The Exodus Part 1 – The Desert

I am not going to lie, it has been a while since I updated this site. I know this, and I am more than happy to own my mistakes, but let me explain.

It had been a long time coming, and a lot of my friends and family have known this; I myself had been mentally procrastinating, never fully committing to the idea that the time was rapidly approaching for me to leave. Time, however, has this funny way of moving inexorably forward at a constant rate (usually one second per second), and so it came to pass that I had to spread my wings and fly, leaving my home town behind and travelling across the country to Sydney. Of course, this is possibly the worst metaphor I could have used, as instead of flying I decided to drive the four thousand kilometres from one end of my barren country to the other, carrying as much of my life with me as I could fit in my car.

A 1997 Mazda 323 Astina.

My little blue hawk :3

For such a tiny car, it did surprisingly well holding all the necessary things I need to live on my own in a new city, thousands of kilometres from home. You know, things like my computers and my Dungeons and Dragons book. Also a couple of items of clothing. And a towel; the cardinal rule. It is at this point that I would like to reaffirm just how far apart Perth (my home town) and Sydney are from one another, and what exactly is between them.

The Exodus

4000km sounds like a lot, because it is, but it is also predominantly a barren and lifeless desert called the Nullarbor. Quite literally translating to “No Trees” (Null + Arbor) the Nullarbor is also famous for having the longest straight stretch of road in the world. Driving across this straight, barren, featureless expanse is about as much fun as it sounds; however there are some sights that make this trip worthwhile.

The Longest Straight Stretch

This is not my first time crossing the Nullarbor by car, or even the second or third, so I am well acquainted with the few stops there are along the way. The first is a little mining town called Norseman; founded during Western Australia’s first gold rush, the town is a beautiful mix of colonial Australia and country town. In fact, on a previous trans-Australian trek, Norseman was the first place that we ever attempted what would eventually become “Guerrilla Astronomy”, though at the time is was less organised and consisted mostly of grabbing people at the camping grounds at night and demanding they look at the eclipse that was happening. We had no idea or previous warning that there would be an eclipse that night, so the excitement and surprise was palpable for a bunch of weary astronomers.

Norseman. A little windy.

It was a little windy. In fact it was stormy this time across the Nullarbor, which is sad as the remote nature makes it a typically fantastic place for astronomy. One day I would love to go back and do a relaxed trip with a telescope, a camera, and no deadlines; if you are interested, let me know.

The Great Australian Bight!

Coming up to the Great Australian Bight is always a welcome change in scenery; here there are giant cliffs that mark different epochs of shorelines, each looking down on to vast flatlands that were once the ocean bed hundreds of thousands of years ago. It is always nice to sit back and take a moment to reflect on just how amazing, and how unfathomably old this land is.

Prehistoric ponderings.

Deciding that we were making much better time than anticipated, the original plans to stop at Eucla were scrapped and we pressed on into the rapidly dwindling twilight. This meant that the journey could be completed in three nights instead of four, at the expense of creature comforts like “sleep” and “food”. Eventually we ended up taking refuge and a stealing a few hours of slumber at a roadhouse in the middle of the Nullarbor, embarking once more just before the crack of dawn.

Nullarbor. Yep...

This divergence from the original itinerary had one additional drawback; in order to take advantage of the hours gained by going hard yakka across the Nullarbor, an equally arduous adventure would need to be undertaken if we were to reach the next landmark. Stopping in Adelaide would require taking a serious and costly detour south (also I really cannot stand Adelaide, and I am sorry all you Adelaidians who might take offence to this), and so the only reasonable stopping point would be the town of Broken Hill, deep within the borders of New South Wales.

Broken Hill, but not Broken Resolve. Not yet...

At this point you may have noticed something, a trend, a pattern in these images. I am wearing the same clothes and looking more and more haggard each day. Yes, I noticed this too. Leaving well and truly before the sun and the horizon had met that morning, the final leg of the journey was at hand. Unlike the Nullarbor, rural New South Wales is much busier and so keeping my attention on the road was of utmost importance.

The final dash!

As a result, and possibly from mild sleep deprivation, the last dash to my new home was bereft of photos in an effort to make it to Sydney before yet another rotational cycle of the Earth was complete. The idea of navigating the busy streets of Sydney in the dark and with precious little energy left in my body was not an attractive prospect; fortunately we made it safe and sound. This was a triumph!

… or was it?

Find out next week in “The Exodus Part 2 – The Death

  • Gerhardt Meurer

    I hope you explain at some point: why? I.e. why leave beautiful Perth to go to to Sin City?

    • Tim

      The “why” is to continue my quest for science! :D
      I do miss beautiful Perth, but Sydney has its charms as well.

    • It is where the science has taken me, but I will always come back to Perth one day.

  • Love the photos, Tim. And the descriptions! Count me in for a trip back with a telescope; just give me a few months’ notice first, kk?