Tag Archives: Nullarbor

9 – The longest golf course in the world

It's a long haul

It’s a long haul

Apart from the photo stops along the Great Australian Bight the Nullarbor doesn’t have a huge amount to offer the casual tourist. But there is the longest golf course in the world.  The course starts at Kalgoorlie and finishes at Ceduna, with putting greens established at roadhouses along the way. I got up before dawn to get you a picture of the green at Border Village in South Australia.

Border Kangaroo green

Border Kangaroo green

We left Border Village after breakfast, went through the checkpoint into Western Australia again and hit the road. The Nullarbor isn’t completely flat. The ancient shore line is evident here and there, and Eucla itself sits at the top of a rise. From up there the Southern Ocean is visible, just a few kilometres away.

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Please note Dave’s and Andy’s – important to know

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img_5148-2Unlike the railway, running some distance away inland, the highway doesn’t actually pass through much of the real Nullarbor. Which doesn’t mean to say it’s an exciting drive, just that you do see the occasional tree. We saw a few kites (the bird sort) and a couple of emus, but no camels or kangaroos or wombats. But the road signs are fun. Every now and then there’d be a sign warning about ‘roos, camels and wombats “for the next 198km”. We joked about whether the authorities had told the ‘roos, camels and wombats about the distance limit. If they did, the animals ignored them.

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Apparently there are longer straight roads, in Saudi Arabia and USA

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We stopped for coffee at a small roadhouse in the Madura Pass where the road manoeuvres its way over the remains of the cliffs from eons ago. Then on again, listening to Mozart because none of the radio stations had strong enough signals out here.

We reached Norseman at a reasonable hour, then turned left for the run down to Esperance on the south coast. The low-growing scrub was behind us. We drove through typical forest of the region, smallish mallee trees with open canopies and colourful trunks.  Spring with its famous wildflowers was in full swing in the West. The state has received good rainfall at the right time, so there’s a bumper season. Some of the usually dry lakes held water and puddles reflected the trees on both sides of the road. The pastures were lush and green and I’ll bet the sheep were enjoying the unusual bounty.

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Typical semi-desert forest. It has its own beauty.

We booked into a motel for the night, but it didn’t have a restaurant. The proprietor suggested a couple of places in town, but in the end we picked up some take away meals from a noodle house and took them back to our room to eat. Sometimes it’s the best way to go.

 

Crossing the Nullarbor – beware of tourist traps

After a few memorable days at Esperance, it was time to head East, which meant a detour north to meet the Eyre Highway at Norseman. The locals call this trip across the bottom of Australia “crossing the Nullarbor”. The Nullarbor plain takes its name from the latin – no trees. Which is true, but if you’ve been following the trip, you’ll know that happens in a lot of parts of Australia. In fact, the road doesn’t go through much of the Nullarbor at all, because it follows (more or less) the coastline with its towering limestone cliffs. The late, sadly lamented Douglas Adams wrote a wonderful essay about Australia, giving his notion of how the Bight was formed. Do go and read it. I’ll wait over here, shall I?

That was fun, wasn’t it? He’s wrong about the spiders, though. We don’t hold the record there. The snakes are alive and well, by some counts ten of the ten most deadly snakes in the world are Australian. (It depends on what you mean by ‘most deadly’.)

Moving right along. The railroad does go through the Nullarbor Plain and one of the great rail journeys of the world is the trip from Perth, at the Indian Ocean, to Sydney, on the Pacific shores. If you really think about it, you might be able to work out why the train is called the Indian-Pacific. We’ve done that trip and after the train leaves Kalgoorlie, you’d better have a good book with you. A piece of trivia for you – it includes the longest dead straight stretch of track in the world – 478 kilometre (297 mi). We encountered the train further along our journey. Here’s the loco.

Mind you, the road trip isn’t much more interesting than the train trip. It boasts a 146km dead straight section. Although I have to say the food is more regular on the train and you don’t have to stop. A few hardy souls run road houses along the highway’s length, knowing they’ll have a steady clientele. We booked overnight accommodation ahead at Border Village, right on the WA/SA border, a good day’s drive. We don’t drive at night – there’s camels, roos and emus out there, not to mention the min-min lights.

The plain is flat and featureless. For me, what makes it stand out from other places is it’s on limestone and there are no rivers or creeks. I don’t mean ones with water in them – just dry gullies. I’d guess that’s because of the limestone. The rain – what there is – just soaks through and joins the caves and aquifers. Some of you might have heard of the famous caves at Cocklebiddie. If not, there’s your chance.

Not far from Eucla we encountered about the only dip in the whole road, driving down an escarpment. It soon became evident that we were now driving along what used to be a beach, with the limestone coastal cliffs on our left. The real coastal cliffs were a few kilometres over to our right. Eucla itself is one of the few actual towns on the Eyre Highway. The original signal station at Eucla is a short drive away, being swallowed up by a sand dune you can see for miles. It might have been worth a detour if we’d had time.

We crossed the checkpoint from WA into SA and rolled into Border Village at (you guessed it) close on sunset. All I could see was a road house and I suggested we’d better drive on a bit further. But no. WYSIWYG. Please read the sign.

The accommodation at Border Village is small, simple, clean and entirely adequate. It’s a shower, a bed for the night and a roadhouse for dinner and breakfast. Outback places like this are full of characters and Border Village is no exception. We spent a pleasant evening in the pub, downing a beverage or three, bantering with the locals about the football and talking with some fellow travellers. The conversations are always the same.

“Hi. Just got in?”

“Yep. Heading East.”

“Oh, yeah. Where’ve you been?”

And then it’s their turn.

Next day we were planning to stop at Port Augusta. We had a bit of time up our sleeves so we detoured a couple of times to admire the mighty cliffs along the Bight. The second time a road led down to the Head of the Bight, where a sign proclaimed one could also indulge in a spot of whale watching from a platform. Off to the right (west) waves dashed against the cliff. To the east the more civilized beaches began their march around the coast. However, if you wanted to use the platform, you had to pay $15 per adult. This was to walk along a dirt path to the edge of the cliff where a viewing platform had been constructed. Thirty bucks to stand on a deck and maybe see a whale if you’re lucky? No way Jose. I think that sort of thing’s a rip-off. There are two other places you can admire the cliffs for free – and as for whale watching, I can get a much better view at home. So we drove off in a flurry of dust, snorting in affronted disbelief.

We reached Port Augusta at – can I hear you – sunset. Just a little after, actually, which was unfortunate. The town lies at the base of the Flinders Ranges which are spectacular in the last light of afternoon. Oh well. I saw that when we took a train trip to Alice Springs. But that’s another story.