Monthly Archives: January 2012

Great Ocean Road

Two things I love: The sea and driving. Put them together and you have Great Ocean Road.

What do you need? A car and some passengers, throw in a tent to extend the trip, a few cans of beer to kick back with after a day on the road, a camera to capture it all and then a bit of sunshine and you have an epic weekend. Done.

Something I never got the chance to do the first time round in Australia some 7 years ago was drive Great Ocean Road. I didn’t regret this; I just knew it would be quite high on my Australia to-do list for the next time. I am pretty pleased to have ticked it off and would be happy to repeat the experience tomorrow.

My excursions and activities here in Australia do not have the frustration or difficulties that Slovakia gave me which always kept me on my toes. In fact it’s almost frustrating just how well they go here, as I just don’t have any of those “it could only happen to Grace” moments to recall. We did have a minor hiccup at the outset of our trip, which went entirely in our favour. The car hire company gave me the keys for a brand new Hyundai Getz….. Automatic. I am NOT driving one of those! I have no interest and see no joy in driving a go cart, especially on a road such as Great Ocean Road. So back I ran (yes, I do that sometimes) up the stairs to the office of the car hire centre and politely let them know I had no intention of driving that car. Oh dear, no more cars in the economy (cheapest car they have) category, so we’ll have to be upgraded. Shame. I sauntered out of the office with the keys to a newer, slightly bigger, faster car than I had paid for. Nice.

So me and my 3 travel buddies headed out of Melbourne CBD, cross country to Port Campbell, making the most of a dull, drizzly morning by getting the bulk of the driving out of the way to then enjoy the drive at our leisure later on. 3 ½ hours later we landed at Port Campbell via only one wrong turn, a coffee break and a beer fuelling  mission. From then the Great Ocean Road lay ahead of us winding its way back to Torquay to the left or to Portland to the right. We turned left and made our way slowly towards our campsite. First stop Lord Ard Gorge. Quite a breath-taking place, where the only two survivors of the Lord Ard shipwreck found themselves in 1878.

After that, the 12 Apostles, which we almost didn’t bother seeing as TWO people told me this stretch of GOR was too far from Melbourne and not worth the drive. Thank goodness I don’t listen to other people’s advice. There are now only 7 of the 12 Apostles still visible from the viewing platform, which are a challenge to see, as you have to fight your way through the Japanese tourists to get a good view.

From there, the road goes inland and away from the sea for a good hour, so you drive through rolling hills, past farms and constantly on the lookout for kangaroos which you are warned about every 10 kms. The dense forest and farmland we passed reminded me so much of home, especially as I was comfortably driving on the left, it was only the kangaroo signs that prompted me I was in in Australia.

When the road met the ocean again, the sweeping curves decorated with empty beaches and rolling surf made every cent count. Between Apollo Bay and Cumberland River the road sweeps round cliffs and the ocean stretches as far as you can see. Power-steering meant I could have driven for miles without tiring or ever wanting to stop.

But we had a date with some Koalas who we found sitting in the trees at Kennet River as the Lonely Planet directed us. A nice opportunity to stretch our legs and our necks as we wondered around squealing with delight at the CUTE koalas sitting in their trees. (Note: it was ME who did the squealing).

Our campsite was laid out on the inside of one of the inward curves, in a valley, alongside Cumberland River which led to a beach straight in front of us.

The next day Eskine Falls was the first stop – a 30 metre waterfall about 10kms inland complete with a steep set of stairs to get there and several snake warnings. Not being a fan of those things, I enjoyed the waterfall but wasn’t too excited about wandering off the track there.

Melbourne was unfortunately our destination, but stretched out into a 5 hour journey with stops at several beaches, a wander round Airley’s inlet to take photos of the Round the Twist lighthouse (do any of you remember that TV program about the family that lived in a lighthouse?) a gawk at the surf at Bells beach where the Ripcurl Pro series takes place and a swim at Torquay, which is way cooler that the English version.

I was sad to return to Melbourne having really enjoyed 30 hours out of it and on the road. I favour ocean over city any day and this particular stretch of road took a hold of me and will definitely see me again. I had a good team with me and an all-round excellent experience. I hope my photos do justice to its Greatness.

I hope to report back on another adventure soon!

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marvelous Melbourne moments

Marvelous Melbourne Moments

Melbourne gave me a good day yesterday dotted with a few of those “marvelous Melbourne” moments I have been waiting for.

