The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Straight away you may read this as a negative. It isn't. It’s just the way it felt like at times. I will divulge further.

Fully prepared after a good birthday the day before, we left the Cottage at about 10am. Warrnambool is only a few short clicks from the start of the Great Ocean Road (or end) and so we were in a good position to see a lot in the day.

The first few kilometers were spent weaving from side to side trying to find our way past the immoveable object of motorcycle and sidecar. They placed themselves as centrally to the road as possible to make life hard and slowed the pace – I guess this would be the case most of the way along such a beautiful stretch of highway.

The first couple of hours of the journey were spent endlessly pulling off the B100 highway into secluded car parks and viewing the sights indicated by the easily followed brown tourist signs. A benefit of not being on a coach tour is you can pick which ones of these to stop at, and in our case we stopped at all of them. The coaches tend to stop at the more famous spots such as 'London Bridge’ and the ’12 apostles’ but miss the many more formations that can be seen along ‘shipwreck coast’, including ‘The Arch’, ‘Muttonbird island’, ‘the bay of islands’, ‘the grotto’, ‘loch ard gorge’ and ‘thunder cave’ . These spots have amazing photo opportunities and are not too crowded (as they are only visited by those driving and not those touring) and give a great display of how nature carves the coastline over time. Small plaques explain the development of certain formations and give stories relating to the coast.

Considering how effective Kate was with the map and explaining where the next tourist spot would be, it is inconceivable that we missed the largest of these in terms of ‘Two Mile Bay’. It’s not like you can hide a two mile stretch of coastline, by we managed to miss it.

All along this stretch of highway you endlessly pass people and then are re-overtaken while stopping. You see the same people again and again. Everyone is doing the same thing. This is the conveyor belt.

All of these little stops just don’t compare in busyness to the 12 Apostles though. It is arguably the most photographed coastal feature in Australia. The formation is no longer the 12 however, as I think it’s more like 7 or 8 (I didn’t count even though it is such a small number). It seems that John, Peter, Simon, and let’s say Judas have decided to fall into the sea under some long term erosion.

We took some photos, helped a couple of Germans take a photo and they returned the favour (badly) and then took a photo across the bay of Kate waving her arms (please see attached!). The place was beautiful for the formations, annoying for the tourists unable to take a quick snap without blocking the pathway and daunting for the impending storm that hung overhead. The storm was keeping at bay however with lighting strikes in the far distant horizon over the water and an elephant count of at least 15 for the delayed thunder (one elephant, two elephant, three elephant etc). Made for a great scene at least. It seemed as though only the Whales would be getting wet though.

We made a beeline a couple of hundred metres down the road from the crowded 12 Apostles car park to the almost empty but not quite car park for the Gibsons Steps. The steps wind down the cliff face onto the beach below giving a different view for a couple of the Apostles, they looked like Bartolemew and Judas Escariot from the side at least. Before descending Kate noted a couple of dark figures in the surf working there way out to sea.

"What are those things in the waves?"

“I think they are people”

“They don’t look like people, they could be seals”

“I don’t think they are seals, maybe they are dogs or something” I say not really caring.

Looking more carefully I add “They appear to be holding surfboards , so I don’t think they are dogs, probably not seals either, unless they are surfing dogs.”

The beach was quiet except for the lapping of the waves, the two men pretending to look like dogs on surfboards and a few men kicking a ball around without any real aim. I stood nice and close to the incoming waves to get a few nice angles as close as I could to the surf and nearly got gobbled up by the water as it quickly moved around me. I ran back towards Kate who was sitting wrapped in her raincoat providing a little protection from the sea breeze. We stood and watched the black clouds ahead as I tried to get a snapshot with the apostles and some lightning – it was never gonna happen.

A few spots of rain fell and we decided it was probably time anyway to go back. On turning round towards the cliff I noted that that beach was now empty except us. “Come on, time to go Kate”.

On reaching the steps it was as if someone turned the fans on. All of a sudden the gusts raised and the howling winds made it pretty difficult to get up the steps. I hurried Kate along reminding her that standing in the shadow of cliffs that are liable to erosion was probably not the best plan. With our raincoats flapping away in the winds we made it back to the car and hunkered down. The aerial appeared to be flapping forwards on the roof and so I got out to try and tighten it, in the meantime finding it was actually broken. While out of the car for those few short seconds I was inundated with wind and water from the middle of the storm we were now sitting.

We sat and waited out the storm as the Getz rocked side to side. Considering where we were and the views that were around us, we could see nothing. We could barely see the car parked next to us a couple of metres away through the rain.

And then it all kinda cleared. It was still a bit misty and damp but the winds died down and sanity returned to the place. The drive continued to Castle Cove for another couple of photos and I was thoroughly in awe of the aspects that the Ocean Road was giving. It was like driving through a combination of sceneries including beaches, country, cliffs,  rainforest. It was endless.

It was towards the end of the day, only maybe 20 minutes drive from Apollo Bay when a Police Car raced past us. At first I indicated to pull over, but then as I have done many a time in the Getz; realized I had only actually turned the windscreen wipers on as some stupid designer has put everything back to front and so pulled across just as he raced past. Oh dear.

A few minutes later a friendly man directed us on a 110km detour as a tree had been toppled across the road just a few short kilometers short of Apollo Bay. He recommended this detour as the alternative journey through a road in the rainforest named Beech Road (about a 40km detour) would probably be just as bad. We took our chances.

The road was amazing. One of my favourite drives, although I concentrated so hard I’m pretty sure I looked a little like a pensioner who sits far too close to the windscreen. When we got to Beech Road it became little more than a country track and wound it’s way for about 15km up and down, round tight hairpins with just one or two other cars for company, it was awesome. The views descending into Apollo Bay didn’t disappoint. Except for being a bit later, I’m pretty glad that tree fell down – we would have never seen that road otherwise.

Apollo Bay YHA is meant to be one of the best in Australia and it was certainly very nice. We cooked some Lamb and pasta and drank some wine and enjoyed the quiet evening in a quiet hostel without the normal louts you get in city dwellings. 

Very much a Great Ocean Road.
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