Sparky Travels

November 15, 2010

Great Ocean Road

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One significant trip that I had yet to cross off my list while living in Melbourne was the world famous Great Ocean Road, running west from Geelong towards Adelaide.
On the 12th of November, Helen and I hired a car and trundled off to see if it was as great as they say it is. Unfortunately the chosen weekend was forecast to be pretty wet and the rain was torrential as we left Melbourne on the Friday evening. We reached Lorne a couple of hours later where the torrent had turned to drizzle.
Lorne is a seaside village of the kind that Britain no longer has (to be precise, still has but is populated exclusively by pensioners). We stayed in the Grand Pacific Hotel and spent the evening having dinner on the esplanade and drinking in the hotel bar.
The next day we drove our Ford Focus - a step up from our usual rental transport - to Teddy’s Lookout above Lorne and to a nearby waterfall (Erskine Falls iirc). Further on around Apollo Bay we got drenched walking up to the unimpressive Mariner’s lookout and went to yet another lookout further West.
Our next non-lookout stop was Mait’s Rest it is a rest stop off the main road with a  wooden walkway leading through a fern rainforest. It was a pretty cool wee half hour pit stop on the way towards our next destination, Cape Otway Lighthouse. The lighthouse was 10km down a track lined with Eucalyptus trees. We stopped at various points on the track to look at the koalas perched in the branches. It turned out that this would be the highlight of the detour because the lighthouse and accompanying museum was pretty disappointing. The story of life as the lighthouse keeper and some of the information on shipwrecks were interesting but there wasn’t much more to it than that. The wind and rain didn’t help either.

We spent the evening of the 13th in Port Campbell which is a small village with a couple of restaurants and hotels but not much else. Its main selling point is it’s proximity to The Twelve Apostles. The most famous sight on the G-O-R. We got there early the next morning but not early enough to avoid the first of the tour groups. The Twelve Apostles are a collection of pillars formed out of the eroding coastline and were pretty spectacular.

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They also form the start of a whole raft of geological formations along a stretch of spectacular coastline. One of my favourites was “London Bridge”, a precursor to the Twelve Apostles style pillars, part of it had already fallen down. There was also the Grotto, a blowhole, caverns and further rock formations that easily rivalled the better known Apostles. IMG_0257 IMG_0265

That afternoon we arrived in Port Fairy, one of the last seaside towns on the Great Ocean Road and more of a sleepy, less touristy place than the others we’d seen. After walking round town a wee bit we headed back the way we’d come to Warrnambool, the biggest ‘city’ in the region.  We’d been recommended the Shipwrecked light show at Flagstaff Hill so we booked our tickets for that and had dinner on the high street. The Shipwrecked show was really good. It started with a lantern walk through the reconstructed 19th century fishing village to a stage overlooking the harbour. An arc of water droplets was sprayed into the air and projected on that was the story of the famous Loch Ard shipwreck (starring Jack from Neighbours – the one who played soccer in England). The seating moved in time to the story and the village lit up as the events unfolded. The only two survivors of the disaster were an 18 year old deck hand and teenage girl who he saved. It all got a bit surreal when orchestral music started trumpeting and the image of a large ceramic peacock rose from the water. This was the Loch Ard Peacock which was salvaged from the wreck and is now worth $2,000,000. The show was surprisingly high quality and wouldn’t have looked out of place in Disneyland or Vegas.

The next day, we had to drive the whole of the way back to Melbourne. We only stopped off to look at some more Koalas, make friends with some birdlife and take a quick photo of Bell’s Beach, home of the World Surfing Championships. Nevertheless city centre rush hour traffic stopped us dropping the car off in time so we had to keep it for an extra day. We’d managed to pack in  lot of stuff in a long weekend and the G-O-R was well and truly ticked off the list.

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