The Great O.....O....O.......OOOOOcean Road
Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
47Trip End Jul 29, 2008
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We managed to arrange for a car rental and get a decent deal on plane tickets. I think the plane was around $100 each for a one way fare to Melbourne. Traveling in Australia is similar to Canada; a plane ticket is the best value for the time spent, bus tickets are similar priced to plane tickets and the distances between cities is equally as far if not farther than in Canada.
We touched down in the late morning in Geelong, which is a town just outside Melbourne and has air traffic for only a small number of carriers
Torquay is the official start of the GOR so we basically checked out the tourist info office and then looked around the surf museum there. The museum was interesting, it gave a history of the surfboard, competitions and culture and then moved into recent advancements in technologies that have come about and other Australian cultural links. Seeing the old wooden plank surfboards and videos of people riding these through 30’ waves was pretty stunning.
From Torquay we went to Bells Beach which is one of the ASP (Association of Surfing Pros) stops, so it naturally has huge swells during the competition held over Easter each year. We didn’t go swimming or surfing at Bells because it was really cold. During the entire time along the GOR we had great views of the Southern Coast of Australia and could also see the huge swells that came in and crashed against the shore – it was gorgeous!
The beginning of the Great Ocean Road is marked by a memorial arch that is made of timber posts and has statues of the men who worked on the road made of bronze at the side of the arch. The Road was built by 3000 returned servicemen (or "Diggers") as a war memorial for fellow servicemen who had been killed in the First World War. A lot of the veterans that had returned had difficulty finding jobs, so some parts of the road were started directly after the First World War
After Bells Beach we headed to a local Golf Course in Anglesea since we heard they had wild kangaroos jumping around. Naturally we were intrigued and really excited to see our first kangaroos! I guess for locals the novelty had worn off and they were a bit of a nuisance now; the equivalent of seeing kangaroos on a golf course in Aus is probably similar to seeing a squirrel or a raccoon in Canada. So we drove there, saw a bunch on the course hopping around and then we pulled up to the club house and saw more and more. They are pretty cool, very smooth and fast and they are kind of like humans in their mannerisms
That night we pulled into Lorne, which is a pretty dead town, especially in the winter, so nothing was really happening there. We did manage to see one more view of the coastline though - we drove up a hill in Lorne and got a photo from Teddy’s Lookout over the ocean and setting sun. Sarah and I were trying to be very cheap - since heading over to Australia we were floored by the hostel prices of $20 each per night (very different from what we were used to). We wanted to save some cash, therefore we didn’t stay in a hostel that night. Our rental car was a Toyota Yaris hatch back which is a compact car and is not very long, but, we thought we could fold the seats flat and then lay out in the car which would be very economical. We pulled into a parking lot near a beach and then slept there for the night
The next day we woke up, prepared a breakfast from our car and then brushed our teeth in a public bathroom next to the "car park" that we slept in. We headed off to a place that was said to have wild koalas in the trees. After about 30 minutes of driving we stopped at a little coffee shop, parked and then walked around. The koalas are harder to spot than the kangaroos since they are very lethargic, generally high up and they don’t move a lot. When looking up into a Eucalyptus tree, all that is seen is a round furry ball usually where 2 branches meet. Their bums are whitish fur which is different from the rest of their body which is greyish. This helps them blend in to the surroundings; if a predator were to look up in the tree, the white bum of the koala would resemble a cloud. One little guy was pretty active and would stand up from his perch, stretch and then grab some Eucalyptus leaves, then shove them into his mouth, really cute. We were lucky that day - there were lots of koalas to been seen as well as some kookaburras (a laughing bird) which, until I was about 12, thought that it was a mythical creature like a unicorn or a dragon or a liger
Driving on we stopped at Erskine falls, where we did a short hike to the waterfall and then back into the car on to Cape Otway Lightstation. This was a total waste of time, we drove down a 20km road to the lighthouse because we heard it was sooooo great. When we got there they wanted $20 each for admission to the lighthouse grounds. Go f-*%# yourself, I am not paying $40 bucks to see a lighthouse, before making this decision we had asked people coming out of the lighthouse if it was worth it and they mentioned to take it or leave it. What really bothered us was that the only place you could see the coast from this location was inside the lighthouse area, the rest was covered with thick bush and fences, they were making us pay to look at the shore line, which as I recall had been free since the start of the road. So naturally we left the lighthouse and drove to the final and best known attraction of the road, the Twelve Apostles.
