In Gawler I found a hotel that served fish and chips plus an all you can eat salad buffet and ice cream. All this for under 10 AUD. A good stop if you arrive there at lunch time, especially the salad buffet was great for a hungry cyclist.
From Gawler there is a bicycle path to Tanunda and it will take you pass Jacobs Creek vineyard. Then you can travel on small quiet roads passing Nurioopta before getting to Kapunda.
Kapunda is Australias oldest mining town and the library had an interesting display about Sidney Kidman. A local who became the world's largest private landowner.
I stayed at the caravan park in Clare (AUD 20) but if you prefer bush camping it's easy to find a place to camp along the Blyth road.
On the other side of Spencer gulf the first small town is Cowell and it has a small general store and a picnic area and was a good stop. From there I followed the Lincoln highway to Port Lincoln. But it was really a boring road, so narrow and without any shoulder line and with lot's of big trucks. I also had headwind most of the time so a much better option would have been to take the Birdseye Highway to Elliston.
The Flinders Highway from Port Lincoln to Ceduna was much better compared to Lincoln Hwy. So little traffic, could be up to an hour between the cars, and some shoulder line. Traveled the shortest way to Ceduna without doing any detours and it took me four days. Stayed at the beachfront caravan park in Ceduna, very convinient right in center of the town. Had big gates that were locked at 8 PM. Felt a bit strange being "locked in". Ceduna is the last stop before Norseman that have a supermarket. So I bought a lot of supplies there for the Nullarbor crossing.
If you would like to cycle between Melbourne and Perth you don't really have so many alternative roads so then the Nullarbor might be the best option. Otherwise I can not recommend anyone cycling there. Why? Because personally for me touring is about enjoyment and this is almost only about endurance. Doing as many kilometers as you can every day until you completed the crossing. And it's not really much to see along the way. There are some sights but most of them require a long detour making them more or less out of the reach. For example to the the Eyre bird observatory it's a 50 km one way ride on a rough gravel road. Requiring at least 2 days but if you have plenty of food and water it might be worth the effort going there. I didn't go there so I really don't know
I did the crossing because I planned to cycle to Perth and also because I wanted to experience the big empty plain, see the Bunda cliffs. But it's a long way for so few sights so I would not do it a again.
Water was much less of a problem then I thought. I always filled up water enough for two (hot) days when I could. And I was actually carrying more then needed, but I wanted to have backup if I got problem with bike or needed a rest day. Never had to pay for the water. Usually I filled up from the taps on the toilets. In Nundroo it had a salty taste but I found it okay for drinking.
In SA there were also three rest areas with water tanks, one about 5-7 km before Yalata. They are filled up by tank cars and I drank it without treatment. The second tank was 40 km passed Nullabor (empty when I got there) and the third was 50 km before SA border village.
There were two rainwater tanks on the WA side but the rest areas were so filthy and I was not in need of water so never checked if it was any water in the tanks. But one of the tanks must had contained some water at least. Because it was a huge puddle next to it. Some vandals had obviously left the tap open. So meaningless but the birds enjoyed their new birdbath...
At Nullarbour I had lunch and asked for water and staff told me where I could get rainwater. At Balladonia there were signs saying water not for drinking, but it's actually OK. Staff also confirmed it and I found the quality very good. Actually the best on the Nullarbor and I carried 25 l of it when I took the Balladonia road.
And then it will always be some drivers that will stop and ask if you need water. I got water four or five times from considerate motorists.
Food is more an issue then water. I carried food for six days when I left Ceduna and then sent food parcels ahead to SA border village + Cocklebiddy. Because not much food to buy along the road and all roadhouses serve the same sort of food. I had burger with the lot at two places, and it was enough! The truckers might like the menu but for me it was more like buying it to support the roadhouses. I find couscous and tuna much better as cycling fuel.
Before I sent the food parcel I called the roadhouse to check if it was OK. Both SA border Village and Cocklebiddy were very helpful and it was no problem. The girl at SA border roadhouse was very interested in how it was to cycle across the Nullarbor. At Cocklebiddy I didn't even have to ask for my food parcel, she saw my bicycle when I arrived and said she would be back in a minute with it!
I posted the food parcels from Adelaide. The cost to send eight kg to SA border village was AUD 17 and four kg to Cocklebiddy, WA was AUD 26. So much more expensive it you send it across a state border.
Arriving to a roadhouse is a big event when you are out on the Nullarbor. Offer some break from the monotonic cycling and I found myself always pushing hard to get to the next stop.
