“Immer geradeaus…” :)

If there is one thing the Australian police love doing, it is a Random Breath Test (RBT). Two hours after leaving Bremer Bay we drove into Ravensthorpe around midday, where we were promptly greeted by two gentlemen of the law. It was hard to miss them, they were standing in the middle of the highway next to their paddy wagon, which was lit up like a blue, red and white Christmas tree. I have to say that at twelve noon, this really was quite random…”clearly couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork” I thought, as I dutifully blew in the straw presented in front of my face. Arriving at our caravan park in Esperance we did a bit of forward planning and decided to add a day to our stay to prepare for the long drive to South Australia, across the Nullarbor, and equipped ourselves with a set of proper Ozzie boots.

As predicted the rain set in early the next day and turned into a full blown rain storm by nightfall, with the rain beating loudly on the canvas and strong gusts shaking Prinney around…we already had some rough nights, but this was something else altogether! Thankfully Piet slept through it all and Prinney survived in one piece, although we did have some rain come through the stitching of our fold out beds. We had to pack up wet that morning and on our way out of Esperance we dropped by the local hardware store. I told the lovely lady behind the counter that I couldn’t quite recall the word, but that I was looking for a spray that impregnates clothing against water… Her face briefly changed in a way that suggested I had proposed something rather naughty, but she recovered quickly and promptly sent me to aisle with all the sticky stuff (glue, liquid nails, etc). I ended up finding said spray three aisles down and with a grin returned to the check out operated by the same lady. She laughed and said “Bloody hell, you meant Scotchgard?!” I said “Yeah, I guess that one got lost in translation”

One can of Scotchgard richer we drove north for about 2 hours towards Norseman, before turning east onto the endless Eyre highway. The Dutchman in me couldn’t help but telling my beautiful German wife: “Und jetzt, immer geradeaus Schatz!” And when I say forever straight on, I do really mean that. We would cross through two different timezones, until we would finally hit Port Augusta in South Australia, 1664 kilometers later. This remote highway is famous for Australia’s longest straight stretch of road and the treeless Nullarbor plain (oh, and that it is home to the world’s longest golf course…). After driving down the first 200 odd kilometers of this immense highway we found a spot at an overnight rest stop next to the road around Balladonia and hung our wet bedding out to dry before the sun set. We eventually fell asleep to the tune of heavy road trains thundering continuously down the highway next to us. For those of you who’ve never encountered a road train, the word ‘train’ gives you a clue just how big, powerful and loud these machines are.

Continuing on the next morning we got into the swing of things. Making breakfast (and an extra portion of muesli for on the road for the little man), coffee and tea in the thermal cups, fold down Prinney, hook her up to Henk and onwards onwards onwards. Our next stop was the state border around Eucla. As the endless straight road tapered towards the horizon, it took on a hazy, mirror like appearance from which shapes appeared. First undefined, then slowly rising up to a formidable height, before thundering past and Piet joyously uttering his first ever full scentence: “That is a big truck!” As we got some fuel at Caiguna roadhouse, we discovered that we had just lost 45 minutes of our day by entering the “Central Western Time zone”. This curiously small time zone applied to about half a dozen of cattle stations and roadhouses, which not only meant that this was probably the world’s smallest time zone (in terms of people it applied to, by a considerable margin), but also that most people wouldn’t spend more than a day in it as they were on route to somewhere else.

We finished our artificially shortened day by finding ourselves a picturesque spot close to the dunes just outside of Eucla, near the ruins of the old telegraph station. Without the winds, rains, storms and passing road trains we slept like a log! The next morning we got some fuel at Eucla roadhouse and were pleasantly surprised by the delicious take away coffee. Piet even had himself a freshly baked croissant, in the middle of nowhere, who would’ve thought?! Onwards we drove, across the state border into South Australia, where the treeless Nullarbor plain began, with literally not a tree in sight for miles. After baby wipe washing ourselves for the past two days we enjoyed a decent shower at a caravan park in Penong (but only 5 minutes max, after all, we were now in the driest state on the driest continent on the planet). During our check in we found out we had left the Central Western Time zone and had swapped it for South Australian time, which saw us loose another eye watering 2.5 hours! Our body clocks protested this latest time warp, we were neither ready for dinner, nor bed, thus we did what any good tourist does in Penong and had a look at the local pink lake.

