Saturday 23 November. Ceduna to Perlubie Beach. 99km.
It was COLD when we left Ceduna in the early hours of Saturday morning – feeling suitably refreshed after our day off. To give ourselves a change of scenery from the Eyre Highway we were heading towards the coast to a beach campsite that we had read about. We had heard from locals in Ceduna that there was a rodeo event in Streaky Bay which was along the route, so thinking the main road would be quite busy we opted for a back road for the first part of the journey. It was definitely quieter than the main road, probably because it had a crap surface, so it wasn’t a great start to our day. But we soon rejoined the main road and when we saw a sign to Smoky Bay we decided to take a detour for a coffee break. A lovely spot …
….and we stopped in the village where we met another Cyclist, Deb – an Aussie who was just starting her journey to cross the Nullarbor in the opposite direction. Good luck with that Deb as it’s only going to get hotter from now on!
Arrived at Perlubie Beach and set up the tent in what looks like an idyllic location…
…but there was a very strong wind which meant there was sand in all of our stuff! Unfortunately no shower facilities meant it was a “Pommie wash” for us…which is the Aussie slang for a “pits and bits” wash with the implied notion that English people wash less frequently than Aussies because of the cold climate! As we were deciding to get our dinner things together, a family that we had met on the campsite in Ceduna pulled up. They had been there since the night before and were all set up with a trailer tent, so invited us over to have a beer as well as use their stove to cook dinner. Much more civilised than our set-up and we had a lovely evening with Yaku and Jenny while their kids listened to Harry Potter books in their tent. It was an absolutely clear night so when it got dark later the sky was like a blanket of stars. We could see the Milky Way as well as lots of shooting stars, which was absolutely fantastic!
Sunday 24 November Perlubie Beach to Wudinna. 140km.
Another cold morning and although packing up in the sand wasn’t much fun, at least the wind had died down overnight. And we had both slept brilliantly, which is always a bonus! We left the beach around 7.30am and had a very uneventful ride, still off the Eyre Highway, until we reached Poochera around lunchtime. The landscape has changed a lot since leaving the Nullarbor. It’s still remote so we still have to carry enough food and water for wild camping between settlements, but it’s mainly wheat fields and farmland, which we just don’t find as interesting as natural scrubland. Just miles and miles of wheat as far as the eye can see….oh and lots of hills, which doesn’t make for particularly easy riding. And there is still the danger of bush fires, which we are acutely aware of when we come across signs like this…
Throughout the day there were lots of whistling birds and other unusual chirping sounds that we hadn’t heard before and I did have to make one emergency stop as a kangaroo and joey bounced into the road just in front of me. The mama roo saw me and went back to where she came from, but baby joey got confused, didn’t know what to do, and stopped right in front of me staring at me. I stared back and eventually he bounced back to mama and I could continue on my way! Nigel’s kangaroo experience later on the day was different – he had a kangaroo bounce alongside him while he cycled and a while later it just disappeared off in the bush never to be seen again!
Poochera is a tiny little township with nothing there….or so we thought until we parked up in a rest area for lunch. Small towns in Australia are quite interesting because they all try to offer unique reasons to get travellers to stop and spend some money. Penong, with the windmill museum was a good example, and Poochera is no different. It’s famous for Dinosaur Ants, which were discovered here in 1977, and date back to at least 70 million years. Apparently they are they holy grail of ants and scientist from around the world visit to study them as they are deemed to be living fossils. We didn’t encounter any over lunch thankfully, but we were more interested in this little house….
It’s called ‘Peter’s Humpy’ after the guy who built it out of flattened kerosene tins in the 1920s and lived in it for most of his life. The inside has been left almost untouched from when he lived there. How he must have cooked alive in it when it was hot!
After lunch we continued on our journey as far as Minnipa, our planned destination for the day. It was hot, hot, hot, so when we arrived and saw signs for fuel and a hotel we got excited at the thought of a cold drink. Sunday is very obviously the day of rest here because everything was closed….the fuel stop that we thought would be a petrol station (or ‘servo’ in Australian) was the community store and it was closed – as well as the hotel that had a ‘For Sale’ sign up. And it had all looked so promising! We headed off to our community camp site with its ‘concrete crappa’ ….
…one of the cleanest public toilets I have ever been in!! After about 45 minutes of being attacked by biting ants we decided to push on as far as Wudinna, 40km away and where there was a proper campsite with showers. As it was already 3.45pm we rang ahead to check it was open. Our luck was in, we booked our space and then off we went. Thankfully drinking water wasn’t a problem now as we have been back on mains water since before Ceduna. It’s much more readily available, especially at public rest areas, however, it doesn’t always taste the best but it’s safe to drink and on a hot day like today we are always very grateful for it. With a good tailwind behind us we made it in 2.5 hours. But so much for avoiding ants…..the place was crawling with them! But it was still a good decision, even if it involved 140km to get there – the showers were good as was the camp kitchen.
Over dinner were were joined by another happy camper Brenton AKA ‘Scrub’ to his friends – a very young-looking 70-year old who had been there living there for a month while working on the harvest for a local farmer. One of his jobs is driving a road train to the local grain silo. In his “normal” life he owns a self storage business with his wife. The truck driving is just something we wanted to do – almost a hobby, even if it involved working 12-14 hours a day!