They all have more or less the same menu; burgers, chips and sausage. Some also sell a very limited range of snacks. But no food that are really suitable to bring with you so you better be self sufficient or eat at the roadhouse restaurant.
The staff I met on the roadhouses were usually very friendly and helpful. Especially the staff at SA border village, Cocklebiddy and Balladonia.
On the SA side there is no shoulder line and especially a stretch of about 50 km around Yalata was boring. Because rolling hills and not clear sight and lots of trucks meant that I was just constantly looking in the mirror/moving out on the loose gravel/ stopping and let the traffic pass.
On the WA side most of the road has a shoulder line. The worst section here is on the 90 mile straight road where it's very narrow.
Surface is generally good. But a factor that you might forget is that the color of the tarmac matters. On a sunny hot day the black tarmac absorbs the heat and emits much more heat compared to a lighter colored tarmac. Just stop and put your hand on the black tarmac and you will see it can get pretty warm! Luckily the most of the road had the lighter colored tarmac.
I pictured road trains at least as a truck with two trailers. But didn't hardly see any of those on the Nullarbor. Usually they are just a truck with a trailer and to me they look no different from the trucks with a trailer that you would see in Europe/Sweden. But if it was trucks coming from both directions I always moved off the road. Just to make the passing easier and safer.
Usually all the trucks also give you plenty of space if there is no oncoming traffic.
Then there are the oversized transports, the really wide ones even had police escort. Always stop and move off the road when you meet them.
I met three young french guys one day before I got to Ceduna. Two of them had the same bike model as me!
On the Nullarbor I met a couple form Hong Kong and an older man from Perth. Then I also saw a couple passing from my camp site. So in total I saw/met five other cyclists during my ten and a half day across the Nullarbor.
The best thing with crossing the Nullarbor were all the friendly and helpful people I met on the road. I had hardly began the crossing before I was offered water and fruit on my first rest stop. And it would happen many more times during my crossing. So my biggest thanks to you all that supported me! Even if I carried enough to be self sufficient between the roadhouses it was always such a nice and warming gesture.
And being on a bicycle you often got some attention when you arrived at a roadhouse. Sometimes I just reached the roadhouse after cycling almost non stop for seventy kilometers and then you just wanted to cool down, get refreshed and have something to eat and drink. So was perhaps not always the most talkative when I was asked about the trip but I hope people understood it.
An episodes I want to share. One minibus coming in the opposite direction stopped and the driver asked if I needed water. Before I had time to answer he continued. "I know you cyclist always carrying to much gear, making slow progress" and handed over a couple of cold bottles of water and a pack of Pringles. That just made my day. And looking at my almost 100 kg of bicycle and load I think he was right in his conclusion!
I used a long sleeved cotton shirt, three-quarter pants of nylon, bicycle gloves, helmet with fabric attached around it to protect ear and neck from the sun, sandals. Most important is to cover as much of your skin as possible as it helps to minimize the loss of water and protect you from the sun.
A light colour is always to prefer as it's cooler and it's also offer better protection against flies and mosquitoes.
Weather and wind
I left Ceduna on the 13th of March and arrived in Esperance on the 27th of March. The weather during that period was good. No real hot days, usually up to around 34 degrees and never over 38 degrees.
I had several cloudy days and also a rainy day.
Wind was almost never an issue. This time of the year it's best to travel from east to west but I hardly had any tailwind. At least no real strong tailwind, it was more like a breeze and only lasted for parts of a few days.
Around Yalata and Nullarbor I experienced strong headwind making the progress very slow and hard. But it only lasted for parts of the days.
No fences and houses so in a way all the Nullarbor are free for camping. But because of all the low vegetation and bushes you better get off the main road where a track or dirt road is. There are many rest areas but most of them do not have any toilet or any other facilities then a bin. Because of it you would probably find a lot of toilet paper or tissues lying around so not always picturesque camp sites. So I usually bush camped.
Even if it was very easy to find a place to camp I found the quality of camping not so good. The ground/soil is very loose and combined with the condense it makes camping a bit dirty. Can also be a challenge to find shade and wind protection.
On the SA side I didn't see any wildlife, not even a kangaroo. But a couple of nights I could hear dingoes howling.
Much more wildlife when I got over to the WA-side. Kangaroos, Emus and Wedge-tailed Eagles. I hoped to maybe spot some camels or wild horses when I cycled on the Balladonia road. But as one local I met on the road told me all you would see on the road is some horse poo. And he was right.
