Norseman to Balladonia


I've been off the radar over the last two days since leaving Norseman, 207 km back. Communications out here are still antiquated for Australia's standard in what we would call the modern world of today. In comparison Vietnam has one of the best telecommunication systems and internet speed that you could ask for and one could get comms anywhere anytime during the long ride home, but not the case now - so please be patient if my blogs are somewhat late as in a day or two behind.
I've been riding in solid headwinds now for approx 750 km since leaving Perth and had my first relief today which I could say was my best day of riding as far as weather conditions are concerned. A Sunny day with a tail wind is a long distance rider's dream, and that it was for me today. Before my ride started I had read snippets from a small article written by a cyclist who says the only time to ride the Nullarbor is between May and October anytime after that don't ride West to East unless you're a masochist (in bold and highlighted).
The TLRH team have arrived in Balladonia after 400km since departing Esperance 4 days ago. Rest day today which I had been looking forward to but this time after fighting the combined bad weather elements in one go (all but snow) since leaving Esperance I was very tired to say at least. Many kind people along the route including here at the Balladonia roadhouse (near our campsite) have kindly donated to TLRH donation bucket and of course online at
It is quite interesting that the Balladonia roadhouse has its own museum inside the cafe to show pieces of Balladonia history; an Holden old car dating way back and certainly one of the only means of transport across the Nullarbor stands in one corner. I remember driving the Nullarbor back in the late 60s when the road wasn't as kind as it is now. If you had a car problem out here, you had to pretty well disbanded it amongst the gravesite of others that lay along the route - all too difficult to get spare parts or have repairs done when broken down or/and impossible to have been towed to the closest garage hundreds of kilometres away.
The campfire is burning again and the bushfire yarns are in abundance. Ned Kelly who served with me in Vietnam and I hadn't seen for 40 years is a character in himself. After we returned as young SAS Troopers from the Vietnam war we were dispersed to be multi skilled and retasked within SAS Regiment. Ned was sent off to do a Thai Language course with the army and I went in different directions with my military parachuting career. On the completion of his linguist course, Ned discharged from the army and went on to do Asian studies at university. His interest in other cultures ended up with him working in the aboriginal community in remote Australia facilitating the resettlement of aboriginal tribes on to their own lands and other facilitating duties. Ned remained working mainly with Marturjarra and Pintabee Aboriginal tribes of Western Australia stretching from the Gibson Desert (Western Desert) to approx 600 km inside WA. His knowledge of the aboriginal cultures and the language says it all. I am further more interested in listening to this marvellous and fascinating man as I journey along the long ride home journey.
The Pintupi (Pintabee) are an Australian Aboriginal group who are part of the Western Desert cultural group and whose homeland is in the area west of Lake MacDonald and Lake Mackay in Western Australia. These people moved (or were moved) into the Aboriginal communities of Papunya and Haasts Bluff in the west of the Northern Territory in the 1940s–1980s. The last Pintupi to leave their traditional lifestyle in the desert, in 1984, are a group known as the Pintupi Nine, also sometimes called the "lost tribe".
Over recent decades groups of Pintupi have moved back to their traditional country, as part of what has come to be called the outstation movement. These groups set up the communities of Kintore (Walungurru in Pintupi) in the Northern Territory, Kiwirrkura and Jupiter Well (in Pintupi: Puntutjarrpa) in Western Australia. There was also a recent dramatic increase in Pintupi populations and speakers of the Pintupi language.
Inhabiting a very remote part of Australia, the Pintupi were among the last Aboriginal Australians to leave their traditional lifestyle. For many, this occurred as a result of the Blue Streak missile tests which began in the 1960s. As these missiles would have a trajectory landing in the desert areas known to still be inhabited, government officials decided that these people should be relocated. A number of trips were made to the area and Aboriginal people were located and moved (or encouraged to move) in to one of the settlements on the eastern fringe of the desert, such as Haasts Bluff, Hermannsburg and Papunya. As a result of different people leaving the desert at different times and in different directions, Pintupi have wound up living at a variety of communities around the edge of the desert, including Warburton, Kaltukatjara (formerly known as Docker River), Balgo and Mulan, but the majority reside at the major Pintupi communities of Kintore, Kiwirrkura and Papunya.
In the 1960s, the Menzies Liberal government forced the removal of traditional-living Pintupi to settlements east of their country, closer to Alice Springs. The government argued that they were not ready to live in modern society and needed to be re-educated prior to assimilation into white society. In practice, this meant relocation from their traditional lands and suppression of their language, art and culture.
This policy also involved the forced removal of thousands of Aboriginal children from their parents and their dispersal into government or religious institutions or foster care.
At Papunya, a government settlement, Pintupi mixed with Warlpiri, Arrernte, Anmatyerre and Luritja language groups, but formed the largest language group. Conditions were so bad that 129 people, or almost one-sixth of the residents, died of treatable diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis and encephalitis between 1962 and 1966. More to follow from many discussions to come from Ned Kelly in the field.
Balladonia is a small roadhouse community located on the Eyre Highway in Western Australia. It is the first stop east of Norsemanon the long journey east across the Nullarbor Plain. Between Balladonia and Caiguna is a 146.6 kilometre (91.1 mi) stretch of the highway which is one of the longest straight stretches of road in the world.
The name "Balladonia" is an Aboriginal word meaning "big rock by itself". The area was settled in 1879 and the original Balladonia homestead was built 28 kilometres (17 mi) away from the present townsite. From 1897 to 1929, Balladonia was a station on the Perth-Adelaide telegraph line, due to a previous coastal line being shorted by salt spray from the Southern Ocean. The arid climate and lack of suitable water sources restricted the town's development.
In July 1979, the area gained worldwide attention when the re-entry of the Skylab space station left a trail of debris across the nearby countryside.
The Balladonia roadhouse, a modern air-conditioned facility for travellers, has a display of Skylab debris and newspaper clippings, as well as a pub and motel rooms. Access via 4WD is possible to the start of the cliffs, believed to be the longest in the world, of the Great Australian Bight from Balladonia.
There is the ruined shell of a telegraph station just to the east of Balladonia at the start of the famous 'Ninety Mile Straight'. However, it is signposted as being private property.
Ngadu and Mirning people weren't the only local inhabitants around this area in the earlier days. Afghanistan traders with their camels were working through the major routes that cross Australia even out to the centre. An incident gets a mention at the Balladonia museum "The incident at Afghan Rock" very close to where we are camping, tells of an unfortunate incident that occurred in the 1890s at Afghan Rock a watering point North West of Balladonia. A European goods carter misinterpreted the actions of Afghan camel drivers engaged in a religious rite involving the washing of their feet in the rock pool. A hostile argument developed in which one of the Afghans was shot and killed. The European subsequently went on trial in Albany but was acquitted of murder on the grounds the extreme scarcity of water in the region meant that defilement of a water supply threatened life. The fact that the water in that instance sullied by the carcass of a dead camel did not seem to sway the jury's decision.
You be the judge.
Truck, Juvy, Gunney, Terry and Ned Kelly on the long ride home and on a rest day in Balladonia.