The Great Ocean Road: Warning, Very Wet

Trip Start Dec 03, 2004
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Trip End Nov 31, 2005


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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Another day, another bus tour! This time only eight of us setting out from Melbourne and only three of us really speak English; there's an Austrian couple, an Indonesian couple, a middle-aged Finnish man, a middle-aged Australian woman on the way to Adelaide to visit her grown chilren, me, and an American girl about my age. The weather seems fine as we set off, but this will not last.

It's still sunny when we pull up for a quick stop in the town of Torquay, on Victoria's surf coast and home to one of Australia's biggest surf competitions each year. As a result they've got a huge run of surf clothing stores, including wholesale and factory discount places. Jen, our tour guide, lets us loose on the bargains for half an hour and Caitlin (the American girl) and I paw our way through bins and bins of Roxy, Quicksilver, Billabong, etc. clothing that's just ever so slightly out of fashion. I get a T-shirt for $5 (quite a nice one, actually) and, just to say that I've done so, I buy a really bizarre knit tube top without trying it on solely because it is one dollar. One dollar!

The rain starts up right after we leave Torquay and fogs up the windows as we start down the Great Ocean Road. The GOR looks a little like Big Sur but with lusher greenery and we twist, wind, twist, wind along the road overlooking the stormy seas. Next we stop at a caravan park in Kennett River becaues Jen says she always manages to find some koalas in the trees here, and despite the rain, we do too. Finally, after nine months, I see a koala! Actually we see six, including a baby one. They're all curled up into furry balls to avoid the rain and Jen bangs her hand on the tree trunk to wake a couple up. They crawl on the branch a bit, stare at us in disgust, and curl up into balls again. Jen says the toxins in eucalyptus are slowly shrinking koala brains to the extent that eventually, biologists believe, their brains will shrink away to nothing and koalas will become extinct due to their own eating habits.

Lunch in Apollo Bay, which I can see would be a beautiful town if it wasn't sloppy wet with rain and wind, and then we take a detour from the coast up into the Otway Ranges. Here, amongst the towering gums of the temperate rainforest, we're going up on a forest canopy walk at the Otway Fly. We bundle up and hope the wind doesn't blow the steel structure that parades twenty metres above the forest floor down while we're on it. The view from the central tower, which rises to a height of fifty metres, is quite nice. The fern trees on the floor are distant green blips.

Back down to the coast for a visit to the famed Twelve Apostles. (Only there were never twelve of these jutting rocks in the ocean, but rather nine; and about a month and a half ago, without any warning, one of the more iconic ones fell to rubble in the ocean. So now, there's eight). Normally we'd visit them at sunset for the photo opportunities, but the sun isn't anywhere in sight so we just run down to the viewing platforms and click pictures of them in the fog and swirling sea. I wish I'd managed to see them before that one went to rubble, but that's geology for you.

Dinner and overnight accommodation at a cute little hostel called "The Thirteenth Apostle" in Princetown, which is a town five minutes from the Twelve Apostles that consists of the hostel, a hotel, and a general store.
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