We discover magnificent places as you cross the Nullarbor Plain
While Tikay was in dry dock back at Port Augusta, we spent a couple of days enjoying the natural splendour of the Mount Remarkable National Park and the rustic charms of Wilmington and Melrose on the threshold of the Southern Flinders Ranges. With repairs effected, our reunion with Tikay went smoothly and we were soon heading south along the Lincoln Highway to an overnight stop at the Harbour View Caravan Park, near Cowell.
Here, we took stock of our situation, in particular the stormy weather bearing down on the Eyre Peninsula from the west. The forecast was all bad – gale-force winds, thunderstorms, hail, rain tending to more rain, single-figure temperatures, and all the elements that make touring and camping a misery. Once again, it was time to make some hard decisions. We were really looking forward to Coffin Bay and its beautiful national park, not to mention its succulent oysters. But the chance of doing all this and staying dry were slim and we didn’t see the point of going all that way just to sit in a van for three days while the weather raged outside. As it happened, Cowell stands at a crossroad from which the Birdseye Highway cuts west across the Eyre Peninsula to link up with the Tod Highway to Wudinna and the A1 to Ceduna. This was a route that we hoped might skirt the storms and move the Big Lap forward, so we made the ‘Oyster Capital’ of Ceduna our next destination – the last town of any significance this side of the vast Nullarbor Plain.
For most of the day from Cowell to Ceduna, we ploughed into a headwind that rocked our rigs and devoured our fuel. It was sunny for the most part but, at Ceduna, the chill wind sweeping in from the Southern Ocean chopped up Murat Bay and hurled sea foam onto the shore line. Nevertheless, as conditions were forecast to be even worse next day, we braved the elements for a scenic drive around the town. Armed with an excellent town map and local knowledge shared by the friendly attendant at the visitor centre, we took in the jetty on Murat Bay, the pine tree-lined foreshore to Pinky Point and the lookout with a grand view of the bay and port facilities. At Bosanquet Bay, we called at ‘Baldy’s’ for some freshly-shucked local oysters to enjoy back at our lodgings at the Big 4 Ceduna Tourist Park. As forecast, the abysmal weather struck next day, with powerful winds and scudding rain from a leaden sky, keeping us indoors except for a brief foray to visit the Ceduna Aboriginal Arts & Culture Centre, which displays and sells original artwork and handcrafts, and the National Trust Museum, housed in the town’s first school (built in 1912). Both were well worth the effort and provided different, but complementary, insights into the town’s history and culture.