Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Out of Water.

Feb 15th -16th

Shower, air conditioning, it seemed decadent, but we were zombies. We took a four-hour afternoon nap and another 12 that night. Overpriced food was par for the course, but since our food drop did not arrive in Cocklebiddy we had to make our camp food stretch. Not that it was hard to order a steak burger that we did not have to cook.

As for the post office and grand reason for our 240 km push, it turned out there was none. Our first ask to see if my package had arrived was a "no." However, the next day, incidentally a Saturday, they told me a package had arrived last Wednesday for a "Hayden." I had a look at it just in case, and sure enough, it was our PLB. It was odd to think that one of the many trucks that passed us had been carrying our mail.

Eucla, like most of these settlements, is a 70s and 80s re-do of the original settlements from the early 20th century when camels, boats and telegraph lines were the only ways of travel and communication.

That afternoon we crossed the SA border into the 200 km of the Nullarbor National Park and home of the stunning limestone cliffs of the Great Australian Bight. It seems that once you cross the border, you are in the Nullarbor proper. There are nothing but bushes, and not that many of them, with the largest ones still less that 6 feet. However, they are still quite green. We slept till 12 and woke up to an east wind and lots of road trains. Between both, it halved our speed to 10 km per hour, a real morale killer. We kept pushing; it was all we could do.

Great sunrise. I always take five to enjoy those, a calm before the heat and wind that inevitably kick up. We were now cycling right along the Great Australian Bight, a place I had looked at on maps since I was a kid. Now I can tell you what it looks like. Vertical limestone cliffs, 40 meters high that mark an abrupt end to the country and continent of Australia. The Great Southern Ocean is at once immediately accessible, yet distant below. The limestone is white on the bottom and changes to a stained tea-brown as it reaches the ground we stand on. It is topped in dark green salt brush and small succulent plants. Small, well-shaped, white flowers dot the ground in hopes that the rough environment won’t notice them and stamp them out. It is a barren and spectacular landscape.

The sun continued to rise, and we looked for a place to eat and sleep. None could be found. No awning we had would stand up to the wind. We covered ourselves in long sleeves and hats and tried beat the heat. It was a futile effort. We were sweating buckets and going nowhere.
We decided to continue in the wind, but we had now consumed more than half our water. It would hurt more to ration, so we continued to drink normally hoping to make the next marked water stop 52 km from the Nullarbor roadhouse. The wind continued. So did the heat and so did we. We arrived dreaming of water. I was going to drink and eat my fill, but there was none. It was time to play the pity card; one I feel we deserved. 2 km behind the alleged water stop was a lookout to the Bight. Around the car park was an instant community of caravans that had sprung up for the night. We were about an hour from being in a bad way. My face was covered in salt, and we made our way for the biggest one, hoping for some charity.

No comments: