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!