Archive for August, 2013

28 Aug 2013

Something To Whale About

1 Comment Australia

Lucy and Mel rolling into Nullarbor Roadhouse - our turning point


Lucy had a 7.30am live breakfast interview with a South Australian radio station. We are getting used to being in the company of a celebrity, walking a couple of steps behind her. We made ourselves scarce, huddled in the Subaru and tuned in.

Off to the Head of the Bight — we have been hearing stories all week of the number of whales and calves currently in the Bight and we were not disappointed. The mothers make a sound, a deep groan, not unlike Paul on hearing it is his shout. The calves cling close by, tails waving, lolling about.

Like the whales, this is our turning point, where soon they head south, while we say we our goodbyes and head west for Perth. It has been a great journey full of laughter, chain grease, dust and flies. Thanks Lucy and Mel for a great experience. Lets up the ante next time — the Gobi, the Atacama … the Namib perhaps?



27 Aug 2013

The End Of The Road

Comments Off on The End Of The Road Australia
We have been on the road for what seems like forever and we have only just crossed from Western Australia into South Australia yesterday. Lucy and Mel are piling on the kilometres nicely. Everyone has been nice to them. We have categorised our fellow travellers (the truckees, the grey nomads, the motorists, motorcyclists etc) into two categories: the wavers and the w#^kers. Fortunately there have been more of the former than the latter. And those that pass the girls travelling in the same direction as us and then stop at the same roadhouse/rest stop/viewpoint as us have been full of encouragement, keen to tell a yarn and happy to donate. It is heartening.

$2.17 a litre ...

... and no free car wash

It is a nice way to travel, roughly 100 kilometres a day. You get to appreciate the sheer size of this country in a way that you can't when whizzing past at a 110 km/h. The Nullarbor landscape is constantly changing and exquisite. It is stark and harsh but at the same time it exudes beauty.
We have been alternating between roadhouse motels and bush camps. The bush camps are nothing more than dirt tracks off the side of the road. We stayed at camp dusty a couple of days ago and everything we own is now layered in a fine mist of brown. For once I don't think I would be too traumatised by the sight of Paul wielding a vacuum cleaner in my vicinity. Then last night, after crossing the border, we stayed at camp flyblown where we had tea with flies, erected tents with flies and then washed in a shallow blue bucket with flies. At dusk all the flies disappeared. And then at dawn, they were back with reinforcements to help us pack away.
Today we stopped at several viewpoints to take in the magnificent and steep Bunda Cliffs that look out across the Great Australian Bight. Tomorrow is sadly our last day before we turn around and head back and leave Lucy and Mel and Parky and Co to continue on without us. Parky is sad, I can tell. He has already adopted a few strange Aussie habits and after running alongside an emu yesterday, he has now taken to sticking his head in the sand. Cheer up Parky … maybe when you get to the end of the road you can turn around and head west.

Gillian looking forward to a hot shower and a shampoo after a night of bush camping

Eucla Telegraph Station losing its battle with nature



24 Aug 2013


4 Comments Australia

Lucy and Mel were excited at the prospect of a rest day. Eyre Bird Observatory (EBO) was the perfect choice, but there were a few logistical problems. The Observatory is 30kms down a dusty dirt road. The first 20kms are on corrugated limestone track; the remaining 10kms are on sand and strictly 4WD only. And our vehicle was fully laden. We needed to find a way to empty most of the camp equipment in the vehicle and two of the three bicycles.

Anywhere else in the world, this would be easy. The roadhouse back at Cocklebiddy would not store our gear. Our only option was to stash it all in the middle of the desert. Finding suitable trees (finding any trees) to hide the gear behind proved challenging and then there was the problem of finding said trees to retrieve our gear on our return. We found two separate spots a couple of kilometres apart and stashed everything like pirates burying treasure — X marks the spot.

EBO is located at the old 1897 Eyre Telegraph Station. It is an oasis in the middle of the sand dunes. Just us and the Great Australian Bight. It really is in the middle of nowhere. It is off the grid, with solar panels and a Rota-loo. Parky and I spent our days camped out on the verandah reminiscing while the rest of the gang went for long nature walks, laughed loudly, played cards raucously, ate voluminously and slept soundly.

It would have been the perfect day off if it wasn't for those pesky birds (Welcome Swallows, Plovers, Major Mitchell Cockatoos, Singing Honeyeaters, Kestrels, Sea Eagles and Wattlebirds) constantly flying in and threatening to turn us both into nests.

On the way out we saw Lucy and Mel off and then went on a treasure hunt. What fun!


