Crossing ‘The Nullarbor’ is an Australian rite of passage. The word Nullarbor comes from the Latin meaning treeless. The Eyre Highway crosses the continent from Port Augusta in South Australia to Norseman in Western Australia and incorporates the Nullarbor section.
We crossed the Nullarbor twice in the summer of 1975 in a yellow daisy patterned canvas topped Mini Moke ‘Californian’ when the last few hundred miles of the road was still unmade. Yes, it was miles back then. Someone told us that we should carry a gun and being young and foolish we did put an old shotgun under the seat. Guns were legal back then but we never asked what it was that we were supposed to shoot. Were we meant to go racing through the scrub waving the blunderbuss and popping off rabbits or something?
Our trusty Mini Moke
Thus we bounced over the corrugations with a large supply of canned smoked oysters, dry biscuits and cold beer in the esky. Oh and a nylon two man tent.
What was the worst thing that happened to us apart from boredom, as there was a lot less to see in those days?
- Well we ran out of petrol once. But that was in the suburbs of Perth late at night after a party. So we had to walk to a phone box. Remember them?
- We ran over a large snake on the way home and for many miles we were convinced that it would crawl up into the car. We had to get out gingerly and peep under.
- We had to pee in the scrub on the odd occasion that we forgot to visit the amenities at a roadhouse.
- We had to drive alongside the new bitumen highway which was blocked, awaiting completion and the ribbon cutting ceremony.
- Have I mentioned the mice? We pulled into the coastal town of Eucla in the dead of night and asked the fuel station attendant (yes, way back then a man would come out and fill your car up, even out in the desert) where we could pitch our tent. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, there’s a mouse plague, they’ll eat your tent.” And sure enough on closer inspection there were millions of the little buggers, a seething mass of mice that had swarmed halfway across the continent eating everything in their path. Without a second thought we checked into the only motel and I was relieved. A nice hot shower to wash off the dust of travelling in an open car for thousands of kilometres. But I stepped out of the bathroom to find Woody’s bare behind sticking out from under the bed. “They’re in here too!” he said. Well it wasn’t that bad, the room was mouse free but all night the blighters munched on heaven knows what in the ceiling. Perhaps we should have used the gun on them. Next morning we were thankful to see that the Moke still had its canvas roof intact.
Forty years later we towed the caravan to Perth in air conditioned comfort, a roof over our heads and arguing over Country & Western or Classical music. Truckies chatting on the CB and all the comforts of home were trailing along behind us and a full pantry except for the smoked oysters.
Best of all was that we had the time to see the sights that the Nullarbor has to offer. There were a couple of magical nights at Pildappa Rock, the pretty town of Ceduna with its clear waters, the awesome Bunda Cliffs on the edge of the Great Australian Bight. And in WA the almost sand dune engulfed Eucla Telegraph Station (mice don’t eat bricks), NASA space junk at Balladonia and the gardens of Fraser Range Station farm stay.