Like the pink lake we had stayed at around Esperance, this lake had unfortunately lost its pink colour. A bit disappointed we continued down the pothole ridden dirt track towards the beach. Driving past inland seas, surrounded by low growing shrubby vegetation, contrasted by huge white sand dunes, this landscape reminded Ireen a bit of Namibia. Once at the beach we were greeted by the most spectacular view. Large waves whipped up by strong winds were thundering into a picturesque bay, split in half by a small rocky escarpment. The angry seas spewed water vapor up in the air, which hung like a sort of mist over the rolling waves …wow!! I probably would’ve drowned within a minute upon entering these rough waters, but in the distance we could see a dude effortlessly surfing out a giant wave, before being consumed by the white fury rolling over top of him, only to appear again on the other side ready to conquer the next monster. He must be local we concluded, until we saw the sign of the campground next to the parking lot. We quickly took stock of our food supplies and decided right then and there we had to stay an extra night in Penong, to properly enjoy this magical spot.

Staying in such a remote place surrounded by breathtaking scenery, without power, running water or mobile phone reception is kind of liberating. Mundane tasks, such as doing dishes, which normally take mere minutes, become small challenges. Our Prinney is fitted with a hand pump to draw up water from an 80 liter tank when we’re camping out bush. This sounds great, but in reality you spend a considerable amount of time yanking this pump up and down, making Prinney swing back and forth like you’re dancing the horizontal tango, before you arrive at an adequate volume you can put on the stove to warm up, before even starting the dishes. It might sound counterintuitive, but these things keep your mind occupied and give you a great sense of satisfaction when you actually finish them.

Not having reception on your phone is another counterintuitive delight, no pop up notifications calling you back to your screen, no breaking news, nothing! You can literally only use it as a camera, and with such epic surroundings that’s only too right. It allows you to switch off and just appreciate what is around you, like the local blue tongue lizards basking in the sun, or the little dragons scurrying around, or stare at the stunning starlit sky at night. These kinds of places radiate a sort of pure and undisturbed energy if you like. All these little things and emotions add up and allow you to appreciate what you have so much more. People have often asked us why we would consider moving back to Australia, and more often than not I couldn’t quite formulate a satisfying response. It’s not that life is bad where we’re from, far from it, but we’ve missed these sort of magical spots out budh and only realized that once we came across this one. I genuinely believe that staying a night at cactus beach would make many understand this urge without needing to say another word.

After we recharged our souls and reconnected with our inner travel bug we reluctantly said goodbye to Penong and drove on to Kimba, which is known as the “halfway point across Australia”. The other thing to see in Kimba is an 8 metre tall statue of a Galah, which Piet quickly dubbed “the big Kip” (Dutch for chicken). We realized our epic journey along the Eyre highway had come to an end when we found ourselves waiting in front of a traffic light in Port Augusta the next day, we had entered civilization again! Our end destination that day was Hahndorf, a small historic German settlement just east of Adelaide. In a brave (and somewhat naive) attempt to dodge Adelaide’s inner city traffic during the afternoon rush hour, we decided to take the scenic route through the Adelaide Hills. After basically driving straight for almost 1,5 weeks, this became quite the experience, taking Prinney through the narrow and winding backroads and hairpin turns, whilst dodging the many potholes and oncoming traffic. Exhausted we arrived at our campsite in Hahndorf and opted against cooking and treated ourselves to a big plate full of German sausages and a couple of cold pints at the local German Arms Hotel. We had crossed the desert from West to South Australia and what a journey it had been!

For this episode I couldn’t go past the song Nullarbor – Floodlights. Let’s see how good your Ozzie is, can you make out what he’s singing?

Cactus Beach in Penong, what a ripper of a spot! ©️ Jasper Kruse

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