Panigale Around Australia 2016: Day 6 – Nullarbor to Caiguna

Day 6: Live update – Odometer 48210km. On the edge of the vast Nullarbor Plain, where rugged coastlines meet the ocean. Currently having a late ‘Border Brekkie’ at the WA border; still 12pm at the moment!

The coastal edge of the Nullarbor Plain, off the Eyre Highway.

Nullarbor: The Treeless Plain.  It’s coastal perimeter spans over 1000km, forming a great part of the Great Australian Bight, and its inland portion is apparently not much different from what is seen off the Eyre Highway, which is to say a vast, open, dry, flat landmass, peppered with shrubs no taller than your shoulders. Really not that much to see for the most part of it, but the beauty lies in the experience of being in such an isolated environment.

Retreated underneath a canopy to avoid camping in the rain.

Unseasonably rainy weather had forced me to camp overnight underneath the shelter of a deserted rest area. It didn’t save me from my tent getting a good soak, as the storm also brought in some strong winds.

A massive low-pressure system in the past week across many parts of Australia below the Tropic of Capricorn had given the dry plains of the Nullarbor a significant drench, which had helped to green up the otherwise dry and dusty shrubs across the plains. But this wasn’t the end of the wet weather, with forecasts that were indicating that rain will fall for the next two days in this region.

The expansive coastline along the Great Australian Bight.

The vastness of the coast off the Nullarbor cannot be properly replicated in a photograph. It’s a massive place where the coastal views of the bight is visible as far as you can see with the human eye, until it disappears under the curvature of the Earth. The way that the coast dramatically dips into the ocean is quite mesmerising. You can stand there in awe for a whole day, and still wonder how nature has formed such a creation. It must be seen in person to truly get it.

The rain started pouring again, which signalled the end of my very brief visit of the Nullarbor Plains. It would be great to be able to visit again in the future to fully experience the unique environment, as well as some key attractions such as the isolated settlement of Fowlers Bay, where you have both rugged cliffs and pristine beaches.

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I arrived at the Border Village roadhouse by noon, thoroughly wet and in need of a warm, dry shelter. I was totally aching for a proper shower to escape the combined elements of the rain and the cold ambient air. Even in colder conditions, your body perspires in small amounts, and a hot shower is probably the best way towards momentary rejuvenation.

The pay-to-use showers, available in the majority of roadhouses, are a brilliant way to utilise the time during a midday break, especially if you’ve been spending a few nights out camping. At least in the case of this roadhouse at Border Village, they do turn off after an unspecified time period without any prior warning. Before you over-indulge and take a quick nap in the shower, it’s better to get your business done as soon as you can, so that you’re not left foamed up with soap without any running water.

A motorcycle breakdown on the isolated Eyre Highway.

Border Village had definitely marked the point in which I felt I was really far away. There’s definitely no turning back from this point. At the roadhouse, I met Mark and Gan from Perth, who travelled on their motorcycles to Sydney and Melbourne over a two week period, and were on their way back home. No matter how much experience you have on a bike, we can all agree that a big motorcycle trip has a resounding influence on our outlook on life. Motorcyclists are a happy bunch.

Up the road, I caught up with those two motorcyclists once again, but it was bad news. One of the bikes had come to a sudden stop, and would not start due to a blown cylinder head. At the very least, one of them had a mobile phone on the Telstra network, and had organised a tow to the nearest roadhouse.

To date, Mark’s Suzuki remains off the road as it has been deemed too costly to repair. It’s a pretty crappy way to end a big road trip, especially because there wasn’t that much more left until they returned home. At the very least, the memories and experiences were all worth it.

Running out of tyre tread.

Things were getting a little tense on my side as the rear tyre was now past the wear line. With clenched teeth, I was thinking that I might also need that tow myself. I still had over 1500km to go from this point and, in normal conditions (i.e. smooth urban roads without any luggage load) this would be totally possible.

However, the roads are not your usual national highway sort of surface; I’d consider it as hard-packed gravel, masquerading as tarmac. Across Australia, remote highways such as the Eyre Highway are paved in this very rugged manner so that it requires minimal maintenance. Your motorcycle tyres on this highway are what a slab of kebab meat is to a gyro knife.

I maintained my speed at around 70-80km/h, as previously mentioned in my previous blog post for Day 5, in order to maximise the tread life that remained in the rear tyre. It was the most depressing thing that I’ve probably ever done on a motorcycle, to be travelling this slow on an open outback highway. My travel times had essentially doubled as I was going at almost half the speed that I would have otherwise be riding in normal conditions. The dreariness of riding at a snail’s pace also had a heavy impact on fatigue, as I had to be spending double the time on the bike for the same distance that I had to cover.

Caiguna Roadhouse on the Eyre Highway.

It was mixed feelings of both relief and dismay when I eventually made it to the Caiguna Roadhouse. The ETA from Border Village to Caiguna of 4 hours took almost 7 hours. I could only shake my head in disappointment to alleviate the agony of such a slow-paced ride.

It was at this place where the most expensive petrol was purchased, at a staggering $1.87 per litre of premium unleaded. But this ain’t the city, where you can ride several blocks down the road in search for cheaper prices. The logistics for fuel supplies in this isolated region are likely terrible enough to justify such a price, but it’s definitely better than nothing. Anyway, it’s quite stupid to be complaining about fuel prices when I insist on riding a litre bike.

The $9.00 hotdog seemed a bit rich, though, but I needed some carbs to fill up my empty guts. Surviving on sugary confectionery is the worst way to go about on a road trip, yet healthy eating had been left down the bottom of my agenda.

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Settling into the night with just 500km under the belt seemed like piss-weak effort for a day’s worth. At this point, I was a full day behind schedule, and I am meant to arrive at Perth by the next evening. There was still much riding to do to make up for, and sleep is only for the weak. Convincing myself with irrational justifications, I departed the roadhouse at midnight to enter the 90 Mile Straight, into the pitch black darkness of the longest straight road that I will ever experience in this country.

90 Mile Straight, just past Caiguna, west of the roadhouse.


Basic Statistics for the day:

  • Route: Border Village, Caiguna
  • Total distance: 514km
  • Range of temperature: 8°C to 20°C

Expenses for the day:

Day 6 - Expenses image

General map route:

Day 6 - Map - Nullarbor to Caiguna