Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Jan 18, 2001

The Great Nullarbor Plain: Esperance to Adelaide

-- Story by Erin --

On Friday, the 12th of January 2001 we left the little haven of Esperance and its cool weather. Not far out of Esperance we found out what everyone in Australia warned us about----- the EXTREME heat of the Nullarbor. The heat reached 47 degrees C (117 degrees F) that first day. I was unprepared and had not consumed much in the way of liquids. After about an hour of driving in this heat, we had to pull over, rest and get some fluids. Chris reckons I was near heat exhaustion. My face was beet-red; I was out of breath, nearly panting and felt faint. Luckily there are many roadhouses along this long stretch of what looks like could be Mars, and we took advantage of each and every one of them to rest and replenish fluids.

The only paved road that runs from the Southwest region to Adelaide is across the famous, treeless, semiarid Nullarbor Plain. It has only been paved since the late 70’s or early 80’s and is one of the hottest, straightest, loneliest stretches of road in the world. The ride from Esperance to Adelaide was 2,250 kms (1,410 miles). The first day we only drove 650 kms due to the heat. We had originally planned to free camp along the cliffs, but the heat was too much to bear. We stopped for the night at the Caiguna Roadhouse where the Czech chef was lounging outside the place. Chris went in to see about air-conditioned accommodation while I chatted with the chef. Turns out the young Czech (must have only been 21 or 22 years old) is into Rave parties, illicit drugs, and was there trying to earn money to go to Sydney to party some more. He reckoned it would take him 18 months to earn the money he needed, as there was nothing, and I mean NOTHING, for him to spend his money on at Caiguna.

Road Signs on the Nullarbor  

Imagine riding TOTALLY straight for 1.5 hours

Having paid AUS $90 (US$53) for a low-budget type room, and gotten a good nights sleep thanks to air-conditioning we got on the road the next day at 5:30 a.m. to try to beat as much of the heat as we could. That second day proved a little easier although the heat was still nearing 50 degrees C. Our fluid intake was higher and we made sure to swallow a few teaspoons of salt at every stop. We managed over 800 kms before pulling into the coastal town of Ceduna. The night was not as hot but the air-conditioner in our cabin stubbornly put out luke-warm air all night.

Typical RoadhouseThe third day we left around 8:00am, feeling like we could conquer another 800-kilometer day. Boy, were we wrong! The temperature quickly jumped up the scale and around 1:00 p.m. that day the temperature read 53 degrees C (that’s 127 degrees F) at the Iron Knob roadhouse. Again close to heat exhaustion we decided to cut our losses and stop after about 450 kilometers at Port Augusta. We phoned ahead to the caravan park and told them we were coming. They promised to have the air-con in the cabin running before we arrived. Well, no surprise when we arrived and found they turned on the a/c in the wrong room. Thank goodness they had a pool because there was no other way to get cool. We immediately changed into our bathers (swimsuits) and squeezed into the pool. Yes, squeeze it the correct word. Everyone at the caravan park had the same idea. Every man, woman and child was in that small pool. The water was warm and murky but it was wet and felt better than doing anything else.

All in all, crossing the Nullarbor was a real adventure and one that we hope to never experience again. It’s too bad really, because the Nullarbor Plain would be a very fascinating place in the winter as it runs right along the cliffs and ocean, has a diverse animal population (like camels, emus, wombats, kangaroos, and southern right whales) and interesting flora to explore. It contains one of the longest stretches of straight road in the world (about 150 kilometers), is indeed treeless for a short bit of it, and has amazing thunderstorms. My advice to everyone is that if you have to cross it, do it in winter. And, if you have to cross it in summer, take the train!

To our absolute delight on the fourth day out of Esperance, the weather turned much cooler (like 24 degrees C) and I actually needed to wear my fleece jacket over my body armor. We arrived in the outskirts of Adelaide about 11:00 a.m. and were greeted very warmly by a half dozen Ulysses Club members whom we had been in contact with over the Internet. Bill Hamilton and Ron Johnson of the club had contacted us months earlier and generously offered to show us around.

L to R:  Pete, Chris, Bill, Ron, Ken Chris, and Pippa (sitting)

We stayed with Bill and his family; partner Susan, Susan’s 15-year-old daughter Amanda and Bill’s 4-year-old son Adam. While Susan made us gourmet quality meals, Bill took us on a tour of the countryside south of Adelaide together with Ron and his daughter Pippa. We would highly recommend this ride to anyone travelling through the area. It is a diverse ride with rolling hills, forests, horse and cattle farms, and a generous dose of ocean views and driving. Bill also generously donated a sheepskin seat cover to the Ultimate Journey team. We promptly cut it in two (one for each seat!) and Susan helped to sew elastic bands on each to fit snuggly on our bikes. Since then we’ve been driving in the lap of luxury. Thanks Bill and Susan! After about 2 and a half days, we bid goodbye to Adelaide with an escort out of town by Bill, Ron and Pippa.  We made some great friends in a short amount of time!

Town CrierWe departed Adelaide on Thursday, January 18th, with Bill, Ron, and Pippa as our escorts.  About an hour south east of Adelaide, we stopped for a break in the historic town of Strathalbyn, where we met the wonderfully friendly "Town Crier".    

Later in the morning, our escorts headed for home (sure that we'd left for good).  We rode east along a stretch of coast called the Coorong, a long strip of salt marsh land harboring interesting wildlife and flora. The algae that live in the salt water create "pink lakes". Further east and just over the South Australia/Victoria border are vast areas of pine forest farms. The logging industry is alive and well here. It’s a weird landscape as the huge pine trees are set in perfect rows. Finally, the road turns towards the ocean and we arrived at the seaport town of Warnambool, also the start of the famous Great Ocean Road.

Warnambool was established in the early 1800’s as a whale and seal hunting port. Of course today these activities no longer exist but there remains remnants of its past, with old hunting ships and restored cannons and the like. It’s a pleasant little town, outside school holidays that is. When we were there we were cheek and jowl with our neighbors in the caravan park. Children ran amuck between the hours of 7 am and 10 pm, but fortunately the evenings were quiet and we were able to get some rest.

Crossing the Nullarbor was a once in a lifetime experience -- we hope.

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter | Related Photos


TOP | About Us | Costs | FAQ | Journal Entries | Links | Motorcycles | Photo Gallery | Supporters | Guestbook | HOME

  Sure, send us an email E-mail Us

There are probably dozens of errors on this website (if not more).   
If you notice/have any problems, please send us an email: Webmaster

The goal is not the destination, it's the experiences along the way.