Tag Archives: Australia

Great Ocean Road Trip

29 Mar

The time has finally come; I am free of working on my travels (after a pathetic five weeks) and I can regain the freedom of being able to explore and do exciting things instead of reading a book all day in the sunshine just waiting to go to work (I am aware that this probably doesn’t sound that bad a way to spend a day considering it has been snowing for about 3 months straight in England, but it did get a bit tedious). I quit my job last Friday in time for a four day camping expedition to the Great Ocean Road with fresh-out-of-the-uk Laura, Lucia, Alex and Mel.

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Obviously because I had been put in charge of hiring the car, something had to go wrong; so our trip didn’t begin all that smoothly when we arrived at Thrifty to be told by the blonde (just saying) trainee that the $300 bond we were prepared to put down was actually going to be $3500. After a temporary existential crisis that I didn’t own the ability to organise a piss up in a brewery, and having accused the nice travel agent from our hostel of bare-faced lying to us about the deal; said travel agent took time out of his day off to sort the issue (a combination of miscommunication and an incompetent employee) and we went on our way armed with his personal mobile phone number in case anything else went wrong. (Thanks Josh).

The Great Ocean Road is a road that runs along Victoria on the south coast of Australia, famous for its surfing beaches and containing a range of exciting locations from the lighthouse in the kids tv program Going Round The Twist to the scene in Point Break where Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze have it out in the sea. It is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever seen, with winding roads in and out of national parks, up mountains and along coastlines.

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The beginning of our drive out of Melbourne wasn’t so scenic, with us driving for a good hour round and round the central business district because we couldn’t work out how to get out the one way system (and we had failed to provide ourselves with either a map or a sat nav). Our maze around Melbourne came to a head when we found ourselves in Albert Park, driving a lap of the Grand Prix race track. But then i’m sure that’s something people would actually pay to do, though probably not in a turquoise Mitsubishi that could house a sizeable family.

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Grand Prix track.

As with the rest of Australia, there are no original place names, so our first stop was Torquay (later followed by Anglesea and Peterborough). We stopped and ate our picnic by the sea before stumbling across a children’s playground that would turn out to be the bane of my trip. Thinking I was Beth Tweddle or some other Olympic gymnast I took to the monkey bars and proceeded to flip myself round, misjudge how far I was off the ground and land arse first on a wooden platform which catapulted me half way across the woodchip floor. It was one of those pains that is so bad all you can do is breathe in and resulted in a horribly bruised coccyx and an inability to walk or sit in any level of comfort. Far from ideal when we were on a trip that essentially involved sitting and walking.

After I had accepted that I was temporarily immobilised and there was nothing I could do about it, we moved on and found a campsite in a beach town called Lorne, where we ended up camping for two nights (although three of the girls cheated and slept in the car on the second night after declaring that the previous had been up there as one of the most uncomfortable sleeps ever). We did also manage to lose a tent somewhere between leaving the hostel and emptying the car, but that’s a mystery that still remains unsolved.

The second day of our trip was the most full, involving a trip to Erskine falls and a hike through the rainforest that was for ‘experienced bush walkers only’. Pleased with ourselves for gaining our new title as certified bush walkers we headed to a town that wouldn’t have been out of place somewhere in the American Deep South. There was a festival on where we sat on bales of hay, listened to some hicks playing live music, wine tasted and then took to the fancy dress tent and adorned ourselves in a collection of probably the most awful clothes ever to have been made.

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We had heard that there was a road somewhere in the midst of the Great Otway National Park where you were guaranteed to see koalas in the gum trees and kangaroos in the wild, so you can imagine our disappointment when, after a good 45 minutes of driving at snail’s pace through a deserted forest with our necks strained and hanging out the window trying to spot the bloody things in the 30 foot trees, we had seen bugger all. That was until we struck lucky (in a sort of mean way) and came across an injured kangaroo that hadn’t been able to bounce away quick enough at the sound of our engine. He seemed to be a good omen as then quite a few more kangaroos began to show themselves and I had an uncomfortable flashback to the time I’d eaten part of a roo burger a few weeks before.

We eventually found some Aussies having a BBQ at the side of the road (shocker) where Mel got out and eloquently told them we were ‘after some koalas’ and where could we find them. Following their advice to go 5km further up the road, we immediately saw numerous little balls of grey fur clinging on to the trees and were relieved that our safari hunt was finally over. They weren’t all too active to be honest, we got a yawn out of one and saw another lazily rejigging himself into a comfier position but that was about it. It got more exciting the following day though when we drove past a koala in a low branch and Mel and I contemplated climbing up there with it until we realised the tree was infested with red ants and that was probably a sign to leave the poor thing alone.

The pinnacle of the great ocean road is the 12 Apostles, a series of rocks that stand near the coast and were formed when parts of the cliffs broke away from themselves. There definitely aren’t 12, begging the question why on earth they got their name, but I won’t bore you with fruitless guesses. The coast did look incredible, but I couldn’t help feeling glad we’d done the trip the way we did as a longer camping break because if I’d sat on a coach for 5 hours just to get out, see some rocks in the sea only to turn around and come home again, and to be charged 100 or so dollars for the trouble, I think it’d feel a bit anticlimactic.

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London Bridge

Our last day was Tuesday; the only day the temperature reached well into the 30s, and also the day we had to spend almost entirely in the car driving back home to Melbourne. We did manage to stop at Apollo Bay for a picnic and a walk on the beach, and got out to see the Round the Twist lighthouse before finally getting back to the hostel in time for the Tuesday night free meal.

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The Lighthouse

This weekend has trumped my day out to the Mornington Peninsula as my favourite time in Australia so far, but now we are sad to be leaving Melbourne and more importantly Mel and Alex as we leave them behind to head up the east coast for a few weeks.

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I am writing this blog from the back of a campervan we have hired for 5 dollars a day on a relocation deal to get us to Sydney, feeling a little like an illegal immigrant and still vaguely nervous about the fact it is designed to sleep six people and therefore is the size of a small house on wheels. I’ll let you know how the rest of this journey goes when (if) I get there…

Cat xxx