Cycling the Nullarbor, Australia !
The anticipation to cycle through the Nullarbor has finally arrived and it was time to enter this remote landscape on the massive continent of Australia. Developing hundreds of ideas in my head on what to expect and what we will encounter along the way between Ceduna and Norseman.
Traveling and exploring the Nullarbor is the kind of place where you will either love it or totally hate it. Some Australians call it the Nulla-Boring and I can see why… but when you try to see more than the flat-, dry landscapes and endless roads, you experience something quite special.
Pitching your tent in the afternoon with amazing sunsets in the background that’s changing every day and driving off early in the morning with the most spectacular sunrises where the kangaroos hop off into the horizon! The quiet roads, wildlife, silence, birds chirping, cloud formations and your mind able to think clearly without any distractions… Is this not the way to enjoy and explore a country?!?
The Nullarbor consist out of more or less 1200km and don’t be fooled if you see “town names” on Google maps. When you see this sign, take a really deep breath and make sure you know what you are about to do, especially if you are cycling across and your fuel is water and food.
You can plan just so much as you want and what happens next is up to you when you enter the Nullarbor and the right mindset on how to encounter certain difficult situations is critical. O ja, and traveling on a budget makes thing so much more interesting J
There is much more about this amazing, dry, flat destination and what’s happening on and beneath the surface. Hope to be back one day to explore further into the Nullarbor.
Writing this blog on the Nullarbor is one I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while, so here we go….. INTO THE NULLARBOR IN AUSTRALIA!!
Facts on the Nullarbor:
– My highlights: Bunda Cliffs, longest straight road, sunsets and sunrises
– EXPENSIVE – Whether its fuel, accommodation or take away food, you can expect to pay well above ridiculous prices
– World’s largest Limestone Karst landscape
– Animals you can expect to see: Kangaroos, Camels, Wombats, Snakes, Lizards, Southern Write Wales, Dingos, Wedge Tailed Eagles
– 250 Bird Species
– Almost 800 Plant species
– 1200km between Ceduna and Norseman
– Longest Straight Road in Australia
– Lots of flies, including the nice and big horsefly
PART 1 : Ceduna to Eucla (491km – 5 Cycling Days)
1. Ceduna to Penong (73km)
Ceduna is officially the start of the Nullarbor and is the last town with a supermarket where you can stock up on food and necessities. Ceduna is on the coast and I love the feeling I get every time I see the ocean! The views, smells and the vibe around it, are always one to remember.
Our plan was to cross the Nullarbor in 16 days and to give you an idea, we can’t carry more than 7days of food. This was our limit and would have to wing it as we go… not really knowing what we will have to do to make it to Norseman.
Buying light was one plan and we walked out with $82.65 of groceries. Lots of pastas, noodles and a few breads (that will start to mold as we go)…. If you are on a budget make sure you plan ahead and have the things you need to cover your trip through the Nullarbor. If possible carry a bit extra food and water.
Having a nice big afternoon meal, hotdogs and cola, before entering the first bit of unknown destination we will encounter along the way.
When we reached Penong I finally got the feeling… We are in the Nullarbor and here is absolutely nothing!
2. Penong to Nundroo (79km)
Dry, hot, flat and windmills pumping hard to get the water beneath this landscape to give water to the “town” of Penong.
a few small buildings, a garage, one shop and the highway running through Penong. The shop has the ‘1000km to next shop’ sign and believe it or not… Its true.
When leaving Penong, for the first time I had the feeling that we are entering the Nullarbor and I loved that feeling burning inside of me that says….. I WANT MORE!!!!
3. Nundroo to Yalata (55km)
Roadhouses, roadhouses, roadhouses…. This is the one thing you read so much about when doing research on the Nullarbor. Seeing the first real roadhouse was on my list of things to see in Australia, not really realizing seeing one in a few days will make me sick in my stomach… because of prices!
If you have traveled to remote locations you will know what I mean when I say… There might be nothing for hundreds of kilometers, but that specific nothing, at that specific point, is unique, beautiful and so to say… Peaceful. That rare feeling you get when you are there…. Nundroo did not give that to me!! It was windy and it was just not my type of…. “Nothing beautiful”.
Some aboriginal beggars sat on the sidewalk try to get anything from travelers as they pass through and then its dusty, windy and the water…. well it tasted like shit! It was the only water source and it was difficult to hydrate and finally filling all the water bottles to move on to the next location. Filling water bottles was one thing you do when you get the chance, because you never know when there is no water at the next town or location…..
Only 55 kilometers before we can get better tasting water…. Only 55km… Only 55km… thats what I kept repeating every time when I took huge sips of water to stay hydrated in the 36degrees of the Nullarbor.
Yalata in an indigenous protected area and on the maps it said there is a Yalata village, but we were stunned when we got to a sign that said 4km off the highway. We continued for 2km and found a closed roadhouse. There were signs of a caravan park with bathrooms, but there was nothing and everything was locked.
There was a House next to the roadhouse with a scrambler motorcycle racing up and down the dirt roads behind the abandoned building and caravan park. We asked for some water at the house and they provided us with 6l of water. Not knowing if this water will last the next 93km, we headed off..
