Because of another disturbed nights sleep because of the wind we had a bit of a lie in before heading into the city. 13.00 Mel and I had printed out our AFL (Australian Football League) tickets and made our way to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for what would be our first and probably last live game of Aussie rules football. We were both pretty excited as we followed the huge crowds of supporters across the Yarra River and towards the huge grounds. Mel decided to support the Hawthorn Hawks and I supported the Geelong Cats, we didn't know which team was the favourite to win it but had decided that the loser would buy the first expensive round of Belgium beer in the Belgium beer cafe after the game. We made our way to our seats which were located directly behind one of the goals, we'd only been sat down for about ten minutes when a huge horn sounded the game was underway. The eighteen a side brawl looked a little like Gaelic football, and the fact that players aren't sent off for misconduct ensured a lively, skilful, gladiatorial and adrenalin fuelled game, in fact it was by far the most exciting sporting event I've ever been to. The fourth quarter horn sounded and it was anyone's game however my team (Geelong) won by 3 points (83-85, 6 points per goal) and the crowd of 70,000 erupted into a sound of cheers and boos.
After the game we followed the crowd back across the bridge, there was no trouble and the game had an almost family feel to it - nothing like a UK game which often results in street fights and yobs of male supporters causing trouble later on in the evening. We headed to the Belgium beer cafe where Mel bought me a Leffe, we ended up getting a bit silly and decided to carry on drinking in the expensive establishment; I had a St Bernardus, Judas and another Leffe and Mel had a few Strassen ciders, we also had a some cheese to compliment the strong trappist ales and cider and staggered back to our tram stop on Collins Rd after a few hours of indulgence.
The tram was running slightly late because another tram had plummeted into a taxi; however I wasn't going to complain - it's not like we to pay for our ride home.
On our way home we stopped off for yet another pizza at Pizza Art (Bimbos) and decided to walk back to the van for hopefully a better night's sleep after an unbelievable day.
11.00am topped up our water reserve at Selinas, and freshened up in the van. We really are a bunch of hobos, James and I had a wee in a bush on the busy street, brushed our teeth on the pavement and disposed of our rubbish in someone else's wheelie bin. We decided to drive to Pin Oak Court better known as Ramsey Street in Neighbours, on the way we stopped off at a McDonalds to use the toilets, like a true gypo utilisation of public toilets and free clean amenities is a must especially when you haven't showered for a couple of days.
We were all surprised how small Ramsey Street was, still it was pretty good to see; we parked up in the residential street and took photos of all the houses before driving to the nearby studio and then home (I say home, I mean the street where we park our van).
We knocked on for Selina but she wasn't in however her friendly house mate, who we'd met at the BBQ let us in to use the shower - heaven. Lea told us that Tim and Jake (the two lads I had a jam with at the BBQ) were up for watching the world cup final with us early the next morning (4.30am). Lloyd, Mel and I had a bit of food in the van and then slept until 12.00am, at 12 Lea jumped in the van and we drove to Tim's house which was about ten minutes away. After a few glasses of port and some more Belgium beers and cheese I thought I wasn't going to make it for the match, however we all perked up for the game but were pretty disappointed with the dreary result which ended Spain 1, Holland 0; the goal only came in the second half of extra time and we didn't get to bed until 7.00am
We all tried to catch up on the sleep loss we'd incurred by watching the world cup final and didn't surface until around 14.00. The three of us caught a tram down Brunswick road and ate at our favourite pizza house - Bimbos (pizza art). It would be our last meal together for months. Mel and I headed into the city and bought some sweets for our families before picking up some food from the supermarket.
17.00 we made our way to the airport to drop Lloyd off (he'll be back in the UK for one week for his sister's wedding), James and I have been travelling together for a eight months now and seen a life time of things; it was pretty weird to be saying goodbye to him but I was also excited that Mel and I would be able to have our own little adventure on the Great Ocean Rd.