I cycled across the Nullarbor in March and on some sections of the Eyre highway the flies were annoying. Lots of small flies trying to get into your eyes, mouth, nose and ear. Even if it was annoying it was still not so bad that I needed to put on my mosquito net hat. And compared to the Horse flies/March flies they were almost like "pets."
On the Balladonia road I was from dusk to down constantly under attack from Horse flies/March flies. Their incessant buzzing and dive bombing were every bit as annoying as their painful bites. They were not deterred by attempts at swatting them away and made their kamikaze attacks right onto my face, hands etc. It was a nightmare stopping for lunch and I tried to keep all pauses as short as possible. When riding they were buzzing around me looking for a chance to bite me. Usually they aimed for my hands because I wore black gloves or my lower legs.
I used mosquito repellent containing deed and it helped for a short while. But I tried to minimize the use of it. Best was when I could get into my tent. But it was first after five pm that it was possible to seek cover in the tent. Before it would be too hot and impossible to stay inside.
Going from Balladonia to Esperance you have two options. Either continue on Eyre Highway over Norseman or take the more direct route via the Balladonia road. After almost eleven days on the Eyre Highway I wanted some change and I also thought that Balladonia road looked much more interesting.
I was not sure about how easy it was to navigate it but after asking the staff at Balladonia Roadhouse I learnt that it was actually only one road to follow so really no navigation skills needed. The road is gravel and most of it is only for four wheel drives.
I carried about 25 liters of water when I left Balladonia as I wanted to have enough water for three days at least. That would allow me to get to Condingup 210 km away. I was prepared for a rough ride and had read a report written by a couple that had cycled the road six years earlier. They had done it to Condingup in three days and I hoped that the road conditions had improved since then. First day they had camped after 68 km and my plan was also to do at least 68 km. If I could do it I knew that I was doing as good as them at least.
The first 37 km of the road was just rough gravel and was alright for cycling. Speed was of course slow but still not so bad road. Not corrugated, only big pot holes, and lots of deep wheel tracks but it was possible to navigate between them. Then the four wheeled section began, big signs was telling it, and the condition of the road became much worse. Really big washboards, almost covering the entire track. But by trying to cycle on the very edge of the road I could avoid the worst parts of it, but still it was very rough. Speed was about 5-8 km an hour and it was really hard work even to keep that speed. But with no traffic on the road I could keep all focus on finding the best way through. I didn't have to worry about traffic. During my two days on the road I only met three cars each day and I was riding from early morning until about five PM.
About ten km onto the four wheel track I met the first car. The driver stopped and asked if I knew where I was going and he also confirmed that it was only to follow the track to get to Esperance. He also told me that there were nothing to see along the road, only some horse poo and that’s all. And he was right. I didn't see any wildlife and not so much of the surrounding nature either, because full focus was needed on cycling. So rough and bumpy road that I was a bit worried about maybe have some spokes breaking in my rear wheel because of the heavy load. In the beginning I really tried to avoid all holes and washboards but later I just tried to get forward. It was hot, clear sunshine all day, and so many horse flies that it was crazy. There were just all over me really happy to have one cyclist coming this way.
Even if it was very though I still enjoyed it and was glad that I decided to take this route instead of going over Norseman. At late afternoon I reached the 68 km mark. I was so glad that I also could make it there, no way that I wanted to go any further that day. There was a waterhole there and the other cyclist had written that they had filled up with water there. So I went and had a look, but the water was orange/brown and smelled really bad. Just in emergency you would think about drinking some of it and I was glad that I carried so much water with me. The horseflies finally left at the dawn but then I had already got into the tent.
Next day the road got a bit better for a while when I got to the Parmango road. But it only lasted for some kilometers before going back to the corrugated tracks. Early in the morning I arrived to the restored ruins of Deralinyup homestead. It was really an interesting stop and sight. It is possible to stay overnight in the house, 4-6 beds and a kitchen with basic utilities. Even a rainwater tank so you could fill up with water. I read the guestbook and there and a couple had stayed there the nights before. Writing it was such a nice place and so good to be able to hide from all the horse flies. Must been really isolated living there in the past as it even nowadays is a remote location.
I stopped and asked if he was alright. And he was ok but they had got a flat tyre and the jack-screw that they had was useless. They had rented the car and even if it should be included it was not a functional one. I told him that he better stay by the car and just wait for help. Because there will be some cars passing by, but probably in afternoon as it was a long drive to get there. He agreed and turned around heading back for the car. About 25 km later they passed me, obviously they had got help.
