Number 3 - Drive Across the Nullarbor Desert

While the Nullarbor is affectionately known by many Australians as the "nullar-boring" this trip was incredible! Before I left every person that I spoke to about the trip that had done it before seemed to have a strong opinion on it - they either said it was amazing and they would do it again, or they said it was the most boring thing they had ever done. The name "Nullarbor" comes from the latin meaning "no trees", and while there are plenty of trees either side of the desert once you hit the Nullarbor plain the tallest natural feature are the salt bushes which only grow to a height of about 2 feet.

So, my trip began in Melbourne in Victoria, which is the state at the bottom coloured in blue, and ended in Perth which is on the otherside of the country coloured in pink. The trip is 3,600 kilometers through some of the most desolate country in the world. I did the trip over a few days, day 1 was Melbourne to Adelaide which I did on my own, I then spent a day in Adelaide with my half uncle and the next morning picked my mum up from the airport and continued on from there. I have broken the trip down into days to make it easier to keep track of...

Day 1 - Melbourne to Adelaide

I drove out at about 8am on Saturday morning, on the 27th of February 2010, knowing that the drive to Adelaide would take me about 8 hours and wanting to get to my half uncles place before he went out to dinner. There is something very exciting about taking a road trip, even though the first part was on my own, I cranked the music up and made sure I had plenty of coca-cola, water, and a bottle of V stashed under the seat where it would get hot. It was a gorgeous day and after a couple of hours I realised I needed to start with the sunscreen so I didnt end up burnt to a crisp - especially since the sun was only hitting one arm and my knee! I only stopped twice that day - to get a cold bottle of coke (my drink of choice...caffeine and sugar!) and have a bit of a walk around. I did think about stopping when I saw the "giant koala" on the side of the road. For those of you not from Australia there seems to be a bit of an obsession in this country with creating supersized animals and fruit out of fibreglass, from the giant pineapple and strawberry to the giant koala and kangaroo.

The second time I stopped was less of a planned stop and more of a necessity - I was coming down the massive hill into Adelaide when I felt something move under my leg - given I was wearing a miniskirt this concerned me. I though it might just have been a hair or something so I reached down to brush it away at which point I realised it was a bee. I swerved over to the side of the road, stopping more quickly than my bottle of coke appreciated and leapt from the car, arms flailing, and drawing quite a few confused glances from drivers passing by. After this I was definately awake which was proabably a good thing given I knew I was about to face city traffic and I was getting tired. Then again the most challenging thing about Adelaide is not the traffic but trying to get around the streets! I was definately greatful for the GPS on my phone and by the time I made it to my half uncles place I was hot and sticky and looking forward to sitting down and doing nothing.

I had a bit of a catch up with my half uncle and after he went out I wandered down the road, got myself a kebab / souvalaki / yiros (called different things in every state) and then promptly fell asleep.

Day 2 - Adelaide

I woke up to another absoluetly gorgeous day, made myself a cup of tea, and put my feet up in my half uncles backyard (pictured left). Had a very relaxing morning and when my half uncle and his lovely lady were organised we headed off to the South Australian food and wine festival that just happened to be on that weekend, not part of my planning but a very happy coincidence none-the-less! The food and wine festival was part of the Adelaide Arts festival which completely transformed the city.

The streets had been cordoned off for the food and wine festival and there were people everywhere. It was around 30 degrees (celcius) and people were clustered underneath trees trying to make the most of the shade - Im sure the wine stands made a huge amount of money just because everyone was so hot and thirsty! They also had live music and you could smell the salt and pepper squid being cooked at little stalls on the side of the road. After a few hours of wandering around with two of the most popular people in Adelaide (I say this because we bumped into someone they knew every two steps!) we decided we were hot and hungry and headed home for dinner with my half uncles house mates and their extended families - it seemed to be the weekend for the whole house to have visitors!