Mel and I drove through Geelong (home of my AFL team - Geelong Cats) and then onto Torquay where we found a large open car park next to the sea front where we spent the night.
Mel and I woke up in a much roomier van as we had rolled back the bunk style bed giving us a much larger living area. I opened the upper curtains and strolled down to the beach leaving Mel in the van to freshen up, the beach was very clean and picturesque however the wind was pretty strong sending a cold shiver down my sleepy torso. Back in the van Mel and I had a bite to eat before setting off along the B100 (The Great Ocean Road). The Great Ocean Road is Victoria's famous south-western coastal route and starts at Torquay and extends 285km west to Warrambool, the road was apparently built between 1919 and 1932 with the idea of constructing a scenic road of world repute, equalling California's Pacific Coast Highway, I haven't done the Pacific Highway (yet) but was pretty impressed with the GOR. The road was to be both a memorial to the soldiers who died in WWI and an employment scheme for those who returned. Over three thousand ex-servicemen laboured with picks and shovels, carving the road into cliffs and mountains along Australia's most rugged and densely forested coastline; the task was speeded up with the jobless during the Great Depression.
We drove to Bells beach and then onto Airey's Inlet which is home to a beautiful lighthouse which was made famous in the cult children's TV series 'round the twist'. It was a beautiful day and we were lucky enough to meet Justin a young enthusiastic surfer dude who operated as a local tour guide, Justin had the keys to the lighthouse and took us both to the top of the lighthouse and told us a few stories about the history of the lighthouse as well as a few ghost stories. At the top of the lighthouse I was expecting a huge bulb but quite the contrary, the bulb was smaller than a car light bulb. After trying to spot the illustrious whales we were told we'd possibly see, we headed back down the spiral steps and back to our camper.
After lunch in Lorne which is set at the foot of the heavily forested Otway Range, on the banks of the Erskine River, we carried on driving towards Apollo bay and stopped off for a hot chocolate and a cake. Fishing seemed to be the main activity in Apollo Bay whether commercial or recreational however Mel and I didn't fancy a boat trip so carried on to Cape Otway and checked into a campsite for the night $20.
The temperature dropped quite a lot that evening and it started to rain and then hail; it was pretty noisy as the hail slammed onto the roof of our van, however we cranked the music up and turned the engine on to blast some hot air into the back. I had some pretty large prawns in the fridge so I cooked Mel a Thai curry and we celebrated our first day on the Great Ocean Road with cheeky vimtos followed by wine.
10.00 The rain was still bouncing it down and there was no sign of it stopping, we decided not to view Cape Otway Lighthouse (which looks beautiful on the photos) for one we'd just had a hot shower and didn't fancy getting a soaking and two there was an entrance fee just to walk around it.
We headed North back through the Great Otway National Park turning left (west) onto the B100 (Great Ocean Road) and said a quick prayer that we'd make it to Lavers Hill for fuel.
After a quick pit stop we headed to Princetown and then to Gibson steps; a series of steps leading down to a beach and great views of the rough sea and cliff faces however it was still raining so we took refuge in the twelve apostle's car park where I had a hot chocolate and a power nap. Mel woke me as a handful of helicopters were taking off giving passengers an aerial view of the scenic coast line, the heli port had obviously seen a break in the weather. Mel and I dashed back to Gibson steps and down to the secluded beach, the sun broke through the clouds and the rain stopped, I went from being slightly sleepy to being like a hyperactive kid. I couldn't believe how powerful the sea was, waves were crashing dangerously close to us and at one point caught me out, and I had to make a sharp dash towards the limestone cliff face. We were going to walk along the beach but the tide seemed to be coming in ridiculously fast, and I had a premonitions of Me and Mel re-enacting ascene not to dissimilar to Titanic or the more recent incident involving Morecombe Bays Chinese cockle pickers.
