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On Walkabout: The End of the Rails and the End of A Journey

The Nullarbor Crossing

As the trained pulled out of Cook the wife and I were treated to more of the “scenic” Nullarbor Plain:


The terrain stayed like this for a couple more hours and then the train stopped and some Aborigines from this vehicle got out and boarded the train:


We are in the absolute middle of no where but some where out here there must be an Aboriginal community and whoever these people were got on the train and just left their vehicle sitting there. The Aboriginal owners of the vehicle for whatever reason must make some good money because usually you don’t see Aborigines driving nice vehicles like this SUV.

Australia’s Nuclear Past

After a while the train slowed down and the intercom announced that the train was passing the Maralinga nuclear testing site in South Australia:


The British with cooperation from the Australian government tested nuclear weapons here between 1956-1963. The nuclear tests remain highly controversial in Australia due to fears of radiation poisoning of local Aborigines and the fact that many Australians do not like nuclear technology. The picture from the train above is of the ruins of foundations of buildings you can see located on the north side of the train track in this Google Earth image:

On the south side of the track there was a large hole you can see in this Google Earth image. What the large hole was for no one knew, but I couldn’t get a good picture of the hole because it was on the opposite side of the train from where I was sitting and people were glued to the windows during this portion of the trip. This image kind of gives you an appreciation of how isolated this portion of Australia is:

Maralinga is located in the grew box you see to the right of the Maralinga, SA Australia sign. I continued to check out the area using Google Earth and by following the road north from where the area where the train runs through I was able to find this base:

You can see an airfield on the right and probably the main base on the left. I’m figuring the base near the train tracks to the south was probably their logistical base to unload supplies to put on trucks to move to the main base located probably about 20 kilometers to the north. I continued to follow the road north and it branches off into three holes:

I’m speculating here, but could it be that these three holes may be where the British tested their nuclear weapons? Here is a Google Earth image that gives you an overall perspective of the base:

You can see the main base that is labeled as Maralinga and the three holes located just to the north. To the south of the main base just over the ridge line is the train tracks on the sub-base where the train line runs through.

All in all it was an interesting history lesson because I had no idea the British even conducted nuclear testing in Australia. However, if I had to choose a place to conduct a nuclear test, this place would be it.

Late in the afternoon the train finally exited the Nullarbor Plain and entered the South Australian outback:


Many people don’t realize how many trees the outback has, but for having so little water the vast majority of the Australian outback is filled with these small gum trees. Before long the sunset and the next morning we were due to arrive in Adelaide.

Last Stop Adelaide

The next morning this is the scene I woke up to:


The sunrises over the Australian outback are always spectacular. The train ended up arriving at Keswick Terminal in Adelaide around 9AM. It took an hour before we got our bags back from the baggage car, exited the station, and got everything loaded into my Jeep that had been sitting at the station for over two weeks. Fortunately no one messed with it and everything was intact. It was about 10AM and we stopped to get breakfast and finally got on the highway and out of Adelaide around 11AM. It took us about 8.5 hours to get back to Melbourne and with the time change we were home around 9PM. It was a long day and was glad to be back after all the traveling we had done not only on that day, but for over the past two weeks as well.

Holiday Roundup

Here is a run down of the total distance covered during our entire Western Australia trip:

Air: 1700 KM

Ground: 4,400 KM

Rail: 2,400 KM

Total: 8,500 KM

Western Australia really is an amazing place with great diversity in landscapes depending if you go to the north or south of Perth. You have outback, canyons, spectacular beaches, and dolphins to the north and mountains, forests, caves, wineries, and stunning coastlines to the south. Just remember that the distances between locations is truly vast. So make sure you have a well planned out trip including knowing where you will be staying the night. Just about everyone we met in Western Australia were really friendly especially when they found out that we were Americans. Western Australia is a unique experience that many Australians have never been to and I highly recommend anyone with the time available to definitely do it.

Prior Posting: A Town Called Cook

Return to the Western Australia Holiday Journal Archive

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