Trip to Western Australia – Main purpose is to witness a total solar eclipse in Exmouth WA on 20th April 2023
We are travelling in a Mazda CX5 AWD and towing our new cub explorer, camper trailer. We are travelling for around 7 weeks from Blue Mountains NSW Australia, through South Australia and onto Western Australia. There is a lot to see so I will be writing this as I go in sections.
Hazelbrook, Blue Mountains to Broken Hill.
Currently writing this blog while crossing the Nullarbor Plains. An experience I would never have contemplated over the last 70 years.
It is interesting that the feeling we have when leaving Ceduna, the start of the Nullarbor, is one of excitement, given that we have just travelled over 2000km from Sydney via Broken Hill, Port Augusta, Gawler Ranges, along many long roads with very little distraction to break the endless plains. Stretching for hundreds of kilometres either side of the road . The prospect of continuing that pattern with even less obstacles to take the eye away from the endless broken white line should seem daunting, rather than exciting.
Of course, so far along the way there has in fact been points of interest which could easily be dismissed if your mindset does not appreciate the history or the beauty of the Australian landscape.Starting off from home the rain was gently falling, leaving us with a feeling of trepidation. We left at 7.30am with a 7 to 8 hr drive ahead of us.The prospect of our first night being one in the rain was not exciting. Never fear as we left Sydney we left the rain behind us. Cobar NSW approximately 600 kms being our first stop.The first day of driving was passing through towns familiar to us so little to report. What we did experience later in the day was the massive wide load trucks transporting machinery across the countryside. These require lead warning vehicles to clear the road. We came across several, some with 2 or 3 lead cars. Each time there is a need to slow down, pull to the side of the road or even stop. Add to this the very lengthy road trains which are frequent and constant, it makes a long drive interesting.
Entering Cobar, you are confronted with a huge rusty iron, town sign representing the look of the mining industry in all its glory.
Our main purpose here was to find a free camp for the night. We relied on the wiki camps app and headed to Cobar Reservoir, where we were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful spacious campground surrounding a reservoir of water in the centre. Once setup we took a walk around the water to stretch our legs before settling down with a cool glass of wine and a relaxing evening. It was a quiet, free, and safe spot.
The next morning, we planned an early getaway, anticipating another long drive to Broken Hill. Along the way we visited Mt Grenfell historical site. Passing, many goats, kangaroos, and emu’s the drive was pleasant and a short walk from the car park we were able to site a significant show of aboriginal art under a few overhanging rock formations. Pushing on we stopped for petrol at Wilcannia. Such a surprising place, the contrast of preserved historical sandstone buildings next door to abandoned residence’s and dilapidated, bordered up shops. It created a vision of beauty and a yet a feeling of sadness. Even though the town itself sits along a running river, appears to have some pretty parks the distances to travel for work would surely pose a problem for the towns people to thrive.
With 200 km to Broken Hill we had a quick lunch and hit the road with the hope of getting into another free camp for the night. We were not so lucky This time. It was our intention to stay at a caravan park within the “Living Desert Sculptures” We had a quick stop for some supplies, then headed out to our destination. As we arrived at the gate, we were told we needed to book online. The ranger pointed us in the direction of the sculptures at theTop of the hill as the reception was better. Alas once there we discovered nothing available for that night. As it was late in the afternoon Ken quickly took some photos of the sculptures and we headed back down to town to secure a spot to sleep. As it turned out the free camps were a distance from the town. We settled on Broken Hill Caravan Park at the end of town. The cost was $35 but we had the luxury of very spacious and clean showers and toilets. Not surprising at all was how warm flowing water over the body is very soothing at the end of a long dusty drive.
Broken Hill has a few good attractions, one being, The Living Desert Sculptures as mentioned. Worth the trip to photograph the unique sculptures.The second recommended site would be Pro Hart Gallery. We did not visit as we were short on time, however we have been before, and it is an interesting experience whether you like his art or not. The third thing worth mentioning is the recent addition of a memorial to the miners in the area. Placed high on the mounds of iron ore rising above the town there sits a sombre dark brown iron like structure surrounded by memorabilia of old disused mining equipment. There are information boards along the walkway. A viewing platform gives a magnificent view of the entire city and a very expansive view of the mine areas. The names of all the miners are listed. Those who having given their lives in various ways to the harshness of the surrounding land which provides many of us with the standard of living we possess today. A memorable display with a red roses lining the columns of many names of miners from near and far. Noted were the different reasons for dying and how that changed over the years.
Broken Hill to The Nullarbor.
Our first stop is a town called Peterborough (originally known as Petersburg ) a small but pretty town focused on their train heritage. The houses are small, brick and reasonably well kept. A few plagues around the centre of the town were nicely displayed and gave a brief story of the history . We did not take the time to go through the museum but I am guessing a train enthusiast would be happy to browse it. Another fleeting stop to take a photo of the Manna Hill station Hotel. A town of no population so not sure why such a gorgeous building exists. I have been unable to find anything much about it. We were in fact trying to make it to Port Augusta so we hurried on. Closing in on our destination the skyline was dotted with hundreds of wind turbines. Huge structures which in the right place, can look quite aesthetic. Another thing noticed on the road in and out of Port Augusta was quite a few trucks towing bulk kayaks or canoes. We are assuming there is a boat building factory there., as yet we are still debating that question. Lots of hours on the road together creates lots of interesting conversations.