We ran back up the steps and back into the van and onto the twelve apostles which were the most awe-inspiring formations on the coast. Gigantic pillars, some rising 65m out of the ocean however one of them crumbled in 2005 leaving (I think) 8. Further along the Ocean Rd we stopped off at other famous formations including Loch and Gorge, London Bridge, and Grotto. The Loch and Gorge boasted fascinating views of fantastic rock formations and plaques read tragic stories of ship wrecks there. Up until January 1990, tourist could walk across the double-arched rock formation known as London Bridge however it came crashing down because of years of erosion. Just before it came crashing down a couple had crossed over the bridge and were conducting a extramarital affair when the giant rocks crashed into the sea, the couple were rescued by a helicopter which took them to safety and away from the media who were anxiously waitingto interview them. When viewing the bridge I don't think I've ever felt wind like it, I was actually scared of removing the camera from its holder, just in case it was swept from my hand; the Chinese tourists found the wind highly amusing.
We passed through Peterborough and followed the road up to Niranda and watched the sun setting behind the bay of islands which looked like a small archipelago. When we arrived in Warrnabool it was dark so we headed to the whale watching area knowing that they would be a car park and toilets there. In the morning we were hoping to spot a Southern right whale which was once almost hunted to extinction.
10.00 Mel and I jumped out of our camper van into what was now a busy car park and made our way to the whale viewing area which was about 100m from the car park. We were quite sceptical about spotting any whales in the rough water however when we walked onto the wooden decking we both spotted a solid object in the sea, at first we thought it was a smooth rock but then it started to move; we couldn't believe our luck a huge Southern Right Whale was only a matter of metres from the beach front. It was the first time that we'd ever seen a wild whale, I've swam with whale sharks but they are fish and the Southern Right Whale is a mammal and a big one at that. I wasn't quick enough to capture our first sighting with my camera however being a mammal we knew it had to resurface at some point, after about ten patient minutes the 8m+ whale popped up again.
After our whale watching experience where we clocked up about four sightings we drove into Warranbool and nipped into Coles to stock up on a few essentials before driving back towards the Great Ocean Road. We stopped off at cheese world; believe it or not this place sold and produced a huge selection of cheeses. After stocking up on cheese we took a detour towards Timboon before dropping down to Port Campbell through farmland, which wasn't to dissimilar to Yorkshire.
Port Cambell is a small settlement on the edge of the water at Port Cambell National Park, and the main base for those visiting the Twelve Apostles. We pulled in at a campsite near the water front and used their showers for $3, after freshening up we drove to a free parking space I'd spotted which was located next to some public toilets and the beach - perfect.
In the evening we drank in the 12 rocks pub and restaurant which overlooked the sea and then headed back to our van for an early night.
It was quite misty in the morning and I thought the weather was going to be a bit miserable for our last full day together however after breakfast it cleared up and the sun began to shine as we made our way to Princetown and then north up the C166 to GORGE chocolates.
I expected a Willie Wonker greeting at the huge front gate, however the quaint factory was merely a shed, however it did have a cute factor to it and I couldn't complain as I indulged in all the free samples. The shop assistant went on to tell me that the owner buys in the chock from Belgium then melts it down, I was now even more disappointed I thought all the chocolate was made there, surely it can't be that difficult to melt it down and stick it in a few moulds never the less we still bought a bit and headed further north to Apostle Whey Cheese which in my opinion far more interesting. We sampled about eleven delicious award winning gourmet cheeses made from high quality milk and produced on their own dairy farm. I'm a big fan of cheese but not so much to watch the ten minute DVD that the bearded lady insisted we watched, however it was surprisingly interesting to learn that the cheese almost goes full circle, starting off as milk from the cow and ending with the by product of whey being fed back to the cows. Every cheese was superb but we settled on some chilli and garlic feta which cost a pricey $9 but was by far the best I've ever tasted.
