CROSSING THE NULLARBOR PLAIN
Decadesago, crossing the Nullarbor Plain from Port Augusta in South Australiato Western Australia was a serious dirt road expedition foradventurous nomads, especially with a caravan or trailer hitchedbehind. Now it‰s really easy to plan and enjoy with any family carin good condition.
The tripfrom Adelaide to Perth via the shortest route is approximately2,680kms. Leaving Adelaide, you drive 320km north to PortAugusta and will probably want to spend your first night there,where there are good motel and caravan park facilities From here onehas the choice of continuing on via Iron Knoband Wadinna, or taking a big diversionround the Eyre Peninsula, to sample thedelights of such places as Port Lincolnand Coffin Bay.
Commencingfrom Ceduna, the stretch of highway knownas the Nullarbor Plain begins in earnest.Now you need to know the distances between service stations, the hoursthey are open, how much fuel and food are going to cost you, where theparks and free stopping places are, what to look out for to avoidaccidents and what you need to take with you for safety.
Stop atthe tourist information centre in Cedunaand get a map, preferably the free 18 page publication entitled ÐTheNullarbor‰, if they‰ll give you a copy - it‰s a mine of usefulinformation. There are several motels and caravan parks in town, so it‰sa good idea to spend the night here.
Next day,be sure you have plenty of spare water on board. It‰s very scarcebetween here and Norseman in WA, so don‰texpect locals to give it away free, in summer time it gets hot, rememberto drink plenty of water, often as the heat will de-hydrateyou, driving to the west, is into the sun from midday. Be ready to pay$1.50 or more per litre for petrol (gasoline) and don‰t expect it totake you as far as the same amount of fuel in the eastern States. Myrecent experience was that even when I filled my car‰s tank and keptto a steady l00kmph for hours at a time, the fuel consumption wasconsiderably higher than in suburban Melbourne! It rather made mewonder how I even managed to put more fuel in, than the size of thetank allowed, so I made allowances for more frequent fuel stopsaccordingly.
Food canbe a bit pricey too - at one place it cost $3 for a cup of instantcoffee. At another, one small piece of fish, one modest portion ofchips and one fish burger, plus one cup of coffee cost $20. The excuseis that it costs a lot of money to truck in supplies.
From Ceduna,you proceed westwards through Penong to NundrooRoadhouse (151 kms and the next petrol stop). From here, it‰sa further 146kms through Yalata Aboriginal Land, where there is oneroadhouse, to the Nullarbor Hotel Motel.You are now 300kms from Ceduna and youmay want to spend the night, as you could have been diverted en routeto enjoy meals, buy Aboriginal souvenirs, or visit CactusBeach or Fowlers Bay in the whalewatching season - from May to October. Although this mighty longstretch of flat road runs parallel to the south coast, you will notget to see the sea from the roadway and will have to take the variousmarked side tracks for a kilometre or so to experience the southernocean and the rugged cliffs in all their majesty.
From the NullarborHotel Motel it is 186kms to the WA border, where the mannedFruit Quarantine Station will ensure you take no fruit into WesternAustralia. This will include a car and caravan search, so be warned.Twelve kilometres further on is Eucla anda further 50kms westwards is Mundrabilla.From here, it is 115kms to Madura Pass,which is quite an interesting feature on the otherwise flat plain.Another 83kms will take you to Cocklebiddy.
Whileeach of the places mentioned has fuel supplies, there are no service(gas) stations in between. It should be noted also that theseestablishments usually close at dusk and open again at daylight. Itwould seem they have an aversion to selling fuel during the hours ofdarkness, so a spare can of fuel can be a useful thing to have along,as is a torch, for there are no street lights on the Nullarbor if youneed to change a tyre.
AlthoughNullarbor means Ðno trees‰, there islow scrub about and on this particular stretch there are mobs ofkangaroos and some emus moving around, any of which can run out infront of a vehicle without warning, especially at dusk, dawn andduring the night. By day they are usually lying down resting somewherequiet. Scores of kangaroos line the roadside, attracted by pools ofwater after recent rains just peacefully observing the passingtraffic, but you can‰t always bet on them being immobile. Havea run-in with one and your mobile phone will be of no use to you outhere. Your only long distance communication on the Nullarbor is by CBradio, or by the use of a satellite tracking device.
From Cocklebiddy,it is a further 64kms to Caiguna and fromthere a run of 375 kms to Norseman, whereyou realise you‰ve successfully completed the Nullarbor crossing andare now well into Western Australia. Stop off at Balladoniaand visit the Skylab Museum. It‰s mostinteresting and includes the debris that fell from the heavens whenSkylab crashed to earth some years ago.
FromNorseman you can travel 168kms northwardsto Coolgardie or l80kms to Kalgoorlieand approach Perth in that direction (atotal of 770kms), or head south to Esperancesome 207kms distant and travel to Perth via Albany,Manjimup and all the scenic wonders ofthe State‰s south west - a matter of some further 1,200kms.
TheNullarbor road surface is good, so there are plenty of caravannerstravelling this route, so give others a friendly wave as you pass.Apart from the list of accommodation below, there are numerousexcellent wayside stopping places in WA, very well set up for arelaxing break. They aren‰t meant as overnight stopping places, butin an emergency no one could object to one being used as such.
Haveyour car thoroughly serviced before you go. Make sure you‰ve gotyour driver‰s licence to hand and don‰t rush the trip. Allowplenty of time, take the unexpected diversions where they areindicated and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
You put your watches back half an hour when crossing the Vic/SAborder, 15 mins further back at the SA/WA border and back another 45min's at Caiguna. (i.e. Perth is two hours behind Victoria inwinter and three hours behind when Eastern Summer Time is in force).
CARAVANPARKS & HOTELS FROM PORT AUGUSTA TO NORSEMAN
CEDUNA:Foreshore Caravan Park; Shelly BeachCaravan Park; Al Cabins & Caravan Park
PENONG: CactusBeach Caravan Park (20km south of town)
NUNDROO: Sites at the hotel motel and at FowlersBay Caravan Park, 29km south east of town.
YALATA ROADHOUSE: 12 powered sites
NULLARBOR HOTEL MOTEL: 24 powered and 16un-powered sites
THE BORDER: WA/SABorder Village has 44 powered sites and 20 un-powered
MADURA PASS: OasisHotel has 12 shady sites
COCKLEBIDDY: WedgetailInn 20 powered sites and a campground
CAIGUNA:John EyreMotel 10 powered sites and campgrounds
BALLADONIA: At thehotel are 50 powered sites and a camping ground
NORSEMAN: GatewayCaravan Park has three star amenities
FUEL & GAS Available at all the aboveaccommodation establishments