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Australia 2007

Coober Pedy - Oodnadatta Track - Nullarbor - Perth

Leg details

Date
June 11 - 26, 2007
Leg
Coober Pedy - Oodnadatta Track - Lake Eyre - Woomera - Gawler Ranges - Venus Bay - Murphey's Haystacks - Streacky Bay - Ceduna - Nullarbor - Eucla - Norseman - Esperance - Point Le Grand NP - Ravensthorpe - Hyden - Beverly - Perth
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Leg map (click to enlarge in separate window)

On Monday, June 11, 2007, we head into Coober Pedy to fuel up.

Now we are sure that we are REALLY in the Australian Outback .... OKA-country ....

We leave Coober Pedy and turn east towards William Creek.

Looking at the warning signs we wonder, how the road to William Creek will be.
But the road must have been graded recently, it is a comfortable ride.

There are storm clouds on the sky. We hope not to get drenched like NSW was over the weekend with the Hunter River flooding with 10.5 m.
Even though we are always prepared and carry enough provisions with us we don't really want to get stuck somewhere out there ....

For a while we drive through an area that is empty, barren of vegetation, just a flat gibber plain.
At a certain point it is flat all around us (360°) up to the horizon.
This is amazing.
It makes you feeling so small!


The recent rainfalls have left traces; the road is damaged every so often and also some puddles of water are still visible.
The sand dunes are covered with germinating plants.

We try to find Lake Cadibarrawirracanna, Australia's longest place name, but the only track we find leads to a cattle yard and dam.
The track is well driven, so we guess that we are not the only ones looking for this lake that is described in the Lonely Planet.
Theoretically we are in the Woomera Prohibited Area and should not leave the road anyway ....
A bit frustrated we give up and find a spot for the night.

The next morning we continue our search and drive every track we find.

One of the tracks leads to a small quarry.
It looks like somebody had time, patience and good skills with the tractor.
Those "sculptures" are at least 2 m in height.


Third time lucky we actually hit the track to Lake Cadibarrawirracanna.
There is a fair bit of water in it.
Our hopes to find water in Lake Eyre rise again.

We continue on our way and the sand dunes turn green.
Also the plants are much more advanced in their growing state here then just a few kilometres further back.

We reach the beginning of Anna Creek Station, the largest cattle station of Australia, the largest pastoral lease in the world.
It is 24'000 km² large and in most years runs approx. 16'000 head of cattle.
In this hostile environment 1 km² can feed less than 1 head of cattle ... and you wonder how even that is possible ...

The first pastoralists who took up a lease in this area needed to establish a working relationship with Aboriginal people.
Some were employed as sheep-herders and others helped build the original Anna Creek homestead.
Aboriginal people were able to navigate the best, find new stock routes, showing where to dig wells and set up stockyards.

Until the late 1970s mustering was done on horse back.
During the mustering season camels where used to move equipment and people from camp to camp.
Today mustering is done by aeroplanes, quads and motorbikes.

We reach the Oodnadatta Track and stop at Williams Creek for fuel.
The Williams Creek Hotel is very special.
Outside it is just an old metal building (still the same one that was built in 1887), only the satellite dish is a bit newer ...

... but inside it is just great and really deserves a visit.

The Oodnadatta Track follows the Overland Telegraph Line and the old Ghan railway.
There's a string of reliable mound springs and water-holes running right through this area, forming an arc from Lake Frome, through to Maree and on to Dalhousie Springs.

For the ones interested in a bit of the history here a introduction to it:
Having gained control over the Northern Territory, South Australia had signed a contract with the British-Australian Telegraph Company, binding them to finance and build a 3'000 km long transcontinental telegraph line, the Overland Telegraph Line (OTL), from Port Augusta to Port Darwin until January 1, 1872. This was a huge task as 2'000 km of the line was going through country only known from the journals of John McDouall Stuart, who had explored this area in 1858 and 1862.
Stuart had followed routes between Maree and Oodnadatta that were well-travelled by Aboriginals.
The route followed mount springs and waterholes, which were essential as supply of fresh water. Being Australia's driest area finding water here was not easy. Europeans coming into this country relied on Aboriginal knowledge to find water.

