Australia Part 3: Victoria Freedom

Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
Trip End May 2010

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The Pines!
The Howell Residence

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We reluctantly concluded our trip in Oz by taking things a little more slowly and staying put in the state of Victoria. It wasn't long before we caught ourselves calling this place "home," and when we finally left, our final days were spent in bittersweet somberness. You never know when you'll pass upon your travels a place that leaves its mark in your heart. Australia did just that for us.

We share with you our final entry from Victoria in three segments: Melbourne and City Life, The Great Ocean Road, and Mount Arapiles (yes, more climbing). Enjoy.

Melbourne and the City Life

As we mentioned in our last entry, we've been based out of Melbourne at the Howell residence. They've been excellent hosts and an absolute blast to enjoy Melbourne's city life with. Thank you family Howell! You're the best!

Melbourne's nearly the size of Sydney. People from all of the world immigrated here during the 1st and 2nd World Wars (and immigration continues significantly today). Now, nearly every part of the city adds ethnic flavours to the melting pot. So what do you get in such a thriving, multicultural metropolis? Great food!!

The fish spread at the front of Clamms, the best fish & chips joint in Melbourne. Cynthia wrote of the lovely little place in St. Kilda in one her books (that's right -- she's a published writer!) and readers have been drawn to the fresh, excellent quality fish ever since!

We just had to head back to Kim Chi, the Korean-Vietnamese restaurant again. The feasting here is so amazing--we couldn't resist another visit to try other items on the menu!

We also tasted food from Sri Lanka, Africa, and of course had our share of pizza (Bimbo's!). But there's no better food than that found at on Stovehaven Way, cooked by Cynthia herself! You rock Cynthia!!

We decided to show our thanks to the Howell's with a night of cooking; we made them something Australia's not known for: lots of good Mexican food! Some hearty nachos, basa fish tacos (with mango salsa) brought them the South of border!

After dinner, we invited the Howell's into our home, Mitzy, our Wicked Campervan! (Geoffrey, Lucy, Lindsey)

Cynthia teaching us "Waltzing Matilda", the classic Aussie tune!

The Howell's treated us to an AFL game at the Melbourne Cricket Club and Melbourne even won--what a treat!

Lindsey, Lucy, and Lucy's life-long friend, Dave, at the game. Thanks for teaching us the rules of the game, guys!

The woodpile we helped Geoffrey and Cynthia stack. Impressive, no?

The Great Ocean Road

We also took a lovely trip down the Great Ocean road, a stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Victoria that connects Torquay and Warrnambool. The road was originally constructed to provide work for returning soldiers and dedicated as a Memorial to those killed in the 1st World War; now, it's one of Australia's great scenic coastline drives.

The Twelve Apostles are the most famous sea stacks along the section of highway called the Shipwreck Coast. There are now only 6 remaining sea stacks; the other 6 have eroded away (or fallen into the ocean).

Loch Ard Gorge, named after the famous British sailing ship that sunk here in 1878

Ben giving props to the London Arch formation, which used to be called London Bridge until the bridge on the left collapsed in the last two decades. London Bridge is falling down... 

There's plenty of opportunity to see koalas in the wild along the Great Ocean Road, if you take your time and look for them. Just look at this little beauty!

In Port Ferry, we jogged and swam at the lovely Griffeth Island. Lindsey getting in some yoga on the beach.

Port Ferry's historic lighthouse is one of Australia's oldest.

At Bell's Beach, one of Australia's most famous surf breaks, the Rip Curl Pro was underway. Our camera died so this is the last shot we got of Bell's and the contest (lame, I know). Bell's is also famous from Bodhi's Point Break reference to its massive 50 year storm!!!

Mount Arapiles
 What is it about Mount Arapiles that makes it such a damn good climbing area?

In a word: freedom.  Araps embodies pure freedom. Freedom to simulclimb 1200m of super easy terrain under moonlight and share the moment with your friends who are climbing in the chimney right behind the rock face you're climbing on!  Freedom to live a simple and utterly dirtbag lifestyle.  Freedom to dumpster dive on your rest days and live off only $8 a day! The camping is average, but people at Araps have the freedom to do what they want with it to make it their home: some get together and share their shelter to make a giant tarp city.  Others have brought in acutal mattresses and built beds under their shelter! 

The family - (From Left) Sam (a little nuts), Sweet Pete, Classic Mel, Ed, Lindsey, and Ben

Dirt-bagging at its best. Ben exercised the freedom of wearing 1 pair of pants the whole time at Araps...and yes, they had a hole in the back side.

Lindsey exercising the freedom of eating the second half of her sandwich in one bite

Home away from home. Ben enjoying a good book while dinner cooks.

Mt. Arapiles wasn't just our home, it was home to the adorable kangaroos. These springy little devils would munch away in the brush around the climbing areas at dawn and late afternoon and if we were lucky, would bound through the campground!

Mt. Arapiles may not hold the physical grandeur of the Grampians (nor is it as famous).  Truth is, if you're not a climber, chances are that you've never heard of the Mount!  Most Australians haven't.  From a distance, Mt Arapiles appears to be just a big pile of pebble sitting amongst perfectly flat farmland and gum tree forests.  But up close, the rocks pile isn't the loose, chossy mess it resembles.  It is stacks of surprisingly very solid masses that give way to heaps of varied, intricate climbing routes!!

Ara-piles, as some lovingly call it for its resemblance to just a pile of rocks. Originally sandstone, this orange area is now composed of primarily quartzite, a metamorphic rock that has hardened over time.