Road was then finally getting better, this part of road was used by trucks going to a mine so much wider road instead of the tracks. But so much loose gravel and hard to steer and cycle and so dusty. So even if not so much washboards any longer it was still hard cycling. Camped just next to the road, really no traffic so no problems just camping right next to it.
Next morning I had only about 15-20 km before I got on the tarmac again. Such a relief getting on the tarmac again. It had been 100 km of very rough road and 60 km of just rough road. Now it was just almost cruising down to Condingup. I stopped to take some photos of the tarmac road and a car pulled up alongside me. The driver asked how I found the road from Balladonia. And he also told me that he had seen some cyclist traveling on it during the rainy season. They had really problem then with all the mud getting stuck on the wheel, brakes etc. So must be better to cycle during this time of the year.
Rolled into Condingup and stopped at the local store but with prices like 15 $ for a kg of rolled oats I didn't buy a lot of things. Had lunch next to the sport oval and then continued to cycle towards Esperance.
Knee had been really painful for the last days but I hoped to make another 40 km before camping for the night. Between Condingup and Esperance it’s 67 km. When I rolled out of Condingup I could see a big cloud of smoke coming up in the distance. Looked like a big fire. But cars was still driving on the road so guess it would be ok. After about 10 km of cycling I had get a bit closer and the smoke cloud looked worse. I saw a tank car next to the road filling up with water from a dam and I decided to stop and ask about the fire. He said it would be no problem. There were cutting down trees and then burning up everything. It was a planned fire. All the countryside around was full of forest plantations. The trees had been planted many years ago and the idea was to sell them to a pulp mill. But now the mill was out of business and the signed contracts was worthless. So all farmers had to cut down the trees and burn them up to clear the land. A costly process and a very sore issue here he told me.
I continued to cycle but after only about 10 km more I was stopped. The road ahead was now closed due to the fire. The burning had went out of control and as a safety matter the road was closed. All traffic heading to Esperance had to take a detour on a gravel road.
Just my luck I thought, after finishing the 160 km of so rough gravel from Balladonia I had to continue on more gravel. It was just to accept and I tried to push on. But the road was so bad, so much loose sand and gravel on it that it was almost impossible to steer and keep the balance. And it was so dusty that when a truck passed it was a complete whiteout in red dust. I couldn't see anything for about 5 seconds and everything was covered in a thin layer of red dust. My knee really hurt by now and had the fire in the near distance so had to try to push on in a attempt to get around the fire.
It was getting late, about 5 PM and on both sides of the road was forest plantation. I didn't want to bush camp there when a fire was out of control some kilometers away, would have been stupid. Tried to continue to cycle but I was going as much sideways as forward because of all the loose sand. I thought I had to get my head torch on and prepare for a long night. But then I was lucky. A pickup truck stopped and asked if I wanted lift? Mike, had seen my zigzag tracks all over the road and offered to take me to safe distance from the fire.
This was the best that could happen and we managed to get all the gear onto the pickup. Thirty kilometers later I got off the car and began to cycle again. So glad for the lift and I soon found a good camp spot in a forest plantation.
But it didn't help. I tried a couple of times leaving Esperance but the first time I had to give up after 37 km and on the second attempt I only made 25 km. After that I decided that I would have to take the bus from Esperance to Perth. I think the reasons for my knee problem is that the saddle must have lowered itself a bit on the rough washboard road from Balladonia.
Because I had cycled for more then 7 month and the bike was perfect fitted for me and I had never had any problems it took me a while to realize the very obvious thing. Some millimeter can make a huge difference on the impact of the knee. Even if I adjusted the saddle again it didn't help. Needed a longer rest but I did't want stay that long in Esperance. So I finished my tour of Australia in Esperance after almost 10,000 km. I had already decided that this would be the last leg and finishing in Esperance instead of Perth felt alright. I didn't make it from east to west coast but I did at lest cross the Nullarbor.
The bus ride with TransWA to Perth was an non eventful ten hour journey passing dry yellow/brown farmland with some green dots of Eucalyptus trees. So I didn't really miss anything by taking the bus. But if you have the time you should cycle around the southwest corner instead of taking the shortest way to Perth. I have heard from several other cyclists that it's really scenic and beautiful cycling, some of the best cycling in Australia.