To save time the 3'000 km were divided into three equal stretches and work was carried out at the same time on all of them. The first pole was erected on October 1, 1870.
In January 1872 the southern and middle part, a total of 1'890 km, had been finished and put into service. But in the north some 600 km were still not finished.
A Pony-Express carried the international messages back and forth between the unfinished ends of the line while 30
0 men were continuously working to finish the line.
As South Australia was in breach of contract the British-Australian Telegraph Company tried to sue the state. But at the same time an already working cable broke and it took four months to get it fixed. By that time the rest of the line had also been finished so the charges were dropped.

In the meantime the stretch between Maree and Oodnadatta had become a well-established dray-road, following the endless line of telegraph poles. Getting into trouble on this road resulted in people climbing a pole and interrupting the cable; this would ensure that sooner or later a repair-crew would show up to fix the cable.

Then the construction of the Central Australian Railway, going from Adelaide to Maree, Oodnadatta and Alice Springs up to Darwin, was decided. At that time the country was in grip of a general depression. To relieve unemployment trainloads of jobless men were sent north. In those days, railways were built manually, with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows. But those men were mostly soft-muscled clerks. With the flies swarming around them, the heat and the constant thirst, it was not surprising that they deserted in droves.

1884 the train reached Maree and 1890 Oodnadatta.
Until 1927 Oodnadatta remained the railhead. During these years the goods were transported further on with camels.

In January 1927 the construction on the last leg began reaching Alice Springs in August 1929. This was the end for the camels and their drivers.
As the majority of the drivers were Afghani in 1923 the train was named "Afghan Express" which later on was changed to "The Ghan".

The railway had been built through flood-prone areas and heavy rains often damaged the bridges.
So the approach was taken to place the rails directly in the rivers and replace them after every rain season.
Even though it was an expensive alternative it was still cheaper than to replace damaged bridges.

The Ghan opened the way into Australia's remote interior providing isolated residents with a physical and emotional link to civilisation.
During World War II the railway was pushed to its limits; war-time traffic soared from 3 to 56 trains a week.

The train was known for its inefficiency and the leisurely way it was operated.
The passenger never exactly knew, how long his journey would be.
The old Ghan was a financial disaster, but it was an unforgettable experience for the tourist.
Or what other train would stop so that its passengers could pick wildflowers?

1980 the line closed for good when 200 km more westerly a new rail service to Alice Springs was opened.
The leg from Alice Springs to Darwin was only finished after the year 2004 .....

Shortly after Williams Creek an old railroad bridge can be found. The sleepers have almost all been removed as they make excellent fire wood.

The track to Lake Eyre leaves shortly after and is very badly corrugated.
Looks like a lot of people are in a mad rush to cover the 62 km to the lake leaving their marks on the road in form of corrugation.
Most of the time a second track has been driven close to the original road but even that track shows signs of corrugation.

The country gets dryer and dryer and not much vegetation is left. We are surprised to see a dingo and wonder, what he lives off ....

Here we find a dreadful reminder of reality: the point where in 1998 an Austrian Tourist, Claudia Grossmüller, perished.
She had broken down with her car at Halligan Bay and tried to walk back to William Creek ....
She had acted against one of the most basic rules: NEVER leave your broken-down car!

Then we come over a ridge and unexpectedly find ourselves on the moon.
The country has completely changed to a scorched black dessert.
It is very impressive.

We head out to ABC Point, one of the few points where one can access Lake Eyre, and expect to see either water or the famous shimmering panorama of the white salty surface of the lake.
But neither is the case, all we see is a grey flat surface.

Lake Eyre is the lowest point in Australia, nearly 15 m below sea level.
Lake Eyre is actually two lakes – Lake Eyre North and Lake Eyre South – joined by the narrow Goyder Channel. They cover 9'700 km².
Lake Eyre, the fifth largest terminal lake in the world, is the world's largest internally draining system.
Water drains into the lake from a catchment area that covers one-sixth of Australia (rivers include the Diamantina and Warburton Rivers and the Cooper Creek).
As there is no outlet to the sea, water accumulates and forms Lake Eyre. When flooded it becomes the fabled Australian inland sea.

