Great Ocean Road

Trip Start Nov 12, 2004
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Trip End Aug 28, 2005


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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Before you read on, dullard that Mark is, he's uploaded some of the photos that should have appeared under this section to Melbourne (previous entry). Having spent an hour waiting for them to upload they're going to have to stay there!

We're now seven days into our campervan adventure and we're loving it!

We've affectionately named our van "Skippy" and it's so cute and
cosy. We're having a lovely time driving during the day, stopping
whenever we want, having picnics at scenic lookouts and by night we
cosy ourselves up in the back, listen to music, cook dinner in our
mini kitchen and drink lots of wine! We've discovered a game called
Uno which is highly addictive and very competitive. We've also both
discovered that we are both very bad losers and enjoy rubbing salt in
the wound of our losing counterpart when one of us is winning!

So, what have we been seeing and doing in the last 7 days? You're
about to find out!

Day 1 - Melbourne City to Phillip Island

Our first day behind the wheel went really smoothly. Mark drove the
first stint out of the city (I refused to get behind the wheel until
we were somewhere quiet to minimise potential damage to ourselves, the
van and/or innocent members of the public). We took the Princes
Highway to Phillip Island, a small holiday island to the south east of
Melbourne. Driving through the city suburbs was really interesting -
people on their way to work or school, going shopping or walking the
dog. All this everyday life going on around us and we were so excited
about being in our new little home! We stopped to do some shopping on
the way. One thing we have noticed is that Australians have some very
strange set ups here - things that would be considered outrageous back
home! For example, gambling halls with fruit machines in every town -
and they all have an ATM inside!! And drive through bottle shops!
Mark thinks these are great - even took a photo of one. You literally
drive in, load your car up with "tinnies", pay and drive off!!
Fabulous idea - but could you imagine it if the same thing was
introduced in the UK???! Bedlam...

Anyway, I digress. We reached Phillip Island which seemed a million
miles away from the city. Really pretty and green. We booked into
our first caravan site which we pretty much had all to ourselves, then
headed out to a place called The Nobbies, a scenic point of the island
with interesting rock formations and stunning landscapes. We spent an
hour or so wandering around here before taking ourselves to the
Penguin Parade (I drove, and I was actually quite good at it). This
was great. The Penguins live on the beach and every evening at sunset
they come in from the sea in groups to nest for the night in the
sand. We wrapped up warm (it gets bitterly cold here at night) and
sat and waited for about an hour. When the first group washed up it
was amazing. They kept getting knocked over by the surf of the waves
but they waited until all their group was there before waddling up the
beach to the sand dunes. After a few groups had made it out of the
sea, we walked back up the boardwalk where we could watch them
waddling further inland. They weren't bothered by the people at all -
but it was great to see nature working so well! And they were so
cute! I could quite easily have smuggled one out under my jacket...

Day 2 - Phillip Island to Queenscliff

We awoke from our first nights sleep in the van (surprisingly
comfortable) and had breakfast before heading out to the Koala
Conservation Centre on Phillip Island. It wasn't long before we got
our first ever glimpse of a Koala! Because it was morning, they were
all still asleep (they sleep for 20 hours a day - not a bad life) but
we could see them really clearly in the branches of the trees. They
are adorable, like big fat cuddly teddy bears. We stayed for an hour
or so, wandering the boardwalks, looking for koalas and listening to
the sounds of the Australian wildlife (we even heard a Kookaburra!).
After that, we stopped at Churchill Island, a tiny island about 50
metres across from Phillip Island. It used to be a farm but is now a
national park. We wandered for a while before setting out for the
mainland to Sorrento to catch the ferry across to Queenscliff. It was
getting dark when we arrived so we just settled ourselves into the
campsite and prepared ourselves for hitting the Great Ocean Road in
the morning.

