“A hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of nature, the sort of place one gets into bad dreams”
~ Edward John Eyre on the Nullarbor Plain – the first European to cross it in 1841.
“1000 degrees in the shade”
~ Arthur Charles Jeston Richardson after being the first person to cycle across it in 1896, in 31 days.
With such descriptions of Australia’s Nullarbor Plain, one would think they were driving into a diabolical inferno, a damned wasteland at the end of the earth. Yet having driven across it three times, twice from Sydney to Perth and once inversely, I can say it’s one of the most exhilarating travel experiences I’ve had. Yes, I may have had it easier than either Eyre or Richardson, but bugger them, I think it’s lovely. Here’s my top ten reasons for making the dive.
Its extremely flat terrain, no doubt, produces some fluffy, mottled beauties. I’ve spent a few early mornings on the Nullarbor Plain and witnessed some particularly handsome clouds, like the one I captured here.
If you’re keen to witness nature spit saltwater violently out of its ancient crevices, sometimes several hundred metres from the coast, then pull over and park your beak near the Nullarbor’s numerous blowholes.
3. Second straightest road in the world
Near the western side of the Nullarbor Plain, you’ll drive in a dead straight line for 146.6 kilometres, the second longest straight road in the world. So chock your wheel up with a few sticks and dive into a good book. Saudi Arabia has the longest straight road, coming in at 260 kilometres.
4. To experience its vastness
Miles upon miles of space, the distant whir of vehicles, birds of prey, and the unrelenting shriek of sunshine. Here you can feel the isolation, scream across the thundering plateau and listen to the silence. There’s nothing quite like being smack in the middle of it all in a vulnerable little hunk of metal.
The Nullarbor Plain, like many areas that appear to have escaped mountainous tectonic activity, was once underwater. It’s also the largest piece of limestone in the world. Put a snorkel on and imagine you’re driving along underwater billions of years ago.
6. The stars
Yes, perhaps unsurprisingly, this vast stretch of no man’s land is fairly devoid of human activity. Nighttime reveals some razzle-dazzle stars, scintillating vividly across vast swathes of darkness. Rug up though, as it can get deathly cold at night.
7. To fully appreciate Perth
When flying to Perth, suddenly you’re there, and you don’t quite understand the nuances that separate the world’s third most isolated city from the rest of the continent. After driving across the Nullarbor Plain, you’ve absorbed the vastness, the isolation, and you truly feel you’ve arrived somewhere different.
As with point seven, you’d have to be coming from the east to fully appreciate the juxtaposition of this coastal town. After driving for days across peanut butter-dry desert in fireball heat, turn left at Norseman and head to Esperance. Here you can bathe your scorched driver’s elbow in the sea’s bewitching shades of blue, while wiggling your toes in some of the finest crushed quartz you’ll find anywhere.
9. To experience Aboriginal communities
Along parts of the Nullarbor Plain, such as Nundroo, Indigenous communities live not far from the road. Hop out and experience their hospitality first hand.
10. Miscellaneous novelties
Experiences such as rotating your music collection to death, singing, reading each other stories (if you’re not alone), soliloquising excessively (if you are) and paying exorbitant prices for petrol, make this trip truly memorable. There’s also virtually no trees. Anywhere.