The lakes have filled to near capacity only three times in the last 150 years (most recently in 1974); it does receive significant flooding once every eight years on average.
It takes approx. 3 month to fill it and 2 – 3 years for the water to evaporate again. Once full, it would require the flow of the Murray River to counteract evaporation.

As we continue towards Halligan Bay the black country changes to a sandy one.

But in Halligan Bay too there is neither water nor salty white plains to be seen.
The recent rains have softened the surface and turned all into a grey flat plain.
Still, the huge size of the lake can be seen and felt here.

We find a lonely tree there with some impressive roots.
One can only wonder about nature and how plants can survive in such a hostile environment.

On the way back to the Oodnadatta Track Ruedi spots a bore with a dam and a cow trough.
Like most bores this one has been capped, restricting the amount of water flowing out of the ground.
In Australia all bores to the Artesian Basin are registered to keep track on the total amount of water taken and in turn to control the water level.
The overflow has created a habitat for animals that would not have much of a chance out here.

This is the ideal spot to check the front tire that still looses air.
Luckily it is "only" the valve of the Beadlock.

We decide to camp close by where Ruedi can repair the tire tonight
The temperature drops to 2.9 degrees over night ...

In the morning Ruedi pumps his tire. It looks good so we hope for the best.

We continue and reach Warriner Creek, where a railroad bridge is still well preserved.
Warriner Creek has a fair bit of water in it.
No wonder Lake Eyre is not shiny and white, with all these creeks (that all flow into Lake Eyre!) still having so much water in them.


As some of the sleepers are missing crossing the bridge is hard work; sleepers have to be moved from behind the vehicle to the front to close the gaps.
We explicitly advise against doing this.
(Following the same advise we crossed the creek on the road ... just having a bit of fun ...)

Next stop is at Beresford Siding, to have a look at the well preserved railroad station building, water tank and other relicts from the old Ghan.
The dam close by is surrounded by trees and it sounds like plenty of birds live there.

Shortly after we pass Mt. Beresford, the remains of an extinct mount spring.
We wonder how much water must have flown from that mount spring for such a hill to have grown from the minerals carried in the water ....

We pass Kewson Hill, according to the guide book the largest active spring along the Oodnadatta Track.
Either there is no more water flowing or the amount has been drastically reduced.
The hill still looks interesting.

Here also the old railroad tracks are visible quite well. Travelling this route with the Ghan must have been very scenic and interesting.

We continue to Coward Springs.
Coward Springs was named after Corporal Thomas Coward, from Warburton's exploration party, which discovered the springs in 1858.
The siding opened for traffic February 2, 1888.
It was an important settlement including a hospital, hotel, a store and several railway buildings (a weatherboard station, a four-roomed stone house, a two-roomed stone crew rest-house, an iron engine shed and double set of cottages). It even had a crossing and goods loop, a trucking yard for stock, a sheep rampand an engine turning triangle at the southern end of the yard.

The Station Master's House has been turned into a museum with lots of information and photos:

A Diesel Locomotive at Cowards Springs (1957) ...

The Coward Springs Hotel that was demolished in 1956 ...

According to the information in the museum it was pictured about 1910.
In June 2010 we received a mail from Jean Wood:
"THE PHOTO OF THE COWARD SPRINGS HOTEL IS PROIR TO 20 DEC. 1906 AS IT IS A PHOTO OF MY GRANDFATHER MAGNUS CHEYNE, HIS WIFE, CHILDREN CONNIE, MINNIE & KATE.
MY GRANDFATHER DIED ON THIS MENTIONED DATE."

Thanks Jean for providing feedback on the web page!

An artesian bore alongside the railway once flowed 1.2 million gallons a day (picture of the artesian well "natural spa" at Coward Springs, taken around 1890).
Railway crews would have a quick bathe in these warm pools while the train was stopped for shunting.
Later, it resembled a fast flowing stream due to bore casings collapsing. The water created a large wetland, attracting many species of waterbirds.
The bore was capped to save water resulting in the soem of the wetland drying up.
Today a small pool is available.
We find that the water to be colder than in Dalhousie Springs and with a cold wind blowing a bath doesn't look too inviting .....