Port Augusta is a busy commercial working town with a military base and airport. I did expect it to be a bit more picturesque than it was. There was major work happening on the main bridge crossing the river which disrupted the traffic flow a little. A quick stop for supplies and we headed to our next free camp. This proved a small challenge. Instruction was to go passed the military base and we would see the turn off to Question Mark Hill. The clue was in the name. The Hill in question was not huge so we missed the tiny blue caravan sign. After a second attempt we found our spot. Very isolated but looked quite safe. There was a sign on the fence running along the open area, warning us about the unexploded bombs in the area and therefore no access. We just hoped they got the fence in the right place. We settled down to be presented with a beautiful sunset, a powerful storm in the distance and a rainbow against the brightened sky. Quite spectacular half hour. We spent the evening watching the huge road train lights glide along the very distant highway. The area was dark and other than the glowing lights of human existence on those trucks , the stars were our only neighbours. The night was silent, but the morning bought unexpected rain. Up until now we had been able to neatly pack up our gear each day which was not the case today. We shoved everything in wherever we could, quickly folded down the camper and headed off to find some breakfast and much needed coffee. No problem as we pulled up to get petrol a restaurant beckoned us. After a Big breakfast which would see us through to dinner, we were off to see the sites. The Flinders Ranges Red Cliffs lookout which is among the Desert National Park. in Port Augusta. On the drive into the car park we had to wait on the way for the little family of kangaroos having a meeting in the middle of the road. Not the first time we had encountered this common occurrence. The area beckoned us to walk along the cliff edge to view the cliffs and the bridge over the river. The deep red of the cliffs are a contrast to the grey mangroves which lap at their feet, add to that the blue of the water and you are faced with a picturesque scene. The desert gardens surrounding us display many of the species the naturalist Robert Brown examined and collected from the area in 1802. These species were completely new to science at that time.
On the road again and 150kms west brings us to Kimba. Driving into the town there are signs for the Silo Art , the Big Galah, and the sculptures. Petrol is needed so we headed to the Big Galah. Quickly noticing the silo, we stopped to photograph yet another typical country scene appropriate to the area. The silos are huge, and the information plaque informs us how much paint, how long it took and the name of the artist. They are always fascinating, and we, personally think they are a piece of beauty decorating the harsh reality of the imposing cement of the silos. I must mention the dreaded march flies at this point. We have encountered them before and found they love our blood way too much. In our opinion they are a large silent destructive annoyance of the Australian outback. They land, bite and are gone and one is left with swelling itchy painful lumps. We kept the bushman’s aerosol handy after that. Next, we introduced ourselves to the very large Pink Galah sitting perched in front of a roadhouse. After taking one of those photo’s you just must take even though you know everyone has one the same. Petrol problem solved we went in search of the advertised sculptures. Stretching our legs, we walked up to the lookout to find a life size iron statue of John Eyre and an aboriginal man by his side. Continuing this road, we headed to the Gawler Ranges national park.
We were aware this area was best travelled in a 4WD however information gained told us it was suitable in places for less than that. It was not too long before we hit the orange dirt of an unsealed road. Even though the camper and the car handled the corrugated rough road, it was a slow and careful drive. 100 km’s later we pulled into a our pre-booked camping spot. No person or vehicle in site, we were happy to see the place completely deserted. No Internet, no people, no traffic. The quietness experienced in these areas is quite addictive. After unpacking we took off on a 4 km round trip walk to a rocky granite outcrop. Some interesting boulders at the end made it worth the effort. The following day we had a long drive around the Park to see what is known as the pipe organ. . On the drive we stopped at a homestead, built, and occupied in the 1800’s. Surprisingly we were able to enter inside. Photos and information posters were displayed giving us a history of the past families and a small window into the way they lived. The surrounding area was interesting and well preserved. The wind was blowing, and the rain was starting to dampen the red earth. The conditions that people lived in were rough enough but the harsh weather in these places would have been unforgiving. Moving on toward the main attraction, the pipe organ rock formation we were disappointed to discover we needed a 4WD to see them. The road was very uncertain. We had the choice of camping another night and trying the next day or moving on. The weather was a deterrent, so we decided to keep going to our next destination. The road out of the park was a lot rougher so we lowered the tyre pressure which made it a lot easier. Luckily the rain diminished and fortunately we spotted a sign to the Pildappa rocks. This was something on our list to see but thought it was further afar. Quickly turning back, we followed the sign and were met with the massive granite rock formations.
