Days 4 and 5 – Esperance
We left the last blog in Wave Rock with a dead battery and 4,300 kilometres still to go, its morning, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it!
We packed, started the car with the gadget, the battery was still dead of course, and set off for Esperance. We stopped for lunch at a cafe in Ravensthorpe. Had to use the booster gadget again. The dead battery was definitely still a dead battery. However, now the traction control and iStop warning lights were on, and also a very generic “engine warning ” light. The dashboard was looking more like a Star Trek control panel.
The car was driving ok though, well the automatic gear box was a bit sluggish but functioning enough as long as we didn’t need to change gear. We drove carefully to Esperance and called the RAC straight away. We have full cover. I told them to bring a new battery. They said, “Sure, now where are you?” and that’s when it got complicated. “Ah! Esperance! No way we’ll have a battery there. The ‘Arsehole of Nowhere’ is closer than that. Now, what sort of car do you have? Ah! A Mazda 3, that has one of those new fangled stop start engines that need a special type of battery no one in Australia probably has. But we’ll send a guy along anyway”
The RAC guy duly arrived sans battery, plugged in a tester, confirmed it was a dead battery and gave us the name of a local auto electrician who might have one, probably not, but he might be able to get us one, maybe, you never know. I called him and he said he didn’t have a special stop start battery (that’s what they are called) and it was too late to get one delivered for tomorrow. At this point I pointed out I’d be happy with just a ‘Start-Start’ normal battery but I got the long silence back before was told it wasn’t an option and to wait. He also said he’d never worked on a car with one before and had never seen one. Great,
A short time later he informed us it would be the day after next before he could get us one as it was a special battery just for Mazda 3’s and Mercedes SLK’s and the like. We’re in good company. According to our big elaborate travel plan we were only supposed to be in Esperance one night, now it was going to be two. A few calls to the hotels we’d booked ahead to move them around and we were good. Of course this also mean’t all our planning around stopping days and locations and everything was screwed up, but at least we would be on our way. We’ll deal with that when we get on the road.
I dropped the car off at the garage and went back to the hotel and we worked and waited till the car was ready.
Two days later at 12:00pm we got the call, the car was fixed and ready to go. It was time to start crossing the Nullarbor. I had my battery booster fully charged just in case, and a new set of jump leads, and a new battery charger.
Didn’t need any of them. The car hasn’t hiccuped since.
Day 6 – Fraser Range
Fraser Range, first stop across the Nullarbor. Upon checking in the nice lady directing us to our cabin said, “Drive back along the lane a bit and turn right at the camels.” She wasn’t joking.
Fraser Range is a working farm at the western end of the Nullarbor. They turned their old workers dwellings into guest accommodation and created a camping and caravan site.
We couldn’t get much of a signal from our room despite being this close to the telecoms station.
The nice lady who checked us in told us we could get 5 bars signal at the bar. Nothing else for it, we HAD to go to the bar. So off we strolled to the Nullabar, (geddit?) for a few drinks and a couple of calls and texts.
We retired early as we had planned an early start the next day. Unusual for me but you’ll see why.
The Longest Day
Our plan to get back on track involved a marthon effort. To make up for lost time we had consolidate two days driving to do in one day to get us to the Nullarbor Roadhouse for our next overnight stop. This day was to be the longest we have driven in a single day yet. 800 kilometres, 8 and a half hours driving, 10 hours on the the road with stops. With less than 11 hours daylight, dawn to dusk at this time of the year, we set our alarms to get an early start.
However Fraser Range this morning was misty and soulful as Midge Ure would say. I had to get out and snap a few pics before we left.
At the entrance to the Fraser Range station there were these great old abandoned cars. In the mist this morning they made good subjects. So good there was another photographer out at 6am too. She had a tripod and everything. Bet her pics end up in Australian Geographic.
We drove out of Fraser Range onto the Eyre Highway, National Highway A1, which is the name of the road that crosses the Nullarbor. We knew today there wasn’t going to be much time to stop and sight see.
First stop Caiguna roadhouse to fill up with petrol and fill up with food. We saw these excellent old rally cars there. After a short conversation I discovered that they were taking part in the 40th Anniversary of the Repco Round Australia trial. All the cars had to be more than 40 years old. They were very impressive to look at, even more impressive they were still going. But, then again, so am I.
All along the route of the Eyre Highway across the Nullarbor is the Nullarbor Links, the worlds longest golf course. it’s an 18 hole par 72 course that runs for 1,365 kilometres. There’s a hole at each roadhouse.
Behind this roadhouse is the Par 4, 310 metre hole called the 90 Mile Straight. Jenni went off to find the flag.
After the excellent cheese, fried onion and Branston Pickle toasted sandwich Jenni made for our trip was enthusiastically consumed we set off again. Of course it started to rain. We have found that rain on the Nullarbor crossing to be an experience. This time we drove under a rainbow.
Once the rain stopped the kangaroos came out to drink out of the puddles on the road. Quite a dangerous undertaking I thought considering the size and speed of the trucks that zoom along this road.
The roos just stood looking at us.
I slowed right down and drove down the middle of the road past them. At this point there was a queue of caravans and trucks behind me probably wondering WTF I was doing. At first the roo’s just stood there but eventually they took the hint and bounced off. We probably saved a couple that day.
Dotted periodically along the Eyre Highway we saw these signs. They usually preceded a wider stretch of straight cleared road with wide white road marks drawn at either end. This is where the famous Australian Flying Doctor’s land their planes in emergencies.
A bit father on we stopped once at one of the scenic lookouts that provide great views of the Great Australian Bight. It is eye wateringly beautiful. Sincerely breathtaking. The pictures do it no justice, I could not ever capture the scale of this scenery. We are so glad we stopped.
You may remember from the last “crossing the Nullarbor” blog that there is a little known unofficial timezone we had to pass through. Neither the phone nor the sat nav know about this so we are in the unique situation where both are out at this point.
At last we entered South Australia. At least one of the devices was now on the correct time. But which one?
We stopped at another roadhouse along the way where Jenni spied these excellent signs in the ladies.
Onward we drove, and drove, and drove.
It started to get dark but two of the features of the Nullarbor were in our favour.
It was flat and there are no trees so we saw the lights of the roadhouse from about 10kms away. After this mammoth 800 kilometre drive we were very happy to see this sign.
Tomorrow we drive to Kimba. Another early start and another long drive. We did get to see the hill the Leprechaun’s live under, but that’s for tomorrow’s blog. Till tomorrow.