Day 30: last day at Young River. Cape le Grand, Condingup and the Duke of Orleans Bay (in the Young River Station 4WD ute)

You know how bees are precious and in trouble…? well, today I killed an entire swarm. They were like bullets hitting the windscreen. I only knew what it was cause one of them bounced off and blew inside the truck into my lap. Imagine if I’d been on my bike with the vents in the jacket open for airflow – I imagine a few of them would have ended up inside, and not very happy… The guy at the servo (service station) said it happens all the time. There are a lot of bees around here.

Yesterday I had some more wheat, and I must have hit my body’s critical mass for tolerance (which is pretty low) ’cause I woke up in the night and threw it all up. Lucky I made it to the bathroom – it was as violent as it was sudden. No rest for the wicked though. I had been told I have to go East and see Cape Le Grand National Park, visit Condingup and Duke of Orleans Bay before leaving. So I decided to go in the ute. (stopping quickly to vomit from a car isn’t so hard; taking a helmet off quickly when you wear glasses… now that’s another issue… no-one wants to vomit in their helmet).

First stop, the industrial port in Esperance. Very cool:
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Then Cape Le Grand… If you can only see one part of Western Australia and this is it, you’ll never want to leave. (mind, K said wait until I see the Kimberlies). Le Grand Beach and the surrounding landscape:
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IMG_1805.PNG The sign says Beware of Bee swarms, Bee hives in rock crevices, Exploring alone… it doesn’t tell the bees to beware of me though :)

Two views of Frenchman Peak and another cool rock formation:
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Hellfire Bay (gotta love the name):
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Thistle Cove:
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I weirdly mistook the front car in this image for the ute (behind): IMG_1818.PNGThe people who owned the car watched me get in and all started laughing (there were a few of them). At first I though they were laughing because they’d taken all the stuff of the seat and floor and made it clean.. it took me a minute or two to work out it wasn’t my car!

Lucky Bay:
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They actually had a cafe on the beach, I didn’t go though: IMG_1821.PNG

Several views of Rossiter’s Bay (first from afar):
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The ranger at the beginning of the park was French. He was a happy guy. Had been a park ranger in France and now was here. He hadn’t found a full time job yet (was doing short term contracts only still), but was super happy to be here. I suspect he came for love, as much as for the work (I find international relocation is typically for one or the other), but I didn’t ask and can’t be sure. He said his friend worked in parks here, so here he is… It was nice to chat in French for a bit. I never thought to ask him what’s behind all the French place names in WA (there are quite a few in the South west). I guess the French got here “first” and named them, as all good conquerors do. Apparently they were only 2 weeks behind the British on the East Coast, and though the Dutch had “discovered” Australia’s existence and named it Van Dieman’s Land, they hadn’t claimed it as their own. The British did that. If the British had been a little tardy, instead of being a prison for our first hundred occupied years, we might have been baking baguettes!

After Cape Le Grand I went to Condingup as instructed to have their snapper burger (without the bread). It was pretty great. I met two guys there doing a big trip on postie bikes. They’d put nobblies on them and were going off road as much as they could. Had more than 40kg in the panniers, and were carrying about 20kg of fuel. Totally mad and great. I told them to go to Coorabie (Deb and Poggy’s sheep station) ’cause they were off to Fowlers Bay.

From Condingup I went to Wharton Beach in the Duke of Orleans Bay. Funny how everyone drives onto the beaches here. Astonishing how pristine and beautiful they are. There were actually two beaches here. The second one is the famous one, but they were both stark and beautiful (notice the warning for the famous one: snakes, sandbars, strong currents and sharks! Didn’t seem to stop anyone though):
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It was heading here that I hit the swarm of bees… As the guy said, it happens all the time.

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Day 29. Down on the farm (driving around with Johnny)

I got to look after a couple of poddy lambs today:
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they were twins, we found them with their mother who had passed away overnight. I took them in the truck with me, cuddled them, let them piss and poop on the floor at my feet and snuggled them until we could drop them with the three kids who would give them a bottle of milk and let them fall in love. They were 1-2 weeks old.

J picked me up at 7am, and we went with the dogs to a couple of different places including out to the Grass Patch paddocks to check on the sheep over that side. Grass Patch is an hour and a half away (though didn’t seem nearly that far). The land is vast and extraordinary. Some of the paddocks are covered in wild flowers, some have the remains of the last barley crops pushing through – the geometry somehow managing to remain; some have limestone rocks piled up here and there, or gently ordered like a wall at one end. They are all different.

