Approximately 19 hours and 600 miles after leaving my parents, we finally made it to Melbourne! We had a really great time driving to and along the Great Ocean Road. There we happy times (Murray making it 5 games all in the 5th
set!), there were sad times (Murray losing the match), there were scary times (driving through deserted towns and needing petrol), and there were exciting times (seeing wild koalas!). On the first evening, our plan was to try and make it as far as Warrnambool. As we had left later than we had hoped we thought this might be a bit ambitious, and it was! We arrived in Portland, a town about 90km from Warrnambool, at about 12pm and decided that it was too late to continue and that we should just find somewhere to stay there for the night. That was easier said than done! Before I go on to that I should probably say a bit about the journey. I know what you're all thinking, 'you drove for 7 hours along some roads in Australia, what is there to tell’
. And I guess to a certain extent you are right! However, there was the small event of the Australian Open tennis semi-final between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. As some of you will know, I am definitely not part of the Andy Murray fan club, but am a big supporter of Djokvic. But this match was different… If Murray was to win I would be go into the Rod Laver area 2 days later sporting the ‘C’mon Murray’ t-shirt my mum had bought me and 2 big Scotland flags! Luckily the match started about an hour into the drive so we were able to listen to it on the radio, and it lasted right up until we were sat in our motel room, and it made for some pretty intense driving! Whoever was in the passenger seat had to wear the Scotland Flag skirt and whoever was the driver had to wear the Dragon Flag scarf to ensure we gave Murray the support he needed, and it seemed to work! Well, until he lost in the 5th
set, absolutely gutted. We also had some intensive kangaroo watching times as there where quite a few of them at the sides of the road, and hitting one would not lead to a happy ending.
So, going back to arriving in Portland, we pulled up to about 4 motels and found that all of them were shut. Maybe we were a bit stupid to think that we could turn up in a town at any time of the night and find somewhere to stay. But I presumed it was like those American films were motels are open 24 hours with a geeky kid sat behind the deck on his night shift watching some dodgy porn film
! That was definitely not the case in Oz. After driving around for a while with no luck, we decided that we would have to ask someone if there was anywhere that was open to stay. And I decided that the best place to ask would be a pub, which we luckily came across and was part of a hotel and motel. Result! We paid the man and parked up outside our room, and after watching the end of the tennis, we went to bed to try and get a good nights seem before another big day of driving.
Conor: We got up pretty early and hopped in the car to get started. We got some breakfast from the shops and headed off. It was a beautiful day (which was nice as it hadn’t been perfect before) and it only took us a little while before we started seeing signs for the Great Ocean Road. When we did reach it we rather surprised to see that the first building on it was a cheese museum. Obviously we had
to stop. The museum was small, really interesting and had barely anything to do with cheese (which was a plus point frankly)! After all the wonders of cheese we got back on the road and soon started to see the sea which we had been promised. As we rounded a corner the hills fell away and we saw the huge cliffs that led to the coast. We soon saw a viewing point and we pulled up. It was called The Cove and was a great place to see some the first rocky outcrops (or arches, stacks and stumps as Annabel informed me!) that where really quite impressive
. Basically the erosion of the cliffs has created all these rock formations that stand apart from the land. The view was really stunning but, with time a factor, we quickly hurried on to the next view point. This turned out to be a bit of a shame as this was probably the best view of the day, and we didn’t really take our time. But hey, you win some you lose some!
We hopped back in the car and zoomed off towards the next point, called the grotto. This was another bit of erosion that had sort of created a small body of water within a cave, with a view of the sea. It’s hard to explain, so I’ll upload a picture! Next was a view called London Bridge, which was so named because a set of stone arches had formed a rough bridge shape. Unfortunately one of the arches had collapsed, but the name has stuck.
The final thing to sea on this stretch of the road was the most famous part of the cliff. The twelve apostles was a set of twelve standing stones in the water, though quite a few have fallen over and there are only about 8 left. There was a short walk from the car park to the view point, and although the whole thing was very well put together it was slightly disappointing, especially given how we didn’t give ourselves much time at the cove, which was better
. But anyway, there was no time to contemplate this, we were still a long way from Melbourne and time was stretching on!
After stopping in Port Cambell for a second we drove on and ended up having lunch at a lovely caff at Lavers Hill. We were planning on ploughing straight on through to Bells beach (famous for its surfing, or so Annabel says!) but we were distracted by a sign to a lighthouse lookout so we turned off. We assumed it would be nice and close but after 15 minutes of driving we realised how wrong we were. Soldiering on we passed a few Chinese tourists pulled up and taking photos of trees. Odd we thought, but pretty standard for Chinese tourists. Another few minutes down the road we noticed some other tourists pulled up taking photos, and I was just amount to comment on this when I said ‘it’s a bloody koala’!! Given that Koalas are supposed to be quite rare we pulled up to have a look. It was great, they are so well camouflaged that you’d notice one in a tree, keep on looking, and then realise there were maybe 4 or 5 in the same tree. We had arrived at a good time of day and a few of the bears were quite active (well active for Koalas)! We saw them eating and moving from branch to branch, they were much higher up than I thought they’d be. Anyway, thoroughly chuffed we got back in the car and got under way.
The day was getting later as we started to pass through the many tourist beach towns that make up the end of Great Ocean Road
. It being the weekend they were quite full and it was good to see how the Australians spend their spare time. There was no time for us to stop however so we sped through towns like Torquay toward to Bells Beach. We arrived there way behind schedule (we were hoping to meet Annabel’s parents for a meal in the evening) but got out to look at the beach. The surf wasn’t exactly impressive on the day (in fact rubbish is how I’d describe it) but at least Annabel could say she’d seen it. After this it was one long straight burn of three hours to drop off the car at Melbourne airport and then get the shuttle bus into town. We never made the meal but we thoroughly enjoyed our epic drive, it’s a good story for the trip! Plus, walking to the hotel we passed through the celebrations on the south bank for Chinese New Year and happened to be in a great spot to watch the fireworks, which I thought were better than at Sydney!
Tomorrow, the tennis open final!