Sunday, February 11, 2007

Great Ocean Road

Leaving Adelaide I was traveling onto Melbourne along The Great Ocean Road. Officially this was all part of the same 10 day trip Alice Springs to Melbourne but really it was a separate trip. Different bus, different driver and only 5 of the passengers from the last trip were on this trip with me.

This was a much quieter trip than the last one. For starters the driver was older than any of the other drivers I had met and insisted on calling us all “family”. This was nice, but did begin to grate with me after a while. For some reason there was a woman in her late 50s and her mother on the bus. I don't know who booked them on the Oz Bus but someone was taking the piss a little bit. They were lucky to be on a quiet bus. Also on a personal level I wasn't feeling well since the blisters I had picked up around Uluru had flared up and seemed to have gotten infected. In the end I had to soak them in disinfectant at night and stay off them. I should have done that days earlier but a couple of nights soaking my feet finally did the trick.

Our first stop was a town called Bordertown. It gets its name by being close to be on the border between South Australia and Victoria. The main reason we stopped here was to see white Kangaroos. Since 1963 they have bred white kangaroos in the towns wildlife park. They can never be left free into the wild and they are susceptible to skin cancer. They looks kind of sad and very weird. The guide was not too keen on them and wouldn't have stopped if it was up to her. When we crossed the border there was another of those crazy 30 minute time zone changes, Australians like doing things their own way and 30 minute time zones seem to be one of them. Add to that a seemingly random approach to changing the clock for summer time and you very quickly learn that when you finish a journey you check what time everyone has on their watches before making plans to meet up later, there are always a couple of people whose watches are stuck in another state.

Next we headed into the Grampian mountain range. We climbed Hollow Mountain (which isn't hollow) and went to see Mackenzie Falls. The view was pretty good from the top of the mountain but the more interesting sights were beside the paths. The Grampians had been hit by a bush fire at the start of the year and the ecology had not recovered yet. Lots of the trees are still charred and black. This is part of the natural cycle of things in Australia but seems very strange to see so much destruction and how quickly the nature can start to heal. We spent the night in the Asses Ears Wilderness Lodge which is names after the nearby Asses Ears Mountain. We played pool competitions. Everyone took it in turns to take one shot and had to sink a ball with that shot, fail and you loose one of your two lives. I came second with some truly lucky shots but failed to sink a relatively easy long pot at the end.

The next day we went to the Balconies which gave us a view of the valley below which had been destroyed in the bush fires. I couldn't help but think that the view from the balconies during the fire must have been amazing, especially at night. Deadly dangerous and destructive but amazing. Next we went to Brambuck National Park and to the cultural center to see a movie about Aboriginal legends. It was interesting but three of us missed the start having gone to the gift shop. I think the guide was a little annoyed at us, it felt a little like being on a school tour. Still this was a good place to buy good quality yet cheap souvenir boomerangs.

After that we finally arrived on the Great Ocean Road. In one long drive we saw the Bay of Islands, Bay of Martyrs, Peterborough beach, London Bridge, The Arch and The 12 Apostles, stopping at each for a few minutes and to take lots and lots of photographs of the ocean views. This lived up to all my expectations, its a lovely coastline and anyone with a panoramic camera and time to spare could get some amazing photographs there. We went to the hostel, had dinner and then went back to The 12 Apostles to see the sunset. Initially I thought that it was a poor sunset but when I looked at the photographs later I was quite pleased with the results. Afterwards I went to bed early feeling ill but the others stayed up having a few drinks and seemed to have had a good time.

Next morning we went to the Loch Ard Gorge. This is named after the Loch Ard, a ship that was wrecked off Mutton Bird Island in 1878. There were only two survivors, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, both were 18 and from Ireland, though Tom was poor member of the crew and Eva was a rich passenger. Tom swan back out into the stormy sea to save her and they sheltered in a cave that night. The media at the time thought it would be great for paper sales if the two got married, but social etiquette of the time thought otherwise. It was like the Titanic movie of it's day, and had about as happy an ending. Apparently they stayed in contact but married other people. Loch Ard Gorge itself is impressive, a circular bay and beach with a small entrance to the sea. Nearby is the Loch Ard cemetery though they only recovered 5 bodies.

After the Gorge we went to the local helicopter field where I got to take a flight in a helicopter over The 12 Apostles. Mental note, before getting into an 8 minute helicopter ride over one of the most amazing coastlines in the world check that there is space left on the camera memory card. Still it was amazing and I did manage to get some nice photographs and anyway photographs are just a record of the event. You have to experience the event as well as photograph it so sometimes it's nice to have the camera out of action. I always wanted to fly in a helicopter and I have to say it was great fun and a lot smoother than I expected. I'd love to be able to fly one, they are much more interesting than planes.

Next we headed to Otway Range national park and the rainforest canopy walk. Bit dull really. At this stage in my trip around Australia I'd seen more rainforests than I knew existed so the novelty of them had worn off and this rainforest didn't catch my interest, especially when compared to tropical ones like the Daintree up at Cape Tribulation. The canopy walk is a set of metal walkways through the canopy which sounded more interesting than it really was. It was a little too safe, all enclosed with no need for harnesses, helmets, or anything that could possibly have made it fun. Finally we drove to Apollo Bay, Koala Cove (yes there were koalas) and Bells Beach, a famous surfing beach. A short distance outside Melbourne we stopped at Torquay and the “Surf Capital” clothing and outlet mall. We only had a short amount of time there but that was enough for me. Girls would love the shops, but we only had half an hour so only a couple of people bought anything. We got to Melbourne at 7:30pm which was probably the latest any of the buses I was on got to their final destination.

Overall the trip was a little dull really, perhaps after coming through places like Uluru and Coober Pedy I was a little spoiled, but the Great Ocean Road itself was worth seeing. As a bonus I heard that several of the others who had stayed behind in Adelaide had decided to come to Melbourne on an overnight bus since they couldn't get accommodation in Adelaide, had run out of things to do there anyway and were surrounded by English cricket fans.

Great Ocean Road Trip: 29 Nov - 1 Dec
More Photos on Flickr

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