Each mob of sheep actually has a collection of paddocks to run through. We found them all (one mob had been missing for two months at one point, but J is amazing at what he does). We found a couple of fly-blown sheep; the mum of the poddy twins; and one poor sheep who was alive, but had been disembowelled by the crows…

yes. disembowelled by the crows…

apparently they do that.
they can also eat the tongue and eyes of a lamb while it is in the process of being born…

ew.

I never had particularly strong feelings about crows before, but I really don’t like this.

J had to kill it. He said the most humane method is to slit its throat, break it’s neck, then slice through its spinal cord. It sounds kind of brutal, but he did it with speed and respect and the sheep passed quickly and with surprising calm. I felt curiously privileged to be present.

Here are some images from the day, including a sheep that was treated for being fly-blown (a rather unsavoury condition). it was marked blue on its nose, so that Johnny knew he’d done it. It tried to get away by climbing in the truck. very funny:
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one of the dogs that speaks Italian, enjoying the wind:
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sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep, sheep:
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each mob has an alpaca or two – to chase off the dingos. they are fiercely loyal and protective:
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wildflowers:
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and beautiful earth:
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and some pics from the farm:
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here’s a map of the station so you get a sense of the scale. and this doesn’t include the Grass Patch paddocks, which on their own are enormous… (I’ve probably only seen about 1% of it):
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Day 28. Rest Day. Young River Station

It’s good to stay still for a moment.
I washed my clothes:

1.

all of them! (except the ones I was wearing).

I caught up on email and work obligations.

I tried to book in my 20,000km service at BMW in Perth (but spent a lot of time on hold, and had no response to voice mails, emails or online forms I filled out)

I went for a bit of a drive around the station – it’s massive, diverse and beautiful

And spent some time chatting to the work dogs in invented Italian. They were looked after by an Italian girl when they were puppies, and respond best to Italian.

Day 27: 305km. Norseman to Young River Station via Esperance (the Norseman Rock Drilling Competition!)

Yes. The Norseman Rock Drilling Competition. How can I put into words? I volunteered to be a timekeeper, and felt like I was a woman involved in secret men’s mining business. of course there are women miners (they make up about 20% of employees in the mine my timekeeping partner, Brody, works at). Nonetheless, there was a distinct absence of women in the first two rounds, they only really came on board in the Jack and Jill competition (which I wish I hung around to see, but at that point I’d been in the sun way too long and I just wanted to get riding in case the winds came up again). Anyway, here are some pics (notice they fly the Australian _and_ the Aboriginal flag. nice):
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Basically the stand holds a steel tube that’s filled with concrete. In the singles (shown in the pic above), a guy will hold the massive drill and start a hole using a small shaft. When the shaft is in to the depth of a painted marker, they switch shafts out to a big one (like in the picture) and continue through to a bash plate at the back. If they go crooked, they can hit the metal side of the tube and never make it through, in which case they get disqualified. At the end of each round, times are compared and the fastest (not disqualified) wins. There are two timekeepers on each stand and they take the average (or settle for one if there is a mis-time)

In the doubles, they use the long shafts only. The first guy drills through to the back, then the second guy has to drill a unique hole alongside the first, also through to the back. When the second guy hits the back plate the timer stops, the tube is checked to make sure there are two distinct holes and if so they are in and the fastest time wins.

The third competition, which I didn’t stick around for is Jack and Jill. It’s like the singles, except the guy does the drilling with the small shaft and the woman follows up with the large.

here are some spare and some used cement tubes, with single and double holes. They are surprisingly precise: IMG_1272-0.PNG

All in all it’s incredibly phallic, intensely physical and quite strange. The crowds were all gathered to watch. The children either watched or played on the inflatable entertainment. A sausage sizzle was enjoyed by one and all and it was a great (if rather unique) day’s entertainment.
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the thrilled crowd, waiting for the event to start:
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I was glad I volunteered to be a timekeeper as it gave me something to do, and a team to root for (as it was all a little strange). My timekeeping partner, Brody, was a mining engineer. He designs drill plans and explosions for the mines, and could tell me a little how it works… They gave me earplugs (which was good, as the noise was phenomenal), and I was wearing my bike pants and boots, which was good too, as we got totally splattered in the water they used to drill the concrete, and I tripped over at one point as I was stepping over the hoses and went flying, landing face up laughing in the dirt… My filthy cement-water spattered pants and boots:
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the whole day was totally surreal.

