The Nullarbor Plain drive was flat, straight and dry. The arid plain was covered with bluebush and saltbush plants, hardy shrubs that are drought and salt tolerant. The straight Eyre Hwy ran along the Great Australian Bight with the Great Victoria Desert to its North. Road trains zoomed past us and were lined up at the remote roadhouses filling up with petrol. As we drove we spotted a huge bird dead on the side of the road and we stopped. It was an enormous wedgetail eagle that unfortunately had been hit. Its wing span was about 3m and its feathers were beautiful.
We stopped at the head of the bight to view the spectacular limestone bunda cliffs. It was HOT and the march flies were relentless biting us through our clothes. We stopped to take in the view and noticed a little lizard basking in the sun next to the path. Then suddenly the little guy ran for Dan with great excitement and jumped up onto is leg to catch and munched down a march fly. He did this many times and must have devoured about 20.
Before Boarder Town (the boarder between SA and WA) we cooked up all of our left over fresh veggies making a big batch of tomato pasta sauce and finished off the last of our honey before the quarantine check point into Western Australia. We drove through Eucla and stayed at Mundrabilla road house, had nice pub meal, and spoilt ourselves with a motel room for the night after a long day of driving.
In the morning we bumped into a couple (Emma and Lucas) who we had seen at the service station at Ceduna in their decked out ‘Troopie’. We asked them if they were heading out to the Old Telegraph Line 4WD Track (OTLT). The Old Telegraph Line was built in the 1870s and provided the earliest direct communication between Western Australia and the eastern states. The line operated for about 50yrs before being superseded and remnants of the line are still visible along the 4WD track. The track is very remote and we wanted to check it out but were concerned about embarking on the track solo. Luckily, Emma and Lucas had planned to go in convoy with a family (Grant, Sandy, Georgie and Emily) so we decided to tag along.
Before heading off on the 4WD convoy adventure we stayed at Caiguna Roadhouse for the night. We were not very prepared with food supplies as we did not realise we would be embarking on a 2 week 4WD adventure and we also did not consider that the roadhouses would have such limited supplies. We only had tomato pasta sauce for veggies, which we cooked up before the boarder and NO fresh fruit. So we bought a few very expensive pieces of fruit and tinned peaches and Dan sweet-talked the ‘check-out-chick’ at the roadhouse to sell us a large can of tomatoes, corn and some onions from the kitchen. Lucky we had staples (flour, milk, eggs, rice) so we were just going to have to ‘make do’ over the next couple of weeks and catch lots of fish when we arrived at the beaches near Bilbunya dunes.
We embarked on the 4WD track in convoy, heading to the Baxter Cliffs and driving through Nuytsland Nature Reserve, following the coastline. The cliffs dropped down before us dramatically and the wild waves crashed against the cliffs violently. As we continued on from Baxter cliffs we came across a heard of wild camels who quickly disappeared from our sight.
The 4WD track was rough, rocky and narrow and the vegetation scraped against the side of the car. We averaged about 9km/hr, which became a little tiring after 3 days.
We all camped a few nights in grassy open plains and gathered in the evenings for a couple of drinks while watching the sunset. We came across a death adder, goannas, lizards and native quails during the 3 days on the top of the cliff escarpment.
We drove through charcoaled landscapes affected by a bushfire and then the vegetation began to change entirely, and the soil became sandy. Beautiful banksias, scarlet bottlebrush and wildflowers began to emerge in the undulating topography.
The track then became extremely steep as we came down from the top of the escarpment adjacent to the enormous Bilbunya dunes (the highest dunes in the southern hemisphere) and it was a relief to see the ocean and beaches again.
We stayed in the dunes for 4 nights and surfed the steep sand dunes on Georgie and Emily’s waxed skateboards. Early in the mornings we fished on the beach catching salmon and mulloway watching the dolphins surf and play in the clear aqua waves. On our walk back through the dunes we collected sweet jam-like pig face fruit and pig face leaves, which we cut up and had in our fish cakes. In the evenings we gathered at the fire cooking up dinner and damper around a stick filled with butter and honey.
USES AND PROPERTIES OF PIG FACE (Carpabrotus species)
1. Edible leaves have a mildly salty, juicy pulp; proven- antioxidant, anti scurvy (Vit.C).
2. Use like aloe vera externally; shown anti-inflammatory properties- good for stings& burns.
4. Make jam/jelly with pulp. Eat in salad or stirfry. Chop and use as a relish with meat. Pickle like cucumbers.
FRUITS AND FLOWERS
6. Flowers and fruits sweet and edible. Tastes like salty kiwifruit, figs or strawberries. No known research on properties or nutrient value of these. Possibly high in Vitamin C. Squeeze bottom of fruit into mouth to collect the juice, seeds and fruit. Discard skin.
