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Published: December 8th 2014
When we arrived in Melbourne we were met at the airport by my cousin Jill (from Crewe, originally). This was only the second time in probably 40 years that we had met up, not least since she had moved to Australia many years ago. However, after a bit of detective work I managed to get an email address and made contact. Amazing how time flies! It was lovely to catch up for a couple of hours, swapping lots of family news and so on.
Jill kindly dropped us at the Apollo pick up point. Once all the paperwork was done we drove off in another Campervan, this one a bit smaller than the last beast. Destination Adelaide, via The Great Ocean Road; just over 1000km, over 6 days.
Since it was late afternoon by the time we set off we only got as far as Torquay, a lovely, little coastal town. Walking around the town didn't take long, it was small, but there was a very cold (relative term) wind coming in off the sea and that encouraged us to get a move on. Bells Beach - the surf centre of the World, was our first stop next day.
Just a beach, no development, but with a great reputation, apparently, amongst the surfing community. Very bad timing, or luck, got us to Anglesey at just the same time as a couple of coaches full of Chinese tourists and they all headed to the same toilet facilities as I was, drat. Some even managed to get their cameras out as they queued for the loo.
The Great Ocean Road makes up about one quarter of the route between Melbourne and Adelaide. It is what the label says, a magnificent road that mostly hugs the coast giving access to some beautiful coastal scenery. The road was built back in the 1920's by men returning from the First World War. It wad designed to give them work and get them back into society following their experiences of war. It was also designed to link up many coastal settlement that, because of the rugged nature of the coastline, had up until then been isolated. Sections of the road literally have been carved from the shear rock wall, using just picks, shovels and explosives.
As we drove towards Adelaide if any where looked particularly interesting we parked up and mooched around. At
Airey's Inlet we stopped off to view Split Point Lighthouse. This section of coast had been home to many shipwrecks, back in the day. The lighthouses are still operational, but now no longer manned. Next to the lighthouse itself the old keepers' cottages had been restored and turned into a lovely tea shop/coffee house; yummy cake and flat white.
As we were driving we had seen very few wild critters, a couple of times we had spotted kangaroos, but not much else. So, it was nice to see a real live koala up a tree. Mind you the fact that it was up a tree fairly close to Lorne Tourist Information Centre and the staff in there referred to it as "Kenny the koala", suggests that maybe it wasn't that wild. Still cute to see though.
For the second night in the van we stayed at Apollo Bay, a recreation ground site. The great thing with the campervan is self sufficiency. After a walk around the area it's back to the van to cook and eat, then bed. In this smaller van we had to rearrange seating in the back to make up the bed, very simple and very comfortable. The only poor feature of the van was the ridiculously low door frame into the toilet/shower. My head injury was just short of requiring hospital treatment and the resultant scab was massive, well it felt big.
One of the things we noticed is that tourist information can be a bit misleading. Some places, from the info leaflets, appear as "must go to" places, yet in reality when you get there you're left wondering if you are in the right place. Port Campbell was such a place. In the space of 15 minutes we had parked up, walked around, had an icecream and got back to the van. It was a pretty, little estuary/ beach resort, maybe good for a weekend get away.
The Twelve Apostles are probably one of the iconic stop offs on The Great Ocean Road. This was a lovely bit of coastline. The Apostles are sea stacks and the views you can get from the well constructed walkways are pretty stunning. We thought for a moment that we might take the helicopter tour to see them from that different perspective, but the 150$ each, price tag helped that thought to pass quickly.
For night 3 on the road we stayed in a great site at Port Fairy. Now this was a nice place that the tourist info did describe accurately. Established where the Moyne River hits the sea. It has been voted as being one of the World's most liveable cities. It developed from a whaling station (early 19th century). There is still some fishing industry left, but now with probably 60% of the housing being holiday homes tourism its big claim to fame.
For our final 2 nights we opted to stay put in Robe. The campsite was right on the coast, literally walk straight down on to the beach. It helped that we arrived in lovely conditions, so lots of sun/beach/sea time. As it turned out we were quite lucky. In chatting to locals it seems that the lovely weather was not that common at this time of year. As well as lazing on the beach we were able to walk around the rugged coastline and of course drop into the local to test out their beers; Prancing Pony was a favourite.
The final drive into Adelaide from Robe was just over 350km, so easy to do on the last day. Most of the distance was on long straight roads with virtually no other traffic about. As with the drive into Sydney, there was very little development along most of the route, then with about 30km to go up pops the suburbs and then you are right in it. The road in passes through the Adelaide Hills, which looked lovely.
One night in Adelaide YHA, before a 6.30am pick up for the 6 day Rock Tour that will takes us North into central Australia, taking in Coober Pedy, Uluru, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs.
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