I stopped by the railway hotel once more before I left:
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As usual, the pics don’t do it justice – it’s overflowing with old-world charm. Therese, the girl who runs it, has done a lot of jobs over the years. she was a bio ethicist, but gave it up as she could only get so far and felt frustrated (& wasn’t quite ready to do her PhD). She said she was especially frustrated with how she felt scientists thought that ethics could be clearly quantified, ie – this risk is acceptable, this is not – as if it can be set in stone.. Whereas values shift and change and cultural mores are fluid. She put me in touch with her brother who has a cattle station north of Carnarvon. Said he wants to use technology to help solve some of the problems he has dealing with remote issues like cows getting caught in wires and dying of thirst. He said often they get caught and die horrible deaths before he even realises they’re stuck… he’s sure there is some kind of technological solution, but doesn’t want to go in half-cocked and invest in something before the bugs have been ironed out. I have a friend who I think can help him, and I’ll pop in to say hello on my way up north.

From Norseman I headed straight South to Esperance, straight being the operative word:
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I actually stopped for a salad at Salmon Gums roadhouse, so I could cope with the never-ending straight-ness!

When I finally got to Esperance I headed for the harbour to get directions to the Young River Cattle Station where I will hole up for a couple of days R&R and local exploring. My GPS took me to several refineries, before leading me to a gas station (!) where I fuelled up before heading on my way. About 90km out of town, just over the Young River – right on cue – was an orange jerry can by the driveway I needed, and I turned in. I was at my temporary home-for-some-days. woohoo! a cattle station owned by the partner of a very good friend of Bertie. what a fantastic place to stay!

Day 26: 495km. Madura to Norseman, a wild windstorm and the longest stretch of straight road in Australia.

A very different view of the Nullarbor (my personal little collection of road kill):
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I know it’s kind of a gross way to look at it, but every day as I ride across this intensely beautiful land, my gear, my bike and helmet get covered in custard bugs, and it was particularly intense across the Nullarbor. There may be no trees there, but there is certainly a lot of life (well, a little less each time someone drives through I guess, but it seems resilient enough considering).

At Bordertown – at the border between Western and South Australia, there is a quarantine station. Apparently if you have a farm vehicle they make you remove all the dead bugs from your radiator before crossing into Western Australia. They also require everyone to declare and dispose of all fresh fruit and vegetables to prevent the spread of pests and disease across state lines. These kinds of controls have always struck me as a little odd, considering that birds and bugs fly across the border quite freely the whole way along, and cars go through only in one discrete place… anyway, it’s what we do, so I did it with respect (they didn’t make me remove the custard bugs, fortunately. I was able to do that later, after taking this lovely photo).

So here’s the map of my day’s ride. I wanted to get to Kalgoorlie-Boulder, but only got as far as Norseman:
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The longest stretch of straight road in Australia was impressive:
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This sign was quickly followed by my favourite road sign warning to watch for kangaroos, emus and camels. I really wish I had photos from along the way. At one point, coming over a crest the road suddenly seemed to stretch out further than the horizon. According to Bert (wisdom acquired watching Stephen Fry and friends on QI), the horizon sits at a distance of 10km unless something is in the way. The road in front of me seemed to stretch a million miles further. It was astonishing.

and at the end, Monotony Bend.

Let me tell you about Monotony Bend, because I think it’s poorly named. I don’t even know how it was possible, considering that the road leading up to it is interminably straight, but Monotony Bend kind of snuck up on me. I was intrigued by a building to the right of the road and a sign for a community radio station, then suddenly found myself going around a curve. A curve! A bend! I can’t begin to express how much joy I felt. I was laughing out loud, smiling like crazy, my whole body infused with the joy of that curve… and then there was another one! almost straight after the first! another curve! two of them! I had only been expecting one but got two – two full body curves to tilt and bend my bike around. it was glorious. The road after that was straight for another 100km I think (yes – it’s a bit insane), but those two curves brought me so much pleasure – I lived off that pleasure all the way to the next Royal Flying Doctor Service Emergency Runway markers on the road, and got joy out of those too. I even, strangely, started using the speedo on the GPS to count kilometres (until I realised I was counting speed not distance, but it took a while) the first curve was at 125, the second 127 – only 2km later, I told myself, 2km to the second curve, which lasted a whole kilometre (I thought) to 128, then the RFDS Emergency Landing Strip was 10k later, at 138, then strangely also ended at 138 a little while later… it was then that I realised I had been reading the speedo as if it was the odometer (and increasing my speed the whole way along!). I felt like a character in a Seinfeld episode (true). It was funny and odd and I couldn’t help laugh at my innate belief in something that in retrospect made no sense whatsoever… how odd that I took joy in that second curve lasting an entire kilometre when it was probably barely 10 metres long. My sense of time and distance were completely out of whack from the simple joy of curving, after so damned long going straight.

