Part 14 – Ceduna to Perth

Day 32 Ceduna to Cocklebiddy

Leaving Ceduna was a bleak affair. The strain of five weeks camping was to the forefront and I was hoping that the brighter skies on the Eyre Highway across the Nullarbor through to Perth would lift the atmosphere and the spirits.

Depending on one’s approach, the drive from Ceduna to Norseman on the Eyre Highway can be a hard slog of 1200 kilometres or an interesting trip with many highlights and diversions. 

Tammy was demonstrably excited to see the whales, even though she had been privileged to see these magnificent animals previously elsewhere. Her innate pleasure at seeing such creatures in the wild was a joy to behold.

The Bunda Cliffs extend 200 kilometres between the Head of the Bight and the Western Australian border. They rise 60m to 120m from the level of the Southern Ocean and the claim that they are the most spectacular, awe inspiring cliffs in the world has credence.

This interesting ‘grave’ is just behind the Quarantine Station at Border Village on the Eyre Highway. There is a ledge about 700 mm below the opening of this hole in the limestone karst.  An animal has fallen into the hole, landed on the ledge and, trapped, starved to death.

Border Village is the start of the unofficial Central Western Time (GMT +8:45) that extends to Caiguna.

It is also the site of a large and important Quarantine Station run by the WA Dept of Agriculture. Fresh fruit, seeds, honey, plant material and soil are not permitted entry into Western Australia and they are confiscated if detected. Western Australia’s isolation translates to a relatively pristine environment free of many pests and diseases that plague other parts of the country and the world. Quarantine Officers are particularly assiduous in maintaining the status quo and, if the need arises, will completely strip a vehicle in search of any offending material.

As we pulled into our overnight accommodation at Cocklebiddy the odometer showed that we had travelled 800 kilometres today – including the detour to the Head of the Bight to see the whales

Day 33 Cocklebiddy to Kalgoorlie

Caiguna is only 66 kilometres to the west of Cocklebiddy, and is an indication that one is nearing the end of the Nullarbor. The name Caiguna is thought to mean ‘spear track’.

For us it was the finish of the unofficial Central Western Time – and the start of the ’90 Mile Straight’.

A kilometre west of the roadhouse is the Caiguna Blowhole, the second of the area’s major tourist attractions.

Considering their proximity to the beginning of the logistic supply lines at Esperance, Balladonia’s fuel prices are outrageous. But their coffee prices are reasonable and it was interesting to observe that most travellers were happy to purchase a coffee and visit the Museum but reluctant to put  more than a ‘splash’ (enough to get them to Norseman) into their tank.

The Skylab Museum at the Balladonia Roadhouse is well worth a visit.

Skylab was the United States’ first and only space station, orbiting Earth from 1973 to 1979. After 34,981 orbits, it began to disintegrate and re-enter the atmosphere. NASA was unable predict where it would land. To minimise the risk of debris landing in populated areas they .tried to adjust its trajectory and orientation so it would crash 1300 km south-south-east of Cape Town, South Africa.

Skylab did not burn up as fast as NASA expected, and debris landed in a path between Esperance and Rawlinna. Many parts were collected by station owners and others and some of these are on display at the Skylab Museum.

In a quintessentially Australian manner, the Shire of Esperance issued NASA with a $400 fine for littering. NASA never paid the fine but in 2009, California radio DJ Scott Barley asked listeners to donate money so they could finally clear NASA’s debt. Though the Shire President of Esperance said the ticket had been “written off years ago,” Barley and his listeners raised the $400 and sent it to the shire. For his efforts, Barley was invited to Esperance and received a key to the city.

NASA hasn’t littered in the Shire of Esperance since the Skylab incident.

Our day finished in Kalgoorlie in the Eastern Goldfields.

Day 34 Kalgoorlie to Perth

Today’s journey was ‘only’ 600 kilometres. With time to spare we spent some of it in Coolgardie, looking at the splendour of times past. Gold was discovered here in 1892 and heralded an explosion of population and wealth not seen since in Western Australia. While Coolgardie’s future is assured for the foreseeable future, it was seen as a ‘ghost town’ for much of the latter part of the 20th century.

From Kalgoorlie it was a uneventful run down Great Eastern Highway to Perth.

Five weeks, 12,000 kilometres and a lot of country.  Not many people have seen as much of Australia as Tammy.

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