Our excursion to the “Red Centre” complete, the Stuart Highway was our chosen route south. We’d pass back through Marla, Coober Pedy ( and stop in for 2 days ), Pimba and on to Port Augusta before turning west towards Western Australia where the plan was to spend the next couple of months.   

Some long roads travelled.

Coober Pedy was a first visit for me but a revisit for Lois. The town, famous for opal mining and the fact that ( due to extreme summer heat ) many residents live ( and some businesses operate ) at least partially underground. We thought this may have been a thing of the past but were reliably informed  that approximately 60% of residents still live in this way – a visit to a nearby museum showed exactly how that was ( is ) done – fascinating stuff ! Beyond opal stores, mines and museums the town is the base for visits to the nearby “Breakaways Conservation Park”, an area of unique landscapes and unusual rock formations.

Motel, underground, Coober Pedy.
Coober Pedy.
Lois, Breakaways, Coober Pedy.
Bumped into some Canadian tourists in Coober Pedy – all from BC and shocked to see a van with BC plates !
Turns out they were from near Kelowna ! Small world……
Breakaways rock formations.
Museum, Coober Pedy.
An old underground home, Coober Pedy.

From Coober Pedy south, only Pimba ( and nearby Woomera – famous for rocket testing ) stood between us and Port Augusta, a national crossroads of sorts. Whether by rail or by road, further south lies Adelaide, to the east, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, while to the west there’s really only one major city, Perth- the next place we were headed. There are, of course, many miles in between so rather than simply sit on the Eyre Highway we did a little exploring on the Eyre Peninsula. There was much more to see than we managed to but with a cold spell around there seemed little point exploring its famed southern beaches when we could not swim in them. Whyalla, Cowell, Lock, and Wudinna gave us a glimpse of the area before we meandered on to beautiful Streaky Bay and Ceduna.

Some Woomera trivia.
Rocket park, Woomera.

The “Ghan” railway line, runs from Adelaide to Darwin, here near Woomera. Lots of long straight sections, stretching for miles over the horizon ( like the roads ! ).
The Eyre Peninsula has some famous beaches but it was not warm enough to try them. We stayed in the north.
Whyalla’s unusual jetty.
Silo Art, Cowell, South Australia.
Classically restored Aussie pub, Cowell, South Australia.
Pildappa Rock, Wudinna, South Australia.
The unusual rocks known as Murphy’s Haystacks.
Jetty, Streaky Bay. The swimming area is netted ( wired ) on the left side of the jetty as sharks are common here ( the big ones ! ).

Once in Ceduna thoughts moved to the long drive west. It’s the last major town before Norseman, over 1200kms across Australia’s famous Nullarbor Plain ( so named for the lack of trees ) and a good place to “stock up” – food, water, and ( reasonably priced ) fuel are scarce after Ceduna. The Nullarbor can be long and tiring but we broke the journey up by sharing the driving – a solid tail wind helped us push the van a little harder to soak up the miles. A few sights along the way but the most memorable would certainly be Fowlers Bay and wild camping on the Bunda Cliffs, the latter offering stunning views along the sheer cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. The cliff side camping spots are popular and practically everyone ( with a camping vehicle ) makes an overnight stop there.

Fowlers Bay.
The town, jetty, and sand dunes, Fowlers Bay.
Bunda Cliffs, looking west.
Sunrise, Bunda Cliffs.
Bunda Cliffs

Beyond the Bunda Cliffs, one crosses the West Australian border, sets the clocks back an hour and a half and gives up most fresh fruit and vegetables at the quarantine station – fortunately we came prepared being well coached in advance (thanks Ian and Anne !). Relieved only of some remaining lettuce we were free to enter WA. It’s here that one travels on Australia’s longest straight road; no corners for 144.6kms !

They had a reputation for being thorough but were actually pretty relaxed. Very reasonable.
That was the last we saw of the lettuce !
We were surprised – despite many signs like this animals were actually scarce on the Nullarbor.

Lois takes the helm !
Cruise control territory !
An “endless road” – on Australia’s longest straight road.

Norseman is the first town of any size in WA and it too, like Port Augusta, is a bit of a crossroads. Everyone, and I mean, EVERYONE heading west passes through it but then one decides whether to swing north ( via Coolgardie ) or south ( via Esperance ) on the way to Perth.  

A hike to the mountain near our Norseman wild camp spot. The sun on the red rock was beautiful and the mountain was a great vantage point for the sunset that day.
Sunset, wild camping just outside Norseman.

Esperance was our call, and a good one as it turned out, but more on that and our circuitous route to Perth next blog..!

Till next week….