Traveling East from Esperance,it is first necessary to leave the coast behind and head North toward Norseman, “The Gateway to the East”. Here we turned right, and into the desert proper. Just prior to the longest stretch of straight road in Australia (all 146.6 kms of it) we refueled in Balladonia.
Balladonia, like many “towns” in the desert is really just a roadhouse with attached accomodation. Balladonia’s particular claim to qurky fame is that a large piece of Skylab crashed to Earth in 1979, after streaking spectacularly across the Western Australian sky above Esperance. The recovered junk (and yes, it os fairly large) is on display in the lovely little museum that is part of the Balladonia roadhouse complex (free to enter).
My favourite part is that apparently then President Jimmy Carter rang the manager of the roadhouse to apologise for the near miss and the inconvenience. Balladonia it should be stressed is in the middle of nowhere. Here in 2009 there is no mobile phone signal, no internet connectivity (the internet booth, which kind of looked like a computer built into a Space Invaders game console, was broken), and runs on diesel powered generators. What it would have been like in 1979 boggles the mind.
The image of President Carter sitting in the Oval Office talking to the manager of the roadhouse kept me amused for quite a while as I headed down the straight stretch of road heading toward our destination for the evening; Caiguna. I could only begin to imagine how All the President’s Men even managed to obtain the number for the roadhouse, let alone get patched through – 1979 obviously being before the days of the globally accessible information sources we now rely upon ubiquitously.
Ah….and then we have Caiguna.
*LANGUAGE WARNING FOR MINORS*
Caiguna is a shithole.
Caiguna, like Balladonia, consist of no more than a petrol station with attached few rooms and a take-away style eatery. However, whilst Balladonia has capitalised on its 1979 brush with disaster and fame by building a quaint museum, Caiguna roadhouse looks like it hasn’t even been dusted off let alone painted since 1979.
Gee, I wish we had stayed back in Balladonia for the night (did I mention they have a swimming pool at the Balladonia roadhouse?). It was so bad it was sorely tempting to drive the 146 kms back along the road to Balladonia again on the off chance they’d have a room for the night. Caiguna roadhouse has to be the worst place I have ever paid large amounts of money to stay at and eat crappy food at. Just to cap off what was a thoroughly ordinary and dreary place, greeting us at the doorway of our (tiny, horrible, grubby, old, worn out, mean, ugly, single) room was a snake.
But it turns out that this was no less than an Acanthophis pyrrhus, or more commonly known as the Desert death adder.
Also known as the LIFE SUBTRACTOR.
www.toxinology.com has this to say:
“As with other venomous snakes causing snakebite in humans, death adders have complex venoms with many components. Overall death adder venom is highly potent. About 60% of death adder snake bites result in significant envenoming, requiring antivenom therapy, and envenoming is often severe and potentially lethal.”
Our friend slithered away after having its photo taken. Fortunately we did not cross paths again.
My advice is – do not go to Caiguna if you can help it.
PS. Apparently the town of Esperance fined the US government $400 for littering after Skylab scattered its myriad bits and pieces across Western Australia. Wahahahaha….