Day 3 - Queenscliff to Anglesey

Before we left Queenscliff, we decided to take in a few of the sights.
We took the Bellarine Peninsula Railway, an old steam line that runs
for about 30kms return. We were the youngest on the train by about 50
years! It's strange being tourists in this area at the moment - it's
low season so there aren't many of us about. Everywhere we go, we see
more of everyday life in Australia than we do of the tourist scene.
The folks on the train were locals who did the trip on a regular basis
for a chance to chat with friends and to get themselves out and about
a bit. It wasn't mega exciting, but it was a nice, lazy way to while
away a couple of hours. After that, we had lunch overlooking the
sea, then we headed off to pick up the Great Ocean Road at Torquay.

We actually arrived in Torquay earlier than we thought, and as there
didn't seem to be much going on, we decided to head a bit further
along the coast to Anglesey before we settled for the evening. We
booked ourselves in at our campsite before setting out to find the
famous Anglesey Golf Club, where Kangaroos hop about on the fairway at
dusk! Quite strange to see people playing golf, but having to shoo
away the kangaroos before they played every shot! We got some good
photos though and managed to get quite close to them (I got a bit too
close for comfort - one of them growled at me!!) After that, we
headed back to the campsite where we found a little path leading up
the cliffs which overlooked the beach. The strength of the wind had
blown all the trees so that they were all growing at a strange angle!
Again, we pretty much had the campsite to ourselves so we had a lovely
quiet evening listening to the sounds of the trees and the waves
crashing in the distance.

Day 4 - Anglesey to Wye River

We were now on the Ocean Road properly and at every twist and turn in
the road, there was another stunning scene in front of us. Along the
way we stopped at a place called Aireys Inlet where we took a walk to
the lighthouse and along the cliffs before having lunch next to a
small lake off the beach. We stopped at a site next the Wye River
which was really pretty and serene. I made friends with some very
tame ducks after I gave them some bread (I haven't done that for years
and it was lovely!) As we arrived here early, we took the van back
out and drove further along the coast to a waterfall and then along an
unsealed road where we were lucky enough to see Koalas again, but this
time awake and having a good old chomp on some eucalyptus leaves!

Day 5 - Wye River to Colac

What a long day of driving this was!!

First stop along the way was through a section of very prehistoric
looking rainforest (seriously, if I didn't know any better I would
have expected a diplodocus to stamp on us) to an area called Cape
Otway. It's right in the middle of nowhere, along an unsealed road
(naughty us - not supposed to do that in the van!) but was worth the
bumps and the sore backsides when we got there. There is a lighthouse
on the far end of the cape which is opened to the public, so up we
went. It was a bit blowy up top but I didn't care because I'd just
successfully climbed a ladder to get there without any mishaps so I
was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

After the lighthouse we drove further inland through lots and lots of fields full of cows but past very little other traffic to the Otway Fly, a suspended iron walkway
through the treetops in the rainforest. It was a long walk up but
worth it when we got there to be in the tops of Eucalyptus trees
swaying in the breeze. Mark climbed the spiral staircase to the
lookout tower but I bottled out of that one (c'mon, I'd only just
climbed a sodding ladder up a lighthouse! There's only so much a
pathological scaredy cat can accomplish in one day!) I just hung
around at the bottom telling other folks who were going up that I had
a bad knee/hip/vertigo! I did make it out to the end of the wobbly
walkway (can't remember the technological term for it) while Mark
jumped up and down (git). After a long slog up a steep hill to get
back to the carpark, we had a cuppa in the van and then set off to
Colac to settle ourselves for the evening. We found ourselves a
lovely campsite right next to the lake and watched the sun set over
the water before retreating to our now routine evening of
wine/dinner/cards!

Day 6 - Colac to Port Campbell

We awoke this morning to find that (shocker!) it had been raining and
was really overcast. Before leaving Colac, we headed to area called
the Red Rock. The whole area is made up of dormant volcanos and
craters and the landscape from the top of one of the mountains was
really dramatic. Not pretty, but very impressive.

After that, we headed back to the coastal road, quite excited as we
were about to take in some of the highlights of the Great Ocean Road.
We were concerned along the way though, as the rain and cloud just
didn't seem to want to clear. As we approached the coast though,
almost within a blink of an eye it was completely clear and sunny.
Our next stop was the Gibson Steps. The view from the top was
breathtaking enough - thundering waves, rugged cliffs and rocks
protruding from the water - but being little miss super fit and
energetic that I now am, I insisted on walking down the steps to the
beach because, after all, we're only going to get one chance to do it!