The rocks are an impressive sight being the highest and longest wave formation on the Eyre Peninsular. It is pink granite and dates 1500million years. There is some free camping around the area so rush to investigate the entire site. If visiting for the day you are able to drive or walk the perimeter of the rock and in fact can climb to the top. When at the top you can see the countryside for many kilometres. Quite an amazing feeling and certainly not a difficult task. It was a little too windy for us to camp, so we headed back to the main highway very satisfied that we had not missed this natural phenomenon. Further down the road we came across another tourist sign to Tcharkuldu Rock. or boulders. Not expecting to see much we were pleasantly surprised at this large array of boulders. Some sitting precariously looking ready to topple any moment. Another photographers delight and something we had not expected to see. Now to find our next campsite. Once again thanks to Wiki camps we secured a great spot in a town called Wirulla. It was Good Friday so the one shop and one hotel in the town. were closed. We had been looking forward to showers and getting some washing done but at first sign that was not going to be possible, as the shop was the place to pay and secure access to the facilities. We decided we would stay anyway and were lucky enough to be offered an access key by another camper who had arrived the day before. Washing was not possible as no coins available. but the much-craved shower was enjoyed immensely. The red earth which is a major part of this trip so far had started to grind its way into our skin and into everything else.The hot shower made up for the fact that our secret little camp was in fact quite quite noisy for sleeping as the highway trucks were persistant and closer than we thought.
Ceduna, the town at the beginning of the Nullarbor plains were around 140 kms where we stocked up, filled up with petrol and started on the unknown challenge of crossing the Nullarbor. Surprisingly we stopped for petrol and ran into some friends heading the same way. Quite remarkable to actually be in the same petrol station after travelling so far.
As previously started this particular blog was started as we started our journey along this most anticipated road. The Nullarbor plains stretches in full approx. 1100kms. Many years ago, I think to drive it would have been quite dangerous and harrowing. People were afraid for us even today because of the difficulties of others in previous years. We had done quite a bit of research and believed it would not be as difficult as some thought. However the unknown is always a little fearful. . The land is desolate but the number of travellers are prolific. Our first stop was Penong, home of the windmill museum. An arrangement of windmills of all designs and sizes is such a quirky start to this leg of the journey. Moving on the next time to stop is at The Head of the Bite” an obvious description of this lookout. There is a whaling station, visitor centre and a lookout, where in the right season, whales and dolphins can be seen. There is a fee of $8 pp. It is the first glimpse of the ocean and the fascination of seeing what is known as The Great Australian Bite. It would certainly have been worth the money had we seen whales, but it was.the wrong time of the year for us. The view is very nice though. Stopping for petrol at the Nullarbor roadhouse we hurriedly moved onto to what our next free camp would be, on the edge of The Bunda Cliffs, a place we had been. eagerly waiting to see. The view along the cliffs, the contrast of the blue ocean and the wild white waves striking hard against the red, white, and grey cliffs leaves you with the feeling of beauty. and danger simultaneously. No safety fences, no structures inhibiting the view, just the jagged edge of the cliff face meeting the harsh plains of the Nullarbor. There were a few caravans already there. so, we found a spot a few metres back from the edge and opened the trailer. The cliff extends for many kilometres so before the sun set, we went for a long walk up and down the cliff edge. Beautiful experience indeed. As time passed the light wind started to intensify a little and our cub camper canvas walls billowed in and out. It is hard to move your mind away from the thoughts of the van being.lifted and sent over the edge. You know it is not going to happen, but the underlying thoughts remained throughout the night. We awoke early to a beautiful sunrise and an appreciation of having this.experience and the prospect of travelling further. A couple more side roads gave us different views of the cliffs which were all breathtaking. We then reached The Border Village the cross over between SA and WA.
So far there had been long stretches of driving with nothing but low lying scrub for many kilometres but there are many stops. along the way for fuel, food, and places to stay. Certainly, better suited to caravan or campers as there are not only caravan parks but numerous spots for free camping
A very large Kangaroo greets you as you drive into town. Other than that, there is a petrol station and quarantine station. Being stripped of the few remaining veggies we had on board we were able to move on to Eucla to see the
Derelict sand covered postmasters’ residence. There was enough building left to be able to determine the overall size and function but what destroyed the e view was the human element of graffiti. It never ceases to amaze me that people can be so thoughtless and destructive. I cannot fathom what makes scratching your name in a wall satisfying. It is just demoralising to think there are people like that in the world. Walking to the beach behind the hills of the residence you will see a fairly substantial disused jetty built in 1890. A photographic gem. Carrying on we see the famous 90mile sign indicating the longest straightest stretch of road in Australia. There is no
Arguing with that statement. The scenery does not change much, and the road can be seen so far ahead. It is quite surreal. More petrol and coffee stop until we eventually.
Get to Cocklebiddy. A famous sign found at the roadhouse state some interesting facts. See photo below.
Part 2 you will follow us from Norseman at the end of the Nullarbor Plains through to Exmouth WA.
I hope you are enjoying and contemplating doing similiar yourself. So far it has been a wonderful trip and our Cub Explorer has served us well. It is easy to tow, everyday it is getting easier to setup and then the pack up. We have our jobs sorted now.
One thought on “Western Australia Part 1 WA Trip 2023”
thanks, feeling like we are there, BnF