During World War II an overhead water tank for locomotives was erected.
Additives were unsuccessfully put into the pumped bore water to soften it.
Railway crews could always tell when Coward Springs bore water was taken by the blackened faces of the work mates, nursing the poorly steaming engines.
At war's end Coward Springs' water was abandoned.

The photo shows camels at Cowards Springs Railway Siding in front of the Station Master's House (about 1910).
The station master's and engineer's cottage have been restored with lots of love.
Galahs (Cacatua roseicapilla) have taken up residency in the chimney.

The amenities have been built using material from the old Ghan.

We reach Wabma Kadabu Mound Spring Conservation Park, a pretty set-up of various mount springs in different stages.
The most famous one is "Blanches Cup", because of its symetric shaped mound and the large circular pool on top.
The views from the top of the mound are just great and very peaceful.


Ein paar hundert Meter davon entfernt befindet sich der "Blubber", ein flaches Quellbecken mit einem sehr feienem, sandigen Boden. Der Sand fliesst immer wieder in die Quelle und verschliesst sie für eine gewisse Zeit. Dann drückt das Wasser an irgend einem Ort des Beckens erneut durch und generiert herrliche, verschiedenfarbige Sandwellen, die sich über das ganze Becken bewegen.

A few hundred meters further down the road lies "The Bubbler", a flat basin with very fine sand covering its bottom. The sand gets disturbed every so often when water pushes up from below thus generating very pretty, different-coloured sand waves in the water that are propagated throughout the basin.

We continue on to Curdimurka.
Local Aborigines believed that a giant snake named Kuddimuckra lived at nearby Lake Eyre.
They avoided travelling along the shores of the lake and when many viewed the approaching Ghan for the first time they fled.

The Curdimurka siding, dating from 1888, is the last remaining station yard of significance left intact on the old Ghan Railway and includes station yard, water treatment plant, tower and associated water tank.

A few Galahs sit on top of the roof of the station building and chat.
Every so often they get a muffled answer from inside the house ... sounds like a trapped Galah needs rescuing.
Ruedi gets into the house and leaves the door open, but the bird is so scared that it flies against the window a few times.
Susi blocks off the window from the outside and then the bird escapes.
Let's hope he has learned his lesson.

During 1943-44 a lime-soda water softening plant was erected at Curdimurka to deal with the highly mineralised water found locally.

In 1989 heavy rains near Lake Eyre South dumped more than 381 mm of rain in 44 hours, twisting part of the remaining track-work that had been left in Curdimurka yard.


Curdimurka is famous for its Outback Ball, happening every two years in October.
The event starts with a ride on a 3 km stretch of restored rail tracks, then a diner and then a ball on a huge wooden floor, brought in especially for this event.
About 5'000 people in evening dress and smoking attend the event.

We head out to the nearby Stuart Creek Bridge. The bridge is 433 metre long, is the second longest bridge on the former Ghan line and was built in 1887/88.

By now we are not surprised anymore to find water in the creek.
Not too long ago water would have been flowing into Lake Eyre from here too.
Also some interesting plants grow close by.

We continue and find ourselves a place near the Gregory Creek Railroad Bridge where Ruedi tries to find the reason for the leaking tire again.
But he must give up; we need another trough to find the small puncture or what ever it is.
So it's dinner time.

We also find a section of telegraph masts from the original telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin.
The train track was used to go parallel to the telegraph line.
Most of it has been destroyed or removed by souvenir hunters.

After a cold night with only 1.4°C on Thursday, June 14, 2007, we reach the Borefield Road and turn into it.
A water pipeline follows this road all the way from Bopeechgee Bore to Roxby Downs, bringing 33 mio litres of water per day to the mining town.
There is not much to be seen on this stretch of road.
It is in an even better condition than the Oodnadatta Track but there is a fair bit of mine traffic on it.