After a lovely dinner we headed out into the city again to see an Art display by (if I am remembering correctly) a Swede - who takes photographs of old buildings and then puts the images onto a computer, paints them or colours them in, and then projects the coloured images back onto the buildings with massive light projectors. It was the second year this ahd been done in Adelaide, after it had been such a success in the first year and the buildings looked amazing.

The pictures shown on the left are both of the same building with two different pictures being projected back onto it - the colours changed every few minutes and each building had about three or four different pictures. The buildings ran all the way along the street and you could spend a couple of hours just wandering up and down looking at the buildings and then the incredible colours.

Day 3 - Adelaide to Port Augusta

I picked my mum up from the airport at about 10 or 11 am on the Monday morning and after stopping for a coffee we jumped straight in the car and began driving towards Port Augusta. We had discussed how far we would go the first day and it was either Port Augusta or continue on to Ceduna which was another 3-400kms further. Once we hit the open road we realised it was crazy to try and get to Ceduna as it meant we would be driving through Kanagroo country in the dark - not smart in my little, overly full, Lancer. While we didnt do a huge amount of driving the first day (roughly 600 kms) we certainyl did a lot of catching up! It had been 18 months since I had seen mum, and even though we talked on the phone almost every daym, its just different when you are catching up in person.

Day four - Port Augusta to Nullarbor Plain

This was the first of the "big days" of driving - roughly 796 kms - which seems a lot more when you travelled 600 kms the day before... a cycle which would only make the following days seem bigger and longer! We made it to Ceduna about mid-morning and stopped for a bite to eat and to stretch our legs. It was definately an interesting stop! We went and had a meat pie at one of the bakerys in town - an excellent meat pie actually! Then we wandered down and had a look at the visitors information centre and met the evil dragon lady on a power trip that was managing the visitor centre - when I say met I really mean observed her being rude to a tourist and decided not to buy anything! Went back to the car and realised the the bottle of coolent I had been badgered into bring had indeed (as I had predicted) exploded in the car and gone all over my laptops and the floor of the car. It was at this point I burst into tears and sat in the passenger seat feeling very sorry for myself - this was the only break down I had on the trip and I think maybe I just needed to get it out of my system! Mum went over to wash the mat out at the Holden dealership - kudos to the guys in there for beinf so nice! And, as only mum would, went to ask the two bikies on the side of the road if coolent would damage the laptops. The bikies assured her that they would be fine as long as we dried them and after frantically drying everything and wrapping the now saturated car mat in a bag we set out again.

Our next stop was a town called Kimba, which proudly boasts that it is halfway across Australia, not sure how accurate that is but it's their claim to fame so fair play to them! It also happens to be the site of the giant cockatoo.

Yet another giant fibreglass animal, don't worry it's not the last!

I was also fascinated to discover that at the little shop in Kimba they also sell rocks for 50 cents... the exact same rocks that you could pick up from the car park outside. Wonder how many tourists got sucked into that one?! Kimba's only other claim to fame is that they have some of the worst coffee in Australia...even the bikies were complaining about it!
After Kimba we drove on toward the Nullarbor plain, we were hoping to be able to stop in Yalata, but the town had been closed. Not exactly sure how one would go about closing a town but thats what the sign said and it looked pretty deserted but we drove on. The sun started to dip in the sky and mum and I are keeping our eyes peeled for Kangaroos...partly because they are dangerous when your travelling at those speeds and partly becuase we really wanted to see one. One of the things I had done before the trip was prepare a scavenger hunt list - a list of things we had to see between Ceduna and Kalgoorlie - it was a long trip and gave us something to do - was hysterically funny in the end...but more on that later!

