The last section of the Nullarbor had been recently sealed and, in Sydney, riding to Perth had become ‘a thing’. Two of us set off on a route that went through Young where we visited a farm because the cherries were just starting to ripen. Then through Griffith where we could visit family. Then to Adelaide. To Ceduna, to Norseman then South to Esperance, west through Albany, to Cape Leeuwin, then north through the forests to Perth. About 5,000km.
Only 5 photos have survived so let’s have a bit of text first.
Just before this ride we had ridden up the east coast and could camp on water every night. Mostly, running water. On the plains of the western Riverina, we ran out of creeks and billabongs. In the south west of WA, there was a bit of surface water but it was often not usable. Fresh water became a treat for many weeks.
In North West Victoria, we were hit by wind so strong that we had to stop and shelter in a school bus stop, not because we couldn’t ride but because of how much the sand blowing on our legs hurt.
We saw land that had recently been overtaken by the desert. The mallee should never have been cleared. It was so obvious that this ecological disaster was manmade.
In Adelaide, at Clearlight Bazzar, a hippie place selling incense, candles and the like, we bought ingredients to make up a lot of muesli. We had to mix it in a garbage bin in the caravan park. Imagine that! Anyway, we used plenty of bleach first to clean the bin. Powdered milk and sugar were included so it was a “just add water” product. We had a transport company take our muesli to their depot at Ceduna, the last town for 1,200km. This food would get us across the vast desert.
One of the great things about this crossing is that you start off with a ton of food but by the end you have none. You are many kilos lighter yourself so, you feel better and better as you travel.
After the section north to Port Augusta, where we swung west, we hit a shocking headwind and lots of three-corner jacks the second you got off the road. We had to even descend hills in 34-34, the bottom gear in those days, because of the wind. That was a bit depressing.
In the section from Port Augusta to Ceduna, water was pretty scarce. We were carrying a 12” shifter and on a few occasions had to tap into the water pipeline that goes all the way to Ceduna. Maybe that is no longer permitted but it was ok in 1977. At Kimba, we stayed with some friends which was a treat.
We stayed at the caravan park in Ceduna for two nights. Generally, that never happens as the motorists don’t need rest days. Every morning a huge westbound convoy departed Ceduna pretty much at the same time. Each day, this convoy would pass us but a bit later each day. Even after 1,000km, they are still in a convoy. Safety in numbers?
There were a few roadhouses along the way and we generally only purchased one thing – 600ml frozen chocolate milk. Many. Of. Them. They had to freeze the milk out there and, of course this was just fantastic for us, being summer and us limited to only muesli day after day. Sometimes we did not ride together. Whoever got to a roadhouse first would send a frozen choc milk back to the other with a random person we’d meet at the petrol pump and who was always obliging. Once someone asked me why we were riding and I said because it was faster. “It took me 3 weeks to make the money for this bike and it’s taking 7 weeks to ride. That’s 10 weeks. How long did it take you to make enough to buy that car?”
A day before we got to Norseman we spotted a small sign saying Newman Rocks. It was a large area of granite with some pools of water. It looked at the time like no human had been there in years. We camped there.
Heading south from Norseman, we went through the aptly named Salmon Gums. Here there was a downpour and sudden flooding.
Heading west from Esperance, we went through hundreds of kilometres of wheat country where there were no towns. It seemed that the workers must only be there for the planting and harvesting seasons. No one was around when we rode through. The wheat farms were on a massive scale. There were some abandoned old shacks occasionally and we camped in them. One had what must have been the world’s biggest beehive inside. It took up a small room.
We did a side trip to the Stirling Ranges, climbed Bluff Knoll and, decades later, Vivente named a Rohloff bike model after this beautiful region.
At Cape Leeuwin, the most SW corner of the Australian continent, we parked and walked down to the actual cape. When we got back to the bikes, there was an old codger studying them. He looked up as we approached, stroked his long beard and said, “When I was young, only poofters had gears”. Hmmm, interesting mate.
As we rode up through Nannup, we had many nice encounters with the local hippies. That was a real scene in those days and probably still is.
Arriving in Perth we celebrated with a big container of ice cream which we ate whilst sitting on the footpath on Hay Street, unable to wait and unwilling to sacrifice a single degree of coldness.