We drive along an unusual looking fence.



The information centre offers a lot of fascinating information about this Arid Recovery Project, where they try to restore the area to a semblance of its pre-European state.
Some mining and pastoral land has been chosen to study how native plants and animals respond to the removal of introducedl animals such as the rabbit, cat and fox.

Since European settlement, 60% of the mammal species that once lived in the area around Roxby Downs have become locally or Australia wide extinct, many species can now only be found on tiny off-shore islands.
Most of the extinctions occurred in the 1930's and are thought to be linked to the arrival of rabbits, cats and foxes in the desert.

Rabbits were first introduced to Australia in 1859 and within 50 years of their arrival they had successfully colonised much of the arid and semi-arid zones.
Rabbits have had a catastrophic impact on native ecosystems; during good seasons, densities of rabbits at Roxby Downs have reached in excess of 600 per km² ....
Rabbits are thought to have displaced the burrowing bettong (Bettongia lesueur) and the greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis), and are believed to have been a major contributing factor in the extinctions of many other medium-sized mammals through competition for resources and causing increased predator numbers.
Many arid zone plant species, particularly long-lived trees such as the western myall (Acacia papyrocarpa) have problems regrowing in rabbit infested areas because of selective browsing or ring-barking.
In 1996, Rabbit Calicivirus Disease (RCD) was first detected in the Roxby Downs area and by 1998 the disease had decimated rabbit populations with densities crashing to just 5 - 10 rabbits per km².
The low rabbit densities allowed a window of opportunity in which to create the rabbit-free Arid Recovery Reserve.

Feral cats and foxes are common outside the Reserve and prey on many native species, including mammals, birds and reptiles.
Foxes and cats are regularly captured in traps set around the Reserve perimeter.
Audio lures which sound like cats or small birds are used to attract them into traps (nearly 1'000 feral cats have been killed in the Roxby Downs area in the last 10 years).
Stomach content analysis of feral cats revealed that their diet included 34 reptile, 13 bird, 6 mammal and 1 frog species.

For this study a 60 km² vermin-proof reserve was enclosed by a fence (34 km in length).
The initial design was tested for effectiveness by placing feral cats inside a replica exclosure and observed them trying to escape.
Various electrification and other barrier designs were tested and incorporated into the final fence design:
• The lower half of the fence is made from rabbit-proof 30mm mesh.
• A 30 cm ground apron is buried on the outside to prevent rabbits, cats and foxes digging under the fence.
• The fence has a 60 cm unstable "floppy top" that predators such as cats and foxes find hard to climb.
• The main exclosure fence is also electrified to increase its effectiveness.

After the construction of the vermin-proof reserve all existing rabbits, cats and foxes had to be removed from within the reserve.
Four locally extinct mammal species (greater stick-nest rat, burrowing bettong, western barred bandicoot and the threatened greater bilby) were reintroduced.
An animal and plant monitoring system determines the response to the removal of rabbits, cats and foxes.

Shortly after we reach Roxby Downs, home of the Olympic Dam Mine, the largest Uranium mine in the world.
From here on it is all bitumen south towards Woomera.
It is a flat and boring stretch of road .... if it wasn't for the power-poles there would be nothing disturbing the horizon at all.

In Woomera we visit the small museum and a collection of rockets and other memorabilia (e.g. old electronic equipment) from the time when they did the atomic and rocket tests.
The new display had only just opened some two weeks ago.
The gentleman working there tells us that they are going to launch a rocket either today or tomorrow from Woomera.

In 1947 the area reaching from Lake Torrens in the south to Maralinga southeast (a total of 600 km ...) and north about 250 km south of to the border to the Northern Territory was declared a prohibited area.
Between 1960 and 1972 E.L.D.O. (Europa Launcher Development Organisation) and NASA performed projectile and missile tests.
The test were performed in the Great Victoria Desert.
The atomic tests contaminated the Maralinga Tjarutha-Aboriginal tribe. Only many years later the survivors were relocated to Yalata in the Nullarbor.