Driving onto the Nullarbor plain was incredible - there was literaly nothing higher than about 2 feet as far as the eye could see - not one tree...not even one! It doesnt necessarily sound that impressive but its quite stunning when your there.
We pulled up to the Nullarbor Roadhouse - the only place to stay for at least 600 kms in either direction - and noting the number of motorbikes parked outside we raced inside to ask for a room wondering what we were going to do if they said they didnt have any. Fortunately for us they did and the lovely guy behind the counter handed us the key as well as an invitation to the 'staff BBQ' that night when they finished around 10...and making sure that mum knew the invitation was for both of us! When we walked out from the reception and back to the car there was a wild dingo wandering around the carpark. The dingo came right up to us - at which point mum made a beeline for the car - and I pretended to be the dog whisperer (the little shush noise worked on the dingo for those of you who know what Im talking about!).

Once we had escaped the dingo (it really looked cute rather than vicious) we both headed to the bar...looking forward to a nice glass of wine and something to eat after a long day in the car! We sat at the bar and chatted to the bar-man, who told us that he really was serious about the staff BBQ, and we chatted to the bikies who explained to us they were having their anual general meeting down in the south of Western Australia, which was the reason there were so many of them on the road. We had a little snack and went back to the room for a rest before we headed out with the staff at 10pm... it had started to feel like a very long day! At 5 past 10 there was a knock on the door and we opened it to find two of the boys who had been working in the bar standing there and asking if we still wanted to come up for dinner. We rugged up as warmly as we could - it may have been summer and 30-40 degrees during the day but it dropped to 7 degrees that night and we were told it had something to do with winds from Antartica coming straight up across the Nullarbor as there was nothing in the way to stop it.

So there we were at half ten standing in the middle of the desert with a glass of my favourite wine by a roaring fire made from the wood of an old shack at the back of the staff house - while the chef cooked us the most spectacular meal using only one frying pan and a camping oven. We had morrocan prawns (a dozen each at least) for starters and then scotch fillet stakes for main course with a greek salad as a side. Really incredible for one frying pan and a little gas stove top!

Day 5 - Nullarbor Plain to Norseman

This day was the longest of our trip - roughly 1100 kms - the only reason we could do it in daylight was because we crossed the border and crossed timezones which gave us an extra 3 hours of daylight.

But before we could leave we had to get a couple of picci's of the Giant Whale... in the middle of the desert there is a giant whale... oh the irony!

Not to mention the sign that says to watch out for camels!

We also stopped briefly at the Great Australian Bight - it was the wrong time of year for us - but usually this is one of the best places to come and see the whales... yes, this is the real reason for the giant fibreglass whale!

The next stop was border village...and you guessed it... a giant kangaroo!

This was the point where we crossed from South Australia into Western Australia and changed timezones. We saw there were a couple of trucks in the line to be inspected before crossing the border and mum was in desperate need of a coffee so we stopped in at the roadhouse and bumped into the same bikies that we had spoken to at the Nullarbor roadhouse - they were all going in the same direction so we saw them at almost every petrol stop after this and they started to look out for us - having a look at the tyre pressure on the car etc to make sure that everything was working as it should be and still safe. They were so lovely to us the whole trip - even when I harassed a big six foot lad in leather about wearing sunscreen...
Once the trucks had all passed through and we had fresh coffees we went through the checkpoint - you have to stop and get out the car and open it all up so that they can make sure your not carrying any fresh fruit etc across the border - quarantine is a big deal is Aussie, even between the states. I swear the guy blanched when he saw my car pull up, loaded so full with everything I own that the suspension actually sat lower down. Fortunately I had read up on border village before we came so the only food I had was in a wicker basket in the boot - right at the top so it was easy to show him what I had - didnt take very long at all in the end.

We stopped more frquently on day five because we knew it was the biggest trip and we wanted to pace ourselves... and we couldnt resist when we saw another giant whale in Eucla...especially underneath the 'emu export' sign. Eucla was where the scavenger hunt really became funny as well - when mum and I ran up to a cop who was filling his 4WD police cruiser with petrol and asked him if we could have a photo with his car. He looked at us quite suspiciously at first and then we repeated we wanted the car in the photo, not him, and could he please take it - he finally cracked a smile at the two mad women in the little green car and took the picci for us. (Picture is not being put up out of defference to the fact that my mum may not want to be published on the world wide web...)