Araps wrapped in eerie clouds after a rainstorm

The Organ Pipes in morning light

Ben and Bard Buttress

There is a history of climbing at this place that is as deep and pioneered as Yosemite and some of the other most famous and historic climbing destinations in the world. Brave, strong people been climbing at Araps since the early 1960's--and tales of epics and heroism are still told today. By 1963, the area was first considered for climbing as a recreational manner when Bob and Steve Craddock travelled to Mitre Rock after seeing it in a tourist guide, and saw that their destination was dwarfed by Mount Arapiles. It was a number of weeks and visits before climbing was actually attempted at Arapiles, with the first climbs being recorded in November 1963 on what is now called "The Pinnacle Face". These climbs ranged from grade 5 Australian in difficulty (Tiptoe Ridge) to about grade 9 (which is about a 5.5 in the Yosemite Decimal System). By 1964, Steve and Bob produced the first climbing guidebook, which contained 15 routes.

March 1965 saw the establishment of two significant climbs: The Bard (12) and Watchtower Crack (16). These climbs were done on the same day and are still regarded as classic climbs, often seeing numerous ascents per day. Activity steadily increased at Arapiles and in August 1966, Mike Stone and Ian Speedie released the second guidebook, Mt Arapiles. It was the first hardcover guide in Australia and featured 108 climbs. The rest of the 1960s saw many more new routes put up of increasing difficulty, with many including numerous aid points. The focus was on "getting up the climb... and staying alive", whether free climbing or not.

Bard Buttress, the area for the namesake climb, Bard, established in 1965

Climbing at Arapiles today is, as the Aussies put it, too easy. With now over 2000 climbs to choose from in a density of only a kilometer or two, the unique rock formation and modern day climbing gear makes Arapiles the ideal place to learn how to trad climb. Simply put, the routes just suck up the gear. Whether it's passive protection like nuts and hexes or active protection like cams, you can feel free to "sew up" a route with heaps of gear or run it out to your heart's content.

In fact, this is where Lindsey finally learned to feel confident in her traditional lead climbing skills. With so many classics in the easy grades, from cracks to chimneys to steep jug-hauls and wild traverses; single pitches and climbs up to 5 pitches long; this is the ideal setting to get lots of experience with your placements and anchors and progress up the grades comfortably.

Lindsey leading out the first and last pitch of another classic climb, Resignation (15, Tiger Wall)

There's heaps of classic lines at all grades, so we had no trouble lining up days of 10 pitches or more, intermixing the easy climbs with the climbs at the harder grades. Mostly for us heat and sun fearer's, it was more about doing the classic climbs while they were in the shade.

Heading out to the climbs at first light--another big day at the office!

A bold lead led to an airy fall for Ed on Kachoong (grade 21/5.10d on Kachoong buttress)

Ben leading into outer space on out the 10-foot roof on Kachoong!

Great success! No more nightmares of climbing that roof!

Lindsey was climbing through the crux of the second pitch on Judgement Day (grade 19, Pharos back wall) when a man rappelled down from above and offered to take photos of the sequence. Joe hit some great snaps, some of which might make it into his new guidebook of the select climbs of Victoria, which should go to print in the next few months. More shots of this sequence can be found on Joe's facebook page:!/album.php?aid=194758&id=664878827

Ben starting around the corner and physical crux of Judgement Day

Ben enjoying the steep and traversing nature on easy terrain. Resignation, 15, Tiger Wall.

Ben leading through the crux of Oceanoid (17, Pharos front wall)

After a bouldery start, Lindsey finishes off the first pitch of Tarzan (14)

Ben making the moves to the clutch hold on Pilot Error (20)

Of course, what made Araps so special were the people.....

When climbing Oceanoid, we ran into one of Lindsey's old friends from Squamish, Tee. We haven't seen this "monkey of the world" in over 5 years and now here he is in Araps!

We were so lucky to have spent our time there with our tarp-city friends, namely Pete (Sweet Pete), Classic Mel, Sam and Ed. We met Pete in China and again in Thailand, and finally here! These guys became our Arapiles family, and when we left, they threw together a heap of ingredients to make a fabulous curry and a party to boot. Thanks again, guys!

A dark scene from the tarp party

Juan (Ecuador), Lindsey (nuisance from the States) and Classic Mel (Everywhere?) enjoy the final glasses of goon (wine from a box)

Jack, the roo, saying bye bye for now!

More photos from Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road:

More photos of climbing and Mt. Arapiles:

Stay tuned to our next and final destination on our trip around the world: Fiji.
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Cary Serif on

Another set of spectacular pics to make we mere mortals jealous as hell! At least we can continue to live vicariously through you guys. Keep it up and stay safe.


krista on

ah! drinking goon by the campfire...classic:)
wicked shots of Lindsey taken by Joe!
Ben...after wearing the same ripped pants for days on end did you feel the need to get the extra 'freedom' and go comando?

davidkimber on

Brings me back to my time there! Sorry you guys had such a terrible, miserable time.... those Aussies can be really mean eh? ;)

benandlindsey on

Excellent comments, you guys! Ben and I were rolling over with joy reading them. Cary - Our trip is more or less officially over now, so you can stop winging. :) Can't wait to catch up with you. Are you still at WMP?

Cyni - We miss you all already! Sally loved the chocolates; she ate four the second we opened the box!

Dave - Can't wait to see you in person. You coming to the Park Pub for Cinco de Mayo with Carrie?

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