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The Eyre Highway and The Great Aussie Bight.

Road Trip Day 15: 6th June 2007

The last time I travelled along the Eyre Highway from South Australia to Western Australia there was no such thing as ipods. In fact Music CD's were still years away from taking over from LP records and audio cassettes. There was no such thing as a digital camera and even video recorders were just starting to hit the markets as a home consumer item. That was May of 1978 and I'd just turned eight years old.

I don't remember much of the sights coming over because our families trip, back in 1978, was all about getting to Perth as quickly as possible. I think I spent a lot of the trip asleep in the back seat of the car. Most of my recollections of the journey relate to places we stopped for the night or for food on the way.

This time, Rose and I are taking a little longer so we can see a few of the breath taking views we missed the first time.

The Eyre Highway runs right along side the Great Australian Bight - the cliff top, bottom edge of Australia. Sometimes the highway is only a few hundred metres away from the edge. Travelling from SA to WA the first view of the bight you can experience is at 'The Head of the Bight'. This is the eastern most end of the Australian Bite and is a 14 kilometre detour off the Eyre highway.

What the sign doesn't tell you is that once you get to the visitor centre you can't get anywhere near to the view you're looking for without paying a AU$10 admission fee (adults). That's $10 each to see one end of the bite. All along the rest of the highway you can see the bight for free.

During the months between June and October you may also spot a whale or two all along the bite so maybe the admission fee relates to that? However there are no guarantees of seeing a whale. Rose and I weren't willing to pay $10 each to see a view. There are so many better ways they could raise money for maintaining the park and facilities without blocking access to the view.

Our next brief stop was to get petrol at the Nullabor Road House. This was one place my family stopped in 1978 due to a broken water pump (I think). We had to head around to a private residents home on a back road behind the Road House in order to get the car fixed. It is here that a photo of my family was taken with us all standing in the middle of a dirt airstrip, looking like we're really in the middle of nowhere.

Whilst at the road house I noticed a sign advising people not to feed the wild life on the Nullabor Plains (which is a huge, treeless, national park). I was surprised to see a picture of a dingo. I didn't think dingoes were this far south. As if to confirm that dingoes are indeed this far south we saw one running around in the bushland just off the side of the road.

There are some road signs you can only see in Australia. Ones like this (see photo) are common along the Eyre highway. I'm sure this sign means that somewhere within the next 96km you may have to watch for a camel chasing a wombat and a kangaroo.

As you travel along the Eyre Highway there are several lookout stops along the way where you can view the Australian Bight close up (like one more step and you'll fall off the country close up). Rose and I stopped at the first two.

On the first lookout we met a British Couple travelling in the opposite direction. They advised us that the next lookout gave the most spectacular views of the ones they'd visited so far. They even showed us some digital pictures of the Bight they'd snapped along the way.

Rose and I were well behind our travel schedule so we decided that we'd stop at the second lookout with the best views and then skip the rest.

The British couple were not wrong about the second lookout. You really can see all along the Bight - as you can see in the photo (with me looking like I've just returned from a South Pole expedition - well it was really cold!)

If you're wondering about the cliffs, you don't have to climb any hills to get to the top of them. Australia, at this point sits on a huge plateau that is several hundred feet above sea level. Once you get past the Eucla road house and motel the highway drops back down a lot closer to sea level. You feel like you're driving out of some hills with no memory of ever having gone up hill in the first place.

Speaking of the Eucla Road House and Motel, Rose and I stopped here for lunch. The roadhouse has one really memorable feature - a giant concrete whale in their playground. I remembered stopping here back in 1978 because Rose and I played on that whale. I think we even stayed in the motel here.

I do remember our family pulling in to this road house along with a small green truck (kind of thing) with some people in that we'd been over taking and they'd been overtaking us unwittingly at various points on the road.

Rose decided we should check the cars oil and water before setting off - both were fine but Rose noticed that the bolt that holds the engine in had vibrated loose and was falling out. Well okay that's an exaggeration... it was one bolt that helps to hold the alternator in place. It had lost the nut off one end and was well on its way to falling out. We had to borrow a spanner and get a nut from the motel manager who was very helpful despite being very busy with other customers.

One of the more unusual things that Rose and I encountered was the 'bottle man'. Rose had seen him on the way over and said she wanted to get a photo on the way back. I have no idea who made the bottle man, what he is about, or why bottles and other containers hang from the tree around him? If you live somewhere near Madura and know about the bottle man - leave a comment and tell me about him.

By the end of the day we didn't get as far as we had hoped. Tonight we're staying at the Madura Pass Oasis Motel. Ballidonia is still about three hours up the road. No doubt we'll pass through there tomorrow.

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