I have read that time is wibbly-wobbly when you cross the Nullarbor.
It’s to do with travelling on a line of longitude, the earth’s wobbly spin, and changing time zones. We haven’t even reached the Nullarbor, but time and the weather are definitely wibble-wobbling.
We are in the periphery of the fallout from the fires ravaging Australia, more specifically those which have shut the Eyre Highway 500 kilometres west for the past 12 days.
So we are propped in a tiny caravan park at Smoky Bay, South Australia, waiting for news of the road reopening. I have nine days to get to Geraldton, north of Perth, to start my next locum contract.
For three days earlier this week, we hurtled through time and space, barely stopping for coffees and a few lungfuls of dry, hothothot air. We made our way from the Central Queensland coast to Goondiwindi (hot), Dubbo (stinking hot) to Broken Hill – what the? cold!
Towards Broken Hill
The vast featureless horizon is further dulled by a heavy pall of dust. It blurs the shrubby plains into the colourless sky as we approach Broken Hill from the east.
A B-double dances towards us, its hay-laden trailers conga-lining from side to side as the wind gusts strongly.
We have seen dozens of these saviours today, taking stock-feed to drought and fire-stricken parts east.
Their loads seem incongruous out here, amid the parched red soil and heat-baked shrubs. Wild goats are dotted around. They must be living on dirt. A sad line of sheep mope along, the wind whipping away the dust before their hooves leave the ground.
It was a shock to the system to be cold, to crack out the warm sleeping gear and huddle to sleep.
The next day was still cold and gusty, but there was a state border to cycle over. The headwind meant I piked on riding from Broken Hill, instead riding only the last 10 kilometres to the NSW-South Australia border. It was worth battling the breeze for the photo opportunity.
Back in the car, the next three towns were virtual ghost towns, full of the character that abandonment and decay brings.
Then big things started to appear. The huge white grain silos that are the first signs of a town, a giant galah (Kimba) and a giant gum tree (Orroroo) were chances to take small breaks before pulling into Port Augusta (see corny tourist photos below, including photographer’s thumb over lens).
Port Augusta was perfect. Not too hot, not too cold – but we couldn’t stay more than a night. We decided to go another 400 kilometres down the highway the next day and then stop for a few days, hoping the Eyre Highway situation would resolve.
Smoky Bay (the Google Maps chick pronounces it “Smock-ie Bay”).
Day 1 in this picture-perfect beachside village was hot, bakingly hot. In fact, I pretty much baked myself by cycling to Ceduna, 40k away. I’m sure I was smoking.
Take one Sharyn, marinate in sunscreen, then roast in a slow (23km/hr) fan-forced oven for 1hr 45 minutes. Remove when crispy around the edges.
Ceduna was pretty, as are all the little towns around here. The ocean is stunning, and each town has a jetty so tourists can appreciate the view even more.
Back at Smoky Bay for a restful afternoon, it was too hot to do anything, and there was nowhere to cool down. I ended up sleeping in the Mouse House* with a wet towel draped over me.
It was simply too hot to stay put, so we ensconced ourselves in our air-conditioned car and spent the day touristing. It wasn’t hard to find things to see.
Whistling Rocks and blowholes attracted us. Coming from a town with a Singing Ship** meant I wanted to verify the claim they whistled. The Singing Ship really gives a low-pitched whistle. The rocks definitely made a strange sound, but it was more a delayed, amplified whoosh than a whistle. We were perched on a cliff high above the waves, and two seconds after one broke on the rocks below, a loud whoosh would emit from the rocks just below our feet. It was mesmerising.
Point Labatt delivered the promised “only sea lion colony on the Australian mainland”. The howling wind meant only odd fragments of their grunts and groans were audible, but watching them lumber over the rocks then glide through the clear water was another special experience.
Murphy’s Haystacks were actually large granite rocks, but it was so hot just those few kilometres inland that we didn’t stay long.
The limbo ends
And now, day three at Streaky Bay, the wobble has wibbled again.
It is raining. It is cold again. It is very windy still. We are hiding in the Mouse House as the canvas walls billow and flap frantically.
But the Eyre Highway has finally reopened. So tomorrow morning we shall point ourselves westward and enter the maw of the Nullarbor.
*Mouse House – our camper trailer, so named because it contained a dead mouse when we first opened it.
**Singing Ship, Emu Park, Central Queensland. It’s like my totem pole.