail wind. This was another magic spot with lots of nice sandy back tracks & deserted beaches to explore.
Esperance to Ceduna
Next up we followed a great back road heading for Balladonia. Stopped in at a partly restored homestead “Deralinya”. An interesting dusty old place full of paraphenalia that various passers by have left. Further up the road a local guy stopped to have a chat. He suggested a good track to take to get to the Eyre highway “It runs though my mate’s station and I’m just popping in to visit him, I’m sure he wont mind and I’ll let him know you’re heading through.”
This turned out the be a great track winding through saltbush and scrubland on the station. We camped overnight and next morning were onto the Eyre Highway. We had to switch our brains on again to cope with all the traffic.
We rolled across the Nullabor making good time. The cold weather followed us but the strong westerly winds helped blow us across. Dehydration wasn’t exactly our greatest concern, more like frostbite & hypothermia.
The roadhouses rolled by Caiguna…good pies and a warm fire, Cocklebiddy…blue & completely numb, a gale blowing the rain horizontally. Madura…lovely setting on the escarpment, lots of trees. Mundrabilla….looks basic but nice food and friendly service.
A car rally came through with some classic old cars including a Rolls Royce circa 1915.
Eucla…great views from the top of the escarpment. Somehow Australia Post had managed to send a parcel clearly marked “Eucla” to Caiguna. After days of anticipating the treats waiting for us at Eucla we were not happy when we rocked up & our food parcel didn’t. Border Village…very modern and wizzy. Reunited with our food parcel here.
From here we cruised along the Great Australian Bight. Magic views from the cliff tops, we camped on the cliffs enjoying the clear moonlit night and the sound of the ocean raging against the rocks. Nullabor station….didn’t stop for long. Yalata…no comment. Nundroo…not too friendly.
We didn’t actually stop at many road houses preferring the shed tanks or bush camping spots. These had good water, shelter and were quiet. Oversize loads were quite common. I have never seen so many monstrously big items being carried by trucks. Some took up more than the full width of the road.
Before we knew it we were approaching Ceduna, the first main town after the Nullabor crossing. It seemed like a thriving metropolis and had certainly grown some since I was last here 15 years ago. We had some of the best fish and chips ever and enjoyed looking around the town and relaxing.
Ceduna to Pt Augusta Sept 2001
From here we decided to avoid the Eyre Peninsula with it’s heavy rainfall. Reading a brochure we discovered that the Gawler Ranges was an arid area with an annual rainfall of less than 30cm. It sounded promising so we headed north.
We left Ceduna with the wind up our clacka zooming along at Tour de France speeds. The wind blew me from stopped to over 20kph without any pedalling. The rain soon caught us though and we got a room in the pub at Wirrulla. The publican & his wife welcomed us with open arms. Room, dinner, few beers & massive brekkie all for $70 for both of us.
Soon we were onto the dirt again heading for the Gawler Ranges National Park and praying that the rain would stay away. Strangely enough we seemed to get the entire annual rainfall in the days we were there.
It was great riding though, lots of wildlife and the roads meandered through the valleys among the ranges. We stayed in old shearers quarters and stockmans huts while in the national park. We encountered some great mud too as we travelled these farm tracks which were a mixture of sand and clay. Our wheels were clogged up and we had to resort to swearing profusely to overcome the problem.
On leaving we camped at one of Eyre’s original camps (camp 6). It’s hard to imagine that this guy was actually at this spot. Probably sitting by a fire and writing up his notes.
A “Main Roads” guy pulled up. He was checking the road that we were travelling on. Evidently it was closed due to the rain. He asked us if we’d heard the news – um, no. He told us about the World Trade Centre collapsing in New York. We couldn’t believe it at first but he was adamant and we eventually had to accept this mind boggling information. We were hungry for information and bought a paper first thing when we arrived at Iron Knob next day.
Pt Augusta to Adelaide
Arriving at Pt Augusta we felt like the trip was almost over. Feeling very relaxed and starting to wind down. The Simpson Desert Cycle Challenge was starting to loom up in our minds though so we planned some final hill training in the Flinders to fine tune our legs for the pain & suffering ahead.
It was a sensational week winding our way along the Mawson Trail south from Quorn. The weather Gods were benevolent, bringing us warm sunshine & calm conditions. Nice peaceful bush camps, lush green valleys & wildflowers everywhere. This was really enjoyable travelling & a perfect way to end this stage of our journey.
The last day into Adelaide from Kapunda was a monumental slog over the hills, then a relaxing tootle along the Torrens River bikepath to the coast.
We’ve had a relaxing rest in Adelaide at the Hotel de Bourke, Adelaide branch (Ed’s brother and family), and are now reluctantly leaving the luxuries of home life for a tent again. We should reach Anglesea in about four weeks, via the Riverlands, Victorian Deserts, Grampians & off course the Ocean Road.
Simpson Desert Cycle Challenge
We have just returned to Adelaide after conquering the Simpson Desert Cycle Challenge. It was a very successful year , just not enough sand for Ed’s liking & he was held to 2nd place overall.
For myself it was better late than never as I became the 3rd female in 14 years to finish 100% of the course & finished 7th overall in a strong field. This year we rode via the dreaded Inside Track up to Birdsville which is the original route for the race.
The condition of the “track” was reflected in the odd way that riders were walking afterwards, some unable even to perch on a bar stool at the pub. The “bum” doctor was in great demand with his mysterious concoction of bum salve, affectionately named “sheep dip”.
It was hard to watch Mark driving off in his Troopy after supporting us on the Desert race. We knew we could be home that evening too if we went with him. But with our journey drawing to a close we want to savour the time we have left on the road. I’m not at all sure that I want to go home yet anyway.