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Bill Leithhead's WA Trip Diary
Segment 14 - Days 76 to 82 - Esperance Day 6 then across Nullarbor to Port Lincoln (SA)
© William G. Leithhead 2006

Day 76    unday, October 28th, 2001
Sixth day touring Esperance

Stiff and sore from yesterday's exertions, we slept in, and looked to fill in the day, which we did simply and satisfyingly, basically wandering around jetties!

Esperance Boat Harbour and wharves
TLimpid waters at Esperance Boat Harbour and the wharves. Huge ships load iron ore which is railed hundreds of kilometres from Koolyanobbing, north of Southern cross.
Being Sunday, not much was open, and we got newspapers, pens, birthday cards, then decided to get pies, two each plus a shared apple pie, which we ate on the yacht club jetty surrounded by seagulls as we dangled our legs over shallow apple-green water. Under our legs, a cacophony of conglomerated seagulls (about 26 in all), paddled jerkily, expectantly at our feet. As we haughtily deigned to toss occasional discarded crusts amidst them, we enjoyed watching them paddle furiously, spin on a spot, haggle and heckle each other viciously, all for the sake of our cast-off crumbs. Then a big Pacific Gull arrived and showed 'em who was boss!

Cruise ship 'Seabreeze'
The cruise ship "Seabreeze" looked so inviting that we decided to do a cruise to the islands tomorrow.
More jetty-bumming led us to resolve to "do a cruise" tomorrow, so we will. Repairing to the ever-popular Taylor's Tearooms overlooking the foreshore, we savoured Honey and Cinnamon, and Mulberry Cheesecakes and good old cappo, while we engaged the couple at the next table in conversation over travel, the world in general, and the rest of it. They were from Rosanna, a Melbourne suburb, and we all chatted brightly whilst watching a huge tanker being docked, attended by two fussy buzzy tugs.

Sammy sealion
"Sammy" the sealion waits expectantly near the Esperance Tanker Jetty for any scraps thrown to him by fishermen as they clean their catch at a cleaning bench. There is a sculpture of him in the main esplanade.
We had done the same at lunch yesterday at beautiful Lucky Bay. It's interesting that we're all going in different directions for different reasons in different car-caravan combos, but we all seem to share the same feelings and attitudes about the places, the country, and the general ambience - mostly enjoyable. It seems that Australians love their country.

To complete the afternoon, we enjoyed a long perambulation along the long, old Tanker Jetty, close to our van park. We watched a "resident" sea lion ("Sammy") beg eagerly, just like a dog, for fish scraps from fishermen cleaning their catch at a special fish bench with washing facilities. There is an attractive sculpture at a roundabout in the middle of town celebrating Sammy and his mates. Drinking in the ambience of the sea and sky, we still needed jumpers and wind jackets against the cold breeze!!

Back home we read and slept, had a chicken salad, did the usual chores and hit the hay for a 9am trip tomorrow, then ready for departure towards home on Tuesday.

Day 77    Monday, October 29th, 2001
Seventh day touring around Esperance

Blue Haven beach rocks
Rocks at Blue Haven Beach seen from cruise ship in sight of a gathering storm.
Charley Island
Charley Island, one of the many near Esperance.
Our last full day at Esperance started grey, then dark grey and rain, then blue and beautiful.

We boarded the Seabreeze, a powerful catamaran which can hold 120, and spent an enjoyable 4 hours touring around the Bay of Isles visiting Button, Rabbit, Charlie, Curtis and Seal Islands and isolated rocks. After landing on the larger Woody Island, we had morning tea and an excellent walk, with Jenny, our guide, wearing fetching shorts under which shown many a goose-pimple as we all flinched in the face of the occasional spray, wind and drizzle!

