Big Trip Blog 3 – Ceduna to Norseman

Saturday, Jun 03, 2023 at 18:49

Member - Matwil

We left Ceduna on Sunday (28th May) and set off for Penong. Penong is a small town on the Eyre Highway that is famous for its windmills. I think at one stage there were more windmills per square mile than anywhere else in Australia as it used to be the only source for water. They also have a collection of windmills from around the country that have been restored and erected in an area close to the highway.
WE have stayed here before, but wanted to explore down towards the coast as there were a couple of things to see, one being a pink and blue lake side by side . Penong was only about 75 klms down the road we arrived early and set up in the caravan park. That allowed us to do the exploring. We headed off towards the coast after lunch and passed the pink and blue lake. The contrast was not significant because of all the cloud so we continued on down to the coast past large deposits of salt and gypsum which is mined in the area. We were also interested in some archaeological diggings in the area, but never found them. We continued on to Point Sinclair (also known as Port LeHunte). It is a little protected bay hidden from the great Southern Ocean by a headland. There was a small shark proof pool attached to the jetty with a very sad story attached to it. In 1972 a young fella was swimming out to the lobster boats coming into port to get some lobsters for his grandmother when he was taken by a white Pointer shark. The small community came together and built the shark proof pool as a permanent memorial to him. Both his brothers still live in the area, but the pool is a permanent reminder of the boy.

We went back to town and visited the pub for an ale or two. It is not as friendly as we remember it, so we only had one and walked back to camp past the windmill display and one of the holes for the Nullarbor links.

There is virtually nothing else in town now as covid has killed many businesses. A theme we have found right across the Nullarbor. The only new thing in Penong is a Roadhouse with the cheapest fuel you will find for the next 1200 kilometres.
We set off next morning to the Head of the Bight, which is the start of the Great Australian Bight. On the way we deviated to have a look at Streaky Bay before arriving at the Head of the Bight arriving about lunch time. We went out to the display and boardwalk that allows you to get up close and personal with the cliffs and views without endangering yourselves. The views are truly spectacular. In whale season you can see Southern Right Wales congregating here to calf and bring up their newborn. The ranger told us that sometimes there can be up to 90 whales congregating in this area. While the whale sighting season is May to September there were none to see as I believe the Antarctic waters are quite warm at the present time and the whales only head north when they get cold. Louise saw a dark shadow offshore so we are putting that down to a possible whale sighting.
Up the road there is a free camp provided by the Yalata community. We stayed there that night and has a lovely quiet relaxing night. There is a board at the campsite detailing the history of the Yalata Community. Originally the people at Yalata came for Maralinga. They were forcibly removed in the early 50’s so the area could be used for atomic bomb tests by Britain. While most of the inhabitants were bought out of the test area, not all were and after the first couple of tests a government patrol officer went back to the area and found some stragglers which he brought back to Yalata. Today there is a rift in the community with the old people who yearn for their homelands but cannot return because the area is still poisoned, and the younger generation that have grown up on the Yalata lands which they now see as their homeland. The lands are made up of the old Yalata Sheep Station that was bought by the government and then handed to the Anangu people. Another part of the story is that at Yalata there was a permanent water soak that had sustained people crossing the Nullarbor for millenniums. When the rail line came to the Nullarbor this soak became an important source for water for the trains. In one year, they took so much water out of the soak that the soak failed. This led to the trees in the area dying and now there is the situation that sand hills are claiming the area up to 11 metres a year.

Next morning we headed off to the next stop which was the Bunda Cliffs which was less than 200 kilometres down the highway. But first we had to pass Nullarbor Road House and refuel.
About thirteen kilometres north of Nullarbor along a very rough dirt track are the Murrawijinie caves.
We arrived out there in the middle of nowhere to find three large depressions in the landscape that led to large caves. Human habitation in these caves has been carbon dated back to at least 20,000 years.

While we didn’t enter the caves I believe there is rock art in them. We made our way back to the highway and were soon at Bunda Cliffs. We got there to find a huge area amongst the sand hills where one could camp and then enjoy the spectacular views that there are to be had.Also, another chance to see whales. We did some photography and then found a nice camp spot that protected us from the wind. We spent the night here and woke up to most spectacular of sunrises, which I only managed a shot out of the van’s window. By the time I dressed and got out the spectacle was gone. However, Louise went out in her dressing gown to get some shots which must have amused fellow campers there seeing a women in dressing gown photographing the sunrise.
We also saw some people peering over the cliff. Louise asked them what they were doing, and they pointed out a large pod of dolphins surfing the incoming waves. It truly was a spectacular sight.
We packed up and headed off. This day we were going to cover the most ground in one day but first had to cross the boarder into WA where we had to surrender all fruit, vegetables and honey that we had on board. We didn’t have much so handed it all over and continued on our way arriving at our next stop Madura where we free camped at the top of the escarpment with fabulous views of the valley floor below. I had decided to fill up at Madura because we had a pamphlet saying they had cheap fuel The problem was that it was 50 cents a litre more than what we could have paid at the border, so the moral of the story is don’t believe everything you read.

The next morning, we took off for Norseman. On this stretch of highway, you travel along the longest straight stretch of road that is some 147 kilometres long. No bends so you struggle to keep a wake at times. We stopped at Cocklebiddy to see the two wedge tail eagles they have there. They were hit by cars/trucks and rehabilitated by the owners. They can’t fly so he has permits to keep them. They are truly magnificent creatures. Also we noticed a EV charging station. They are all across the Nullarbor but this one is powered by a generator powered by used vegetable oil. Now that’s recycling for you. At Caiguna there is a blow hole that we stopped and visited. It is formed by tunnels under the limestone that come to the surface. Wind blows through them creating noises in the desert. Here the wind coming out of the hole was quite noticeable and had the smell of the seaside.

We continued stopping at every roadside stop to try and buy some fresh vegetables, fruit, or bread. No luck at all. Given you have to surrender everything at the border I would have thought someone would have some for sale but no luck till Norseman. We didn’t make Norseman but stopped at a free camp just out of Balladonia. There are a lot of free camps on the Eyre Highway, hidden away from the roadside which are very safe and quiet reprieves from the continual driving. It rained during the night, which settled the dust a bit. Next morning, we were off for a short two-hour drive to Norseman, which will be the subject of my next blog.

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Wanting to explore our vast wide land
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