Our next stop was to Otway Estate Winery located about 40km north east near Gillibrand. The land was still remarkably like the lake district or some parts of Yorkshire with cows dominating the lush green fields, if you were blind folded and dropped off here you would never guess that you were in the great southern land of Oz. We eventually found the small but impressive winery and parked up in the large car park next to an area of vines. We had lunch in the van; carrs crackers and our newly purchased feta cheese washed down with a glass of wine - just to prepare our pallets.
Inside the cellar door we were greeted by the site manager and before we knew it sampling a range of wines. The wines were celestial, Mel isn't a fan of dry wines but she loved all the wines including the two dries on offer. We then paid a small fee to try all the beers which were also brewed there, we made our way from the ostentatious bar into a relaxing dining area which had comfy settees in front of a wood burning fire that over looked a large pond outside. The winery is often used as a wedding venue for obvious reasons; Mel and I knew that we were going to struggle to leave our cosy seats any time soon. We polished off the ten sample beers and then bought a schooner of our preferred beer and a bottle of wine for the road (Otway Estate Cabernet Sauvignon), the only problem was that I had to drive. The plan was to drive out of the winery and into a lay-by nearby however the young winery manager told me that if I headed ten minutes down the rural road I'd come to a campsite.
A young lad with a huge beard greeted me when I pulled into what seemed to be an empty site; the relaxed lad took me to a sight that was conveniently located next to the toilets and kitchen area ($20) - too easy.
We were both exhausted after a hot shower and a glass of wine with our tuna pasta meal, we'd been eating and drinking rich food and drink all day and needed some rest. We got into bed at around 21.00 and didn't get out until the following morning.
9.30 last hot shower until I don't know when. Mel and I had a bit of breakfast in the large misty campsite which seemed to be pretty empty before dropping the amenity keys off at the office. The drive to the airport took a couple of hours and it seemed pretty surreal that within a couple of hour's time Mel would be leaving me and heading home.
As with most airports the traffic was directed into a high priced car park ($35), we had plenty of time to kill so I dropped Mel and her bags off at terminal two and drove back onto the highway and parked the van at the aeroplane viewing area which was basically a motorway lay-by with a dirt surface. I had to meander back across the highway and run around the perimeter of the runway, over a small fence and into the busy terminal (the saving of $35 was used to buy Mel and I some lunch and a new pair of sunglasses for me).
15.00 Mel checked her 25kg bag in and we wandered around the shops holding off the inevitable emotional goodbye. Mel has travelled with me for six weeks and we've visited 5 states here a just a few other things we've done whilst living like a hobo on our epic road trip
Clocked up nearly 10,000 miles
Driven over two time zones
Surfed at Byron Bay
Visited too many national parks to mention
Spotted wild whales, kangaroos, possums, camels, huge spiders, exotic birds and Dingos
Visited Aires Rock
Danced with aborigines
Eaten on an open fire for over a month
Partied in the outback
Jumped through fire
Noodled for Opals
Watched live AFL
Washed in lakes or anywhere possible
Dined out in the cities
And the list keeps on going, I asked Mel before she left would she have changed anything about the trip and her reply was the same as mine - nothing....
The trip has been by far the best road trip I've ever and probably will ever encounter, and I can't complain - gorgeous girlfriend and good friends for company combined with some of the most interesting / beautiful places I've ever visited, alcohol (goon), music / instruments, and enough ingredients to rustle up a curry over an open fire and your about half way to how I feel when typing this blog and reflecting on my time here.
Mel was pretty upset when she give me one last hug and kiss, I tried to hold in my feelings but had a huge lump in my throat but knew that something so good had to come to an end, on the bright side Mel is hoping to join me in the US of A in two months time - fingers crossed.
She walked through to passport control and turned to give me a final wave before disappearing into the distance. I had to hold back the tears as I had a major highway to contend with and would surely get struck down like a giant cane toad should my eyes be obscured by girlie tears. I made it back to the van in one piece and headed back to Melbourne city centre; I was pretty familiar with Brunswick Street so I headed there and parked in a side street not too far away from the supermarket, public toilet and Celina's house.
