Friday, February 11, 2011

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is a famously well traveled road, but in the past I have barely touched upon it. The furthest I had been before was to Airey's Inlet, home to the TV show Round The Twist. So in essence, I hadn't actually been to what is considered the "real" Great Ocean Road. The arch welcoming you to the Great Ocean Road is at Eastern View, just before Lorne.

Our trip to the Great Ocean Road was for our honeymoon. As we are going to live overseas, there's no need to take a trip to a Pacific Island, as nice as it sounds. It turned out it was a good move to also not go somewhere like the Whitsundays, where we had been last year, as TC Yasi, a Category 5 cyclone came down on the coast of Queensland.

So the day after the wedding, we were flying down to Melbourne. We had a flight in the afternoon, so we spent the morning saying our goodbyes and thankyous, then Mum and Dad dropped us off at the airport. Before heading out to the Great Ocean Road, we had a couple of days in Melbourne.

Melbourne was quite busy that day, as it was the final of the Australian Open. We had a wander by the river, and ended up stopping by Rod Laver Arena, where a steady crowd was already building. In Federation Square, there must have been over a thousand people watching the free telecast on the big screen. We watched that for a while, then continued on our way.

We went to Mme Brussels for a drink, they serve cocktails in jugs. It's not really my scene, but Francisca loved the bar, and the idea of jugs of cocktails on a fairly warm evening was a pleasant idea.

The next day we spent just wandering our way through Melbourne. For breakfast we ended up at a sushi bar, that also sold big plates of breakfast, for a cheap price.

Not far away was Missing Link. I picked up a few zines, and had a look to see if anything caught my eye for the next weekend, once we were back from the Great Ocean Road. The day continued, we just wandered around, stopping in shops for books and zines. We ended up doing quite a bit of walking. After going around the city, we walked up to the markets, closed Monday. We continued to walk, and had a look around the cemetery in Carlton. I had never been in there before, despite going past a number of times.

From there we headed up to Brunswick Street and had a look around there. A couple of places I had wanted to go were under renovation, or closed, which was a bit of a disappointment.

At Readings in Carlton I had picked up a copy of Paul Theroux- Ghost Train To The Eastern Star, where he retraces the steps of his travels (or tries to) of The Great Railway Bazaar. He talks of feeling like a ghost, all these memories from a long time ago. Although it was nowhere near as long ago, I lived in Melbourne a few years back, and memories kept reappearing to me all the way through the trip.

That evening we caught up with my friend from school, Chris. He lives right in the city, and that's where I have normally stayed when visiting Melbourne. He also has a bird.

And a pool on the roof

We got some cans of beer, as I thought it would be frowned about to take glass up to the roof. We had some drinks by the poolside and I had a quick dip on the roof. Despite the warm weather and our proximity to the ocean, this was one of the few times I went swimming on the trip.

It was nearing dinner time, and I was hoping to get a cheap parma or something along those lines. We consulted the website, and I'm not sure I would do that again after this experience.

After seeing a deal for "$8 parma and pot", we were making our way to The Golden Age, up the top end of King Street. Come to think of it, only $8 is suspiciously cheap for a good meal.

From the get go, it was a rather strange experience. There was one guy sitting at the bar, and nobody serving. Eventually a bloke came along, he said we would be still able to get the deal, even though it was close to closing time. There was something wrong with the taps for beer, so we could either have a bottle of VB, or a soft drink. We said that was ok, and had our VB and Francisca had a diet coke. She said it was one of the worst drinks she had ever tasted. It was a long way from the jug of cocktails the previous evening, I'll tell you that much!

The pub was closing, and it's next door to a hotel, so they decided we could eat our meal in the breakfast room of the hotel. So we had that served up to us, and honestly, it was pretty similar to a rock with some parma sauce on the top. Definitely not the best meal I have eaten. It came very quickly as well, so we guest they must have just been sitting in some sort of pie warmer contraption. Once finishing we thought of going for more beer, but the dinner had been a bit of a downer, so we headed our different directions.

The next morning we hired a car and got going out of Melbourne. Driving in Melbourne is not easy at the best of times, but I had some initial troubles, as the indicators and windscreen wipers were switched from their regular positions. Some other drivers just didn't bother to indicate though. A near miss had me wishing I had purchased that extra insurance option.

We wound our way down through the southern suburbs of Melbourne towards the Mornington Peninsula. Locally it is known simply as "The Peninsula", as if there are no other Peninsulas around. We had come this way in order to take the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff, something I had not done before.

We stopped at a couple of beaches, but nothing seemed enticing enough to go for a swim. We headed further south, towards Point Nepean, the end of the peninsula. We started the walk, which was about 8km in total, but stopped at a beach not far along the way. It was quite pleasant there, there were only a couple of other people on the beach.

The water had this great clear colour to it as well. Time was getting on, so we decided to head on towards the ferry. It cost the two of us and the car $70 to get across, which seemed a bit steep, but it wasn't like we were going to turn back and drive, so we paid up and got on board. It was a bit cold outside, so we sat inside most of the way.

On the way out, we were on another peninsula, the Bellarine, and on the other side of Port Phillip Bay. With nothing booked for the night, we were just going to make our way along and see where we got to.

We stopped in Torquay just for a bit of a rest and a look around. It wasn't a surf trip, so I didn't bother with the turn off to Bells Beach. We did stop at the previously mentioned lighthouse though.

From there on it was new territory for me, but it wasn't too far to go to get to Lorne. My Dad had recommended a place to stay in Lorne, Chatby Lane. It's a bit back from the coast, up the hill. They had rooms, so we stayed there. It was a nice change from shared bathrooms, having a spa in the room. We could sea the water from our balcony as well.

