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Published: August 22nd 2012
The day had arrived where we had to be up before the sun rose and birds sang as today we are heading to the cold coast of Victoria to travel along the Great Ocean Road. When we began planning this trip back in Lancaster neither of us knew anything about Australia but within a five minute google search we saw that this strip of the coast is one of THE icons of Australia after the Sydney opera house and harbour bridge and Ayres Rock. This meant we had to do it being so close! We would have loved to hire a car and drive it ourselves but prices were on the too expensive side and as it is a very long road, a tour had been booked instead. We were collected from Flinders street as the sun reflected beautifully off the central business district skyscrapers and after collecting the rest of our tour companions we were on our way, roughly 8am.We were told we would be traveling 600km over the next twelve or so hours so a lot of sitting and looking out of the windows was to be endured but as the tour guide promised the best day out in
Australia we didn't think it would be a chore! More an opportunity to see something incredible and until we got the two hours to the coast it gave us chance to write our blogs and get some shut eye.
We passed over the longest traffic jam on Australia's longest bridge at 2.2km long which although structurally fine many people died during the making which made us shudder slightly but to the road ahead - leave the city behind! The sun had risen beautifully and we hoped we would be lucky with the weather as we had read the weather can really make or break the trip. Our first stop was Bells Beach, a renowned beach known for its surfing break. We were treated to a couple of surfers in the fairly small swells as is usual for the time of year but still the biggest swells compared to other beaches we passed. Bells beach is based at Torquay, named after the British counterpart and is the headquarters of Quiksilver and Ripcurl, the latter holding their annual international surf competition here. Although the swells aren't as big as perhaps Bondi it's about the quality we are informed by
our guide, Peter. The 1 to 1.5 meter swell create continuous tubes to give great breaks to the surfers. The revenue from surfing brings in roughly A$400million per year so it must mean something to the surfers out there! Bass Strait is the huge stretch of water from the coast that when sailing on you would hit Tasmania, roughly 200km away, beyond that you are straight into Antarctica so you can imagine there is a pretty harsh wind at times in winter! We were also informed that the film PointBreak with Patrick Swayze was filmed in the US but to represent here! From here we also passed a Lighthouse that brought back memories of the tv show "Round The Twist" that was filmed here as they supposedly lived in the quirky lighthouse!
From there we drove along the 243km Great Ocean Road. We saw a great deal, approximately 205km. The history of the road briefly is that of the small 5 million population of Australia that lived here during world war one, 320,000 young men were sent to fight for King and Country. When they returned there was a worry there would not be any jobs so
each state founded projects. Victoria's was The Great Ocean Road. Money was raised as a trust predominantly by people and businesses and supported by government and work began in 1919 with soldiers that wanted a guaranteed job for ten years. It actually took nearly thirteen finalised in 1932 but nothing like the tarmac we see today, it was crafted by hand with only dynamite for support. There was a memorial arch created in their honour which we stopped at in a place called Aireys Inlet. Here the houses all look relatively new as unfortunately on Ash Wednesday in 1983, all but six homes were burned to the ground in one of the worst bush fires. One house that remained was a house on a pole, which had wanted to be constructed at Sydney harbour but refused, so here it stood along with some magnificent glass houses that had the best views, starting at a cool $2 million! The road was only thought of as means to connect the fishing villages who traded by boat and not so much for tourism although this now provides a lot of revenue with 1.1million visitors each year.
Next stop was Lorne home in winter to 4000 people, but come summer that becomes 25000! It is a beautiful coastal town with many gorgeous seafront cafes and hotels. They also have a pier from where the largest ocean race takes place each January with 4200 entrants! The village is the best of all worlds as the Erskine River flows to the bay creating waterfalls inland within rain forests home to wild koalas! Overall it was spectacular and we would love to stop here in future if we were to ever return.
