Monday, 15 August 2016

Half-lap Day 102: Esperance ->The Nullarbor

LiAM woke up feeling extremely cold around 4.30am and came up to our bed. Millie was already there too so it was a little crowded. I waited until everyone else had settled back down to sleep then extricated myself and got up into the cold morning at around 5.30. I put on as many clothes as I could find and went and sat in the car to use the computer. Once the camp kitchen was open at 6.30 I moved over there to have a cup of tea and charge the computer and my camera battery.

Everyone was a bit reluctant to get up because it was so cold. As the sun got higher though the day started to warm a little and I gradually shed my layers as I started to pack everything up. We had breakfast while we packed and kept an eye on what was happening in the Olympics, particularly the swimming. We all stopped to watch the semi-final of the womens 100m freestyle on Tony’s phone, which an Australian won (Cate Campbell).

We were ready to go before 10, and headed slightly out of town to the Esperance Bird and Animal Park (we pulled over to the side of the road to watch the mens 100m Freestyle Final, also won by an Australian, very exciting to see another gold medal). Tony dropped us off at the Bird and Animal Park, unhitched the trailer, and went back into town to get groceries, petrol etc.

As we had driven up the driveway to the park we’d seen Scottish Highland Cows on one side, and horses and ponies on the other, so everyone was excited even before we got through the door. In the café area there were tanks with turtles, lizards, fish and frogs, and once I’d paid and the kids had finished looking at those we moved outside. The first several cages were of birds – lots of Australian birds and also more exotic species, the coolest of which was probably a golden pheasant – I’ve never seen a bird with such varied colouring, and he had a gloriously long tail. We moved past more cages of birds and up a hill, then through a shipping container that is a bridge across the path below (very clever) and then down past more birds and almost back to the start. The path from there went around under the shipping container past more cages of birds – this time the highlight was a Major Mitchell Cockatoo who appeared to be digging himself an escape tunnel – he had made quite a hole in under the wall and was working hard at it. We were amused though that if he got through he’d end up in a tiny little ‘air lock’ cage in the entrance of the cage next door.

Around the corner we came to the mammals, which we were allowed to feed (the kids had each been given a bag of food). The lady at the café had said we’d know who we could feed because they’d ask for it, and she was certainly right! We walked around the corner and suddenly 2 goat’s head were thrust through the fence, trying to get to our food. We fed and patted the goats, then some kangaroos, several pens of sheep, some more goats, 3 emus (who got incredible range with their long necks as they poked them through the fence – I was standing back so they didn’t peck me, and a sheep from the pen across the path stuck its head through the fence and started nibbling on my shoes).  At the end of that path were 2 miniature horses who we stopped and patted for a while, then back past the other side of the sheep to a pen with 3 alpacas in it. We tried to fee the smallest of the 3, but he was very shy, and the other 2 kept getting the food first no matter how we tried to distract them and give some to the little guy.

We moved on to some ducks and chickens, then there was a pen where we could go in with lambs and kids, the kids enjoyed that until the kid nibbled Millie’s ear when she was leaning over to pat a lamb (who was lying on the ground with a coat on and didn’t look very well – he got up and tottered around for a while and looked very unsteady). From there we went into the rabbit pen and the kids could have stayed all day. There were big rabbits and baby rabbits, plenty for everyone to cuddle. Eventually we also discovered some guinea pigs. There was a 5th birthday party happening at the park and a lot of the kids were in the rabbit pen when we arrived, they moved on to have their party food and our kids got to pat and hold rabbits as much as they liked. Eventually they came out of the pen and we saw a wedge-tailed eagle called Willow – she had a broken shoulder and can’t be released into the wild. She was magnificent looking, so impressive to see – we felt quite sad though because she was up on the highest perch in the cage and kept trying to fly out of the top corner, she didn’t look very happy at all.

We did a quick circuit back around past all the mammals and the emus so that LiAM could use up the rest of his food and we could pat everyone again. We ended up back in with the rabbits and stayed there until Tony said he was back and hitched up and ready to go. We washed our hands and went to the toilet and chatted to the lady in the café then headed back to the car and on our way around midday.

Tony had bought cheese and bacon rolls, and doughnuts, so we were able to eat lunch in the car as we drove north towards Norseman. The countryside here was largely treed, good sized gum trees that reminded us a bit of home. There were more of the low lying areas that fill with water at times, as well as some sizable lake type areas with lots of water in them. We did see one billabong that was pink, exciting to actually see a pink lake after missing all the others  (there were some up along the west coast that we didn’t go to see).  We stopped at a rest stop once to get LiAM a drink of milk, then kept going to Norseman where we filled up with petrol. Norseman looked like an old town, all the houses were made of fibro and it seemed pretty sleepy. We listened to Harry Potter on and off, playing alphabet or word association games in between.

From Norseman we headed out on the Eyre Highway to the east – really heading towards home now and excited to be about to cross the Nullarbor. The highway was initially between trees again, not quite as tall here but still fairly thick. The gum trees were thinner than we had been seeing, and their trunks were a shiny coppery colour. Their leaves were a very glossy green, it was like the whole trees were a bit sparkly. We stopped at a rest stop to fill up our water bottles from our bigger containers in the back – it was hot in the car (22 degrees outside which is the warmest day in the last week or so, and the sun was shining and making us all quite warm) and we’d drunk all our water in our little water bottles. We wandered areound the rest area a bit, it felt pretty remote and dry. There were still trees but they were getting shorter. We drove a bit further and stopped athte Belladonia Roadhouse for more petrol (we didn’t need much but wanted to hit the Nullarbor with a full tank, especially as the price is likely to get more expensive as we go across). The sun was low in the sky but we were keen to get to a rest stop with toilets – there are 24 hour rest areas quite frequently on this highway, but few of them have toilets.

As we drove further east the landscape changed a bit and there was mainly low, silvery bush, very few trees at all. We passed the 90 mile sign – the start of the longest straight stretch of road in Australia – 90 miles, or 146 km. We’d seen plenty of long straight stretches of road on our drive so far today, and when we measured them on the odometer they were only 5-10km long, so this stretch is going to be beyond our imagination. We drove a short way then pulled into Woorla Homestead Rest Area and found a place to put the tent – at first it looked like every cleared area was a road, then we found a spot between several clumps of bushes and trees, and we settled ourselves in there.

The sun had nearly set but we had plenty of time to get the tent up in the light. Tony started cooking tea and I organised the beds and the chargers for our devices. Caitlin rode her bike around and explored the site. LiAM really wanted a fire so he and I went exploring for firewood, it was easy to find small sticks but bigger ones were more difficult. It was quite enjoyable walking together in the dark, with a half-moon and lots of stars. We found a little bit of wood, and discovered that the rest area went WAY back, it was huge, so many spots for people to camp.

We came back and got the fire going and had our dinner (lamb and mashed potato). Caitlin was exhausted and went straight to bed to keep reading the new Harry Potter book. LiAM and Millie roasted the last few marshmallows, then we heated the water for the hot water bottles on the fire. Tony found some more wood across the road and got the fire nice and hot. He also cooked up the rest of our potatoes so that we won’t have to throw them out if we get to the border today.

It was cold but not as much as the last few nights, it wasn’t too uncomfortable in the tent. I read Inheritance while Tony did the dishes (so he could hear the story as well) then we all snuggled in to go to sleep.

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