22 Aug 2013

Blow In On The Road To Caiguna

1 Comment Australia

My mate Parky, oh and Buddha and Frog and Daisy



Alright, I'm big enough to admit it, the golf was a failed experiment. Silly game.

Gill standing over me with her arms folded, looking down at me sternly. “Al you can put the clubs in the storeroom along with all the other failed experiments. Maybe one day we can have a big garage sale.” Always the last word.

Paul tried to cheer me up. “Let's go cycling with the girls. Plus there's a surprise.”

“Another one. Yippee. Let me guess, the Caiguna blowhole?” I asked sarcastically.


And it was a good one.

There we were in Balladonia at the roadhouse, aisle two, stubby holders and bouncing kangaroo pens, and I saw him out of the corner of my eye. Parky. My old mate Parky. Last time I saw Parky was in Morocco. He was crossing the Sahara, half-way to Algeria, doing that funny awkward gaited sandy shuffle. We became instant friends. We left vowing to meet up again … and here he is on the other side of the world, middle of nowhere, the Nullarbor. Parkinson's is his real name, but he prefers Parky better, just don't call him a camel because he's a dromedary.

“Still haven't done anything about that hump I see.” I toyed with Parky. “You should see a physio.” And then an idea came to my head. Mel. She's a physio. I had a whisper in Parky's ear and the next thing you know Mel has put down the Balladonia Roadhouse all-the-roadkill-you-can-eat apron (Mel's a vegetarian) and has succumbed to Parky's flirtations.

So there we are, Parky and I, riding in Paul's bag on Australia's longest straight stretch of road, 90 miles (146kms) chatting away, picking up where we had left off. Just like old times.

We stopped on a quiet stretch of road to take in the view. At this point I should admit there are more of us little ones. I should have mentioned it earlier but I like to be the CENTRE of attention. There's Frog and Buddha. They travel with Lucy. I have a soft spot for Frog, and Buddha has the shiniest belly I have ever seen. Lucy rubs him every day for luck and so far we have had tail winds almost the entire way. Then there's Daisy the cow who travels with Mel. So you can see we are not insignificant. We outnumber the humans.

In the middle of the Nullarbor without a car or a truck for miles, the nearest building 100kms away, the sparse low desert vegetation being the only thing between us and the horizon, it is possible to see the curvature of the earth. We all wowed at the spectacle. Then Daisy added dreamily, “but I thought the earth was flat.” Poor Daisy always looking for greener pastures.

Parky and I continued to chat: about life, coincidences, the physio.

“So how's the physio going?” I asked.

“She always strokes me here.”

“It's normal, she's a physio, it's called manipulation.”

“Yeah but then she straps me to her bike, like some sort of bizarre bondage ritual. Reckons it will fix my hump in no time.”

“And the needling?”


“Yeah, it's like acupuncture. All physiotherapists do it.”

I saw Parky's eyes begin to glaze over and he became all wobbly at the knees, began muttering something biblical about camels and needles and promptly fainted sending us all tumbling.


Parky scared of a few needles. Lucy to the rescue administering first aid


20 Aug 2013

Waiting For The Cyclists

2 Comments Australia

Bush gazebo


Fraser Range awaiting the cyclists


Party at Ned's Cafe


A well maintained support vehicle is crucial



You would think that the fun might have stopped now that Paul and I are now longer cycling. It hasn't. In between setting up and pulling down campsites, preparing carb-loaded meals for Lucy and Mel, shopping and washing up, checking and loading the vehicle, we have a few hours available each day for entertainment.

Frisbee on the Eyre Highway is always fun and gives the truckees something to laugh about … and … oops, swerve around.

Then there are the parties. Every day is a party, right? Yesterday we had already donned the party hats and set up bush camp and lay in wait for the girls when a message flashed up on Paul's phone which had been out of range for all of the previous 24 hours: Ned Francis Hanlon — the new arrival. Congratulations Sarah and Ben. We're very excited and looking forward to meeting him. We named our bush cafe 'Ned's Cafe' in his honour.

And then there's golf — yawn. Well that's what I thought and then Paul taught me how to play. With a club, he said. Haven't we have progressed from our caveman origins? The Nullarbor Links is the longest golf course in the world at 1365 km for 18 holes. We teed off at Fraser Range, a simple par three and almost got to the green before we spied Gill standing by the car with arms at her sides and that pissed off am I going to have to wait here all day? look.

Balladonia is also par three but with obstacles, bits of '79 era Skylab scattered across the course. Many strokes later Gill, Paul, Lucy and Mel were all yelling things like: Al give it up; it's getting dark; come and have a drink; don't give up your day job.

An easy par three — yeah right


Stroke sixty


I need to improve my swing


Maybe I'll stick to wildflower spotting