Driving along the road at 110km per hour, I look out at the view through my windscreen. Around me there is nothing but stunted bushes and dry earth all of the way to the horizon, with not a single tree in sight. Ahead of me the straight road seems to run forever, disappearing into a shimmering mirage off in the distance. This is the Nullarbor Plain in Southern Australia, a harsh and enormous place that really portrays just how large Australia is.
If you are travelling between East and West in Australia, this is the fastest and shortest way, however even this distance is almost too large to comprehend. We left Ceduna in South Australia on a cloudy morning, passing through the tiny town of Penong which sits on the very west of South Australia’s wheat belt. From here there is nothing apart from the odd road house, the next decent sized settlement being Norseman in Western Australia, some 1100 kilometres to the west at the end of the highway.
Our aim for the day was to make it to Eucla, just across the border in Western Australia, but it was a long drive in between. We left Ceduna with a full tank of fuel and a 10L jerrycan, but by the time we reached the central Nullarbor Road House, we were running low. We stopped here for lunch and put some fuel in the van. Here, the fuel price was $1.99 per litre, so I only put a small amount of fuel in to get me to the next road house, which I thought would be cheaper. This was a big mistake.
The distance from here was huge and eventually, after our fuel gauge was below empty for about half an hour, it finally ran out and we had to pull over. Pouring our 10 litres of emergency fuel into the van, we had to just cross our fingers that we could get to the next roadhouse without running out again.
Along this part of the Nullarbor the highway runs along the spectacular coastline of the Great Australian Bight, and there are several lookouts for photo opportunities. Because we were so worried about our fuel situation, we only stopped in at one, but it was a beautiful sight.
Our 10 litres of fuel did end up getting us to the road house at the border, and the fuel price was exactly the same. This was going to be one expensive drive.
Stopping at the quarantine station on the border, we had to throw out all of our fruit and vegies and then continue on across the border to the small village of Eucla, where we stopped for the night.
Eucla came into existence due to its important location on the old telegraph line in the late 1800’s, and its old telegraph station is one of the main sights to see in the town. Located about 4km outside of town, the old telegraph station was left to ruin after the telegraph line was moved north to run along the railway line, and now it is slowly being swallowed up by the moving sand dunes.
The next day we continued the long drive from east to west, driving some 700 kilometres along a road that never seemed to end. This included the straightest road in Australia which is about 150km in a dead straight line. There was no civilisation apart from the occasional road house where I had to empty my wallet for fuel, and there was nothing to see besides an endless land mass. This land, harsh as it is, still supports plenty of wildlife, with emus running along the highway beside us as we passed, and huge wedge tailed eagles trying to drag kangaroo carcasses off of the road ahead of us.
As the day came to an end we pulled into a rest area to camp for the night, an unexpectedly beautiful place looking over a half empty lake, the first sign of fresh water that we had seen in a long time. We wandered along the dry bed of the lake, following a set of emu footprints as the sunset, bringing a whole new beauty to the land.
The Nullarbor was a long and tiring drive; however it is a place that is full of beauty if you look at it with awe and respect. This was certainly a drive that I will never forget.