Soon after leaving the picnic site at Caiguna on a bitterly cold morning I found myself on the “Ninety Mile Straight”. This famous bit of road is said to be the longest stretch of straight road in Australia and perhaps in the world, extending 146,7 kilometres without a curve or corner. It is not level, though, rising and falling quite regularly so that the impression is not quite as striking as one might think. However, one does come over rise after rise only to see the road stretching as straight as a die into the far distance, which is quite daunting to a cyclist.
It was so cold when I set out this morning that for the first time I wore long pants over my cycling shorts and two long sleeved tops. I kept these on for the first hour, after which I was able to strip down to my more usual and more comfortable attire.
Twenty-five kilometres from Caiguna I met an Australian couple travelling eastwards on their recumbent three-wheel pedal cycles. They had packed all their worldly possessions onto their bikes and had set off, in their retirement, to see the world at 80 to 100 kilometres per day. They even eschewed formal camping sites and caravan parks, preferring to camp at convenient spots adjacent to the road wherever they happened to be when the urge took them to stop. They seemed to be having a great time, but their recumbents were very low to the ground and I wondered about their visibility as they headed into the rising sun. The cab of a road train is so much higher that I had grave doubts that a weary driver, squinting into the early morning sun, would see them in good time.
At the end of our brief meeting we couldn’t wish each other “May the wind be at your back”, the usual good wishes from one cyclist to another, as we were heading in opposite directions and such good wishes to one would be equally bad wishes to the other. We therefore settled for “May you have no wind at all!”
The Ninety Mile Straight took me five hours and twelve minutes to cover. A long time to be travelling in a straight line on a cycle.
There were a few patches of what appeared to be wetlands as we approached Balladonia, although I could see no surface water and I saw several groups of ibises clustered in the area. There were also quite a number of emus along this stretch and also the inevitable dead kangaroos. On the outskirts of Balladonia I saw the first red kangaroo, unfortunately also part of the roadkill.
The Balladonia Hotel Motel is a splendid complex, with caravan park, motel, roadhouse and even a museum, part of which is devoted to the skylab which fell to earth in this district in 1979 and fragments of which are included in the display. Another interesting display covers the car rallies held in 1953, 1954 and 1955 that covered vast distances around Australia. Fifty years ago traversing the Nullabor Plain must have been a very different proposition from the relatively simple trip that it is today.
All very pleasant and relaxing, but the most pleasant and relaxing bit was the Emu Export Beer that we sampled for the first time over dinner in the restaurant.