Woody Island main buildings
Reception buildings at Woody Island snuggle welcomingly amongst the colourful rocks surrounded by native bush.
Woody Island anchorage
The "Seabreeze" at anchor in the small bay at Woody Island, only a 40 minute boat trip from Esperance.
An excellent trip at $48 each, it took us past cliffs and beaches we've recently visited, and among outlying islands in a stunning kaleidoscope of orange, red, ochre, and all manner of artistic iron-staining and streaking. This, set off nicely by the vibrant green foliage and occasional sepulchral staining by layers of seabird droppings, made an entrancing view. We learned that most islands were uninhabited, and some, but not all, were infested with Death Adders! Nevertheless, some had Cape Barren geese, and others had goats. Woody Island itself has excellent tourist accomodation from cabins to camping, and has superb views across the bay to Cape Le Grand.

Woody Island view 1
Scenic view from Woody Island.
Woody Island view 2
Another pleasing view from Woody Island.
Nervously, we all enjoyed the sight of savage rocks in mid-ocean being lashed and swallowed by the swell of the sea as our skipper edged perilously to within 10m of them! Photography was difficult with the pitching of the catamaran and the stinging lash of the determined marine showers we ran into. Glenyce stayed in the bow or the stern in the teeth of the elements while Bill skulked and darted about, bracing himself against heaving handrails and now and again retreating to to comfortable seats inside to wipe his camera and his specs clean.

After lunch, back at the van, Glenyce did another large load of washing while Bill slept and then packed up. Then we bought fish and chips for tea - they were in fact rather expensive - they're not cheap anywhere these days, even at the seaside!

After diary-writing and photo-filing we took to our bunks, rather tired but happy with the day's fun.

Day 78    Tuesday, October 30th, 2001
Esperance to Balladonia

Graced by a beautiful blue sky, it came for us to leave Esperance; however, the day clouded over by lunchtime at Salmon Gums, became humid with the odd rain spots, and was then cool and overcast when we stopped at Balladonia, the first leg of our Nullarbor return trip.

Unknown Grevillea blossom seen near Salmon Gums.
Eucalypt and butterfly
Butterfly lands on blossoms, possibly of Albany Blackbutt (Eucalypt staeri).
Actually, it wasn't long before we stopped to photograph some nice flowers on the way to Salmon Gums, where we had lunch in the van. We found some new flowers - a brilliant yellow little pea-like prostrate, and a lot of a light pink bushy grevillea, and some yellow eucalypt blossoms complete with an obliging butterfly.

From Norseman we headed east along the Eyre Highway into the characteristically red-soiled arid woodlands of salmon gums and salt-bush, and noted how thickly wooded it can be.

Eyre Highway
Eyre Highway near the place where we struck an emu on the way over. They are hard to see and then just dash in front of the car. We saw two more today!
Having turned full circle in WA by closing the loop at Norseman, we approached the scene of the crime with the emu-strike on the way over (on Day 6). Would you believe, we saw 2 large emus, each within 1km of each other, near the very same spot! We saw nothing else except them.

Travelling well, we looked at Fraser Range Station, where we had thought to stay, and saw that at this time, power was restricted to lighting, but we need the fridge on overnight, as the pilot light is kaput! (We run on gas while travelling, and electricity while parked, so we need the power to cool down the fridge for the day's travelling.)

NB: Now in 2004, Fraser Range has new management, and is becoming well-developed.

NORSEMAN - A Different Viewpoint

After communications from a local resident, it is obvious that Norseman has more to offer than meets the eye, as can be seen in these links:-

Norseman-based Photographer - Lynn Webb
Norseman - Nullarbornet travel website
Norseman - Dundas Shire website
Norseman - Dundas Post website

Reaching Balladonia Roadhouse at at 5pm, we hooked in, had a drink and a roast dinner ($12-50 each, large plates), then we relaxed, looked at their interesting museum, Bill played a couple of times on the antique goanna (as he did on the way over), and after more photo-shuffling and titling, we again hit the hay.

Day 79    Wednesday, October 31st, 2001
Balladonia to Mundrabilla (in the Nullarbor)

Caiguna blowhole
Glenyce feels the strong updraft from one of the many Nullarbor cave blowholes.
Mundrabilla Bottle Tree
This is a caption to go underneath an image
Leaving Balladonia, we travelled through low scrub and saltbush along the very straight stretches of the Nullarbor, to Caiguna, where we stood just off the highway and felt the cool, dank air issuing strongly from a circular hole in the limestone down to the fathomless caverns which riddle the Nullarbor. When there is a low pressure weather pattern the air comes out, and when there is a high, it goes into the caves.

