At 5:15am my alarm goes off, and for today there is no snooze button whacking to be had. I gear up, do a quick search of the room to make sure I’ve left nothing behind, and hook down the empty main street to the 24 hour truckstop for breakfast. I am overjoyed to find that they have Weet-Bix, and while munching down on what is likely to be the most wholesome thing I eat all day, I do the maths on my $4.50 breakfast and work out that even taking the milk into account, that’s about $65 a kilo for Weet-Bix. But considering what’s to come over the next couple of weeks, I decide that I don’t really care that much, and I chug down the remains of my coffee and suit up.
I stop about 4km down the road after realising I’ve forgotten to put in my earplugs, and remedy the situation.
30km down the road and I pull over again to do a rain dance on the side of the road while trying to put on my wet weather gear. There are decidedly grumpy-looking clouds hanging low on the horizon, and I’d rather look like a burnt marshmallow man than be cold and wet all day. I’ve now covered 30km in 30 mintues of travel. At this rate, I should hit Ceduna at about 3am. I get moving again, only to stop 200m down the road when I remember that I put my sunglasses on the back seat while I was changing. I look back at the empty seat, then back at the section of road I’ve just covered, and decide that they’re gone. I’m now hoping for some volume of rain so that I don’t turn up at a roadhouse at the edge of the desert explaining my appearance with this white whale story about the downpour of rain that is coming. While I’m fleshing out the finer details of my Captain Ahab analogy, it rains on and off a little, but no more than a drizzle.
I should probably point out now the error of my earlier descriptions. I keep referring to getting out into the desert. The desert is a lie. I don’t know whether it was some half-forgotten memory from 20 years ago, or the big yellow patches on the maps I’d been looking at, but I was expecing to find sections, if not long stretches of some kind of endless desert-looking plains. I didn’t find them. Sure, there are vast amounts of low-lying scrub, but nothing in the dustbowl category I was naively waiting to see over the next crest for two thousand kilometres.
I stop in at Balladonia and pay $1.88 a litre for fuel, and discover that the “inbuilt wet weather covers” on my luggage have stopped behaving like mainsails hanging off the side of my bike, because they have torn wide open. Seeing as how the low-hanging grey clouds are still lingering, I decide to leave what remains of them still attached to the luggage, for what little cover they might provide.
After a bit longer I get to 90 Mile straight, which at 146km of dead straight road, is the longest piece of straight in a country full of long, straight roads. About two thirds of the way along, I come across another great Australian institution, the long drop toilet. And while the drop may not have been as long as one might generally have hoped, it was a great improvement over the other options available.
A short while later I cross the border into South Australia, and all of a sudden people are waving, signalling me to pass, and generally being extremely friendly from their cars. Who are these people, where do they come from, and can we get more of them?
It’s only 2pm, but I still have a long way to go by nightfall, so I only stop once for some happy snaps on the cliffs.
It’s blowing a gale along the Nullarbor plain, where (as you might guess from the name) there are no trees to speak of. While I’m fuelling up at the roadhouse I get talking to a guy riding a Suzuki cruiser in the other direction. He tells me that I can look forward to wind, squalls and rain, but that he can’t really complain, he’d rather be here than at work. Amen to that. I pull out onto the road and pass the same road train from WA Freightlines for the 7th time today.
At my next scheduled stop, I pull in to find the pumps labelled “Bio-unleaded”, which I have never heard of before, and is suspiciously low-priced to boot. As I’m weighing up my options, an older lady comes out of the shop to tell me that they have no electricity, so the pumps don’t work. She asks if I have enough fuel to get to the next stop. I guess we’ll find out.
As I get back on the road again, the sun goes down, after which my fuel light begins to blink more and more furiously, and as it the gauge reaches the bottom, the rain begins to fall, properly this time, and I begin to pray for deliverance and safe passage to… wherever it is that I’m going. At least now the last eleven hours dressed in my wets have not been in vain.
I pull into the Caltex at Penong and after the guy behind the counter looks up from his Who magazine, I get to fill my desperately empty tank. As I wander into the shop, he apologises and tells me that he forgot that the pumps shut off at 8pm. I ask him what time it is now… 8:20… It dawns on me that I lost 2.5 hours crossing the border, which could explain why the sun went down at the ridiculous time of 5:15pm according to my clock. Realising that I’m now late, I call the motel I’m staying in to ask that they don’t lock my sorry ass out in the cold.
Another hour riding later, and I come over a crest to see street lights! Civilisation! I cross the quarantine line at Ceduna, South Australia, and check in to the motel. After dumping my gear in my room, I waddle back towards the roadhouse to get some dinner. I notice that there are a couple of other bikes here, including one that’s the same model as a girl I know back home has.
As I’m approaching the doors, I notice a familiar grey head at the counter, and it turns out that I’ve caught up with three friends of mine from Perth who left a day before I did. I get invited back for a chat, spill some of my dinner on one of their beds, and after looking at the routes they’ve planned out, which have significantly more curly bits than mine, we make arrangements for me to tag along with them for the next couple of days. That said and done, it’s about time for a shower and another few hours of unconsciousness.
My wildlife count for the day included 4 lizards in various stages of crossing the Eyre Highway, and one Emu giving me the eyeball on 90 mile straight.
The Eyre highway is not a particularly exciting place to drive along, but you can play games like count the sheep. My total was zero, but you may do better.