Friday, 26 August 2011

The Last Stretch

The whales really were this close!
Driving down to Norseman and after photographing the last soldier’s grave on our list, we eventually began the long drive on the Eyre Highway which took us across the Nullabor Plain. We drove on one stretch of road which was perfectly straight and flat for about 145 kilometers. So long is this road, that we had several overnight stops.  Along the way there are some points of interest to encourage drivers to take a break from the many hours of driving. One of these is at the Head of Bight right at the highest point of the Great Australian Bight. This is a fantastic place to view Southern Right Whales at this time of the year. Like the Humpback Whales in north-west of Australia, the Southern Rights also swim north from the Antarctic to give birth – but only into the northern area of the Bight. These whales were named by the whale hunters because they are slow swimmers and when killed the carcases tend to float (because of their high amount of oily blubber), hence making them easier for the chasers. At the Head of Bight, there is a long zig-zag walkway to the edge of the cliff and from there you can see many of the female whales with calves quite close to the land. I estimate that we saw about 30 whales all swimming close by – diving, surfacing and expelling plumes of air. With brilliant blue skies and deep blue water, it was a magic sight and one to remember.

Driving on across South Australia, we travelled down the Eyre Peninsula through Streaky Bay (wonderful food at the local hotel!), to Port Lincoln. This is a major tuna fishing centre as the many large ocean going fishing boats attest. It is very prettily situated on Boston Bay and an early Australian outback explorer, John McDoull Stuart lived here for several years. There are many water related attractions - scuba diving, fishing, feeding tuna from a pontoon, and swimming with fishes. Have to admit we didn’t do any of these – I felt our recent whale and dolphin experiences really couldn’t be bettered. A walk over the rocks at a nearby lookout on Sunday morning was just lovely and Jessie, our dog, enjoyed it enormously. Another day trip and picnic lunch was had at the oddly named Coffin Bay not named for any macabre event, but by Captain Matthew Flinders who named the very beautiful bay after his friend, Isaac Coffin. The sheltered bay is now famous for its oyster beds.
During our trip Jessie, our dog, proved to be a magnet for doglovers, and a great ice-breaker as fellow travellers chatted. Most dogs in the parks were small, lapdog breeds, and an Australian Cattle dog always drew smiles and often "Oh, a REAL dog" comment. Must admit I'm surprised at the pets some people travel with. I thought one couple at Kalgoorlie were mad - they not only travelled with their two dogs but also a large cage of budgerigars. This morning at Tailem Bend however, what I first thought were the usual small dogs on leashes, turned out to be CATS on leads being taken for their morning constitutional.

Jumper for Huon
After 12 weeks on the road, I now have read eleven and a half books of the twelve I had brought with me, knitted two jumpers, stitched numerous framed hexagons for a patchwork throw, edited 'on the go' my family history society's journal (emailed the file to Officeworks at Mornington for printing), and so have run out of quiet time occupations.
Time to head towards our home town and our much missed family. We drove north-east from Port Lincoln and at Port Augusta we returned to one of the places at which we had overnighted at the beginning of our road trip. It has been an absolutely fantastic trip with great experiences, some gorgeous outback scenery and some long, extremely boring stretches where, even if the scenery was not picture-postcard, the cameraderie of fellow travellers at various stops and parks was a highlight of those days. I was astonished at the man-made Ord River irrigation scheme near Kununurra and the resulting hundreds and hundreds of acres of agriculture in the desert, also the amazing Bungle Bungles over which we flew. I'm in awe of our early explorers and the hardships they must have endured in desert conditions also the prospectors who, in the most remote outback places found vast amounts of  minerals, gold, silver and precious gems. I remember one day just outside Marble Bar we met a couple gold prospecting with a metal detector. We got chatting and of course asked if they had any luck.  With a rather wry smile, the answer was yes - but mostly coins which were saved up and then used to buy small amounts of raw gold! That's one way to do it, I guess!
I'll long remember stunning sunsets, gorges, the red outback soil, the wildflowers, the ghost gums, the strange boab trees and further south the gum trees with many branches from their base that looked like they were polished mahogany (salmon gums), the whales and dolphins and the various Australian native animals, the brilliant birds whose early morning chorus was a delight to wake up to. I adored the outback night sky - when far from town lights, it is vast, intensely dark with millions of diamond bright stars. Finally the glorious colours of the outback (I'm trying to incorporate these colours into a patchwork throw) - I love the Australian outback - raw and rough much of it is, but also sublimely beautiful. 
So, after 12 weeks travel to the very top of Australia and down the west coast of Western Australia, across the Nullabor Plain through South Australia, we are now back in Victoria. Tomorrow we will continue through Ballarat and down to Geelong, crossing Port Phillip Bay by ferry  to Sorrento on the southern tip of Mornington Peninsula and finally home to Hastings.
I hope any readers have enjoyed the trip through my notes. I wonder where our next trip will be?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sending me your blog Sandra. What a wonderful time you are having. I look forward to doing this trip myself one day! What are the soldiers graves you are photographing - family members? Safe trip home.