After Eucla there is a sign - see left and kudos to mum for taking this out the window - that says that it is the longest straight stretch of tarsealed road in the world - 146.6 kms of dead straight road... We stopped in a little town called Mundrabilla for something to eat and shortly after this is where we stopped again to take photo's walking down the middle of this ridiculously straight road. Not usually safe to stand in the middle of a hwy where everyone is doing around 120 kms per hour - but on a road this straight you can see for miles!

We stopped at every town for petrol as we were told to by the bikies - they mentioned that while 200 kms between petrol stations was manageable - the issues arose when the petrol stations ran out of petrol and you suddenly have to go 400 kms. Finally, after about 11 hours on the road, we pulled into Norseman where we found a motel and booked a room...we payed a whole $5 extra for a room with a spa bath and the second we were in we filled it full of cold water, cucked on our swimsuits, and climbed in. The room may have been horrible but I dont think anything could have prevented me from sleep that night!

Day 6 - Norseman to Perth

Another big day, but the last day so we were excited, actually I think we had gone a little crazy. At the end of every day we seemed to find everything hysterically funny and would laugh like lunatics in between singing at the top of our lungs with all the windows down. On this, the final day, we seemed to start out as lunatics and I don't think it wore off till we were unpacking the car at the other end! There is a tradition in the Nullarbor desert - it's called the Nullarbor wave - which just means you wave to everyone you pass because everyone you drive past is going all the way you have just driven. Mum and I took this to the next level - waving both hands in a frnatic fashion and grinning like idiots - the truck drivers were the most friendly, sometimes waving back but sometimes flashing their lights and hooting their horns as well as waving. It got to the point where mum and I were convinced they were warning each other on their radios to watch out for the nutters in the little green car.

The biggest challenge of the drive has to be trying to overtake the road trains - I had never seen anything like them before - these things are like thebiggest trucks you have ever seen with a second truck trailer the same size attached to the back. I get nervous overtaking trucks anyway, especially with that shimmer on the road that stops you from being able to see whats coming, but overtaking a road train is like asking for trouble. I managed on a few occaisions but on the final day I was too tired to handle the stress so mum and I pulled into a side road and jumped out for a bit of a walk...

All in all it was a great trip - filled with laughing and music - I think the only way you could think the Nullarbor trip was boring is if you have no imagination!

Number 1 – Write a book.

I completed this one about December last year. At the moment it only has a rough working title, but I have now sent it to an agent to see if I can get it published, so I am hoping that they can come up with something better!

It began as writing a story. The idea of my main character had been in my head for a while and I had written the first few pages of the story a number of times, and then lost the copies along the way, it varied a little each time but the main idea stayed the same. Once I got through those first few pages I began to realise that I needed to come up with a rough plot – so that I knew where the story was going. I did a bit of research and found a few really good websites that gave me a lot of great ideas for creating my world. The world creation aspect was a lot of fun, working out a history of the people in my story, the climate, what they used in place of money, the types of buildings they lived in, and what sort of animals roamed the world with them.

I also began to read “How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card, one of my favourite authors, and during the world creation side of my journey I kept his words in mind. He said; if it looks like a rabbit, moves like a rabbit, and tastes like a rabbit then you should call it a rabbit. A lot of the animals in my story are similar, or the same, as what we have here. It didn’t make sense in the story to create things that were completely different and give them different names, although on one or two occasions I have varied the spelling just a wee bit to fit in with the culture of the people using the words.

Once the world was created my characters, or character at this point, then had a set of rules they had to operate within. It’s a science fantasy novel so the ‘magic’ they use also has rules. The characters within the story could then be developed further by the world, we are all a product of our upbringing and the circumstances and manner in which we live, and it had to be the same for the characters if I wanted to make them feel real.