7. Make jam/chutney with flowers and fruits.Combo with pulp possibly. Icecream syrups and other sweets possible.
It was time to head to Israelite Bay and as we were leaving Bilbunya dunes we walked up to the highest dunes with waxed skateboards admiring the endless sandy landscape and then surfed back down the wind sculpted dunes.
We let our tyres down and hit the beach driving for a couple of hours through quite soft boggy sand due to buried seaweed patches. We bumped into a group of guys from Esperance fishing on the beach and we stopped and had a beer and they offered us a sausage sandwich, which was a lot yummier than normal after only eating fish over the last four days. The track then lead us behind the beach, along salt flats and then through the dunes, where the track was quite bumpy and corrugated. We arrived at Isarelite Bay and stayed near Point Dempster where the swimming was beautiful and not as thick with seedweed as Israelite Bay itself. We visited the ruin of the grand old homestead and telegraph station with limestone walls and the surrounding graves of telegraph workers who worked in such remoteness.
One morning Emma, Georgie and I practice yoga in the early morning light amongst the sand dune vegetation. Then the day quickly became very hot and windy so we went down to the sheltered beach swimming every half an hour to cool down.
In the late afternoon a car drove past stopping by for a chat and a drink. This is when we met the character ‘Honest Noel’ a farmer from Hopetoun, who invited us to his camp site for a camp oven lamb roast the following night. The night after, Dan and I arrived at their fully decked out camp site with marque, and joined the jolly farmers for roast lamb and a few beers by the fire. They were lovely and set us back to our camp with fresh veggies and eggs from their farm, which kept us going for a few more days before hitting civilisation.
From Israelite Bay we continued along the Old Telegraph Line Track to Cape Arid National Park. The track was beautiful and we were immersed in a banksia woodland predominately with Banksia speciosa and grass trees (Xanthorea preissii) flowering. We came across a few very unusual WA Christmas Trees (Nuytsia floribunda) in the landscape with waxy leaves, yellow flowers and a very distinct form similar to a lone tree on an African plane. We made our way down a rough 4WD track towards a beautiful little cove (Thomas Fishery) backdropped with grand granite mountains. We woke up with a vivid red sky ‘red sky in the morning Shepard’s warning’, then the black clouds rolled in and the rain deluged down.
We stayed at Thomas Fishery for a few nights admiring the wonderful banksias and and caught squid off the lichen covered granite ocean rocks. Neighbouring campers were from WA fisheries researching abalone. Dan chatted to them about the different types of abalone in the area (greenlip, blacklip and roe) and they gave us a few tips of great spots to check out, one being Duke of Orleans Bay.
We then pumped up our tyres to hit the asphalt roads, which we had not seen in weeks and made our way to Thomas River camping area where Emma, Lucas, Grant, Sandy and the girls where camped. We went for a wonderful foreshore walk for 3 hours along the beaches and headlands and we went for a kayak on the river at dusk.
From Cape Arid National Park we went to check out Duke of Orleans Bay and stopped at the caravan park and had our first HOT shower in weeks, which was bliss! We explored the area which we though was one of the best areas we had seen on our trip. There were great walks, one of the most beautiful swimming beaches ever with perfect waves rolling in at Wharton Beach. The following day we met Emma and Lucas at Wharton Beach and we all had a surf. Dan and I borrowed Emma’s board and had a little surf followed by a few beers in the afternoon sun- delightful! That evening we then went to the pub at Condingup and had the best burger ever. Such a fantastic family owned pub with great coffee also.
After leaving Duke of Orleans towards Esperance we drove through Cape Le Grand National Park stopping briefly at Lucky Bay, which is well known for its amazing beach and aqua water- it was a beautiful beach although the camping area felt like a car park. We drove past Frenchmans peak, which was very fitting as it looked as though there was a large beret hat on the top of the granite mountain.
We then arrived in Esperance, and had a lovely pub meal for Sandy’s birthday and soaked in Esperance’s stunning beaches and said bye for now to Grant, Sandy, the girls and Emma and Lucas. What an awesome adventure we had!
The hunter gatherer diary post for the next part of our trip to follow soon!