October 18, 2002 - Eucla 351km, 218mi ***

Riding with the Scandinavians yesterday, we finished early. Just in case I rode with them today, I went for a brief solo ride at the end of the day to catch the local distance and information signs.

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This second sign presents a challenge. For some reason, South Australia (Adelaide) is on the half hour. That is, when it’s 9AM in Sydney, it’s 8:30AM in Adelaide and 7AM in Perth. Even more confusing is how they get there. Heading east, you go through two 45 minute time zone changes. For those of us that are just passing through, this is a confusing irritant. For the poor 500 souls or so that live in these 11 roadhouses scattered along 1200 miles of outback, it seems to be an insult. These people are isolated and they actually leave their clocks on Perth time so they know, among other things (like what’s on TV when) what time it is somewhere. No daylight savings time either.

The wind howled all night, and in the metal buildings there was a lot of clatter. I left at 5AM, saw the sunrise, and realized that during the night it rained in the Nullarbor.

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Coincidentally, when paying for dinner last night, I asked the clerk/guy when it rained last here. He said something like “I’ve been here four months and seen bugger all.” I took it that it didn’t rain here at all. But everything looked greener and fresher in the morning. I saw lots of kangaroos very early in the morning, some of them (actually dozens) still alive. They were all over the place. Migrating in packs. Hopping around at random individually. But the road kill was incredible. It would disgust to go into detail here, you really have to see it to believe it.

In spite of the road kill, there was incredibly little traffic all day, just as there has been since leaving Albany a few days ago. The first two hours there was little wind, and I averaged just over 30kmh. Of the 11 Roadhouses scattered across the John Eyre Highway across the Nullarbor (including those at the beginning and end) and I’ve made it among my missions to photograph the sign and roadhouse itself of each. The first one I got to today (where I wanted to stay last night, 66km past Calguna) was Cocklebiddy. (Roadhouses to date rated at the end of this update)

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Just past here I came to another unique feature of Australia – “vermin proof”, or as it used to be called “rabbit proof” fence. Australia has a 150+ year history of trying to stop the spread of invasive species (were not talking humans here, so long as they live “like Australians”). They build thousands of kilometers of fences designed to stop the spread of foxes, rabbits, etc., that kill indigenous species by eating them or their food. These grids are hard to ride or walk across.

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After that it was Madura, but after the sign and before the roadhouse was a hill

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I didn’t realize it, but I was on an inland plateau. The road dropped down to a coastal plateau. Except for this one downhill, it has been fairly flat (no legitimate climbs) for 3 or 4 days now. If these roadhouses seem a bit “well used”, desolate and empty, you get it. Madura, 147km from Caiguna (last nights home) is where the Scandinavians were going to spend tonight. They left two hours after me, and they probably got here around 1PM. Thought the next roadhouse, Mundrabilla, was another 116km down the road, I knew I could make it. On the way, I got a shot of this 3-fer.

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This is 60 km from Mundrabilla, with a 584 mile marker (from Norseman), and a sign that indicates that this part of the road is also a runway for the Royal Flying (Free?) Doctor’s Service, another handy piece of Australian folklore (and reality). The roads around here were blazingly flat, usually straight, and blended into the sky.

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281 km into the day, a record distance for me, I came to the Mundrabilla Roadhouse.

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It was 3:30PM. I usually try for 100km by noon, 160km (100 miles) by 3PM. Leaving at 5AM, with flat roads and favorable to neutral winds, I was at 100km at 8:30AM (this is when I leave sometimes), 200km just after noon, and at this 281km at 3:30P. My body wanted to stop. My mind said this is maybe the only chance in your life you’ll ever ride more than 300km and 200mi in one day. I had an ice cream, a coke, and bought 4 more Gatorades, and took off (partially because the Mundrabilla roadhouse was depressing). Only 68km to Eucla, and an insurmountable record breaking day….

20km outside Eucla, as the sun was setting, just before the 200 mile point, I took this 3fer which combines the mileage sign, me, and on the road a bunch of crows eating a fresh road kill kangaroo. (A common site. All the birds around here are fat, fat, fat.)

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Since I caught a picture of the sunrise, I thought the sunset would be a nice compliment. It is really quite dramatic in person. Perfect silence, and you see the sun move as it sets.

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When the sun goes down, it gets dark and cold fast. I put back on my windbreaker, turned on my flashing red taillight and rode off. The last picture of the day

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After this, in the dark, a cruel joke: a multi-km climb back up to the upper plateau to get to the roadhouse (in the dark and cold.) It was too dark to take a meaningful picture of the roadhouse, but this is maybe the nicest one yet. I need to get one tomorrow AM to complete my series.

( Oct 18, 10:52P Eucla)

– Roadhouse Ratings: (those in Western Australia so far). I give 1 star each for existence, general quality, license (can you get a drink there), good restaurant, and supplemental features (such as a museum). Here are the Roadhouses, their rating and their phone numbers.

Balladonia ***** 9039 3453
Caiguna * 9039 3459
Cocklebiddy *** 9039 3462
Madura *** 9039 3464
Mundrabilla ** 9039 3465
Eucla ***** 9039 3468

(Note how close the phone numbers are. The only things around here are the roadhouses (no farms or businesses) and they don’t have separate phone numbers for their hotel, gas station, hotel rooms, etc., just one for the roadhouse.

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