Thank goodness that's over! dorm sleeping ...
Trip Start Sep 19, 2002
129Trip End Sep 22, 2003
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Where I stayed
We went to collect the car which was a Toyota Echo and it thankfully had air conditioning. We tried to convince the hire company to let us have the Porshe convertible in the window as it would look soooo cool with our backpacks in the back but they wouldn't budge. So off we drove along the Great Ocean road which runs from Melbourne to Adelaide on the south coast and is allegedly one of the best drives in the world. It was really beautiful as you get very close to the sea and around each corner you get a view of different rocks and headlands. We wanted to get to the hostel at Port Campbell as early as we could and the weather was fairly cloudy and showery so there wasn't much point stopping when we knew we would be coming back the next day and we hoped for better weather. The only place we did stop was Urquarts Bluff where we scoffed our ciabbatta, goats cheese and salami rolls that we had made and watched our first Australian surf dudes.
At the hostel itself (again YHA), we were in the house rather than the main building which is purpose built. Our house looked as though someone had moved out in 1960 and then someone else had stuck a YHA sticker in the window and rented it out! Brown and yellow worn lino, a stereogramme and musty old furtniture completed the feel and the stained carpet and crusty shower head made us feel like proper travellers. It could have been really nice as there was a veranda and a piano out under the carport and it could have a nice intimate atmosphere which is lacking in many of the bigger hostels.
The next day the weather was a little brighter so we headed back with an early start. First stop slightly past Port Campbell but still in the national park was London Bridge. This is a rock formation that had two gaps underneath (hence the name) but the one linking the island to the mainland had collapsed (fallen down as per the song....) in 1990 leaving two tourists stranded who had to be rescued by helicopter! The next rock formation was The Arch which was basically a hole through a rock. Then we did some walking through the signposted tracks around the Loch Ard Gorge and the story involving the Loch Ard shipwreck where only 2 people survived. There were little steps down the cliffs onto various sandy beaches around this area and it was really stunning but you got the feeling that any of the other rocks could go at any minute! It was also here that we saw our first wild animal - a porcupine!
Heading back to Melbourne way, we stopped at the 12 apostles which are fairly famous out crops of rock that would have started as caves, then arches and now they stand alone. There isn't 12 anymore as they have been eroded over the years but they are still magnificent. Despite being a few sticks of rock, they really are awe inspiring though neither Pip nor myself could put our fingers on why. Not far from there is Gibson Steps which we thought would be some natural phenomenon that looked like steps. No. They were concrete steps going down to the beach at Gibson point but we went down anyway and sat on the beach with our picnic watching the harsh waves (most of the beaches we have seen are only for surfers or mad people because of the tides and rips).
One of the things I was most looking forward to on this road was Bells Beach which was where Point Break was filmed. Excitedly we ran down the steps to the viewing area where you can watch the surfers and were very dissapointed at the beach which was rocky and covered in green seaweed. We did watch some surfers for a while including on one in a helmet as the waves are so powerful here - not somewhere you would learn your surfing trade! We also realised that surfing is a bit like ski-ing without chair lifts - lots of hard yards in one direction and then a quick fun bit to come back. They don't show you all the paddling and waiting for the right wave on the telly!
We had hired the car for 3 days so that we could go out from Chapman Gardens in Melbourne the next day and we headed north to Hanging Rock. I had an Australian English teacher (if that makes sense) and we did lots of projects about aborigines, the landscapes and the films Walkabout and Picnic at Hanging Rock so I was always intrigued by the area. We set off early, passing all the mansions on the way up Mount Macedon and pulled into the park where there was an orienteering race going on. Even though it was just after 9am, we could already feel the heat building and were pleased to have got an early start. The story goes that a group of girls from a private school go on a picnic (the area is really good for this and has been used for picnics and races since the late 1800s). 4 girls climb the rock in a floating fashion and disappear, a teacher goes after them and also vanishes, then a girl comes back uninjured but with no memory and a week later another girl turns up the same. No-one knows if this a true story or not as the author would never say but the papers reveal stories of the headmistress killing herself there after the school was forced to close with the scandal. Walking up the rock (VERY steep) which is actually a volcano, it is easy to see how you could get lost and it's hard to explain but it does feel very spooky, especially as it was so quiet being early on a Sunday morning. We climbed higher and higher, squeezing through boulders and sliding through gaps but got a fab view from the top where we sat and read for a bit. On our way down we saw our first wallaby hiding in the shade of the rocks!
At a bit of a loss as to what to do next as we had not bought the required picnic, we drove for ages over to Sovereign Hill which is a reconstructed town from the Goldmine era and is supposed to be the best in Australia. However, it was 2pm and it closed at 530pm and they wanted $27 each to get in so we just went to the Gold Museum instead. Lots of coins through the ages, lots of gold nuggets (some found fairly recently) and a bit of history about gold mining and the town of Ballarat where we were.
This morning we have handed back our little car and are having a housekeeping day (catching up on admin / bookings, e-mails, laundry etc) and we are looking forward to meeting Harold Bishop and Toady from Neighbours tonight at the Trivia evening (I'm very excited!) However, Pip may not make this evening as I may have to kill him because his rugby team beat mine (they haven't done so for 10 years and we haven't lost at home since 1997) and I'm sure he will live off this for a long while! Also, the weather has dramatically improved and it is now 31 degrees (allegedly)!!!
Had a few technical problems with the entry for the skydiving (it stopped part way through) but it should be okay now (log 22 I think which starts with Rotorua information.)
Pip and Red