Great Ocean Road - Respect

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
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Where I stayed
Marengo Tourist Park

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Well! What a predicament. Just when I thought I'd seen nature at its most beautiful, Australia throws me The Great Ocean Road and says "Crikey! Have a go at theese one mate!" How the hell am I going to explain this to you guys in a way that will do this part of the country justice.....if I even scratch the surface I’ll be happy.

It kinda starts like a fun ride in an amusement park. You drive under the big arch that is emblazoned with the legend GREAT OCEAN ROAD. If there were giant wooden gates that creaked open to let us through they would not look out of place. Once through the magic arch you are on another planet. Initially the landscape was more mountains covered in giant trees on our left and on our right steep drops down to golden beaches and water that was a ridiculous shade of turquoise. We drove past many river valleys and small holiday towns that all looked like they would be the perfect place to stop.....but we didn’t. We carried on driving until houses became scarce and the beaches, quite literally dropped away until we were driving along the edge of sheer cliffs that plunged down at least 100 meters into the giant, ever pounding surf below. All of a sudden we were faced by a most extra-ordinary sight. It was as if the earth really was flat and we were near the edge. The force of the water plunging off the end was dragging hotel size chunk s of the mainland out into the sea. These humungous fingers of rock jutted out of the ocean as far as we could see. The waves were huge and relentless and pounded these structures, gradually eroding them until even these powerful rock formations toppled. They get eroded by two centimetres a year so please don’t hang around waiting for one to topple.....unless you have a tent and lots of supplies. One of the known tourist attractions is called the Twelve Apostles......of which there are only 6 remaining, the almighty ocean having re-claimed the other six, those giants sleep with the fishes now.

Other parts of this unique coastline seemed to have had arguments with the mainland and had decided to head off on their own. The going has been slow and in some cases the separation anxiety proved a bit tough to deal with so they’ve let a connection with mother Australia remain and the result is some spectacular natural arches that would put any cathedral or bridge to shame, especially if you think about the labour costs. Because the coastline drops away steeply, the waves have no choice but to try find a way through, instead of around or over. As a result, thankfully, we get to see giant slices cut out of the cliffs by centuries, or millennia, of wave after wave slamming into the sandstone cliffs. A thin slash in the cliff face that opens up into a beautiful, sheltered cove. An airplane hangar size cave, of which the roof has collapsed, through which we get to watch the angry ocean try to slam itself higher and higher into the air up the blowhole, as if trying to grab us tourists gawking down at it. All this and more was laid out before us. It was a candy lane of stunning views, unbelievable rock formations, stunning turquoise water and great names like Thundercave, Loch Ard Cove, Bay of Martyrs and The Grotto. It is a bit concerning that the ocean was actually eating away at the rock beneath our feet and could, at any moment, drop away and we’d disappear....for ever. One of the arches actually collapsed last year in June.....now it’s just called Two Rocks In The Ocean. Mother Nature deals swiftly with celebrity rock formations with ideas above their station.

Our campsites were, not surprisingly, the best we’d stayed in, bar one. The first was in Apollo Bay, Marengo Tourist Park, I know, how awesome does that sound?! We opened the back door and lay on our bed staring at the ocean. I saw something black and shiny in the water and immediately got the bino’s. Trace always spots the wildlife first so this was a rarity, but I had to confirm the sighting. I ran down to the ocean and scoured the waves for what I now knew to be a seal. Nothing! Not a sausage. I then shifted my gaze onto the ridge of rocks that stretched out for about 50 feet just offshore. On it were approximately 30 fur seals. I then looked down and in front of me was a large board on which was a detailed description of all the marine life in the area including the seal colony I had over-looked.

Our next campsite was in Warnambool at the far end of the Great Ocean Road. This was not a nice campsite at all. Warnambool Surfside Holiday Park was the size of a small city. I do not understand why you would want to go on holiday only to cram yourself into a tiny square in amongst a million other caravans....not my idea of fun. We only stayed for one night, went to the local pub.....6 of them actually, got drunk and went to bed. On the way back down the GOR we randomly decided to turn into a campsite nestled between towering green mountains and the beach. It turned out to be a perfect bit of spontaneity. At the Cumberland Holiday Park we got to camp next to a river which flowed into the sea. This river had cut an exquisite valley out of the surrounding rocky mountains. We walked through dense, almost luminous green, bush along the river staring wonderously at the sun turning giant ferns into burning fans, the trout floating stationary in the gently flowing stream, more sheer rock faces, this time grey granite rising up on each side of us. Massive trees that had been felled by lightning or wind lay across the river in all directions forming natural bridges. At one point we reached Jebbs Pool which was an apparently bottomless swimming hole formed by a small but powerful waterfall. We spent a lot of time here, marvelling at Natures incredible creativity. It was serene, but not spookily, it was perfect. I could imagine settlers landing on the beach and hacking their way through the forest until they came across this place. Their leader would take one look at it and say “This is it, build me a house here”. I’m glad they didn’t because it wouldn’t feel the same with a McDonalds and a Starbucks on the side of the river.

I have felt sad leaving certain holiday destinations before, but this time I felt a distinct wrenching in my heart. I am in love with this part of Australia.........at this point I can almost safely say that because of the Great Ocean Road, Australia has been my favourite trip.

Off to Melbourne next. More city time.........mmmmmm I wonder what our final Australian holiday destination has in store for us.
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