One Point Perspective on the Nullarbor Plain
July 19, 2016 12:27 PM   Subscribe

The stretch of Eyre Highway between Balladonia and Caiguna is the longest straight road in Australia. This video compresses a run down the "90 Mile Straight" into five hypnotic minutes.

(The 90 Mile is not the longest straightaway in the world, but I couldn't locate any neat time-compression videos of North Dakota's Highway 46 or Saudi Arabia's Highway 10.)
posted by Iridic (22 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I did this mind-numbing drive in March of 2005, alone. completely across the Nullarbor from Adelaide to Perth in 3 days. coming from North America already with months-long US and Great Britain road trips under my belt, I thought I was prepared.

it was unbelievable how hypnotic and drowse-inducing the Australian wilderness was when driving, particularly at night. turns out your mind needs stimulation aside from a never-ending line pointed at the horizon. I would seize on any detail just to keep my mind limber. the second the sun dipped under the horizon you were in real trouble without drugs (I met a lot of road-train and lorry drivers on my trip around Oz. I'd say an easy majority were outspoken about the benefits of amphetamines in their professional work). so I'd look for dead kangaroos literally every 100 feet. birds of prey feasting on the carcasses. so unthreatened by my speeding automobile that they'd walk to the shoulder of the road to anticipate my passing by. you saw a car coming the other direction maybe 3 or 4 times in 8 hours. you'd both flash your lights like mad, and give a hearty wave as you passed each other. then 2 more hours alone in the 40C heat.

roadhouses stationed every 300-400km, spaced right around a tank full of petrol from each other when they were built, I'd wager. each roadhouse was a petrol station, a grocery store, a walmart, a restaurant, a camping ground, a laundromat, and a motel all in one. the road passes through aboriginal territory once or twice, and let me tell you having that be my first real exposure to these people--truckloads of happy shoeless kids riding a dust cloud into the car park--that was eye-opening, to say the least, and their humanity stood in stark contrast to the jaw-dropping racism against them that I witnessed once I got to the west.

the straight line section is honestly kind of a blip in the context of the whole Nullarbor trek. the treeless plain stretching to the north as far as your eye can see, and to the south leading to enormous cliffs jutting over the ocean. shrubs, kangaroos, hawks. shrubs, kangaroos, dead snakes, hawks. I bought 3 cassette tapes to play in my Holden Commodore, and I now know them all by heart without having listened to them in over ten years. the rare occasion I'd pick up bush radio but the static, the twang, and the slang made it seem like some language other than English.

incidentally, Western Australia is where I had the greatest stargazing experiences of my life, and I've stared through a few fancy telescopes. lack of ambient light and a front seat to the milky way in all its glory is truly something to behold. I'd even say that alone is worth whatever it takes to get you to a few hours outside of Perth.
posted by oog at 12:52 PM on July 19, 2016 [51 favorites]


It's like Desert Bus come to life.
posted by jedicus at 1:30 PM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I had the pleasure of crossing the Nullarbor three times in about two months when I lived in Australia. I thought it was an endlessly fascinating place.

I saw rainbows that ran from cliff edges down into crashing ocean waves. I saw right whales rolling and splashing in a mating dance. I spent four days golfing all 18 holes of the longest course in the world. I chatted with tourists, adventurers and locals, all whom were slightly demented. I wandered around sheep farms and satellite crash sites. I saw more stars at night than I ever dreamed possible.

I recommend taking your time across and exploring. It's an amazing place, there at the end of the world.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 1:39 PM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


I want to believe that blue bear was the camera hallucinating.
posted by aaronetc at 1:41 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


The excitement is from 2:47 to 2:50. Other than that... Long Straight Road.
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:48 PM on July 19, 2016


Nullarbor? I saw lots of trees! (I saw this as a kid, growing up in west Texas: The runoff from the road and the ditches alongside would concentrate enough water to grow a stunted cottonwood every few miles. In a flat basin with nothing but creosote otherwise.)

And they passed, what, 50 cars? It was busier than expected.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:58 PM on July 19, 2016


Try it Star Guitared...
posted by progosk at 3:05 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


AAAAAAAAAAAA I'M ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD AAAAAAAAAAAAA
posted by The otter lady at 3:08 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


only 90 miles? Sh*t...that used to be my daily commute in west Texas. Anything under 300 is a short drive here.
posted by shockingbluamp at 3:42 PM on July 19, 2016


The straight bit it 90 miles. The whole highway is 1,660-kilometres (1,030 miles).
posted by awfurby at 3:47 PM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


each roadhouse was a petrol station, a grocery store, a walmart,
I doubt there's a Walmart.

