woohoo! I’m staying at the best place ever!
more on that in a moment (first things first)
Here’s my map of today’s journey (going from right to left / East to West):
From Streaky bay, I headed South to Murphy’s Haystack. At a certain point the turnoff became unpaved.
I had a funny feeling but thought there would be a sign somewhere, as there were weird industrial farms here and there:
turns out I had gone way too far and had a choice – keep going for I don’t know how long and see the sea lion colony, or turn back… I hesitated only for a second (& probably did the opposite to what you might expect). I like sea lions. a lot. but I’ve seen them before (at Monterey, under the pier), and I figured the sea lions might be grateful that one less human nosed in on them, so I turned around and headed back. If the truth be known, there were a couple of other things at play too:
1. I hadn’t seen any other cars and didn’t know the condition of the road and was feeling a bit unsure – even though there were farms around, they were many kilometres apart and super industrial. if I came unstuck I may be a long way from help. I didn’t fully have my confidence back yet, and I really didn’t want a repeat of Oodnadatta and the possibility of a week or more without my bike…
2. it’s extremely difficult to be present when one has one’s mind on something else, and my mind was on my impending traverse of the Nullarbor – I was excited. I wanted to tackle this thing, to take it on and I was starting to care less and less about anything else.
This problem of split presence is not uncommon. Meditating helps, but not always enough. On the bike I can sometimes be completely elsewhere for who knows how long and when I come back I’m always startled, wondering if I’ve been as vigilant as I need to be. It doesn’t seem to happen in changing traffic conditions, but on highways sometimes, and on these looooooooooooong rides with hardly a turn.. (terrifying with the thought that a camel, emu or kangaroo might pop out of nowhere and run or hop in front of or towards me).
So I turned around, and went and checked out Murphy’s Haystacks:
They are quite impressive, though miniature compared to Kata Tjuta or the Rock (Uluru). Snuggled safely / neatly tucked away on someone’s farm. Nicely waiting for people to come and look. A little tame, somehow, in comparison to the monoliths in the centre, and they suffered from comparison. They were nice, but to be honest it felt a little like I was ticking off a chore on a list of things to do. It felt like tourist-ing rather than traveling, and while I am arguably doing a bit of both, it leant the wrong way for me / didn’t feel meaningful or fulfilling…
This is looking out across from the entrance to the Haystacks, with my bike parked next to the bucolic green:
I had wondered what the fields of grass were… now I know (wheat is increasingly like poison for me – my body reacts more and more strongly whenever I indulge).
From there I streaked back to Streaky Bay to refuel, then straight up north towards the Nullarbor (yay!)
1. first stop Ceduna, to work out where to stay.
2. order a big salad for breakfast/lunch in case eating later wasn’t an option
3. check Wikicamps (I’m using their app to find campsites)
4. make an incredible find: farm stay on a sheep station in Coorabie, 160km down the road
5. head off for supplies (I was told there would be a cook up, and drinks around the fire)
6. fuel up and start my journey to the West (woohoo!)
So this is Coorabie business card (front and back):
Sounds good, doesn’t it..?
and here are some pics. They barely capture it, and it’s almost impossible to describe.
First, looking East:
Some of the buildings:
The outdoor fire circle for evening gatherings:
Put together with various found furniture:
and a sign from Maralinga! (where the British conducted nuclear testing – on Australian soil, put warning signs up in English, a language the locals didn’t speak or read.. another little blight on our (shared Commonwealth) history. it’s open for tourists to visit now. I would have like to go there, but not enough to take a side journey – it will have to wait for another time)
The couple who run Coorabie – Poggy and Deb, are salt of the earth, gorgeous people. When I called to see if I could stay, Poggy said: You don’t want to stay in a tent, luv, we’ve just put up some cabins and we’ll put you in one for the same price ($20)… there’s no power yet, but I can run an extension cord over for you… you’ll be much more comfortable… and the misses and I will come over later to light the fire, have a few beers and a chat and a bit of a cook up…
hmmm….. hard choice. a brand new comfy mattress in an actual room, or pitch the tent in the dirt… This choice was easy. donga!!!!!
(I’m starting to feel quite fond of dongas, in all their incarnations)
here’s the view from my donga, across to some bigger cabins with a balcony (to the left), and the toilet and shower block (centre), and the edge of the kitchen/dining block to the right:
and this is the kitchen / dining block at night (it’s very big inside):
they ride or drive between buildings. I walked once I got my bike to the donga, but everyone else drove around..
Coorabie Sheep Station is a working farm. Johnny (who has property nearby and runs his sheep in with Poggy and Deb’s) was there with his son (Graham..?) who is a Paramedic in Adelaide. He’d like to take over the farm at some point, but the challenge is he has kids and there’s no longer any school in the area. They don’t have a council in Coorabie, they just kind of run the area themselves. The school closed down some time ago when there weren’t enough kids to keep it going.
P&D’s son Marcus and his partner were also there. Marcus gets terrible hayfever and has become an accountant. His partner is allergic to seafood – goes into anaphylactic shock if she comes anywhere near it. they were a quirky pair. young and fresh. grew up together in the area, now living in Ceduna, 160km down the road.
Two Vietnam vets who had been going there for 10 years were also there. Bill and (..?). Nice blokes. 79 and 80 years old. Seen a thing or two. One of them was born in Germany and immigrated to Australia in 1956 at the age of 11. His memories of Germany were of being so poor they could hardly eat, and bricks and rubble everywhere as the whole place was basically flattened to the ground. he said he remembers going into the cathedral in Köln – it was the only thing left standing. People don’t talk about this stuff much. It was nice to get some impressions. He also spoke a little about how his character changed with his time in Vietnam, and that he was one of only two who were still with their first wife. They are quite open about the challenges of PTSD, and I think the way it’s formally recognised now helps a lot, as does having the kind of spaces provided by Deb and Poggy. Plenty of time and place for fishing, and just hanging out, total acceptance.
Now there are rumours going around that I actually caught these fish:
here they are waiting to get prepped and thrown on the barbie:
I would call them Bream, but they call them something else here. They were fresh from the ocean, and absolutely delicious. We cooked them up on the barbecue with some sausages, and ate like kings (they all had loads of bread and potatoes with the fish and meat – the amount of wheat and potatoes people eat is quite astonishing to me, as I can’t really eat either, and prefer to eat paleo: grain, potato, sugar and mostly dairy free)
It got quite cold, but they had fashioned instant heating for the iron chairs, which was perfect – very effective (though they are still working out how to heat the back..)
The contrast between Coorabie and the wheat fields of Streaky Bay is so stark:
and it’s only a few hundred kilometres difference.
Such a land of contrasts.
Despite Coorabie looking so arid, the sheep farming does seem a bit more coherent as far as land use goes… The entire station is 50,000 acres (massive), only 10,000 is used for active grazing, the rest is looked after, but left wild. Poggy said he drives 700km a day just checking water and fences etc. It’s so different from anything I know.