After “the longest stretch of straight road in Australia” there were plenty more long straight roads, which made it feel a little less unique than the title suggests. WA seems to have straight road after straight road after straight road. While it may be efficient in terms of distances from A to B it’s quite tedious to ride. Give me twisties any day, I say!

I stopped to refuel at Balladonia Roadhouse and stumbled upon another BMW tourer – a guy riding a 1200GSA. I introduced myself as riding the baby version of his bike and he retorted: am I supposed to commiserate or congratulate you? Not a super social kind of guy, but he ended up being nice enough. He had a lot of complaints about his bike, explained that he is an alternative person who likes to be alone and no longer lives like others, that he used to be a commercial pilot and now is experimenting with other ways of living and being and understanding his bodily needs, spending his time traversing the Nullarbor between a sheep station in the west, a shack in Mildura (North West Victoria), a houseboat on the River Murray and travels to Asia… I’m not sure if he was embittered, but he didn’t really seem very zen (he spoke a lot about mindfulness, but didn’t seem super mindful). It was curious. a hard conversation to start and an even harder one to finish. When I said I had to go he warned me that there were storms coming so I better hurry if I want to make it through..

My next stop was meant to be Kalgoorlie, but the winds were getting crazy – it like going past a road train without the road train (and nearly getting blown off the road when an actual road train came past). About 10km outside Norseman I watch the top of a tree break in half and blow to the ground. After that I thought I’d better pause at Norseman and reassess. I was chewing through fuel because of the winds, so I refuelled, and asked the girl behind the counter if they had any news. It’s meant to get worse, she said: 95km/hr winds, or more.. They’d already had two trees blow down in town.. I’d be mad to go further. The guy behind me was a truckie and he asked where I was heading. North I said, and he said: you’d be mad, luv. don’t do it. I just came from there – it’s worse than here and there’s far less protection, you’ll get blown right off the road. A woman outside said they’d just come from Kalgoorlie. Her husband was driving and she was busy with something as they came over a hill and she thought he’d swerved to miss a roo-ster, but it was the wind that blew them across the road! Her husband was an ex truckie so a fantastic driver. If it did that to them…

So I found the last room in town, at the local bastion of faded glamour, The Railway Hotel:
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Just before I arrive another tree blew down, hit the power lines and cut off the electricity. As I got off my bike, Therese (the gorgeous woman who runs the place) said I don’t think I can take you. I don’t have enough hot water for the guests I have already, and I don’t have any power… The look on my face must have said it all. She invited me in for a cup of tea (which she couldn’t make), then said look, if you have a head torch, and get in quick for a shower – I probably only have the capacity for 5 showers as I just did a whole load of washing… we can put your bike in the back, protect it from the wind, and you can stay…

It was a backpackers room – with nothing in it but a bed and a TV – $40 a night, with no power. fine by me. anything was better than blowing up to the sky in my tent like Mary Poppins :) clean sheets and a brilliantly quirky atmosphere. from my perspective it was looking good.

So I went up to the local (pub) for dinner and was regaled by tales of a fellow traveler who I’m convinced must have aspergers, had an astonishingly good steak, and watched the crowds get drunk and dance and carry on. There was a good balanced mix of indigenous and whites (such as I’d not seen so far). Plenty of ring-ins as well as locals, as there was a festival on in town, so live music, entertainment and carrying-on, all a little curtailed by the gale force winds, but not enough to stop everyone from having lots of fun.

At 8:25pm I called it a night. I’d been through three time zones and had had two long days riding. For all intensive purposes, I’d been going backwards through time, and my body thought it was 11:25pm. I stayed awake as long as I could, but finally gave in and slept like a baby. clean sheets. full tummy. and plenty of sweet, little dreams.

Day 25: 566kms, Coorabie to Madura: The Nullabor Plain!!!!

Finally, I’m taking on the Nullarbor!
Here’s my map (I used a different, more detailed touristy map, with interest points):
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An info plaque at the Nullarbor Roadhouse (about halfway along):
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and the classic shot at the beginning of the ride:
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Now the Nullarbor is arid and vast, but it is also constantly changing, and runs along the Great Australian Bight, so has endless opportunities to see the desert meet the ocean and to view whales and their calves (May through October) and other sea and bird life.

First stop I made was Head of Bight, to see the whales. The info centre is actually run by Poggy’s sister and brother-in-law. Lovely people also. If you forget how to find Deb and Poggy’s, just drop in to the info centre and ask Terry and Claire:
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I think this is where they live (how beautiful!?):
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Here are the whales (little grey blobs – look closely!):
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There were only a couple, and the water was calm so they were basically bobbing under the water instead of putting on a show. They were awe inspiring anyway, without the show :) so majestic, giant, stunning, raw. But oh how I am missing my wonderful camera with it’s 30x zoom :/

And here’s the view back to the East (no whales in this one):
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You can clearly see the difference in the landscape.