Have never done the road trip, but I once took the train across the Nullarbor. In places the land is so flat and empty that camels on the horizon are the tallest objects in sight.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 5:00 PM on July 19, 2016


Raise your hands if you smiled at the blue koala.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:40 PM on July 19, 2016


Autumn Leaf: "I doubt there's a Walmart."

Lower-case "walmart". Like "xerox copy" or "aspirin" or "thermos".
posted by Bugbread at 6:05 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Lower-case "walmart".
Walmart has not yet reached that level of iconicism outside North America. Possibly because it has not yet reached that far outside North America. So yeah, no.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 7:33 PM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


Things that are exciting on the road between Perth and Adelaide:

- Petrol stations
- Lookouts on the Great Australian Bight
- SA/WA border
- Fruit and Veg quarantine station
- Playgrounds
- Fences
- Eagles
- Wombat holes
- Trucks that honk for you when you mime pulling the horn cord
- Kangaroos that hang out too close to the road
- The pink lake at Port Augusta (OK, that one's actually cool)
- Oversized loads
- Turning left at Ceduna

Three days people. It's the small things.
posted by kjs4 at 9:21 PM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


Walmart has not yet reached that level of iconicism outside North America

True. As an Australian- it's not exactly in the parlance. But I think we all understood that what oog was getting at was a Generic Everything Shop.

Thanks for the vivid tale of road tripping, oog!
posted by Philby at 7:03 AM on July 20, 2016


I couldn't locate any neat time-compression videos of North Dakota's Highway 46 or Saudi Arabia's Highway 10

From 2013, so some options might not work, or there could be better ones, but here's 5 Tools To Take An Auto-Guided Google Street View Tour, which could make these without having to make the drive yourself.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:06 AM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Aren't Walmarts large though? I've never seen anything approaching a department store at a road house.
posted by kjs4 at 7:20 AM on July 20, 2016


I understand that one highlight is the chocolate covered frozen fruit in Carnarvon, but I have never been. Doesn't stop me freezing bananas and covering them in chocolate though!
posted by asok at 4:47 AM on July 21, 2016


it was unbelievable how hypnotic and drowse-inducing the Australian wilderness was when driving, particularly at night. turns out your mind needs stimulation aside from a never-ending line pointed at the horizon.

I took an almost-cross-country road trip when I was 30, going from New York City to Vegas. I was going mostly on two-lane highway and back roads, and was fine most of the way; except when I was crossing Kansas, which is when I completely and utterly lost it, calling a friend collect after dinner one day in this chicken restaurant in the middle of nowhere and having a breakdown because the road just doesn't end and it's just so long and i don't want to drive any more waaaaaaaah. I am convinced that the reason there are so many cheeseball tourist traps in that part of the country is because people were going slowly mad over having nothing to look at so they were just randomly putting shit on the side of the road just simply to create visual interest ("what is that, a big ball of mud? Perfect, it stands out on the landscape!")

In my photo album for the trip, I have a random snap I took on the highway, with absolutely nothing before me on the road and a featureless plain all around. The caption reads, "this, in essence, was Kansas." When I was showing the album to friends after the trip, they would chuckle over that - but one especially astute friend said, "no - staring at that photo for seven solid hours is Kansas."

I note from the video that this road includes trees over a good chunk of it. Trees would have been a luxury.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


In my photo album for the trip, I have a random snap I took on the highway, with absolutely nothing before me on the road and a featureless plain all around. The caption reads, "this, in essence, was Kansas." When I was showing the album to friends after the trip, they would chuckle over that - but one especially astute friend said, "no - staring at that photo for seven solid hours is Kansas."

I note from the video that this road includes trees over a good chunk of it. Trees would have been a luxury.


I've driven completely across Kansas and Nebraska (and Nevada) and know what you mean. I'd say the Nullarbor was even bleaker and substantially harder to do from a focus and endurance perspective, if you can believe it. (not even taking into account the weather, which is a real factor in this case) you might see a little town or a shack or fields of crops in Nebraska and Kansas. Nullarbor felt probably around 3 times as long as the plains states, east to west. the last few minutes of the video--once the trees are gone--that is the Nullarbor I remember.
posted by oog at 10:26 PM on July 25, 2016




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