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Published: March 21st 2008
Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Driving games, everyone plays them and one of ours involved assessing our distance from the main tourist trail or attraction based on the ratio of lorries to campervans - it's a gradual thing - when it's all lorries and warehouses or empty roads you're nowhere near, and you're on the outskirts when there's a couple of campervans per hundred lorries, but when the ratio begins to even up, you're heading to the centre, and when you start massive sightings of tour buses you're smack bang in the middle of the trail, the eye of the storm and there is not a lorry to be seen for fifty kms minimum.
We stopped playing the game as we hit the eye of the storm after Warrnambool, driving to Melbourne along the famous Great Ocean Road. That said, we didn't miss the game as there was plenty to see as it weaves and winds through fields and then along the coast with limestone formations being sculpted by the waves, ever changing. The most famous of all is the Twelve Apostles but there are many scattered along the few hundred kilometres of road.
We wanted our money back as we didn't see the
Great Ocean Road
Ocean for the first fifty or so kms, as the road goes first through fields and farms. In Ireland, made of the hard rock that it is, an ocean road normally hugs the coast tight, whereas in Australia with all that soft limestone the road naturally has to be a bit further in (the erosion and that - although as part of a road in Slea Head crashed to the sea not so long ago, I guess it's affecting everyone).
But when the sea came into view, it was all worthwhile. The sun was shining and Alan was excited, his camera at the ready. Stone in shades of orange, yellow and ochre stand being battered by the turquoise waves - the Bay of Islands - a captivating scene. Every few kms we would stop at another viewing point and see some formation - London Bridge sticks in my mind, thinking of those poor tourists trapped out on the pillar when the ledge they had walked out on collapsed back in 1990. At one stop off a woman with a serious camera (tripod and all) beckoned us 'quick, quick, it's an echidna.' She was right - and watching this oversized
hedgehog waddle his way out of sight was amazing.
It was funny, we kept bumping into the same people along the way, getting quite chummy with some as we went. At lunchtime we stopped for fish and chips, and nearly died at the size of the portion of chips we had. There were so many that we kept some to have with our dinner that night, 'look we're backpackers right', well that's what I told the poor seagulls who cawed and did every trick in the book to get the chips off us.
Back on the road and we were soon at the Twelve Apostles. Alan was captivated by the scene and I was a little underwhelmed. I mean the Apostles are amazing - even if the sea has made martyrs of five of them already - it's the crowds and crowds of people, the 'eye of the storm' I spoke of earlier - I guess they must be on tours that only stop at the twelve apostles as we didn't see them anywhere else.
If we had started off there it would have been fine, but my little group of buddies were suddenly overwhelmed by throngs
Fish, Aoife, chips
Massive portions. Happy, healthy hearts.
of people. I have spent years looking at tranquil shots of the Apostles not realising that there are a gazillion people all taking the same photo at the same time from a different perspective. At one stage David Bailey ahem Alan Ryan was there giving it loads with the camera and I wanted to chill out so I went to an empty part of the viewing platform (empty coz there wasn't much to see) but sure as soon as one person moves away everyone is trying to see what they are looking at, desperate for the 'money shot' so I move and someone looks over, and then the crowd follows and suddenly people are clammering around to take a photo of the fence, and 'would I mind awfully moving for a second?' harumph. Brownian motion, that's what Alan calls it.
After the photos were taken we drove off again, delighting in the Colin McCrae curves twisting in and out of the sea, great fun. There was fierce excitement at one stage when we spotted some koalas up in a eucalyptus tree, 'like fuzzy fruit' Alan described them as we craned our necks upward to see them. We saw plenty
The pillars of Hercules
Thunder Cave, Great ocean road
but they were all dozing. I think if Alan were to be reincarnated as an animal it would be a koala as he likes to eat loads of things that aren't good for him and also likes to sleep a lot.
We chanced on a town in the early evening called Lorne, and despite the fact that we both spent the five kms before it going 'Are you 'ForLorne, geddit, geddit?' and giggling away at our original wit, the town was in fact lovely and we weren't in the least forlorne with our choice of home for the night (ba-dum--tsh). The camp-site was lovely and Alan rustled up steak and re-heated chips on the gas, washed down with some wine, naturally. That night ducks begged for chips and we were feeling generous (aka stuffed) so they benefitted.
The next day we drove on enjoying the end of the Great Ocean Road before heading for Melbourne. The first sight of the city was a bit strange, with skyscrapers looming seemingly out of nothing in the distance. A madness seemed to possess the drivers and suddenly everyone was zipping, weaving and cutting across each other, almost prangs everywhere. I was
a little nervous but we got Bruce back to his home and we were both sad saying goodbye to him, although we realise that shows the growing madness we're experiencing.
Back to public transport and we got a taxi to the tram-station even though the taxi-man assured us he could drive us to St Kilda for just a lowly Prince's ransom. On the tram we realised that we didn't have change for the fare. The driver told us to ask the other passengers so I asked two older gents who thought I was speaking some strange language until they realised it was just my Irish accent and then they teased me unmercifully and told me to dodge the fare but I blushed and ran off and then they felt bad and shouted after offering to pay but another quieter lady actually handed me the fare and wouldn't take our notes and laughed when I said I'd post it to her. I was very touched by the generosity of the interaction.
We arrived in Federation Square having enjoyed the tram ride through olde-world suburbs and cosmopolitan streets. It was already clear to us that we liked this city a
lot. The back-packs were heavy on our shoulders so we got another tram out to St Kilda where we were staying and it was hot.
Now men don't like asking for directions, do they Alan, and even worse, if we had it would have been no use as we had forgotten to write down the address or name of the hostel that we had booked on a whim a few nights before, so we wandered up and down a street full of quirky little cafés, cake shops with windows heaving with fresh moist cakes dripping with icing and general deliciousness, wine bars, restaurants where cheesy pizzas were being delivered still steaming from the kitchen to groups of chilled out bohemian types sitting laughing and chatting, and the bags were ever heavier, smells ever more tempting, until tempers were getting a little taut.
Eventually we conceeded to asking where an internet café was as 'I' had 'suggested' and 'unsurprisingly' we found one in jig time and would you believe it when we checked the email we were actually on the right street and everything, happy days. A half an hour later the two of us were sitting in a
There's a wild echidna somewhere in this picture!
restaurant amidst the punters waiting for our very own pizzas whilst sipping a chilled beer (he) and quaffing a wine (me) so all was good in the world.
The next few days we went out sightseeing and to be honest there was just too much to do and see. Alan nearly died with joy when we saw the Nick Cave exhibition, cataloguing his music, inspirations and work to date. It was very good and we chilled out with a 'flat white' and 'long black' (ahem, local lingo for the coffees) afterwards. I loved watching the fashion of the Melbournians, a lot of whom have their own style - I saw vintage clothes mixed with top hats on boys, great stuff, and billowing colorful funky outfits on women of all ages. We discussed books with book stall owners and took them up on some recommendations for reads, delighting in augmenting our book swap cache with books that we actually wanted to read. On book swaps - I'm not dissing them - we've picked up some really cool ones such as Paul McCartney's biography, Peter Ustinov's biography, On the Road by Jack Kerouac which we hadn't read before, a gazillion Agatha
Christies for me and Alan's fav which he's reading at the moment a sci-fi about Pirates versus Aliens.
We went to the Art Gallery and really liked their photography exhibition in particular, wandered the streets, went to the St Kilda festival and ate like lords, particularly pizza for some reason - Lygon Street had a great place. All too soon it was time to move on for our next part of the trip - driving from Cairns to Sydney.
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