Great Ocean Road - 1st March to 4th March
The Great Ocean road is a landscape formed by a ravage sea surrounded by limestone cliff edges, golden sandy beaches and leaving Melbourne in our little Hyundai Getz our first destination and overnight stop was to be Torquay, the gateway to the B100. As we headed off with only a paper map in hand with only one road apparantly all the way to Torquay the chances of getting lost we thought were slim, but we did. Eventually, after driving on a number of country roads, we found our way and pulled into Torquay just before sun set. Parking up at the water's edge we sat and watched the sunset which left a red and yellow glow over the evening surfers as they rode high waves from high tide. After the sun went down we drove a little further up the road where we cooked a BBQ under circling bats and to the sound of crashing waves before having a brief look around the town and finding a place to park up for the night. Unfortunately we were unable to park on the coast so headed down a side street and pulled up outside some houses, after watching a film we slowly drifted off to sleep.
The next morning we awoke at sunrise, thanks mainly to the building site next to the car, but took the opportunity of heading back to the coast where last night's red and yellow sky had been replaced with a yellow and blue haze as the sun rose through the sea on the horizon. After a quick bite to eat we set out on our way down the B100 driving with Coast FM in the background blasting out all the latest tunes along with Pink's entire album. Our first stop was Bell's beach. The name is slightly miss leading as there is little beach here but it is world famous for its surf and the names that visit it. As we headed further along the coast the views were simply breath taking, the bluest sea you can imagine engulfed in hundreds of different shades of blue with wisps of green embedded within. The pictures could simply not do the place justice, as we wound in and out of the coast the cliff edges were the other spectacle. For as far as the eye could see the coast line was under constant reformation leaving behind the most stunning rock faces I had ever seen. After pulling into a small town called Lorne we wandered up their newly formed pier, and with people fishing on the end we were intrigued to see what they had been catching. Once we got there it was not so much the fish that people had caught we were interested in, it was the sting rays below the pier that caught our eye. Even though we had swum with them in the Caribbean the size difference was unreal as swimming below this pier there were stingrays 2 to 3 meters in length. As we looked down in to the water it looked like there were roads on the sea bed, with cars driving and only roof tops in view, they were that big. After chatting to the fishermen, who were having a good day with the salmon, we made our way back to the car and got back on our way.
Throughout the day we stopped off at numerous viewing platforms and beaches along the coast although one stop we will always remember was at the Kennett River. We had been advised to take a walk up the hill here as it would be layered in Koala's, and they were right. With eucalyptus trees as far as the eyes could see and a smell that relaxed all senses in the body we could see on the tree tops and below vast numbers of Koala's all doing what they do best, sleeping. I took the walking option while Rachel took the car to the top, probably the best idea as I was never going to get that far. Before leaving we were treated to seeing one koala almost in touching distance and thankfully he turned to pose for the camera, a well trained animal often in the tourist spot light. After stopping for lunch with the parrots we made our way to through Apollo Bay, Cape Otway and Johanna.
As the day wore on 'The Fray - You Found Me' blasted from the stereo as we headed for our evening stop. Passing through Princetown we arrived at the Gibson Steps where the beach itself was stunning but the sea was savage and definately a complete no for swimming in. At the sea shore there was a drop in the sea bed and as the waves came in they dropped into this pit causing a huge bang with a lashing of water projected upwards into the sky. A stunning feature to admire from a distance and I would doubt that even the most confident of surfers would attempt to surf here. After a long day of stunning views and blistering sun we arrived at our main destination. Since I decided to travel, over a year ago, I have had a picture of The Twelve Apostles as my Desktop screensaver and at last I had arrived. As we pulled in to the car park and entrance to the viewing platform the sun had started its decent into the sea. After a short walk we saw them, standing in the water, being beaten from below by lashings of waves. These apostles had made the road as famous as it is today and they looked fantastic. Although not all are still standing today there are new ones being formed across the coast line. We took the time to take pictures and watch the sun descend behind them leaving me with the image that I had admired and dreamed of visiting for so long, a landmark in our traveling experience. After leaving we drove 10 minutes down the road into Port Campbell where we indulged in fish and chips, although surprisingly not of the standard you get in our own North Sea. After that we drove back to the Twelve Apostles where we set up camp for the night, although the drive back could have been worse if it was us rather than car in front that ploughed into a wallabie which completely totaled their wagon.
After a good night's sleep we awoke the next day to the weather that had been forecast and that we had dreaded. A storm had built off the coast that was going to lash us with storm force winds up to 120km. Hmm what to do, well we drove and saw the sights we came out here to see and as we left early the winds were still not at full strength. We expected this around midday, so we headed to our first stop of the day at Loch Ard Gorge, a sight as stunning as the apostles we had seen the night before. Again the pictures will do the talking but with a number of walks through to the coast we spent over an hour watching the waves crash in the blow hole and across the razor back, that make up this attraction along the coast. Further along we visited London Bridge, made famous for its arch that allows the sea to pass through but mainly due to the day that one part of it collapsed leaving tourists stranded in the middle of the sea. As the weather worsened we had been told by Park Rangers not to visit the Grampians due to the bushfires that were hammering the region and due to the winds today that were as bad as they were on black Saturday when over 200 people were killed. We drove up to the Bay of Islands where we knew we had to find an area to shelter. In the distance we could see a wall of smoke and dust ploughing towards us as the wind had pulled in the smoke from bushfires along the coast. Knowing that we were not in danger from the fires we carried on driving but by this time the wind was like something I had never experience, so powerful that getting out of the car became painful. The sea whipped up and the tops of the waves were being blown away. As we finished the Great Ocean Road, blown away literally by its beauty, we pulled into Cheese World just outside the town of Warranambool where we enjoyed cheese tasting before heading on to Port Fairy. Here we watched as the sea level climb as the rain battered into the car. After a couple of hours it all started to calm down we enjoyed a cup of tea in the local café before making our way down to the port for a BBQ. Ironically our trip down the Great Ocean road finished how it started, with a picturess sunset and us indulging in a BBQ. This time though we were wlso trying to charge the lap top up in the girl's toilet, the phase trying is mainly due to the toilet being in constant use. After an evening walk with an older couple from Buckinghamshire along Griffith Island, where we watched Wallabies and Mutton Birds fall in for the night, we set the car up for the last time opposite the reserve and relaxed for the evening. As the temperature dropped we decided to move the car down a side road for a bit of shelter before getting a bit of sleep.
As the sun rose for the last time on our road trip, I dragged Rachel back down to Griffith Island to see the Wallabies in their morning routine and there was plenty of them bouncing around only a meter away in places before the rain came in again. For breakfast we visited the local bakery before watching the storm waves roll into the coast and starting the drive back to Melbourne. Taking the A1 route home we drove through areas burnt out by bushfires and over terrain so flat that even a builder could not achieve such a level! After a 3 hour drive we arrived back in Melbourne where we dropped the car off and made our way back to Jeff's for a clean up before catching the overnight bus to Canberra.
The Great Ocean road was a true natural wonder, a coast line like no other and one that if visited in 20 years time will be completely different to this road trip in 2009.