Leaving Ceduna on New Years Eve was a hard decision. The place has everything required for a quality Aussie NYE – sun, sea and cold, cold beer. But – in typical Hewes style – we elected to wake at 4am and hit the road before the sun had risen to shake our fellow campers awake with her heat ray-gun.
Our goal? The Nullabor Plain. This iconic Australian road was the actual purpose of our trip. Just like Wikipedia says:
‘Crossing the Nullarbor’, for many Australians, is a quintessential experience of the ‘Australian Outback’.
My hubby has been dreaming of this trip for a long time.
The conditions weren’t ideal for our trip, considering the temperature was tipped to exceed 40 degrees. And boy did we feel the heat! Once we ‘broke on through’ to WA via the quarantine inspection station, we were on the Nullabor Plain. As we drove we were shocked to see trees – OK, they were more like large shrubs, but to be honest I’d imagined a two-lane highway flanked by a desert resembling a salt lake. This was more like the desert of the Barrier Highway only with the occasional tallish shrub. After paying over $2 a litre for petrol at the Nullabor Roadhouse, we found ourselves driving for hours and hours at 70k/h in 40+ degree heat. By the time we reached Eucla we were all in agreeance with Mr Eyre (the first European to cross the Nullabor) when he said that the Nullabor is:
“a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams”
We piled out of our Kombi – which was more like a giant steel oven – and found ourselves lying in the shade at the Eucla Roadhouse playground. The thermometre read 45 degrees – and it was in the shade! Our poor puppies were making a sorrowful symphony with their heavy panting and all we could do to keep them cool was pour water over them and try to get them to eat ice. Chino decided that olives were tastier – don’t think those salty morsels helped her keep hydrated!
After snoozing on the ground intermittently, we gathered our courage and headed back into the heat – our goal was another 180kms. As the locals say, ‘The 100kms you do today, you don’t have to do tomorrow.’ This leg, for me, was the worst. The desert wind whipped through the van, smacking me sharply in the face and stinging my eyes. I tried unsuccessfully to escape the heat that was pouring through the front vents of the dash, but simply found myself with my head in my lap. If you don’t know, Kombis are air-cooled and don’t have air-conditioning. We had every possible window open and the tail-gate open, but poor Kombi was doing its best just to charge on, considering the air that was meant to cool its engine was over 45 degrees!
We crawled into Mundrabilla at 3.30 in the afternoon. The roadhouse has a caravan park which is just some desert ground indicated with a ring of stones. We just looked around and laughed – what a place to spend New Years Eve! We didn’t care though, it had showers with cool water and a bar with cold beer.
We were treated to the most beautiful hospitality – great food, a game of pool and a laugh. When the sun set and the heat finally receded a little, our boys covered themselves (and our dogs!) in glow sticks and danced around whilst we sat on the classy fold-up camp chairs sipping cheap wine from plastic cups. Oh, and we played Bingo!
Heat exhaustion beat us and we headed to bed before bringing in the New Year, only to be woken by the barking of our puppy and the cracks of fireworks exploding directly above our van. Fireworks in the middle of the Nullabor on New Years Eve? Yup! The locals of Mundrabilla – all 15 of them – put on a great little amateur fireworks display. We sat consoling our nervous puppies and laughing at our luck.
That brings me to today … here we sit in our Kombi, free-camping at the Esperance showground. We woke at 4am this morning and drove 600kms from Mundrabilla via Norseman – in the rain! Yup … after the insanity of the heat on NYE, we were given a reprieve on New Years Day – thanks 2012! Making it to Esperance was a mission, but we’re glad we pushed on …