In our last post we stopped our story telling at building our Aussie HQ as well as celebrating Christmas and Rochelle’s birthday at the farm. As the above is not overlanding related, I won’t get into further details other than mentioning that “the Meraki” (our Aussie HQ) came out to be a great project, was100% success and we enjoyed every minute of building it.
As for Rochelle’s party, what a memorable experience!!!With a bit of hangover of course and lots and lots of laughs!!! After a great month without a lot of exploration (that is why we delayed our post), we couldn’t wait to take the road east, towards Esperance. For those who have been following us, you probably remember that this is our second time here.
This time our plan included one final gathering. Here we celebrated New Year’s as well as our final departure from Western Australia, among family and friends, with easygoing local vibes and great beach life. A daytrip to check the nearby Woody Island (supposed to be a must see in the area) proved to be nothing memorable but on the opposite, the next day’s outing within Cape Legrand National Park grounds and for one more time in our favourite Lucky Bay beach was definitely a highlight.
After saying goodbye to all the family, that were heading back to Perth, we spent two more quiet nights in nearby Mungignup Beach, a free camp area that overlooks a magnificent beach. This type of unofficial campsite can be found everywhere in Australia and with a bit of preparation in food supplies and water, it can be a great solution if you, like us, don’t like crowded caravan parks, full of holiday makers. The next day, we stocked up in supplies and fresh water for one more time in nearby Esperance and drove north toward our familiar, from the beginning of our trip, Norseman, to spend the night. Traveling with a vehicle like ours that doesn’t include a bathroom has never been a problem in Australia as toilets and showers go. They are always available and are always very clean and tidy. Tough the one in Norseman, among all the ones we have used, surely claims the fame of the best till today.
For us, this was the last stop in the magical WA as the next day we had planned on taking the coastal route across the continent, via the Nullarbor plains and entering South Australia.
Along that route, we stopped off at Fraser Range Station, and Balladonia, where a small museum included debris from Skylab’s 1979 nearby return to earth (not sure how original the debris was) before reaching Cocklebiddy, an extra 210km further down. Nullarbor is a very unique area as far as landscape goes.
The vegetation and the views in general reminded us a lot of the Argentinean Pampas and as in the Pampas, emptiness gets a whole different meaning out here. It was at this point that Voukefalas drove through Australia’s longest stretch of straight road, 145km with no ups or downs, rights or lefts, just one long, straight road. All I can say is “not possible” till you actually see it!!! Just before crossing the border, we checked out Eucla, with its stunning sand dunes and its pristine wild beaches. Here we found the ruins of the 1877 telegraph station, 5km south of town, that seem like the dunes have started to claim possession in most of it.
As we approached the border, worth mentioning here is that Australia’s different districts and territories are very distinct one from the other. So when you cross over them, it actually feels like you change country. Add to that the present Covid precautions that individual districts have to put in place and you have a full border picture. At least that is how we felt crossing the actual booths that separate WA and SA. Although not stopped or questioned by the authorities at any point, a strange feeling suddenly got us both. It was the first time that we were out of Covid-19 free WA and into South Australia that we had to be on a Covid-19 guard. Till this day (we consider ourselves very lucky for that) we were isolated and therefore protected within WA’s borders. Western Australia took strict measures from early on into this pandemic.
They had stopped or minimized any interstate travel to the absolute necessary. And if you also take into consideration the international band that the whole country has in place, it would be fair to say that WA is a practically Covid-19 free state. Suddenly we found ourselves in need to be conscious of our surroundings. Handshakes are turned down as people avoid giving you their hand. In the caravan parks we were asked where we were coming from and we had to fill in the Covid form. Was this the new reality? It has been a year now and being part of the overlanding community, we had heard but not actually seen the real effect of this new reality. We are not referring to the fact of not being able to travel but to the human interaction.
