Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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The Great Ocean Road is one of the world's most spectacular coastal roadways, a must if you're in and around or passing through or between Melbourne and Adelaide. It covers 260-odd kilometres of tightly-twisting scenically stunning coastal road, which is great for evoking intense concentration, not so great for freely absorbing the wondrous views just off the nearside cliff, especially when you're straddling a motorbike. We just about nailed it in three days and considering our crazy convoy consisted of two motorbikes and a car full of teenagers we didn't do all that bad, especially when you consider the setbacks...
...like the first hour or so. I'd pulled in to snap a few shots of the surf before catching up with the others. This involved a swift manoeuvre around a battered old camper and a consequential pull-in by the boys in blue who were nestled sniper-like on a distant hill. Then came a hefty bout of questioning and negotiating over actions, reasons and the associated impending penalties. I walked away with two tickets, a fine totalling over $400 and a huge lungful of relief at the fact that my driving licence lay snugly zipped in my jacket pocket as I rode away (by law they should have kept it.) Apparently I was just an unlucky boy. They were on an official exercise and I copped it proper. Problem is, put me behind a rusty camper again chugging along at 65kph with a long twisty open road in front of me and I'll do exactly the same. I don't know anyone who wouldn't. I just have to hope I'm not unlucky next time, it could get costly.
So with a little bit of the shine buffed off we made our way along this wild and wonderful world-renowned stretch of road. Above all it was fun, twisting up and around rugged mountainsides as waves crashed into the giddy depths below. We passed through Lorne and Apollo Bay, the lighthouse lookout (Lee and Mark's love nest of yesteryear) and all the tiny coastal villages and townships that make up the greater picture. The 12 Apostles were spot-on, just magnificent. I arrived alone after a minor miscommunication and made a point of taking it all in. It was as edge-of-the-earth as you can get and positively riddled with solitude.
The first night was spent camped out in Port Campbell. Lee was keen for the kids to rough it, in the interest of enlightening them - that is by demonstrating that there is actually a little more beyond video games, television, fast food and the endless pleasure of those valuable unearned luxuries. As we pulled up it pissed down. Everyone sprung into action (some more reluctant than others) and constructed a haphazard temporary shelter through swearing, shouting, bitching, moaning, balls-ups, head shakes and whole fits of giggles. But Team Cobba made it. Make no mistake. Through all the pandemonium tents were successfully erected, tarps constructed, stubbies emptied and dinners devoured. All good...
...until someone announced that the brakes had failed on the car. Metal on metal stuck in the middle of nowhere, shit that just wasn't needed and which meant shaving Port Fairy off the agenda.
Day Two - 'Warnambool to Lavers Hill'
The one thing you don't want when riding is to overshoot a corner. It's a pretty straightforward concept and means only one of two things: you're either off the road (in this case off the cliff) or you're flying along uncontrollably in the path of oncoming traffic. Both are not good and require a sizeable amount of luck to be given the privilege of changing your underwear afterwards. It's something that once experienced kind of stays with you and pops up at the most inconvenient of times. I get it sometimes when I'm a appraching a tight right, sudden flashbacks that are sent to undermine confidence and push you into making silly, potentially fatal mistakes. Rising above it and pushing through takes a lot. Sometimes a hell of a lot. Which is why it pained me to see it happen to Mark as we snaked our way through a series of steep downhill bends. We were tired and the weather had taken a significant turn. The temperature had dropped, the fog was rolling in and the roads were coated in that greasy sheen designed to make back wheels slip at random.
I followed Mark's line through a steep left. We were locked in and as we banked through the corner I followed the line round ready for the out, clocking his position with the corner of my right eye. Then it happened. His left leg extended out reluctantly. He couldn't get the bike over and his whole body language screamed 'Shitshitshitshitshit!'. My chest exploded inside as he drifted over the centre line. He was headed for the cliffs edge. I don't remember much else, time tends to stand still in these situations. It's a helpless and horrible position to be in really. All you are is a speechless witness. As it's something I've experienced first hand I reckon I felt as much relief as he did when the back end of that Honda twitched with a sudden lifesaving scrabble of grip, bringing him safely back over into left lane territory. There was no other traffic on the road during those horrifying few seconds. He was a lucky man, a very lucky man.
By the time we got to Lavers Hill it was dusk. The fog was thick and the air held an uncomfortable chill. Night was drawing in fast and we were under immense pressure to set up camp before losing the little light that was left. After a tiresome amount of hopeless door knocking we eventually scored ourselves a six bed cabin for the night. Mark's luck from earlier had followed through. The cabin itself was unmade. The beds had been slept in and the room lived in but it was warm, dry and positioned right next to the roadhouse which offered hot meals, cold beer and a crackling fire, something all of us were in great need of.
Day Three - 'Lavers Hill to St Kilda'
The longest and most tiring. We stopped at the Otway Ranges to do the 'tree top walk', a leisurely touristy attraction with a touristy price tag. Karma from the previous day rewarded us with impeccable weather, making the ride back a fun day out. The roads were dry, the turns were thrilling and the ocean views on every straight were breathtaking. I left the others at Geelong and hit the main highway over to St Kilda. I'd got places to go and people to see, this weekend was far from over...
*(I hereby apologise to my parents for all the times I was a bitchy moaning sour-faced teenager who was so so right while they were so so wrong and so so embarrassing all at the same time. Like the Wilsons and most parents, you deserve medals. All of you..)