Day 3 & 4 [19th & 20th Sept]
The night had been freezing cold. Probably due to the southern ocean being just a few kilometres to our south and the cold currents from Antarctica must have been blown over land at night causing the cold temperature that we experienced.
We started out early this morning. 6:23am and all the vehicles were back on the road, heading towards Eucla on the Eyre Highway. We had spent the previous night just 5km west of Mumrabilla. It is Pirates Day and again, Greg was all for it. We were to dress like a Pirate and speak like a Pirate all day through. I am not well versed in this and simply did much more of listening to the conversations on the Pirate Channel than talking. The bat’s mobile is flying a black pirate flag on its roof and Collum’s car was also having a skull in front of its grills. The two Greg’s, I thought, must have earlier come to the world as Pirates because they just were having fun. As we proceeded Eastwards, the southern sun was ferocious. It was high on the horizon on our right hand side. I was driving as Car # 3 in the convoy of 8 cars and absorbing the sights of the mountain ranges that dot the 70km stretch of road between Mumrabilla and Eucla. The peculiar characteristic was that the mountain ranges seem to be only on the left hand side with low lands on the right hand side. Looking ahead, we get accosted with the sight of an upcoming pass, a little gap in the mountain range through which the road is laid. The pass seems to becoming more distant away from us, the more we drive towards it and once through a pass, another starts looming far in the distance in front of us. The harsh environment, sparse water and very hot climate, ensures that the gum trees were without competition in this area. The gum trees, having adapted to the environment have become kings. They provide the needed shades to the Kangaroos and seems that the trees and the roos have a symbiotic relationship. A this time of the morning, the road seems fairly deserted, we have driven 26kms and met less than 20 vehicles so far.
The Explorer has been gulping fuel, at 15.6ltrs/100kms. One can attribute this to the strong head winds that we have been battling with all through the morning. Not the kind of news I wanted to hear but it was still much better than the average of 20ltrs/100kms that we experienced in January.
Approaching Eucla, is one of the best views of the mountain range and one gets to the town driving through the Eucla pass. Here a group of Emus crossed the road ahead of us. They are big birds but devoid of anything that can be described as beautiful. Wandering and roaming freely across the wide land, their only predators are men and as such their numbers, if not being culled, would have been uncontrollable.
Fuel was selling for $1.69 in Eucla. My last fuelling at $1.39 in Norseman. While I understand the economics behind the increased costs, it still is difficult to accept. One would have expected that a commercial driven entity would lay an oil pipeline between WA and SA following the Eyre highway to capture the arbitrage opportunity in petroleum pricing and reduce it as well. At Eucla, we were just 12kms from crossing the WA/SA border and from Ceduna 492kms.
Nothing depicts Australia as the brown cement sculpture of a Kangaroo in Eucla. It has a Vegemite in its right hand which it raised proudly up. Kangaroo and Vegemite are native to Australia. Visitors to Eucla could actually hide in the pouch of the Kangaroo to take pictures. Nothing special is here at the Eucla Road House apart from the Quarantine post for those crossing from SA to WA. None for those from WA to SA yet, that will come up in Ceduna later on. My radio that developed a mind of its own earlier this morning got eventually fixed by Collum. It required just pressing the SQL button to remove the weird noise that it was making.
A little after Eucla is the Australian Bight lookout, the very first place that we will catch a glimpse of the Southern Ocean on this trip. We took a diversion to the lookout and congregated on the wooden platform where we took a group picture. Everywhere we looked, eastward or westward, we were accosted with the sight of very sharp cliff edges. The rocks are described as unstable and visitors are warned of the risk of falling off the cliff edges. The strong waves of the southern ocean lashing against the rocks. The erosive forces of the water is constantly at work, shaping the Australian continent but the cliffs stood unperturbed. As we drove out of the look out, we came across a road sign warning us to be careful of the three (3) road risks in this area – the camel, the wombat and the Kangaroo.