We continue south and hit the Stuart Highway again at Pimba.
As we travel along the bitumen we see a sign for a scenic photo stop.
We make fun and wonder what they want us to take pictures from in this flat plain.
Then we both go “wow”!

There is a terrific view from the plain down to Island Lagoon including view of Erna Island.

We find us a little spot for the night shortly after.
After a sunny but cold and windy day (max. of 19.5°C) we are ready for the warm cabin.
The night is another cold one, with only 1.9°C

On Friday we continue west.

We check out the Lake Hart Rest Area and are surprised by a pretty reflection in the salt lake.

We follow a small track down to the border of the lake and find a hill of salt.
Looks like there had been a collection of salt earlier.

Out in the salt plain rotten railroad rails still lead into the salt lake.

A warning sign informs that this is a target area of the army.

We spot a Splendid Wren (Malurus splendens) and once again find it amazing that in such a hostile environment so many plants and animals can survive.

We leave the bitumen at Glendambo and head west towards Kingoonya.
Suddenly we hear truckees on channel 40 discussing if "it had been a plane or what" ...
The rocket launch! Quickly we get out of the OKA but we are too late, all we see is the vapour trail of the rocket.
Later on we hear on ABC Radio that there had been a rocket launch at Woomera, testing a new form of combustion engine allowing rockets to travel at 10x sonic speed.


The road runs along the railroad tracks and is in good condition.
It's the only part of the Trans Access Road along the Trans Australian Railroad that is still accessible.
Further west, after Googes Track, the road has been closed to the public which is a bit of a shame.
But it is understandable as there had been instances where bogged travellers had flagged down the trains .....

At Kingoonya we cross the railroad and head in direction of Wirrulla.

There must have been some rain recently, the country is green and flowers are blooming everywhere.

We continue south and pass Lake Everard.
There is some water in the lake and the sand dunes reflect in it.
The country looks so different to when we were here last year.
All is covered in grass, the vegetation is growing and looks fresh.
In the late afternoon we see many kangaroos, all nicely fed and healthy looking; looks like there is plenty of feed around this year.

We reach our destinations for today: Mt. Hiltaba.
The valley between the hill and the road is covered with wombat tracks and borrows.
We hope to see some wombats later on today.


Ruedi tries to fix his tire again. It's cumbersomb if one has to pump the tire evey few hours for some weeks. There is in fact only one area left where the tire can loose air: The rubber seal on the rim between the two halfs of the wheel. Due to the construction of the rims one can not see this area and the area can only be tested by fully dip the whole wheel into water at once. So today Ruedi takes the wheel fully apart, and reseals it.

Some wild horses curiously approach to see what is happening.
But when Ruedi deflates the tire the hissing sound scares the animals away.

Ruedi works until it is almost dark ... too much noise for the wombats, none appears.

The night is the first one with subzero temperatures (- 0.1°C).
We get up just before the day starts and start watching the wombat borrows.
But all we can see is rabbits! At least they are cute, even if they are considered to be a pest.

The tire fixed by Ruedi yesterday looks good (finally!!!!).
So we decide to drive through the Gawler Ranges National Park.
Here too we cannot see any wombats along the way. We are a bit disappointed.
Last year, when we came through here at the beginning of July there were Wombats everywhere, one had to be careful not to run them over!
But we pass many large groups of kangaroos.
As long as the vehicle moves the kangaroos don't bother running away, but as soon as we stop to take a picture the whole group disappears in no time.

The Gawler Ranges were formed by volcanic activity some 1'500 mio years ago.
The extensive rolling hills consist of rock formed from ash spewed out by massive volcanic eruptions.
As the volcanic ash cooled and consolidated, columnar joints developed. These columns or pipes are typically 5 – 6 sided.


We visit the most famous ones, the "Organ Pipes".

Then we continue on the scenic drive but do not turn into any of the 4x4 drives.
We want to "save" them for our next visit together with Ruedi's sister and husband.


After leaving the park, on the way towards Wudina, we visit the "Pygery Rocks", a small group of funny looking rocks.
The view over the open country from there is pretty; everything is green and reminds us of Scotland.
Coming from the centre of Australia, where it is, despite of the many plants, mainly red and dry, this fresh green allover is quite unusual for us.