After an afternoon tripping about trendy Fitzroy and its quirky vintage and designer clothes stores (and yes, purchasing a well-deserved treat was one the days highlights)flanked either side by great food in the form of Mexican lunch at Trippy Tacos and finished with deluxe 62% cocoa hot chocolate at Monsieur Le Truffe’s. I ended up at The Sunset Series in Fitzroy gardens. This is a series of free concerts and workshops taking place in the afternoons free of charge (of course!), which don’t happen to actually be in Fitzroy, but plonked on the edge of the CBD. I was supposed to meet a group of people there, but once I arrived my mobile decided it didn’t want to play ball and lost its signal, so rather than wander round the crowds of picnickers looking for faces I wouldn’t have recognised anyway, I found a sunny patch of grass and planted myself down for the evening.

The concert itself consisted of two bands. The first – a folk ensemble who threw out fun danceable tango numbers and instrumental pieces, but the highlight was Mama Kin, a band from Perth. Just a three piece: a brother, sister and friend whose lead singer had such powerful vocals and clever lyrics her songs touched a few soft spots I wasn’t expecting. I sat crossed legged on the grass with my bottle of coke and potato wedges (so rock and roll) and danced on my bottom, tapping my feet and nodding in agreement to the sultry sounds and relishing in the fact that I was possibly the only solo audience member.

After the concert, I wandered towards the train station, through Treasury gardens, enjoying the balmy summer evening as my phone returned to civilisation and the messages came through from the people I’d invited with their various excuses for non-attendance. Perhaps the Universe wanted me to experience that concert alone> It felt a little bit weird, but liberating also, that I was able to enjoy something like that without the need to be surrounded by others.

As I meandered through the park contemplating this thought I looked up to see enormous bats swooping and looping overhead. I love bats, and something I enjoy about the summer is watching them dance with such grace in their blindness through the sky. These bats of course were about 4 times the size of our European version and just another little reminder to me to be grateful for the moments that make Melbourne Marvelous.

live loving, love living

 

A new strain of my blog this year will be dedicated to my “other journey”. Be it spiritual, emotional, physical or purely literal: I have learnt many things on my journey s

The End of a Beautiful Day – January 2nd 2012

o far which I would like to share.

I have lived experiences which have tested me, pushed me, exhausted me, inspired me, pleased me and made me who I am today. For some of my readers this may not be your thing, and I have no problem with people skipping this section, but I feel this year that I have things about this journey that I need to and would love to share.

This year I don’t have a new year’s resolution. I don’t have a career goal, I don’t have a travel focus, I don’t have any personal deadlines, financial plans or desperate needs to be met. I am simply going to LIVE this year and LIVE every single day of 2012.

This may seem a simple concept, but so many of us forget to live in the moment, myself included, and never enjoy today.

My goal for this year is to Live Loving, and Love Living every single day.

merry christmas after all

Christmas and New Year

What do you do when it’s that time of year and you are a 23 hour flight from home, 12 hours in time ahead of your family and have been pretending that Christmas wasn’t quite literally round the corner?

I had skilfully managed to steer myself away from the mania of Christmas simply because I wasn’t surrounded by anyone who seemed to give a sh*t, which suited me fine. I told a student I wasn’t bothered about Christmas (figuring the more I said I wasn’t bothered, the less bothered I would be about it) and the response was “oh, you are one of those people” and so Scrooge was the name I was affectionately given in the run up to Christmas. At my school’s Christmas party, when I had to sing “Feliz Navidad” in English, Portuguese, Thai, Korean, Italian and Spanish with my students, I realised that unless I was going to hibernate for the holidays, Christmas was unavoidable.

So my students became my friends, who became my family and in a matter of hours the dreaded “C” Word took the transition into being two weeks of love, laughter and dancing, where the food was rich, the drink was flowing, the company was first class and the weather didn’t matter. I spent time with new friends, old friends, and temporary family members. I ate food from different continents, burned the candle at both ends, drank too much, spent too much, enjoyed the sun, laughed at the rain, walked on the beach, swam in the sea, tried new restaurants, new bars, lost a day thanks to a bottle of vodka, broke a few rules and generally did what everyone should do at Christmas: had a bloody good time!

Thanks to some very special people and Melbourne giving me something to smile about, it wasn’t as horrific as I had feared. Happy New Year all!