Australia - Great Ocean Road

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Day 1

Leaving Warrnambool after picking up some diesel we began the Great Ocean Road. There are loads of stops along the road, with many different natural formations to be seen along the way. We decided to do the main ones and a few others that were close to the main road; this was so we could get it all done in one day, and because the tracks off the main road are mostly unsealed and not great for a campervan. There was still plenty to see and do.

Our first stop was at the Bay of Islands, a small archipeligo of rocky columns and outcrops worn away by the ocean (PICS), we could see the layers of different rock that had been exposed by the constant pounding of the water over the years, a really stunning sight.

Crofts Bay was the next port of call; a small bay with a sandy little beach and several columns surrounding it (PIC).

The Bay of Martyrs followed, its vast array of rocky structures providing a stunning panoramic against the grey sky and silver waters (PIC).

Next, the Grotto, which gave a clear example of how the water carves away at the cliffs to produce a deep curved hollow (PIC). We were able to walk down into the grotto and peer through a cut-out caused by the immense power of the waves (PIC).

The first of the iconic structures lay ahead, London Bridge. The recent history of this structure gives an idea of the constantly eroding coastline and the dangers that accompany it. The arch that is now visible is only part of what existed less than 20 years ago (PIC). The gap which can now be seen between the two rock faces was once an arch which could be walked across. Suddenly one day in the mid 1990's the first 'bridge' collapsed, leaving two visitors stranded on the platform out at sea. Luckily no-one was killed but the couple did have to be rescued by helicopter as there was no other way back to the mainland. The irony of this story is that the couple were actually having an affair and this event resulted in them being found out!

Beyond London Bridge lay the Arch, and as the name suggests it is an arch that has been created in the rock (PIC), you can see that it probably won't last many more years before the powerful waves cause the arch to collapse, leaving a column as in so many other cases.

The town of Port Cambell (PIC) is the main residential area on the Great Ocean Road and we called there for lunch on our way through. It is a pretty little town with a main street mainly composed of cafes and surf shops. The bay at the end of the main street (PIC) is also very attractive and would be a lovely place to while away a few hours. Unfortunately we were in a bit of a rush and it was too cold to be hanging around outside for any length of time.

The stretch of Great Ocean Road just after Port Cambell features the more well known and impressive sights, the first of which being Loch Ard Gorge; the place where the Loch Ard ship (the one featured in the "shipwrecked" show) hit a rock and sank. The gorge is a large channel cut out by the waves (PIC) and leads to a small secluded beach where the two survivors of the shipwreck swam to.

The same area of the coast has a number of other spectacles, including a blowhole (PIC) and thundercave (PIC). The blowhole is a collapsed cave which roars with a huge blast of air when powerful waves crash through it. The thundercave is basically a blowhole that has collapsed completely. One other feature of the area is Muttonbird Island (PIC), on which resides a few thousand Muttonbirds. We could hear a few of them and see a couple jumping around on the top of the island - the young apparently leave the island at this time of year on their first flight - we didn't see any trying their wings for the first time!

Our next stop was the main attraction, the sight which most people come to the Great Ocean Road to see. In fact, some people will literally stop only to see it before heading back. It was the 12 Apostles. Although the name suggests there are 12 structures, there are now only about 8, the others having collapsed due to the constant wear of the sea. Nevertheless, it is still a stunningly impressive sight (PICS).

The view from the lookouts are just as you have seen them in any guidebook - made all the more magical by actually seeing them in the flesh. Even though the light wasn't ideal for great pictures, they still give a pretty good impression of the fantastic view we had as we walked along the edge of the coastline. The area was packed with tourists, even though it was midweek and the weather was overcast and cold - we dread to think what it must be like on a summer weekend!

Behing the 12 Apostles lies Gibsons steps; a series of steps that run down the rockface and allow you to climb down to the beach for a closer look and a different perspective of the rock columns. The steps were quite steep and slippery but we ventured down regardless and once we reached the beacxh we knew the climb was worthwhile. The views of one of the larger columns, with its reflection on the wet sand in front of us was beautiful (PICS) and hyad the weather not been so cold we probably would have spent a while down on the sand enjoying the views and taking in the splendour of this particularly dramatic part of the the Great Ocean Road.

Having ascended Gibsons Steps we climbed back into Gizmo and proceeded along the Great Ocean Road, through Apollo Bay and into the setting sun. The views out over the ocean were amazing (PICS) and called for several 'photo stops' along the way.

As the darkness set in we had no choice but to continue our drive along the windy coastal road, unable to go much more than 60km/h due to the twists and turns that occurred every few seconds. We passed through a gorgeous looking, albeit expensive looking, town called Lorne; apparently a favourite weekend destination for many rich Melbourne residents. This is completely understandable as the town bore more than a passing resemblance to Monaco, maybe one day we'll return and stay there for a while (when we win the lottery!).

Unable to afford any accommodation in Lorne we continued along the Great Ocean Road until we reached Anglesea where we tracked down a Big4 campsite and checked into yet another cabin for the night. Having randomly fancied a roast dinner earlier in the day we enquired at reception if there was anywhere nearby where we could eat dinner. It just so happened that the local Golf Club had a special 'Roast' night so we jumped at the chance and got changed into our finery (Andrew in his new work clothes, Verdi in the smartest things she has brought). The roast dinner was great, and excellent value at $12 (5GBP) with a beer included - it did however have beetroot with the roast vegies! Aussies and their strange fascination with beetroot!

Fed and watered we returned to the cabin and watched telly in bed for a while before falling asleep.
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