The Twelve Apostles are a collection of natural limestone stacks standing just off shore of the GORwaves continually erode their bases. A 50-metre tall Apostle collapsed on July 3, 2005, leaving only eight standing today. There are also other limestone formations that we did see: London Arch/Bridge, Loch and Gorge, the Blowhole (very cool!) and Gibson’s Steps. All of these formations are quite unique, as their names imply. The boardwalk around the 12 Apostles has great views of the formations, shear cliffs and strong ocean currents. It was incredibly windy and cold that day so we parked, walked very quickly to the vantage points took our pictures and left. They are beautiful but after a while there are only so many rock formations that a person can look at.
One story that was on a readable placard by the London Arch formation was about 2 people that walked out on the Arch. In 1990, the London Arch was attached to the mainland but the part connecting the mainland fell to the ocean leaving the 2 tourists that had walked out on to the Arch stranded. A news crew picked up the report and sent a helicopter to get interviews with the stranded people. The news crew circled the stranded tourists and asked for an interview in return for saving them and flying them back
That night we stayed in Port Campbell, had wicked Fish and Chips and then crashed at a local hostel. The following day, we headed back to the 12 Apostles for a final photo and then drove back to Melbourne to get a flight the next day to Ayer’s Rock.
We checked in at a seedy hostel in Melbourne – it made South American hostels look first class (at least they were clean!) - and then headed for a pub. The pub we picked was called Pug Mahones (Irish - Pog Mahone for “Kiss My Arse”). We went in, sat down, and then went to the bar to get a drink. After I got the drinks, I went back to the bar to pay for the 2 pints, I pulled out a $50 (that is all the bank machines give there) to pay and this dirty guy standing next to me who had dreadlocks and no shoes asks me to buy him a Corona. So I thought he was cut off and wanted me to order him the beer, but he would pay for the beer
At the end of this fiasco, the bartender comes over and asks if I knew him and asks to pay for the drinks, I tell him the story and he says “Ok, well that guy is not allowed in here again, he did that last week too. So here are the two Coronas for free.” Sarah and I drank them and then Sarah wanted to leave immediately with a big group of people that were leaving together - she was freaked out by the crazy guy and this pub was at the end of a dark, long narrow alley. We went back to the hostel and got ready to head out the next morning. It was a disappointing experience of Melbourne as I’m sure it is a really wicked place to be – we’ll have to give it another go on our next visit to the North Island
The next morning we were up early to catch our flight for Uluru (aka Ayer’s Rock). It was interesting to note that you can’t just get a coffee in Australia. They don’t have drip coffee anywhere – not even old reliable McDonald’s!! If you want a coffee – as of course we did before our flight – you need to order an espresso type coffee. You can get flat black (black), flat white (black with milk), or whatever else you can conjure up and they all cost the same price, like $4!! Crickey!!! While you can look at this as a good incentive to drink cappuccinos instead of regular coffee, we saw it as a good incentive to buy a $1.50 Diet Pepsi instead and ditch our coffee drinking habit. I was sad to not have access to cheap and delicious instant Nescafe like we did in South America, or café con leches, but speaking English was kinda nice too so a fair tradeoff was made.
The GOR was definitely a highlight so far for us – stunning views, our first kangaroos and koalas, and a mini-road trip. We were liking Australia a lot and were excited for more!!