The Long Drive

Sweetie the Wonder Van loves long drives. 🙂 I’ve done more kms in the last two days than I have in any 4-5 days so far in the trip. But she starts in the morning better than ever (no choke!) and she’s still purring happily at the end of each day. Today it was me who gave in and had to pull in to a roadhouse 80kms short of where I’d hoped to get before dark…

To be honest, I was pretty apprehensive of tackling “the Nullarbor”. It has such a legendary status. But having conquered most of it (I’m writing from Nundroo, less than 200kms from Ceduna) I’m wondering what I was worried about! The drive I did from Darwin to Geraldton in 2006 is probably more dangerous and of more concern – less traffic, greater distance between points of civilisation, wilder country, and cattle. But I guess at that time I was in a funny state of mind – I hadn’t planned to do the trip alone but experienced a change of circumstances that was out of my control and doggedly decided to go ahead with it anyway. So I just got on with it.

This time? I’ve been talking about this drive for nearly 2 years! That’s plenty of time to build a certain level of anxiety. But all unfounded as it happens.

Some notable points of the trip:

Fraser Range Station – what a gem of a place! 100kms east of Norseman, this was my first overnight stop. I chose to go powerless and was therefore placed right by the campers’ kitchen – what a fantastic atmosphere there was in that gorgeous old stone building, with a pot belly roaring and fellow travellers enjoying a drink, dinner and chat around the long table. There was an effervescent French-Canadian woman holding court, whom I couldn’t help but overhear as I made my dinner. At first I found her obnoxious to be honest, she was so dominant. But as the stories continued I realised that she was a good soul, with lots of happiness and positivity to share and I warmed to her pretty quickly. She told how she and her husband met. She was approaching 43 and after a carefree single life, full of much travel and no interest whatsoever in settling down, she had a sudden and undeniable urge to have a baby. Realising she was running out of time, she decided to try a singles night at a local pub, where they advertised a free drink for every punter. When she walked in she got a shock at the age of those inside and decided she would have her glass of wine and get the hell out. But as she waited at the bar, a guy asked her to dance… long story short, they’re now still happily married, and have a grown up daughter of 23yrs, born within a year of them meeting. (and he’s 10yrs younger than her!) Just like that. So maybe there’s hope for me yet! The other thing I like about Fraser Range Station? Randomness. In the covered outdoor area adjacent to the campers’ kitchen, there’s a baby grand piano (nestled under a spa cover for weather protection). And as you enter the property you’re welcomed by the extraordinarily accommodating tree above…

Eyre Hway Roadhouses – yuck. Almost without fail, they are run down, ugly, and look unloved. Some have great staff, a saving grace. But the less I have to do with these places the better I reckon. Eucla looked better than most, and had the best fuel price I saw anywhere, but I had no need to stay there or need for fuel unfortunately! A learning point for next time…

Roadkill State – it’s bizarre, since I passed the border, I don’t think I’ve seen a single dead animal on the road. But in the stretch from Caiguna to the border, I saw more roadkill than I’ve ever seen in my life! It got depressing actually. I know kangaroos are basically vermin, and there’s no lack of them, and that it’s only natural they get knocked over and crows and wedge-tailed eagles make a meal of them, but even so it got a bit much. But not a thing in SA so far – despite the big warning signs about roos, wombats and camels! (or maybe because of the signs?)  Bizarre. I find it hard to believe that wild animals observe state borders. (N.B. slight correction since I continued my journey to Ceduna today after writing this last night – one unidentifiable dead thing on the road. Still, it’s nothing compared to the roadkill state on the other side!)

Not so desolate – the last time I crossed this way, I was 7 going on 8. We had a family holiday late 1980 when we travelled by Greyhound all the way from Perth round to the Gold Coast and back. I remember crossing the Nullarbor – two nights and three days on the coach, my sister and I sleeping under the seats at night so our parents could have two seats each. And I swear I saw not a single tree or hill and only one animal the whole way. At least that’s what I remember. As an adult, with a much greater understanding of the natural environment, I was quite surprised at the diversity actually. Even the actual treeless plain was over before I knew it. Hmm, but I guess the lack of animals still stands, this side of the border at least…

The Bight – not so much because it was the Great Australian Bight particularly, but because I realised it was the first time in two weeks that I’ve seen the sea! It was a happy reunion. 🙂 And I’m looking forward to sticking nearby it as I head around the Eyre Peninsula over the next few days.

Happy truck drivers – I’ve been waving at pretty much every vehicle I pass going the other way. Many wave back – best strike rate with other van drivers and those towing caravans. I wasn’t sure if truck drivers would – and indeed the first morning I decided they were a grumpy lot. Later in the afternoon tho, when their cabs were lit up by the sun, I realised that quite a few were actually waving back! Good for them. It must get a bit tiresome but some clearly still have their sense of humour intact. I also like the little indicator dance some of them do when they’ve passed me and appreciate that I’ve pulled over to the left as much as possible and slowed down as they pass. At least I think that’s what it means!


About Yvette Hollings

Writer, born-again cricket tragic, rookie cricket player, occasional musician and songwriter. I love inspiring stories that empower everyday people.
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