After getting fuel in Wudina we head toward the coast and camp a bit outside Talia.
As the weather forecast is for rain we are a bit more careful where we camp and ensure the ground will not turn into mud.

No rain falls over night but we have a sensational sunrise with purple clouds; not a good sign for today's weather.
We stop at the Talia Caves.

We visit the "Woolshed Cave".
The rock of the cliffs is a coarse grained sandstone that was covered with much younger limestone in the past.
The destructive action of the pounding waves has eroded some of the grained limestone, leaving caves and interesting rock formations.


In the case of "The Tub", the thin layer of much younger limestone composing the roof has been eroded to such an extent that it has collapsed.
The caves original entrance is still covered and the collapsed ceiling has formed a rough bowl, of 20 to 25 meter diameter.
It is fascinating to sit in that bowl and watch the waves coming up through the original entrance, shame it was low tide ....


Then we continue to Venus Bay.
Close to the small fishing harbour we follow a nice walk that takes us out to where the tide comes in.
Lots of animals including seals can be watched at the cliffs that are pounded by the waves.

At the jetty there is lots of (bird) traffic ... they all wait for their share of today's catch.

We decide to stay at the local caravan park and wait for better weather.

The rain decides to drop in Adelaide ... we wake up to a very pretty, almost tacky sunrise with pink and blue coloured clouds.

Today, Monday, June 16, the next attraction on our route is Murphy's Haystacks, formations created by erosion.

The Haystacks are described technically as inselbergs (a hill that looks like a rocky island rising sharply from the sea).
Inselbergs are formed by the uneven weathering of rock.
Densely fractured compartments break down through weathering leaving massive compartments upstanding as inselbergs.

Murphy's Haystacks have been sculptured from beautiful pink Hiltaba Granite which is some 1'500 million years old.
Their present form was probably established by at least 100'000 years ago.

A nasty wind keeps the temperatures cold and unpleasant.

We continue to Point Labatt Conservation Park, an aquatic reserve protecting a colony of Australia's only endemic pinniped.
This is the only site where the Australian sea-lion breeds on the mainland; it's the largest sea-lion colony in Australia.
These sea-lions are Australia's most endangered marine mammal and one of the rarest pinnipeds in the world.

The detour to "The White Sands of Yarnebie" is worth it.
The sand on the dunes is blown away with the strong wind looking a bit like driving snow.

We pass Streaky Bay, where we see Dolphins in the bay, then continue in direction of Ceduna.

In Thevenard we have a look at the pier. It must be quiet impressive when the large ships come into the harbour to be loaded with grain from the large silos.
We pass Ceduna and proceed towards Penong on a small side road where we stay over night.
During the night the rain finally catches up with us.
And today as an exception we have not parked correctly so Ruedi has to get out into the rain and re-park the OKA so we don't get stuck in mud .....

On Tuesday morning it rains on and off.
We return to the Eyre Highway and head east passing Penong.

We visit Fowlers Bay, a small fishing village.
The rainbow on the white sand-dune looks quite pretty.

We head back to the Eyre Highway and drive on towards the boarder.
As there will be a quarantine inspection at the Western Australian border at lunch we cook all the veggies and convert the fruits into deserts.

During the whole day we drive through showers of rain hand see many rainbows.
It is difficult to believe that this green and thriving plain is the Nullarbor (= Latin for “no trees”), called so because not too many trees survive here.

At the border to Western Australia the watches have to be turned back by 1 ½ hours. This always is quite a task, as we have to change the time at 19 (one - nine) places (watches, devices, operating systems, applications).
At the quarantine station they take the job very serious today, all has to be opened and is checked for fruits, soil, etc.
Having cooked all up and emptied the bin before the border we pass with flying banners.

We find ourselves a little track into the woods shortly after crossing the border.
As it rains a lot over night and in the morning we stay put until after lunch and wait for better weather.


