Day 10 - Port Campbell (2nd day) & Twelve Apostles

Trip Start Apr 17, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Thursday, April 26, 2012

This day was dedicated to relaxing, having fun and sightseeing so we got up, packed up, had breakfast and hit the road.

We had a quick look around the foreshore of Port Cambell but all the wonderous sights of the area beckoned us.

Our first stop was the Loch Ard Gorge. This was the site of the running aground and sinking of the sailing clipper 'Loch Ard', which ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island on 1 June 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne. Of the fifty-four passengers and crew, only two survived: Tom Pearce, a ship's apprentice, and Eva Carmichael, an Irishwoman immigrating with her family, both of whom were 18 years of age. Tom Pearce was washed ashore first, and then he rescued Carmichael from the water after hearing her cries for help. After a cold night and Eva suffering from hypothermia they managed to stay warm by drinking the rum which had been washed ashore. The next morning, Pearce proceeded to climb out of the gorge to raise the alarm to local pastoralists who immediately set into plan a rescue attempt.

The Loch Ard story had fascinated us for days now since we had first heard of it back at the Cape Otway lighthouse and was embedded in our minds when we camped at Point Franklin with sounds of the heavy seas crashing throughout the night.

Anyway.....the Loch Ard Gorge is located in a cluster of sights to see so we parked in the carpark and began our walk. Some cyclists passed us who recommended doing it by bike and since we had the bikes on the back of the van we wondered if it would be worthwhile unhitching them. About 40 metres further down the path a massive staircase down to the gorge soon convinced us that we may not need the bikes.

Once we were at the bottom we were completely fascinated, we must've spent 30 minutes just looking at the gorge and imagining where everything took place, where Tom got washed up, where he found Eva and where they found shelter in the cave at the back of the gorge. Apparently, there was so much debris from the shipwreck that it was piled 2 metres high. Items included pianos, concertinas, dresses, candles, spirits & champagne. The rum just may have saved the lives of the two survivors who had just climbed out of the water in the middle of winter. 
We then found the cave where they took refuge (now known as Carmichael's Cave) and found it to be well sheltered from the southern wind and rain. 

After taking a heap of photos we headed back up the stairs to the cemetary which was close by. Buried there are the only 4 bodies recovered but there was also a memorial to the lives lost, some of which were Eva Carmichael's family including her mother. The next sight along the walk was Muttonbird Island. 50,000 muttonbirds live on the island and migrate to Siberia during our winter. They lay their eggs on Muttonbird Island and they hatch there, each parent feeds the single chick for 2–3 days and then leaves for up to three weeks in search of food. These foraging trips can cover a distance of 1,500 km (930 mi) and mean the chick may be left unattended for over a week. In mid-April, the parents embark on their migration to Siberia while the chicks just hang around until they have lost their baby fat and they are light enough to learn to fly and then embark on their migration to Siberia one month after their parents. Miraculously, they always find them. (NB: Muttonbirding - ie: the killing of baby muttonbirds is still occurring in Tasmania. We feel this needs to be stopped. It's just plain wrong). 

The Muttonbird Island lookout was a great vantage point for the whole area. We noticed that Muttonbird Island itself is vulnerable to erosion and may one day fall into the ocean. From here we walked a bit further to the Thundercave. The Thundercave is exactly as the name suggests, a large cave in the sandstone that thunders when a wave crashes into it. We could see the remains of what was once the old footpath but it was now fenced off with danger signs everywhere. Once at the lookout, we saw why they fenced it off...the next section to collapse looked like it could quite possibly take down the whole face of the cliff. After the Thundercave we were off to the Sherbrooke River. 

The Sherbrooke River is a smallish river that winds it's way down to the coast from the hills around Timboon. Once it gets to the sea it forms a lagoon just behind the beach which doesn't appear to flow into the ocean unless in flood. The weather was fairly inclement, wind and cold rain hitting our faces quite hard when dark clouds passed, then the sun would come out and we would steam up in our cold weather gear. We watched the huge pounding waves hit the rock platform and checked out the debris washed up on the beach. We saw plenty of fox footprints and dismembered bird parts strewn around, mostly Muttonbirds, and mostly wings left behind.

After this it was a few km to the Archway and the Razorback which were both spectacular rock formations. After walking 3.2kms of track plus all the sidetracks, staircases and hills we did, we were starving so we decided to have lunch. We expected the cafe at the Twelve Apostles to have food so we headed there to have a look. Unfortunately they only did coffee and cakes so it was off to Port Campbell for lunch. As it was already 1:30pm we quickly decided on the Greek restaurant in town. I think I had a burger and chips. We soon made friends with the local sparrows who we shared some food with. I couldn't believe how many New Holland Honeyeaters and Wattlebirds were all over the place too. At home in Sydney, I only know of one place where I can see New Holland Honeyeaters and it is a 30 minute drive away so I was happy.

After lunch we did the 10 kms back to see Gibson Steps during the afternoon and then hopefully make it to the Twelve Apostles so that we could catch the sunset. We got to Gibson Steps with plenty of time to spare so we took stacks of photos as you can see below. There was a bit of a sidetrack that met up with the Great Ocean Walk which made us realise that all along the walk there must be camping areas for the walkers which sounded like fun (we will do it one day) but we were glad to have the camper as our home for this trip. After about a million photos we jumped into the van and headed towards the Twelve Apostles carpark. The sunset was perfect, we had an ideal balance of red sunset and stormy cloud allowing us to see two moods of the Twelve Apostles. I also managed to get a few shots of an offshore gas well platform - I believe this was either Otway Gas Project or Casino Gas Project.

Finally, at sundown we were knackered. We headed back to Port Campbell, set up camp, ate dinner, showered and passed out.
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