We arrived Smoky Bay late in the evening. It was a short turn away from the Flinders Highway. A couple of kilometres away from Ceduna, one can’t miss the brown brick sign off the flinders highway on the right welcoming you to Smoky Bay. On our earlier trip in January, we had actually driven past the bay to spend the night at its sister bay, Streaky Bay. The bay was devoid of the usual hustle and bustle of vacationers and it appeared a s a sleepy little town by the bay. We headed straight for the Smoky Bay Caravan Park, passing through a couple of sheds and boat storage lots.
We formed a queue at the entrance and had to step out of the vehicle one by one in order to confirm our booking and make the payment of $30 per night for each site. Each family was provided a site number and the PIN for accessing the park and its amenities.
Smoky Bay was devoid of many vacationers when we arrived here. It was quiet and we were able to get all the sites that we booked for. Not long after we settled at the sites, with a spirit of adventure a couple of team members were insistent on going on an adventure. Batman, Batgirl & Diane were hooked on oysters and went to an Oyster farm. The rest of the team settled to have a walk to the Smoky Bay Jetty to observe sunset on the bay. I had the opportunity to converse with Mark, as we walked to the Jetty. We somehow picked up on the same-sex marriage issue that has polarised Australia. Mark, being the artful dodger that he is was not in any definable camp. He felt, at the same time, that the two (2) camps deserve a listening ear but was more troubled that the NO camp had approached the issue more from the religious ground and since a party’s religion is not necessarily binding on others, this was a false premise. I had mentioned that the issues goes much further than that. The experience in Ireland was brought up by me that accepting same sex marriage would, at this time, be curtailing on the religious freedom of many employees who would not be able to recluse themselves from offering their services to gay couples, which will be against their religious dictates.
The Smoky Bay Jetty was beautiful at this time of year and with the sun disappearing in the horizon, its rays turned the water colours and made them splendid to look at. We took a couple of nice pictures on the Jetty, having been joined by the other Greg.
I had planned to do some fishing and had carried my fishing rod and accessories all the way from home, expecting to have the opportunity to fish. No one was fishing at the Jetty and even the Ocean pool, highly barricaded with strong Iron grill was empty. I noticed the warning posted about Shark and I was told that this part of the ocean is notorious for shark attacks. We walked back to the beach only to meet our other team members all by the beach enjoying the cool breeze of the evening. Greg, the other Greg, decided to teach Leo how to throw a pebble to skim the water surface and bounce through it. I got to notice Leo seriously for the first time. He looked Asian and my brain was challenged at deciphering the true biological relationship that he has with Tim and Megan, his parents. It was a riddle that resolved itself later.
I took a look at the beach houses, obviously vacation rentals from the looks and noticed that they were majorly unoccupied We were too early with our trip as the majority of parents taking their kids on holidays have not arrived here. The pristine clear, crisp nature of the water is notably Australian. It is not different from what you will find in most other Australian beaches. The sand was white and the one can see clearly to the bottom of the water. After some while, we returned back to the caravan park. I was tired and wanted to get into the Jerusalem book that I had bought. A couple of folks had heard about the fish and chip store and went to dine there. I settled for a light meal and slipped into my tent for the remaining part of the evening. The hot weather soon gave way to the calm sea breeze and at night the temperature must have dropped significantly as I was feeling chilled in my tent. My wife had persuaded me to travel with a duvet and some warm clothing. I couldn’t understand her logic but I did agree to her suggestions. I said a little prayer for her as I slipped under the duvet and put my socks and hand gloves on.
The fish and chips adventure was a failure, I learnt this the next morning. It so happened that by the time the party go to the shop, it was closed for the night. Dejected they came back to camp. There wasn’t much to do in Smoky Bay and we spend most of the day lazing around. I spent the greater part of the time reading through the biography of Jerusalem. Evening came and we all trooped to the fish and chips sop, being mindful to get there in good time before it closed. Close to the entrance we noticed a dog that was tied to a pole to keep it from walking away. This dog won’t stop backing and it was a nuisance to our quiet enjoyment of the fish and chips. I do note that the fish and chips were tasty and well prepared. Across the road, were a couple of houses and my attention was transfixed at these, trying to immerse myself in their architectural history. A section of the general store, where the fish and chips were bought, was set aside to cater to the needs of the fishing community. Anglers, baits, fishing rods and all similar tools are available at a price to lure the fishing enthusiast to the bay for some fishing.