We headed down in to the town and ended up having a burger for dinner. Twelve dollars for a hamburger, no chips, no drinks. No nothing. You've got to be kidding me, mate. The worst part was the burger was not particularly hot.

We slept in a bit that morning, just relaxing as we didn't have too far to go that day. To kick things off we had a wander around the town.

Then went up to Erskine Falls. These falls are just over 10km from the town, and it was reasonably busy there when we went. All along the way there are these constant reminders of how powerful nature can be.

It was quite pleasant there, I think it is possible to follow the water right back down into the town, if you had a full day to spare.

Before leaving Lorne, we made a couple of other stops. We stopped at Teddy's Lookout, which gives a great overview of what was to come:

The road wrapping its way, right next to the ocean. Our final destination for the day was Apollo Bay, not too much further down the road, so we could stop wherever we felt like to do some exploring.

At Kennet River, we were told you could see koalas just away from the main road. It turned out a lot of other people got told that too, with buses regular pulling in to this dirt road. We followed the dirt road a bit further, and saw plenty more koalas just hanging out in the trees.

We got into Apollo Bay midway through the afternoon. We stayed at the YHA, which regularly features in the different tourism awards. It's a fairly new building and is extremely well designed.

After having a little walk around the down, we popped down to the beach. I had a quick swim. The water was a little cold, but quite refreshing. That night we cooked at the hostel, Francisca got talking to the other guy cooking in the kitchen, lo and behold, he was from Chile too.

We took a little walk around the wharf with him. There were plenty of boats around, but not so much activity on the wharves. Just a few fisherman, and a few others like us, just wandering around.

We had a couple of beers on the roof of the hostel with our new Chilean pal, we could see the water from there, a nice way to wind down the evening.

Not so nice was a big spider in our room. I acted as if I wasn't concerned, but Francisca didn't want to sleep in the room with the spider. I told her it was gone and went to sleep, but the spider plagued my dreams the rest of the night.

Next day we were off to travel what is probably the most famous section of the road. There were plenty of people around at each destination, but there was nowhere, aside from The Apostles, that seemed overly crowded. Each stop has been designed to keep a high volume of people going along the road, and the school holidays were over, so traffic wasn't too heavy. Had we had come a couple of weeks before, we would have found the roads cut due to landslides, so we had some luck with the weather. All the way along the Great Ocean Road we had perfectly sunny weather.

Before seeing the main attractions, I decided it was necessary to stop in Lavers Hill (population 208), a sleepy town similar to something like Whyndam or Tanja, one of those places with a school, a hall and a church. They also sold petrol at $1.50 a litre, an outrage, but we didn't want to end up stuck with no petrol.

As Rod Laver has found himself being an inspiration to Footbag players, I wanted to get something of me playing Footbag in the town, although the town was around long before the tennis champ. So I got a little video playing in front of the Lavers Hill Hall. Don't think anything much good came out of it, but I was glad to do it.

We carried on, stopping at each stop. The first view of these immense rock formation is from Gibson's Steps. You go down the steps to the beach, and walk in the steps where many have been before

The next stop is the stop for the Apostles, we actually skipped that, as we were going to come back. The sign in that direction (west) was actually a bit confusing. It said something like :


So I thought the turn off must be a bit further on, as that must have been the turn for the scenic flights. As we went on I realised there was no more turns, so we stopped at the next, Loch Ard Gorge, which was recommended highly by the people who run the hostel.

There are many paths to walk to get different views of some very impressive rock features that have been formed after millions of years of the sea crashing against them.

One path let you look back towards some of The Apostles.

From here we went onwards to Port Campbell, where we stopped at a fish and chips shop. Once again it was pretty expensive, and I had a feeling the hamburger I had was previously frozen, but I'm not so sure about that. It was less than impressive, kind of like the town as a whole, after seeing these natural wonders, the scenic lookout didn't have much going for it.

There were a couple of guys on the boog just off the wharf. It seemed unclear whether there was actually a wave, but there was a small wave breaking just near the jetty. I have a feeling in a big swell this would be the place to be and you'd be able to ride in under the wharf.

You can continue along this road until Adelaide, or at least til Warnambool, but after a few more stops we decided it was time to go back. We were still based in Apollo Bay and we had come a long way already.

Our turning around point was The Grotto, a much calmer place than some of the others. The water there is not so rough. I could imagine plenty of people drowning along the way, in plenty of places there were pretty rough seas, with plenty of rips for unknowing people to be dragged away in. Opposed to that are the calm bays of places like Lorne and Apollo Bay where you wouldn't know you were just nearby to what is known as "The Shipwreck Coast".

Driving back, we just made on stop, the stop that everyone on the road makes, The Apostles. An essential stop along the road. Unfortunately, everyone else has the same idea, and that's the only place along the road where the crowd made me feel uncomfortable.

We tried to get some footage of me playing in front of the Apostles, but quite simply, it's impossible to get a clear shot with no crowd. Just at the end, in the visitors centre, I did get a nice run on film.

It's only showing my feet, so you can't see that the last trick is a spinning ducking osis, but a small crowd had gathered and they were very impressed.

From there it was back into Apollo Bay, on the long drive home. It wasn't really that far, but it had been a long day of going and seeing the sights, and this can become incredibly draining.

This is all I will write for the moment, but I will complete this over the weekend.

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Daniel is now living in Santiago de Chile. You can find some more writing at I Love Chile

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