We set off early from Streaky Bay, just as the sun was starting to rise – today was the day I had been waiting for, the day we finally crossed the Nullarbor Plain.
After a quick breakfast stop in Ceduna, where we dined on decent coffee and delicious pastries from the Ceduna Bakehouse, we hit the long road west.
I was behind the wheel of the Avida Birdsville, preferring to do my driving shifts early in the morning – which may surprise my husband, who’s used to me napping in the passenger seat until at least 8am! Less than an hour later, we approached the first highlight of the day (after the pastries) and our next ‘Big Thing’ – Australia’s ‘largest’ (depending on who you ask) windmill at Penong, SA.
Desperate for something to put Penong on the map, a group of locals got together and created a windmill ‘museum’ in the middle of town – the museum is really a large collection of windmills in a field and a shelter explaining the project and the restoration of some of the windmills. It’s a striking scene as you enter Penong, and has no doubt achieved its goal of enticing people to stop here. The centrepiece of the project is the 35ft-plus Comet windmill, which is believed to be the biggest in Australia but, as it’s never been officially measured, it’s a bit hard to know. The collection is eclectic and makes for an interesting rest stop, nonetheless.
ARM OF THE LAW
We had hundreds of kilometres ahead of us to reach our destination of Eucla, WA, so we got moving. Not long after, and just past the community of Yalata, we reached another milestone – the first of those iconic Nullarbor road signs, declaring camels, kangaroos and wombats for the next 92km. We pulled the Birdsville over, and Matt and Steve crossed the road to set up a good spot from which to photograph, directing Ali and I to make several passes of the sign in the motorhome. On, perhaps, our second or third drive-by, we passed a police car – not uncommon out here – however, we watched with interest in our rear-view mirror as the police spotted Matt and Steve and their gear on the side of the road and pulled over to speak to them. We drove on until we found a safe spot to turn around – all the while, mentally running through everything in our heads – yes, we had our seatbelts on; yes, we were licensed to drive the motorhome; yes, it had plates, and so on.
By the time we got back to the boys and pulled over, they were in deep discussion with two officers on the side of the road, and we watched, nervously, I admit, until the whole group burst out laughing. The boys had attracted the cops’ attention due to the fact that there was no vehicle in sight – “We wondered where on earth you’d come from! And how you got out all the way out here with no car!” they exclaimed. Once the guys explained the situation, and we turned up with their transport, it all made sense to the officers, and they were keen to hear all about our trip and have a look through the motorhome. They were stationed at Yalata and invited us back to look around, however, we needed to push on towards Eucla so we left them to it.
The landscape around here surprised us – the vegetation seemed incredibly dense from the road, especially around Yalata – however, drone footage from above showed just how sparse it became just metres back from the roadside. And once we hit the next iconic road sign – ‘Nullarbor Plain – Eastern end of the Treeless Plain’ – it became even more so.
Tearing ourselves away from the amazing views, we jumped back in the Birdsville and continued west, thinking that it was the last we’d see of the coast for a while. About an hour later, we hit the SA/WA border at Border Village – another milestone, especially for me, as it signalled the first time I’d hit ‘home soil’ in almost three years. Adding to the excitement was yet another Big Thing – our third for the day – the Big Kangaroo, complete with jar of Vegemite. The boys couldn’t help but get excited about this one, and even jumped inside its pouch for the obligatory photo!
Having again forgotten to consume all our fruit and veggies, we relinquished most of it to the quarantine officer, however, she did let us keep our carrots and onions, once we’d topped and tailed them! So at least we’d have onions for our burgers that night.
While camping is available at Border Village, we continued across to the Eucla Motel Hotel and Caravan Park – our digs for the night – and were pleasantly surprised at how big and modern the whole complex was.
The late afternoon light was beautiful so after checking in, we high-tailed it out to the nearby Telegraph Station ruins, just a couple of kays down the road. The ruins are said to be haunted and can sometimes be completely covered with windblown sand and unable to be seen. We were pleased they were only half-filled with sand when we arrived, however dismayed to discover that they’ve been almost completely covered with graffiti. Names and dates have been etched into the soft sandstone as well – we found some dating back to 1976 – and, although these markings are technically vandalism, it didn’t seem as bad as the spray-painted tags and profanities. In the fading light, the ruins seemed far from haunted but it wasn’t hard to imagine how eerie it would become after dark.
Back at the caravan park, we discovered an oddity about Eucla – it runs on its own time zone which is unofficial but largely accepted. Having crossed more time zones than we could keep track of, we were all confused by this – and with all our watches, phones, two motorhome clocks and the GPS telling us different times, trying to work out a time to meet in the morning proved harder than it should have!
Check out the Avida Cross Country trip overview!
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The full destination piece appears in Caravan World #565 2017. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!