I worked our roughly where the story was headed and began to weave the other characters into the world, trying to give them each an individuality that would make them easy to remember, and make them their own people. They each had ups and downs, and lessons to learn along the way which changed them, and I was right there with them experiencing everything they felt. In a lot of ways I didn’t feel like I was writing the characters but more like I was meeting them and getting to know these people that already existed in a world I was just discovering.

The more I put down the more comfortable I became with the characters emotions, and with writing how I felt, or perhaps it’s better to say that I was becoming better at identifying how each emotion made me feel and putting it into words. When I was writing about fear I would begin to feel my stomach clench in knots and that moment where everything suddenly zooms into sharp focus as the adrenaline pumps around your body. It was the same with each emotion, I’m not sure whether it was writing about it that made me feel it, or if I was making myself feel it in order to better write about it. I remember sitting on the train writing a particularly hard bit, and working really hard not to cry as I did it, the other people on the train would have thought I was completely crazy!

I learned a lot, about myself, and about the craft of writing, and I am certain that it is a learning journey that will never end. I am now putting into practice all the things I learned from writing the first book into writing a second – and I am sure the things I learn from the first to will be put into practice when I start the third! Now I just need to get it published!

So that’s the first item off the list! I have a separate blog set up for my writing, called Bookworms Journey: From reader to writer and all the research and random thoughts in between.

The Bucket List

This list is meant to be added to along the way, I am sure that I have left lots out of it, but I think adding to it is going to be half the fun!

This blog will document my journey along the way - with an entry every time I get to cross something off the list... I'm launching into a new adventure and this way you all get to come with me!

The bucket List:

1. Write a book

2. Get said book published

3. Drive across the Nullarbor Desert in Australia

4. Get my teaching degree

5. Go to a game of tennis at Wimbledon (because if you are going to do it, do it right.)

6. Salsa in Latin America

7. Go up the Eiffel Tower – preferably with someone I love – be that friend, family or otherwise

8. Learn Archery

9. Learn to play golf

10. Water-ski

11. Try fencing

12. Learn to fly a plane / helicopter

13. Learn to speak German, Italian and Japanese

14. Learn a martial art

15. Learn to play a musical instrument

16. Sing Jazz in Montreal

17. Climb Mt Kilimanjaro

18. Walk on an active Volcano

19. Buy a “new” Car – I want to be able to smell that new car smell.

20. Go White Water Rafting

21. Drive a race Car

22. Visit Victoria Falls

23. See The Northern Lights ( Aurora Borealis)

24. Visit the Acropolis in Greece

25. Visit the Greek Islands

26. Buy a house in the Greek Islands

27. Visit The Kremlin in Russia

28. Visit the Pyramids in Egypt

29. Visit Stonehenge in the U.K & Bath

30. Do a tour of the White House

31. Do a tour of Buckingham Palace

32. Work on an election campaign

33. Party in Las Vegas

34. Visit the Lascaux Caves in south-western France

35. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru

36. Visit Petra in Jordan

37. Visit Sumer in Southern Iraq

38. Walk the Great Wall of China

39. Visit Christ Redeemer in Brazil

40. Go on a safari in Africa

41. Go to a festival in Cape Town

42. See the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

43. See Mount Rushmore

44. Climb up the Statue of Liberty

45. See the Empire State Building

46. Visit SeaWorld Florida in Orlando

47. Go to Universal Studios in Hollywood

48. See the Hollywood sign – and get a picture!

49. Disneyland!!

50. Go to Hawaii – see the volcano and sing Elvis songs on the beach.

51. Go to a real authentic luau

52. Go on a cruise

53. Take a gourmet cooking class

54. Take an art class

55. Learn to scrapbook

56. Get a PhD

57. Make the front page of the newspaper (any newspaper…)

58. Build a Habitat for Humanity Home

59. Volunteer at a Homeless Shelter

60. Audition for a Broadway play

61. Be an extra in a film

62. Shop at Harrods (for more than a mug and a postcard)

63. Vacation at Martha's Vineyard

64. Shop in Rodeo Drive

65. Have "High Tea" at the Plaza Hotel in New York or Fortnum & Mason in London

66. Drive a Lamborghini or a Ferrari

67. Sleep in a castle

68. Rent or own an Island

69. Invest in the stock market (at least once)

70. Get married & start a family

71. Swim with dolphins

72. Milk a cow

73. Mush a Dog Sled in Alaska

74. Watch Turtles hatch and run for the ocean

75. Go bird watching

76. Go to The Olympics

77. Watch a World Cup match

78. Go to a tri-nations match all dressed up

79. Go to a fashion show in France or New York

80. Go to a Broadway Play

81. Go to the Super Bowl

82. Go to a session of the US Supreme Court

83. Visit Tibet

84. Learn to Meditate

85. Go to the races wearing high fashion

86. Ride on the Orient Express

87. Take a trans-Siberian railway trip

88. Go to a baseball game

89. Experience weightlessness

90. Visit NASA

91. Visit the Grand Canyon

92. See polar bears in the wild

93. Visit Antarctica

94. Ride an Elephant

95. Listen to Jazz in New Orleans

96. Visit the United Nations building

97. Do the tango in Argentina

98. Visit the Nile

99. Photograph an endangered Species

100. Spend a night in a haunted house / hotel

101. Partake in a Japanese tea ceremony

102. Stand at the North or South Pole

103. Have my portrait painted

104. Watch the launch of a space shuttle (not just on TV)

105. Send a message in a bottle

106. Sit on a jury

107. Shower under a waterfall

108. Teach someone illiterate to read

109. Drive across America

110. Drive across Europe (or parts of it!)

111. Drive on the autobahn – preferably in a sports car – but I’ll take what I can get.

112. Buy a house

113. Watch the running of the bulls in Pamplona from a balcony

114. Stay in an overwater bungalow

115. Walk through a vineyard in Tuscany

116. Swing on a trapeze

117. Learn to snowboard

118. Stay on a houseboat

119. Ride through the snow on a sleigh led by reindeer

120. Watch the ballet from a private box

121. Watch a lightning storm while out at sea

122. Kiss someone in the rain

123. Watch a sunrise from the ocean

124. Spend St Pats Day in Ireland

125. Ride in a yellow cab in New York

126. Buy a charm bracelet and fill it

127. Hold a monkey

128. Go to a high school reunion

129. See a drag show

130. Go ice-skating outside at night

131. Stand on a mountain above the clouds

132. Experience an earthquake

133. Drink a glass of vodka in the Smirnoff Ice Palace

134. Ride in a Tuk Tuk

135. Make Sushi

136. Stand on the International dateline

137. Answer a personal Ad

138. Conquer a fear

139. Own an original work of art

140. Visit the Galapagos Islands

141. See Mountain Gorillas in the wild

142. See Angel Falls in Venezuela

143. Learn how to play tennis

144. Build and then live in my dream house

145. Have my own library – floor to ceiling books and a big red leather chair in front of a fire place.

146. Go on an archaeological dig

147. Shop somewhere fancy dressed in paint covered over-alls – and when they get annoyed throw a hissy fit and open a bag full of cash.

Things to go back to because I didn’t do them right the first time & things I want to do again now I am all grown up;
1. Visit the Louvre

2. Ride a gondola in Venice while sipping red wine

3. Have another coffee on the champs elysees while wearing high fashion

4. Oktober Fest in Germany

5. Visit St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in Rome

6. Watch Canadian Geese leave for their migration

7. Visit Big Ben and the houses of parliament

8. Visit The Coliseum in Rome

9. Go back to Ireland and live there – but properly…

10. Visit the Christmas markets in Germany

11. Visit the Smithsonian Museums