When the sun breaks through the clouds we head off and visit the Eucla Telegraph Station.
A colony of Pink Cockatoos (Major Mitchell; Cacatua leadbeateri) lives in the large tree near the station.

The Old Telegraph Station was built in 1877 and was part of the first Telegraph Line to Western Australia.
To speed up things the line was built from two sides at the same time, Eucla being the meeting point of both building parties.
But the Telegraph Line was moved away, along the railroad line and Eucla was closed down in 1927.
The station is slowly but surely being covered by the sand-dunes ...

The dirt road to the Eucla Telegraph Station has been softened by the rain.
With the tourist driving to the Telegraph Station the road has already taken a beating.
We are amazed to see how quickly an established dirt-road gets soft and damaged.

The sunny window closes quickly again and we decide to hit the road and drive towards the nicer weather further west.
It rains all day on and off and we continue on to Madura, where we stay on the Lookout for the night.
The trucks driving up-hill are so noisy that we move further back from the edge; better to have no views but a quiet night.

Some more rain falls over night.
As by now the rain has softened all dirt-tracks and we would destroy them when driving over them we decide to continue on the bitumen.
This means that we also skip the track leaving from Madura to the Eyre Bird Observatory.
Our plans to visit the Coocklebiddy Caves don't materialise either as the caves have been closed since 2006 because rain has destabilized them.

We stop at a rest area for lunch.
Ruedi drives off the bitumen onto the shoulder and doesn't realise that it is all soft!
Too late, the tires leave nasty marks.

We take a detour to the Newman Rocks but find the road to be very soft too.
It is just no good to leave the bitumen after all this rain .... and it is time for a warm shower, so we head to Norseman and stay at the caravan park .....

On Friday morning, even though the weather forecast is bad, the sun is shining.
We decide to head south towards Esperance.
The temperatures are not too cold with 7 – 9°C over night and 15 – 19°C during the day.
If we wrap up we will still be able to do some walks and maybe even spot a whale ...?


As the weather improves further we decide to drive to Cape Le Grand National Park.
We pick Lucky Bay as camp ground.
It is such a pretty place, the white sand, the blue ocean, the hills and rocks .... so we decide to stay over night.

During the night it rains, but we wake up to a sunny morning.
So we decide to take the opportunity and walk over to Thistle Cove.

The kangaroos are extremely curious and friendly at Lucky Bay.
Apparently they have been fed in the past and large signs ask people not to feed wild animals.

The various rock formations are very impressive, some of them leave us wondering how much longer they will stay on top of each other.

Even though it is winter some plants are in bloom.

Some of them are just amazing.

The Granite Woollybush (Adenanthos sericeus subsp. sphalma) is interesting.
One has to get really close to see the flowers that are well hidden amongst the needles.

It is a very nice walk with lots of splendid views.

But we don't meet too many other creatures out there, just some Sooty Oystercatchers (Haematopus fuliginosus) ...

The wind changes direction and picks up, bad weather is closing on.
So we head back, pack up and drive to Hellfire Bay for lunch.
This beach is a long and beautiful stretch of white, washed by a blue ocean, nice for a swim (if the water would not be so cold at this time of the year ....)

They must have had a recent bush-fire around that area.
It is interesting to see how nature regenerates and the seed capsules still are capable to open, some of them are even only able to open after a bush-fire!

The weather deteriorates and rain sets in, so we skip the hike on top of Frenchman Peak.
We set up camp at Le Grand Beach Camp Ground.
The wind is blowing the bad weather passed, leaving us with nice sunshine, but just long enough to have a good walk along the beach.
Then the storm hits us. Even though we are fairly protected by a sand-dune the OKA gets rocked every so often.

The next morning the weather-forecast for the next few days is bad so we decide to stop playing tourists and head back to Perth.

As we drive from Ravensthorpe towards Lake King we see many beautifully blooming Four-winged Mallee (Eucalyptus tetraptera).

Every so often Susi gets a chance to get out of the OKA to have a look at her beloved flowers, but she also gets soaked .... where there are rainbows one must expect a bit of rain!

 

 

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Last updated: Sunday, 13.06.2010 12:50 PM


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