18.00 I had a quick tidy of the van and spent the night typing up my blog and writing a list of things I need to do in the next few days whilst Lloydy is at home, in fact there is probably enough to keep me busy until he returns on the 22nd, until then I'll be flying solo.
Sunday morning and the road seemed pretty quiet except for the frequent tram and whistling of the wind which rocked the van from time to time. I slept in two sleeping bags and also had a duvet over me, Mel is like a human water bottle and without her I could defiantly feel the difference. I erected the table and made myself a cup of tea and ate a bowl of cereal, an orange and three ginger biscuits before emptying the collection of rubbish in a nearby bin.
I spent a bit of time typing up my blog which I've been a bit lazy about over the last week, however every day I keep bullet points of what I've done allowing me to type up the full blog at a later date. It seems funny writing the blog in my van, all the bottom curtains are shut but I can stand up and look out of the upper windows onto the road, people walk past the van not knowing that I'm here using it as a bedroom, kitchen, living area and wardrobe. To everyone else it's just a s***ty camper van; little do they know where it's been over the last few months and the stories that go with it. When I leave the van people look at me as though I'm a hobo or a pest I feel like telling them "I'm a professional too you know" however I just smile, they're all on their way to work where as I'm preparing to circumnavigateNew Zealand in a few days time.
I had a wet wipe wash and made my way to the supermarket to buy a few bits and pieces, meals for one - that kind of thing (boo hoo) however I didn't need an awful lot of stuff as the cupboards and fridge are still looking pretty healthy.
In the afternoon I spent the most of the day in the library using the free wifi catching up with my emails and facebook messages.
That evening I strolled down Brunswick Street to use Skype in one of the many internet cafes and managed to have a lengthy chat to both my mum and dad, and Mel who was just pulling up on her drive. Apparently her friends (Maz and James) picked her up from the airport waving an Australian flag whilst wearing Australian hats - brilliant. Instead of jumping a tram I walked back to my lonely cold van and came face to face with a possum which ran straight in front of me and up a tree.
I don't think I've ever slept in a van which is at such an angle, I had a pretty poor sleep and really need to move the van to a quieter location. I opened one of the windows to let some air in, it was pretty cold as I could see the condensation from my mouth and all the windows were wet. I turned the engine on and blasted some hot air into the back, before boiling some water for a cup of tea.
I spent most the morning sorting out my financial situation which isn't looking too good; I'm well over budget after Oz and will definitely need to start cutting back in NZ in fact I think that was one of the reasons I didn't sleep too well. However I'm not in any debt yet and hopefully will make it back home before I have to sell one of my organs.
After a coffee on Brunswick St I headed back to the library and started my research on New Zealand, it's amazing how many weirdos are attracted to the library during the day time; strange clothes and funny haircuts - I seemed to blend in quite well.
In the evening I knocked on for Selina and co and ended up watching 'Dexter' with her and Nelly (her flat mate) it was beautiful to be in the warmth of a house again. Back in the van it was pretty cold, even later that evening I had to put my SAS training into effect - boiling the kettle whilst my socks are strategically placed on top of it, quite a dangerous operation but the result was a success.
8.30 Selina let me in to the house and I spent the morning making good use of the hot shower and free internet which I can successfully tap into from the van - no more library trips for me. I skyped Mel and checked my facebook account; I had a message from David Broughton an old school mate from St Bernards and Thornleigh, David is now working in Melbourne and was keen to meet up for a drink at lunch time.
11.30 I ran down Brunswick chasing a tram that had just bolted past me, the driver was kind enough to stop for me (I still didn't pay). I met David outside the Eureka tower and we went next door to my favourite drinking establishment 'the Belgium Beer Cafe'. David spent a couple of hours with me and in that time we managed to sink a few Hoogardens and Leffes before David realised the time and made a sharp exit however it was really nice to catch up with him.
In the evening I hung out at Selinas again before returning back to the van.