As we left Leaving Yalata the scenery changed dramatically and suddenly the surroundings became much different than before and out of nowhere it became, NOTHING BEAUTIFUL!
4. Yalata to Nullarbor Roadhouse (93km)
Leaving to nowhere not knowing if the water will be enough, is not the best of feelings and deep inside myself I knew that this will not be the only time I get this crap feeling. Atleast the scenery intrigued me so much that the negative thoughts about water flew out of my head.
It was a beautiful, windless and warm day as we averaged a good speed and the kilometers ticked by. Water was running low, the sweat flowing down my face, a few flies buzzing around my head and just when we thought we gonna call it a day we saw a rest stop sign far in the distance. At that point we have already cycled 118km and knew the last 7km is going to be hard work as we will grind towards the rest stop and hope to get a caravan with some much needed water.
Taking small sips of water did not help as my throat dried out within 5minutes and it feels like the sides of your throat sticks together as I inhale the hot, dry Nullarbor air! The feeling and idea of not having water was starting to become a reality and then 3km before the rest stop I could not believe when I cycled over the hill and there was a downhill until the rest stop turnoff! As I glided down the hill while I giggled like a little girl, because after so much windy and hard cycling days, I could not remember the last time I reached over 35km/h!! Giggling, screaming out of joy and one arm out wide, feeling the cool breeze blowing over my arms and face, I turned into the rest area and the day just became better….. a lot better!!! There was a water tank…. full of water!!!!!
Making use of this unsuspected surprise, we hydrated properly, washed our dishes & clothes and then took the opportunity to wash our hair and my beard :-). We had a huge victory dinner celebrating our furthest distanced cycled to this point (125km), had more water and fell asleep in my tent (without the fly net) under the Milky Way!!
We had 72km left to cycle to Nullarbor Roadhouse and much needed water and victory meal will come more in handy than we thought when we went to bed the previous night.
Within two hours the wind quickly changed from a tailwind to a headwind and every single pedal was hard work as we were crawling closer to Nullarbor Roadhouse. It took us four hours to cycle the final 20km and finally reached our destination!!! We entered the Nullarbor Treeless plain I was totally….. well lets just say VERY TIRED, when I finally turned into the roadhouse. The look on Ula’s face said the same when he turned into the roadhouse 20 minutes after I arrived.
Finding a spot where we could properly nail the tent into the ground that the tents don’t blow away into the horizon. As all my stuff was in my tent, bicycles locked and tent secured I fell asleep before I can count to ten!!
5. Nullarbor Roadhouse to Border Village (192km)
Waking up with strong winds and rain smashing against my tent is not the perfect way to wake up, but after waiting a while, Ula and I screaming between the tents, we decided to take a well needed rest day after we cycled about 615km in the last seven days.
The Nullarbor is a bit different than destinations like Asia or Europe, where you will be able to walk around and explore. Climbing out of your tent, scanning the remote environment, you see nothing and the weather just made it worst. My day consisted out of sleeping, writing, eating (not much), hydrating, taking photos and reading, hoping that the weather will clear as we head towards Border Village and Eucla the next two days.
So… the weather cleared up and we were able to cycle over 230km the next two days, past Eucla.
Someone told me two months ago that the Nullarbor is so flat that you don’t really realize how close the cliffs is from the road, and it turned out to be true!
The Bunda Cliffs… looking at photos you will think they waited for the perfect day to take photos and there is a slim chance to experience it as they advertise them. Yet again I was totally wrong, because as I walked towards the first lookout point, onto a dirt road to the left and slowly approaching the edge of the cliffs, the bright blue crystal clear water appeared and made me just want to jump in and swim (although that is impossible). I was speechless as I stood there for a few minutes without moving or reaching for my camera.
Slowly reaching for my camera, not taking my eyes off this beautiful sight, not wanting to waste any time I available to take in as much possible. I walked on the edge of the cliffs towards the official lookout point, wind soaring over the edges, falcons darted up and down the cliffs, waves smashing against the cliffs below while I was snapping away mentally and with my camera to show everyone back home.
As I cycled away from the cliffs I was so exited to explore and see more in Australia! The past few days has been amazing and while traveling and exploring, discovering these special places and be able to see it with your own eyes is the things that make life worth living for!
People always have excuses why they can’t go and travel, whether it is money, time, danger or age – there are always excuses. Our brilliant day continued when we got the chance to meet the next two amazing elderly couple (64 & 68 years old).
They are running a marathon a day for 365days around Australia!! Talking to them just gave me more to think about when my mind is filling up with negative thoughts and need to overcome them and push on when obstacles are in your way to achieve anything you want. It was a blessing to meet them and be able to talk to them for about 20minutes as our paths closed on the Nullarbor!
We finally crossed the border into Western Australia!! The long South Australian cycle came to an end and we were now in our forth and final Australian territory.
We visited the small and very interesting museum in Eucla and did our final 30km session of the day as we set up camp in another beautiful area in the Nullarbor! Now for the second part of the Nullarbor!