The steps were pretty steep and a bit slippy, but it was worth it.
The beach was gorgeous. The water was rough and dangerous, but the
whole area was so unspoilt. Pretty much the only footprints in the
sand were our own and the seagulls! We mooched about down there for a
bit before running (*snigger* huffing and puffing more like) back up
the steps to the van.

A bit further along the road we came to the piece de resistance - the
12 Apostles. For those of you who aren't familiar with what this is,
it's 12 huge rocks that protrude from the sea along the coast. With
the waves crashing against them and the coast line of the Great Ocean
Road behind them it's quite an awesome sight. We walked all the way
up and down the boardwalk getting as many views as we could. We then
decided to head up to our campsite in Port Campbell and then return
for the sunset and we're so glad we did because it was amazing as the
photos will show!

Day 7 - Port Campbell to Warrnambool

Wow! Another day full of exercise and exertion! Before leaving Port
Campbell, we backtracked a bit along the coast to the Loch Ard Gorge.
We thought it would be a "jump out of the van, take photos, jump back
in van" type stop but we were very wrong! We ventured down MORE steps
to the beach to take in the drama of the Gorge. The story of it is
that a ship called the Loch Ard sank just outside the gorge in the
late 19th century. Only 2 people survived - a young man and a young
woman. There's no love story attached which the locals are all quite
disappointed about, but the gorge is named after all the people who
died at sea. There is even a cemetary on the clifftops where some of
the bodies they recovered are buried. All the coast line along this
stretch is very dramatic.

We've never seen such huge waves crashing
against the cliffs like that and could quite easily have hung around
all day just watching. We came back up the steps and walked further
along the rim of the gorge to areas known as the Blowhole and Thunder
Cave - both named so because of the sound the water makes when it
crashes into them - deafening! We must have walked about 5 miles,
just ambling round the area. We were quite surprised when we got back
to the van and it was already lunchtime!

Next stop was the famous "London Bridge". It's an arch shaped rock
formation in the water which used to be connected to the mainland by
another arch (hence why it's called London Bridge - you'll get the
idea from the photos) until 1990 when the middle arch collapsed into
the water, leaving a couple of stunned tourists stranded on the far
arch!

We then arrived in Warrnambool where it started slinging it down with rain!

Day 8 - Warrnambool to Port Fairy

We spent the morning updating the site (the Melbourne entry and up to
day 6 of the Gt Ocean Road) before hitting the road again for Port
Fairy. Port Fairy is a quaint little fishing village that would look
at all out of place in Cornwall. We arrived just before sunset so we
went for a walk on Griffiths Island and had a little nose at the Port
area before settling down for the eveniing.

Day 9 - Port Fairy to Portland

We mooched around Port Fairy a bit in the morning. A very sleepy
place with not a great deal to see, but just pretty. We had a cuppa
and a TimTam (yummy Aussie chocolate biscuit - very moreish and bad
for the belly) overlooking the sea before setting out on our final leg
along the Great Ocean Road to Portland.
On arrival in Portland, we treated ourselves to a fish and chip lunch
before visiting the Enchanted Forest. Another long uphill walk (which
I don't recommend with a belly full of fish and chips!) but worth it
as it was really pretty and very unusual. If I were 7 years old
again, I would easily believe there were elfs and fairies hopping
about in there!

Day 10 - Portland to Halls Gap

Before leaving the coast we took a (cold and windy) walk to an area
known as the Petrified Forest - basically an area where trees grew
thousands of years ago, but over time sand blew in and set around
them, killing the trees and hardening into sandstone, leaving lots of
hollow sandstone "trees" on the cliffs. Quite spooky!

So there it is - The Great Ocean Road. Now we're off inland a bit to
explore the Grampians and the Goldfields - what will lie in store for
us there?
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