Monday 25 November. Wudinna to Kimba. 101km.
Our big day yesterday meant that we only had 100km to do today, but we were still on the road bright and early. In a change of weather from recent days is was a warm morning but also grey and overcast – and the sun didn’t appear for most of the day. It was a day of hills, heat and wind….not the nicest of combinations. Our first few hours were battling a pretty intense headwind, but fortunately as it got stronger it changed direction in our favour. It partly helped us but also hindered our progress by sending lots of dust and sand in our direction. Just like this….
The road was also a lot narrower than in recent days and some of the traffic sometimes got a bit too close for our liking.
We stopped off for a snack break in Kooma View Homestead, a disused farmhouse that is open to the public to view and camp in the grounds for free. The retro house decor is 1970s and it’s as if the family who lived there have just upped and left everything as it was. There were even old magazines featuring Princess Diana on the front cover from the 1990s!
We continued on to Kimba and when we arrived, very wind beaten and dehydrated around 2pm, we decided that it was too windy (and there was loads of dust in the air) to camp comfortably, so we got a room in the local motel – with a very generous discount because we were cyclists! Kimba is the half-way point between Sydney and Perth, but as we are only going to Melbourne, it’s more than half-way for us! but after lunch we went for the obligatory photoshoot anyway….
….as well as taking in the big galah….
…..and some silo art.
…..more examples of how small-town Australia tries to grab visitors by just providing unusual photo props! The huge grain silos are where the local farmers store their grain and an example of where Scrub, our camping buddy from last night, would drive the grain harvest from the farm.
A visit to the local supermarket to replenish our food stores and then we relaxed for the rest of the evening. The afternoon got hotter and windier (80kph gusts) so we’d had definitely made the right decision in getting the motel room!
Tuesday 26 November. Kimba to Pandurra. 120km.
There was a continental breakfast on offer in the hotel so I managed 3 bowls of cereal (which included 4 Weetabix!) and 4 slices of toast before we left around 8am. A healthy appetite for a growing girl! Today felt like a reward for the toils of the last few days as we had a great tailwind for most of the day, as well as a downhill stretch before lunch when we just whizzed along – pedalling at 24km/hr at times. We made it to Iron Knob around 1pm and despite the quirky name, which we thought deserved a photo….
….the town itself was absolutely deserted and looked quite sad and run down. The town gets its name from its proximity to a large deposits of iron ore, notably Iron Monarch, which used to be a very prominent hill on the way into the town. But years of mining have seen it almost disappear….
…and although there is still some mining activity there it’s nothing on the scale that it used to be. We had planned to camp here for the night, but because we had made good headway and it didn’t look like a particularly appealing place to camp we decided to push on for another 30km to a large sheep station (‘farm’ in our language) that offered camping facilities. The wind wasn’t exactly in our favour, but worse than that were some of the drivers on the road. No idea why, but they beeped us in a “get off the road” kind of way and one came really close to Nigel when where was absolutely no need for it….he was just too impatient to slow down for a few seconds while another vehicle passed on the other side Pffff! Not the lovely friendly drivers that we have experienced in our entire time in Australia but here’s hoping it was a one-off!
For a stretch of the journey the terrain reminded of the treeless, arid Nullarbor landscape, which was a nice change from the endless wheat fields. The sheep station was just how you would imagine a farm in outback Australia to be……
…..and the campsite itself was absolutely lovely with a grass patch to pitch our tent (horrah!) and a great little country kitchen and lounge area, which we had all to ourselves for the evening as we were the only people staying there. It even had a swimming pool, but it was a bit too chilly to try it out unfortunately!
Wednesday 27 November. Pandurra to Port Augusta. 42km.
Today was our shortest cycling day since arriving in Australia as it was only a short hop into Port Augusta. There was a bit of a headwind for most of the morning but it didn’t hinder us too much. About 20km into our journey we could even get off the main road onto a much quieter road, which was great and had great views of the Flinders Range – the first time we have seen mountains for a while!
But along this road we passed a poor little kangaroo that had obviously been hit by a car/truck. Although it was very much alive, it was struggling to stand up, so obviously it had broken its back legs. Poor thing was going to suffer in the heat and eventually die and there was nothing we could do to help.
Arrived in Port Augusta around 10.30am, so we picked up some cakes from the supermarket as well as coffee and tea and sat by the Esplanade to enjoy a well-deserved break after a fairly intense few days since leaving Ceduna. At the local caravan park it was a choice of $35 to camp on a dusty sandy plot OR $40 for a “backpackers room”, with a double bed, air-con and enough space for our bikes and all our gear….no contest!! And we could check-in early, which was an added bonus. So it wasn’t long before we were ensconced in our room and we even had the luxury of a snooze to stay out of the 35-degree afternoon heat. As we have made good progress since leaving Perth, from here onwards we can relax a bit more and enjoy a few more days off – starting tomorrow! So an afternoon of chores meant we freed up time for a completely relaxing free day….which we all know we are not very good at!