The Great Ocean Road and the Grampians

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End May 21, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Thursday, November 25, 2010

In a tiny red rental car, we set off on our long-awaited journey along the famous Great Ocean Road. We decided that it does indeed deserve the name 'Great'. Not only because it is stunningly and ruggedly beautiful, allows close wildlife encounters, is where ‘Round the Twist’ was set but also because it had to be dug-out of steep hill-side by decommissioned soldiers after WWI. Also, you are regularly reminded of the sheer merciless power of the sea here; especially when you pass ‘Shipwreck coast’ and when you see the iconic rock formations like the ‘Twelve Apostles’ which have been formed from the pounding ocean. One of the highlights of this part of the trip was driving down the road to Cape Otway through rainforest and seeing lots of koalas in the trees. It was a very special experience as this was the first time either of us had seen them and we got to see them up close and personal. One of them was even crossing the road! We also saw two with babies clutching them. They are beautiful creatures.

We reluctantly left the beautiful coast, with its small seaside communities, and travelled north, in the rain, into the Grampian National Park. On our journey, a wallaby hopped bravely across the road. It seems that when they have animal warning signs here they really mean that those animals are about and there is a high chance you will encounter them. There seems to be such an abundance of interesting and unique wildlife here. When we got to Hall’s Gap, the central village for exploring the National Park, we saw lots of kangaroos grazing contentedly. There was even a joey poking out of a pouch- it was great. In the park we went on several walks which were all very beautiful. It was a different kind of beauty we had seen in NZ. Similar to the Great Ocean Rd, it seemed very rugged and wild. Infact, we learnt that the Grampians had been formed a long time ago by the SEA and the sea had retreated over time and left these striking mountains behind that were rather special. There were also some lovely wildflowers to look at on our walks and the impressive McKenzie Falls which rushed down solid black rock. We optimistically walked to a lookout when the whole walk up to it was shrouded in thick cloud. The clouds parted briefly for us and we managed to glimpse the valley below. Despite this limited view, it was one of the more beautiful walks as the cloud leant a mysterious atmosphere to it and the trees became silhouettes against the thick grey. It was also cool to be standing in cloud and not be surrounded by angels offering us Philadephia.

We spent a long time in the Aboriginal Cultural Centre and talking to the aboriginal hostel-owner. We learnt a lot about their traditional story for the area and went to see some aboriginal rock art too. It was amazing to learn that the aborigines are the oldest civilisation on earth, around for at least 60,000 years, and used methods to travel by sea to get to Australia in the first place which were very advanced for the time. Learning this, though, and other things about their culture, also made us terribly sad to think much of it is lost. The hostel-owner was inspirational in that he fought to reassert aboriginal rights and lectured around the world to inform people about their culture and the current situation in Australia. We felt lucky to have met him and spoken to him.

After two days in the Grampians, we had to embark on the long drive back to Melbourne (although it wasn’t long at all by Australian standards!). We passed through the old gold mining town of Ballarat which was full of rich Victorian buildings and was the only eventful part of this journey. We handed the car in and stayed in X-Base in St Kilda that night. We had to stay in a dorm which didn’t thrill us. Unsurprisingly, we didn’t like it. Nor did we like the myriad of rules covering every inch of wall or the fact that the average age seemed to be 19. We were pleased to leave the next day and begin our next part of the journey. We loved our adventure in the state of Victoria though- it has given us experiences that I think we will always remember.
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