After the whales Terry kindly helped me cut off the recalcitrant combination lock I had used to attach my helmet and jacket to the bike. I don’t normally lock it – it’s only a deterrent anyway, and helps stop my helmet from blowing away. Oh well.. Lock destroyed, helmet intact. Time for me to head West along the Bunda Cliffs.

I stopped at a number of viewing points along the way (I marked the official ones on the map, above. But I also went down an unmarked dirt track… they are open, but you have to be careful)
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another view, for some perspective: IMG_1198.PNG

and more and more and more:
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It was mighty hot and there were loads of bugs and things (sorry it’s blurry, but you get the idea):
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I met some nice people along the way, including the great grand-daughter of Harry Hawker, of Hawker de Haviland fame. A famous pilot, world-renowned builders of airplane engines, and from what Anne said, he built the first motorbike in Australia. I can’t find any reference to it online, but he sounds like the kind of man who would have done it, and family legend is family legend. It was a nice connection :) she’s traveling across in an RV van on her own. She’s been crossing back and forth between Queensland and WA for years, she said. Each time she swears it will be the last time she comes this way (via the Nullarbor), but each time she’s back. She was bird watching when I met her at the first viewing point, and our paths kept crossing all day.

I also met a lovely couple and their girls doing a mad dash from Sydney. They are back in Australia after living in the States for years and are struggling with some familiar things – being a foreigner in your own country, and dealing with an inherent fear of risk in relation to innovation. I don’t want to say it’s endemic here, but it is a problem (as reflected in the government’s approach to research funding, for starters)

I was really struggling with the heat by the end of the day, but instead of stopping at Eucla (which looked decent), I pushed on to Madura – a dog of a place. If you have a choice don’t ever stay there! The free camp 27km East of Madura is supposedly nice, but I didn’t learn that until later, and by the time I got to Madura it was too late to go on (and I didn’t know to go back), so I just sucked it up. I paid for a room (the campsite was disgusting, but the room wasn’t that much better – no aircon, just a noisy fan, no screen door so I couldn’t even leave the door open, no internet or Telstra connection and the toilet didn’t work properly. it was pretty basic… all kind of broken and a bit gross. the sheets were clean though and the bathroom presentable, the shower had good pressure and I was glad to be indoors for the night.

I found an intermittent bar of connection at a picnic table by the truck stop, where I was eaten alive by mozzies…

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the view back to the roadhouse:IMG_1203-0.PNG

The extent of Telstra’s tangible presence here (it’s a phone booth): IMG_1205.PNG
Telstra is Australia’s main telecommunications company… they do reach where others don’t, so I’m very glad I changed over to them, even if they are a bit pathetic in Madura (and a few other remote locations)

and to finish off, this is my favourite road sign:
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you may think that on a treeless plain you could see kangaroos, emus and camels coming for miles, but in some sections the shrubs got quite big (some of them even doing decent impersonations of trees, thankfully, as I had to hide behind some for some private business at one point!) and I’ve heard that emus can be crouched down looking just like brown grass, then suddenly leap up and jump across the road in front of you – intensely stupid birds by all accounts. Having said that, I’ve not seen emus since Curtin Springs, in the red centre; the only kangaroos I’ve seen since then have been dead on the side of the road; and I’m yet to lay my eyes on some wild camels… plenty of opportunities to come though.

Day 24: 340km, Streaky Bay to Murphy’s Haystacks, a quick stop at Ceduna then to the sheep farm at Coolarbie

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):
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From Streaky bay, I headed South to Murphy’s Haystack. At a certain point the turnoff became unpaved.
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I had a funny feeling but thought there would be a sign somewhere, as there were weird industrial farms here and there:
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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:
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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:
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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):
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Sounds good, doesn’t it..?

and here are some pics. They barely capture it, and it’s almost impossible to describe.
First, looking East:
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Then North:
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Some of the buildings:
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The outdoor fire circle for evening gatherings:
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Put together with various found furniture:
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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)
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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!!!!!
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(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:
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and this is the kitchen / dining block at night (it’s very big inside):
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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:
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here they are waiting to get prepped and thrown on the barbie: IMG_1232.PNG
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..) IMG_1234.PNG

The contrast between Coorabie and the wheat fields of Streaky Bay is so stark: IMG_1168.PNG
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.