Nullarbor rainstorm
It rained on us in both directions travelling the Nullarbor, supposedly a desert! Short rainshowers are not uncommon, it seems.
Meandering along to Cocklebiddy, where we had slept coming over, we were overtaken by extremely heavy showers (again!) on this desert journey, and gradually drove out of it into clear blue skies.

Traversing the abruptly-rising slopes of Madura Pass, which relieves the flat monotony of the plains, we followed the Hampton Tablelands, a geographical feature bordering the northern side of the highway from Madura to Eucla as a low (about 50m) rocky range, sprinked with light bushes and surprisingly green scrub all the way for about 170km.

Highway air strips
Along the Eyre Highway a number of signs indicate its use as a landing strip for the Flying Doctor, where the highway is specially widened.
As we drove, an ominous grey weather front gradually presented itself, looming inexorably over the Hampton Tablelands, and, as we pulled into Mundrabilla, the menace grew obvious, so we pulled in for the night to the extremely modest van park. Because of water shortages, we weren't supposed to fill our electric jug from the amenities washbasins, but guiltily we did, and we battened down the hatch (literally) as we cooked tea, with lightning coruscating vigorously over the hills, the thunder rolling, and the rain pelting down.

Nearby was a pile of old wrecked cars, a moth-eaten menagerie of geese, a peacock (we kid you not), a mangy donkey, a very hairy pig, and a satanic-looking goat, all of which squawked, screamed, brayed, oinked and meeh'ed in consternation at the elements. It was surreal!

Later on, the skies cleared, the moon shone, and we could clearly see and hear an interminable procession of monster road-trains passing through, and in and out. Nevertheless, we settled down for a good night's sleep.

Day 80    Thursday, November 1st, 2001
Mundrabilla to Fowler's Bay

Eucla Pass
View back to the west from Eucla Pass.
As we journeyed further east across the continent, the day dawned mild and cloudy, with some flashes of nice blue sky, especially around the Head of Bight. At Eucla Pass we left the Hampton Tablelands behind, passed through the WA-SA border (no quarantine check until Ceduna, going east), and traversed quite undulating woodland which soon flattened down to the Nullarbor Plain proper, close to the coastal dunes and cliffs.

Merdayerrah Sandpatch
Merdayerrah Sandpatch dunes near Eucla at the western end of the Nullarbor Cliffs.
Although we photographed all this coming over, we again looked at all the turnoffs, marvelling at the wild blue beauty of the Southern Ocean in the Bight, firstly at the Merdayerrah Sandpatch dunes near Eucla, which rapidly rise to the east as the distinctive Bunda Cliffs, precipitously dropping straight to the ceaseless, turbulent cerulean waters which eternally spend themselves whitely against the ancient limestone continental cliffs.

Bunda Cliffs
Bunda Cliffs along the Great Australian Bight, viewed to the east.
We must have pulled in 6 or 7 times to these sites, then passing through Nullarbor Roadhouse (well, not literally!) to the Head of Bight, famous whale-watching spot from which all the whales seem to have gone back to Antarctica for the summer. However, we did enjoy watching the last of these cliffs with their unforgettable ocean colour set off against a background of white, white dunes, topped off by obliging cumulus clouds.

Yalata phone sign
Useful road sign near Yalata shows that help is close at hand!
We saw a dingo on the roadside, too, being harried by a crow! Bill also saw a live snake (a King Brown, we think), and we both saw dead snakes and live lizards - oh! - and eagles! The man at Nullarbor told us that they frequently encounter large, highly poisonous King Browns around the living quarters.

Through Yalata and Nundroo we branched off via a gravel road to that strange little hamlet of Fowler's Bay, where we stayed the night in modest comfort and shared a slap-up meal of curried egg and pasta, followed by a luscious mango!