We came to the end of the surf coast at Apollo Bay as we then entered the second stage of the GOR, the Otway Ranges which are mountains to Australians, hills to everyone else! Once you reach the famed Twelve Apostles it becomes the final stretch named as shipwrecked coast with jutting limestones, historically the site of no less than eighty shipwrecks in the last couple centuries. The rainforest are not tropical but home to many ferns and are temperate. Apollo bay is likened to a hippie town, new age feel with folk music festivals in April. It's similar in size
to Lorne but not quite as pretty but perhaps that is due to the weather changing. It started off absolutely stunning, cold of course, but clear blue skies. But the coast is known as four seasons in a day, sometimes in an hour! And at this point the sky was becoming grey and the wind picked up but we hoped this wouldn't spoil anything. We drove through an abundance of rainforest trees creating a canopy overhead and we passed alpacas roaming in a field. The trees and grasses were lush green until we came to the gum trees. This was spectacular as home to many wild koalas but they eat so much that if they completely demolish the tree of leaves it cannot grow anymore and thus dies hence many trees were just branches jutting out of their stumps.
We made our way to the oldest lighthouse in Australia, that is part of why we chose this tour as it came this way and we were afforded more stunning coastal views this time with food as an accompaniment! We had an Aussie BBQ of sausages, potatoes and salad swished down with a refreshing
caramel milkshake. We explored the lighthouse, decommissioned in 1996, and Ben nearly pooped himself when Lauren went out leaning over the railings to get the best view! Unfortunately the grey skies turned to rain and we had thirty minutes left till we departed. Only one thing for it, sort Lauren's ever increasing sweet tooth so we had a freshly baked caramel shortbread (Ben) and warm apple crumble (dad it was the real deal).
We set back out and stopped off to get pictures of the sleeping and eating koalas. They were so cute all curled up in the cold and rain predominantly sleeping as they do so for up to twenty hours a day, Fran you thought Rodney your cat was bad! Some were awake and depleting the trees of their leaves and we got some great shots before retreating back to the mini van. Luckily this tour keeps numbers to a minimum so there were only 24 of us with us sassily grabbing the front two seats so we got first class views out of the front as well as the sides!
We drove a
further hour through the ranges before snaking back onto the coastal road landing at the infamous twelve apostles of which it is only possible to see about seven unless you are in a helicopter, even then people can't agree on numbers but the accepted number is now nine, after one collapsed, historians stating their has never been twelve! It was in fact named as such after a competition by residents, thinking it sounded more like a tourist attraction to bring in business! The rain, a miracle Lauren prayed for, retreated and sun burst onto the sky and we got some great shots as we walked along the coastal path observing these sharp jutting natural creations that once were part of the mainland. It is an incredible sight to be in the presence of such natural beauty and to marvel at what the world we live in can create without the interference of humans. More obligatory shots and we set off on a short five minute journey to the next stop. Which was a good thing as a few of our fellow travellers were Chinese who are notorious for car sickness on winding roads. Not that we found this excessively windey.
This stop was Loch Ard Gorge where one of the more famous shipwrecks occurred in the late 1800's bringing over Irish and Scottish immigrant families the ship went off course and sunk after hitting rocks 500m out in sea. One crew managed to get out and save a young Irish girl along with himself and it is here he found a cave and they got through the night. The sand on the beach was so thick and powdery and the waves softly crashed against the rock formations it was rather soothing and the wind held off a bit too to appreciate the sight. We walked around here over several look out points before going to our final stop. Gibbons steps, which lead down onto the beach just before the Twelve Apostles, the only access point. The sun was just setting as the day was setting for us, ending with some spectacular scenes of the sun hiding behind the limestone formations.
All that stood between us and bed was a three hour journey back to Melbourne through the evening, a food stop, a 33 minute train and
a 30 minute walk home. It couldn't come quick enough after such a long but rewarding day. We had some amazing photographs, had seen some incredible, natural sights and revelled in the fantastic planet we call home.
Things of note:
People are incredibly bad at time keeping on trips, we were always the first back and even though Peter our guide was specific and was polite people still disregarded what he said!
Despite this being an average Tuesday in August, low season here, there were still several tour groups full of people wanting to see this area, imagine the summer months when it is actually busy!
The road actually goes inland in the second section as the rocks are so steep and being eroded much faster each year it was the safer option for both the servicemen building but also to stand the test of time. This is seen in the fact that formations have broken, the latest in 2005, the waves crash and crash at the bottoms of the formation that they get too thin and therefore top heavy that they collapse.
This all happened to the nearby London Bridge. Another natural formation shaped like London Bridge that one day in 1990 while two walkers were at the sea end were left stranded when the first part of the bridge randomly collapsed collapsing into the sea!
What would we do differently:
It would have been great to have our own time and stay at some towns along the way but as we said the expense didn't make this viable
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