Day 5 - Mundrabilla Roadhouse to Salmon Gums
Monday 6th February 2017
Distance driven 718 km (Total – 2926 km)
Mundrabilla Roadhouse –Madura - Caiguna – Balladonia – Norseman – Salmon Gums
We set the alarm for an early start, but then had to wait for daylight in order to set off. We probably should have asked what time the sun rises as well as the clock time! Never mind, we had time for tea and raisin toast before setting off.
The campsite at Mundrabilla Roadhouse. Back on the road with 645km to Norseman, our turning point.
A zebra crossing in the middle of nowhere? No, an emergency landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Expected the Beatles to cross!
Before long we found we were heading downhill quite steeply in the Madura Pass, where the highway descends from the Hampton Tablelands down to the coastal plain.
Heading downhill fast in the Madura Pass. The view from Madura across the plains.
Now we had to look out for emus as well as camels and kangaroos. We were now in very flat country again – even had some traffic!
We arrived in Caiguna mid-morning, and were interested to find that we were in the “hub of the universe”, according to the signpost, and 17,652 km from London. Glad we were not driving there! Perth, on the other hand, was a mere 1091 km away. Getting closer.
The signpost in Caiguna.
We stopped to fuel up and while I paid, Steve did his routine washing of dead bodies from the windscreen. The wipers did a reasonable job, but would sometimes smear the creatures’ insides across the screen instead of washing them away, which was sad for them and unpleasant for us.
Could I put him to work at the next set of traffic lights?
When we set off again, we started on the “90 mile straight” (obviously named in old money), which the sign informed us is Australia’s longest straight road. Overtaking should be easy here, then, should the need ever arise...
I suppose “146.6 kilometre straight” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Yep, it’s definitely straight. Though not flat. So care still needed when overtaking. Now only 374 km to Norseman, and not lunchtime yet.
My Gawd, now there’s cows and calves wandering around too... And yep, it is still straight.
A short drive out of Caiguna we stopped at the blowholes. These have been formed by weathering of rock through to cavities below. The cave below here had clearance heights of 0.5-1.5 metres. Apparently it breathes out when the pressure falls and in when it rises. Makes sense. Clearly the pressure was fairly constant today as we heard not a sigh. Just to add to our disappointment, the sign told us that some of the caves on the Nullarbor breathe at 72km per hour. Bet you can hear those!
One of the Caiguna Blowholes. Didn’t hear a thing.
We reached the end of the 90-mile straight and shortly after arrived at Balladonia. This tiny town made world headlines in 1979 when it was showered with pieces of the US Skylab space station as it re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. At the roadhouse there was a small museum with a collection of the parts that fell from the sky.
Parts of Skylab on the roof of the roadhouse and in the museum next door.
We arrived in Norseman mid-afternoon, and were a little surprised to find it a tiny and very sleepy town. Considering its position at the end of the Eyre Highway, where one must turn either north towards Kalgoorlie or south towards Esperance, we somehow expected it to be bigger. Norseman was established as a mining town in 1892, and today combines mining with serving the needs of travellers for its upkeep. As we entered the town we were met by corrugated iron camels on the roundabout. They commemorate the role played by camels in the development of the town. They were a common sight in and around the town at the turn of the 20th century, a team able to collectively carry between 16 and 20 tons on their backs. The wide main road in town owes its size to the turning circle needed for a camel train.
The corrugated iron camels on the roundabout in the centre of Norseman.
The town was named after Norseman the horse, who apparently unearthed the first gold nugget when pawing (hoofing?) at the ground.
We had a look around town, which did have a few shops, the first since the border, and we were able to buy some fruit and vegetables, albeit not very fresh ones. We visited the small visitors’ centre, then borrowed the key for the dump station.
At this point the plan involved making a decision whether to go north to Kalgoorlie and then along the inland route to Perth, or to go south to Esperance and explore the south west corner of the country. This was an easy call, as we had made good enough time to allow ourselves our preferred route south. We still had four days left so there was no rush to get to Perth, and when we set off again we turned left onto the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway and left the Eyre Highway behind as we headed south towards Esperance.
We drove for an hour alongside a railway line and between wheat fields, and then found a delightful rest stop just before Salmon Gums. It was a little after 5 p.m. according to our watches, but we should have put them back at Caiguna, so it was in fact 45 minutes earlier. With the place to ourselves, we could relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. We might even see some wildlife – something that has been distinctly lacking so far, in spite of all the warning signs on the roadside. We thought we might have seen some at dusk in many of the places we have stopped, but nothing, which has been rather disappointing.
A delightful place to park for the night – a free rest stop just off the road.
Now we had some potatoes, we were able to have the bangers and mash we’d been looking forward to since before they WA checkpoint! And it was well worth the wait. Cheers.
Bangers & mash for dinner. Yum.
Google maps of today’s drive.