It says something about the places I’ve been when I can stare at the spectre of the Nullarbor and see 1,200 km of easy pedaling.
I don’t deny the Plain was cut with a heavy hand. It’s a flat, empty moonscape that stretches across a piece of limestone the size of Nebraska.
Translated from Latin, Nullarbor literally means no trees, though perhaps the name given by the original Mirning people is more appropriate. They called the tract Oondiri – waterless.
The first European to cross the Plain was English explorer Edward John Eyre. He survived the year-long expedition by eating lizards and wringing moisture from roots, referring to the region as, “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams.”
Eyre was hailed as a hero when he completed his epic mission in 1841, and since then the Nullarbor has become one of the bedrocks of Australian travel mythology.
Traversing its vast expanse isn’t just a rite of passage – it’s seen as the essential outback experience.
In fact, while Aussies are enthusiastic about the miles behind my bicycle, the general consensus is that my travels are all a bit quaint because I haven’t yet crossed the Nullarbor.
Now that I’m here, standing at its edge, I can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about. The highway that bears Eyre’s name is straight, flat and dotted with fully-stocked roadhouses every 200 km or so. It’s imposing to be sure, but hardly the stuff of legend.
I say this, and people remind me of the lonely days I’ll need to overcome. Some even compare the Plain to another dimension. They may very well be right, but I know for certain I can survive a void where time and space have no meaning. I grew up in one. It’s called Manitoba.
Nor do I bristle at the prospect of sharing a narrow road with large vehicles. After braving the demolition derby that is Indonesia I’m pretty sure I can handle people who actually went to driving school.
Truth be told, I get a kick out of the grey hair and white knuckles steering 14 tonnes of Australian pride to the next caravan park. These folks wave like schoolkids and never fail to ask with grandparents’ affection if I’m safe and sound. They make my day.
When they pass me on the road, my eyes always fall on the same silly bumper sticker, and it still gives me the same silly grin.
Advencha B4 Dementia.
Now that’s something I can get behind.