Day 81    Friday, November 2nd, 2001
Fowler's Bay to Elliston (Eyre Peninsula, SA)

Fowler's Bay intersection
Bustling traffic at the Fowler's Bay main intersection will soon need a roundabout or even lights!
Leaving Fowler's Bay, we drove along 30-odd km of the roughest road so far met. It was all rocky patches, joint-rattling corrugations and dust - it hadn't been that bad on Day 4 of our trip!. Gratefully, we got to Penong, and set off to Ceduna in bright sunshine with clouds.

Wishing to lunch early before passing through the Ceduna customs inspection point, where we had to give up unused vegies and fruit, we pulled off the roadside and found the bush flies unnumerable and persistent in a dirty, dry, scrubby little turnoff.

Fowler's Bay laundromat
At Fowler's Bay the lavish laundromat must rival the pub for exciting night life!
Ceduna township allowed replenishment of the few items of fruit and vegetables confiscated by the fruit fly inpectors, and we made our way through the dry, dirty yellow, unappealing landscape through Smoky Bay, to Streaky Bay, where we sat on the Esplanade near the pub, sipping beer and cider, watching a local "lady of the night" wander around vaguely. The bay was just flat, slate-grey-blue water with the usual longish jetty and lack-lustre shorelines where the grubby yellow paddocks imperceptibly metamorphise into the uninviting sea.

The day was hot, the landscape boring, and the Nullarbor in retrospect seemed like a verdant pasture. Any turnoffs to likely seaside spots were gravel, so, having had enough of that, we showed little interest in Point Labatt, Baird Bay, Port Kenny and Venus Bay.

Streaky Bay jetty
The never-ending jetty at Streaky Bay.
Reaching Elliston, a town apparently on its last legs (like Bill), we settled in and went to the local pub. Glenyce had grilled whiting and Bill had fillet steaks and prawns. Delicious, but slightly extravagant. Enervated by the meal and the wine, we walked to look at the lustrous black water under the glittering stars, and settled in for the big snooze. Bill did a few more photo-titling tasks, and we now have all place names written in for all 5 volumes of photos.


Day 82    Saturday, November 3rd, 2001
Elliston to Port Lincoln

Typical landscape travelling down the western edge of the Eyre peninsula. This is the approach to Coffin bay.
The day dawned brightly; so did Glenyce. But Bill didn't! Tardily, we breakfasted and wearily wound our woebegone way to the "Bakery", which was shut; couldn't find the garage and pushed on. Oh, we looked at the bay again, took a photo and nicked off hoping for greener pastures, which we eventually found, in that the country gradually became less dry, with greener shrubs, more wildflowers (red callistemon) and the odd dead snake on the road.

Cummin's Lookout cracked cliffs
Heavily cracked cliffs at Cummin's Lookout indicate the everpresent danger for the foolhardy.
We looked at Cummin's lookout near Lake Hamilton, with deeply faulted, cracked limestone cliffs overlooking a nice bay with greyish-blue water and millions of flies.

Everlasting with green moth
Everlasting daisies (Bracteantha species) bloomed prolifically nearby and a green insect settled obligingly for me.
Eventually we got to Coffin Bay for lunch, which we had beside the water at a huge boat ramp with a hundred trailers lined up, the boats all out fishing! Guiltily, Bill picked white everlastings from the roadside, and we had a good lunch, spiced by the fact that within 100m there were 2 dead snakes on the roadside! Going out, we went to a lookout, and both saw a lively black snake dart off the road just in front of us. The view was lousy, too. Coffin Bay was named after a Mr. Coffin, a 19th century sailor, and not for the potential effects of the snake population.

Small mountain ranges came in view as we approached Port Lincoln, a sizeable town on Boston Bay, at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula. Our chosen van park was grassy and unshaded, with narrow spots. This allowed us a 2-day pause to rest, do washing, and recuperate. There is a cool breeze, but not bad. We'll see what the morrow shows us as we sleep, digesting chillied salmon and pasta.

© William G. Leithhead 2006