Everywhere we have been around the globe till this year, one of the things that we enjoyed most was exactly that, the human interaction. It was the first time we came across people keeping distances from us (and we from them). No more warm handshakes, no more getting to know or having a chat. Hugs for goodbyes didn’t even cross our mind. Politely we were all self isolated and kept a distance from any humans in our surroundings. Was just us being oversensitive to it? What happened to “where are you from and tell me your story” attitude? I guess things have changed even in the always warm overlanding and traveling community. I can only hope that time will bring the good times back…
Enough drama now and back to our story. Next on the plan were the wild camps near the Head of Bight, where the viewing platforms overlook a major southern-right-whale breeding ground from May to October. The breeding area is protected by the Great Australian Bight Commonwealth Marine Reserve, the world’s second-largest marine park after the Great Barrier Reef. As we were here in January, there were no whales to watch but that didn’t stop us from finding a great free camp, sheltered from the wind and we camped within the National Park.
Here we met another family from South Australia. Although we spent our night exchanging stories over a couple of drinks, while watching a magnificent sunset, we still kept a safe distance between us, as I mentioned earlier. During our crossing the Head of Bight area, we also checked out Murrawijinie Cave, a large overhang, and had a look at the sign posted coastal lookouts along the top of the 80m-high Bunda Cliffs. It was along that last stretch and just as we pulled up in Nullarbor roadhouse that I received an e-mail stating that my request for extension of Voukefalas stay in Australia was confirmed and that we were granted permission to stay for one more year. What a relief that was!!! With feelings that cannot be described with words and a huge relief from stress (especially from my side as I seem to handle stress in the worst possible way), we picked to turn off the highway at Penong.
Note here that if you are like us, driving east rather than west, SA’s quarantine checkpoint is not until Ceduna. So with our fruit and vegetable supplies still not consumed, we followed the 25km of dirt road across to Point Sinclair and the famous among surfers Cactus Beach, which has three of Australia’s most notorious surf breaks. It was a great spot to spend a couple of days, since now we had all the time in the world, and wind down. As we found out from the caretaker, this area was almost completely destroyed by the uncontrolled free camping and the litter that campers left behind. The damage was so extreme that the government decided to allow private ownership to one of the pioneers here in order to gain control and with very strict rules and regulations allow the natural environment to be rehabilitated, while making sure that in the future the area will remain untouched by the human impact. Further south from here and as we passed the quarantine in Ceduna and entered the peninsula, the oyster capital of Australia was next up. Smokey Bay is a must stop if you like oysters.
As Rochelle does love oysters, I had no chance of convincing her not to stop here. Truth to be told, with 1$ per oyster, I must admit it is an unbeatable bargain. So we got ready for an oyster party. Or so we thought. When you travel, you lose sense of time and with the calendar pointing Sunday, nothing was really open for the party! Streaky Bay was our next oyster stop, a bit further down. Although it looked a bit more alive, it was not any better bet for our oyster hunt. All these small settlements are mostly oyster farmers’ villages and not travelers’ stops. They are not targeting to tourists or their needs and so they are all closed on Sundays. Anyway, to cut the story short, it was not till Coffin Bay at the tip of the peninsula that Rochelle’s oyster fix was finally satisfied. After an oyster based platter at a seaside restaurant, we were good to go.
With an arctic front closing in and cooling the weather, we proceeded towards Port Lincoln, “the Tuna Capital of Australia”. By this point you must think that I am joking with all these fish capitals but that is what is stated in all the touristic brochures and so that is how I refer to them. Port Lincoln is a spread out fishing town and within its promenade someone can see all the action. After arranging the paperwork for Voukefalas at Port Lincoln’s post office, we picked a nice spot a bit outside the city and camped up for a couple of days. Further into our quest, about a week later and after a couple of minor stops in similar small ports, we reached Adelaide, the capital of SA.
More on this though, in our next post. Stay turned, stay safe, stay Covid aware and most of all, stay happy with each other. Best wishes from us, the Overlanddiaries crew for 2021. Remember. “Life is just a journey! Live today, nothing is forever in this world, not even our Covid problems!”