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The Great Ocean Road(trip)

187 kilometers of winding road along the south victorian coast

sunny 12 °C

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Monday, 6 July

After breakfast, we headed off to pick up our Wicked camper van, where we'd be eating and sleeping on the road for the next five days. There, we hit a hurdle: since neither Paddy nor I are too confident driving manual (I've never left Park n' Ride and and we figured trying to learn over the phone with friends would prove fruitless), we had to pay a bit extra for an automatic off-roader. It looked cool - the sides were painted with Southpark-style Kiss musicians (Wicked's known for its bizarre, often inappropriately painted vans.)

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On our way to Torquay, a little surf town at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, we stopped to walk around Deakin University. Paddy had applied to this uni, and had I not chosen to attend UTS, Deakin also has a bilateral exchange with SF State. The campus was HUGE and even had its own little "lake" (pond) and a lakehouse restaurant.

Back on the road, we stopped for dinner at a little Italian place in Torquay, then drove around the town to find the perfect sleep spot for our first night. The result? A lookout over the beach and rolling waves. Perfect.

Tuesday, 7 July

We awoke early (well, early-ish - this far south, the sun doesn't rise until about 7:30) to watch the sun rise over the ocean, capturing every stage of the colorful sky while running around the parking lot in attempt to stay warm in the four degree cold.

After a quick stop to buy groceries (the van was equipped with cooking supplies, a gas stove and a pump sink), we drove to check out the Surfworld Museum. There, we saw the first surfboard ridden into Australia's coast (a wooden door - from a shipwreck I think?), the Bells Beach surf competition trophy, bits of surf documentaries in the movie room, and several pros' old boards (I got a photo with Kelly Slater's from 1996) in different rooms spanning the different decades of surfing all over the world.

Afterwards, we hit up the surf shops: Quiksilver, Roxy, Rusty (whose headquarters, I believe, are in Torquay), and Ripcurl all had stores next to the museum. As we drove out, we stopped by the famed Bells Beach to dip our toes in the ocean, but it was much too cold out to go surfing.

Driving along the Great Ocean Road is in an experience within itself: you can literally see the ocean the entire time, and every cliffside rest stop offers even more spectacular views than the last. We stopped for a bit in Lorne, a little town just a couple hours' drive in, to check out the shops and look out over the windy road from Teddy's Lookout before setting off for Apollo Bay, a small fishing village where we stopped for fish n' chips and some sleep.

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Wednesday, 8 July

By now it had been two days since our last shower, so after watching another sunrise in the chilly morning, we stopped by the nearby YHA (youth hostel) to get clean and defrost our toes (I had to start sleeping in my Ugg boots.) It was one of the longest, most luxurious showers I've ever taken.

With a quick bowl of cereal, we drove to explore Mait's Rest, a trail that weaves through the rainforest. All around were myrtle beech trees and humongous ferns, but unfortunately (or fortunately), I haven't really seen any feared Aussie snakes or spiders yet.

Next up was the Cape Otway Lighthouse, but on our way there, the road was blocked by...cows! There must have been 30 of them just wandering across the road. Quite funny, but I was petrified that I was going to hit one, so I crept by at 10 k/hr. At Cape Otway, we walked around the old lightkeeper's house/shipwreck museum (we'd left the Surf Coast and entered the Shipwreck Coast sector of the ocean road) and took in the view from the lighthouse deck. To the left was Bass Strait (which separates Australia from Tasmania), and to the right, the Southern Ocean. We really lucked out with daytime weather - it was absolutely clear out. Wish we could've seen some whales though!

Even though we're both afraid of heights, we decided to go to the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk. It was similar to the one I did with Miriam in Western Australia, but this one overlooked myrtle beech trees (which seem shorter and less impressive than the tingle and karri trees we saw at the other tree top walk) and had a very high lookout tower that swayed in the wind. It was terrifying, but we both made it to the top!

Continuing along the road, we stopped in a tiny hilltop town called Princetown and would have like to stay overnight on their waterfront campgrounds, but because our van was a petrol-guzzling machine that required diesel fuel and Princetown was too small to have a diesel pump, we had to continue to Pt. Campbell.

We watched a breathtaking sunset over the Twelve Apostles that night.

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Thursday, 9 July

Today we drove, but stopped to see tons of lookout points along the way:

- Loch Ard, the site of an American bound shipwreck where the only two survivors were two 18 year olds.
- London Bridge, which partially collapsed between January 14-15, 1990.
- The Arch, which looked like an intact London Bridge.
- The Grotto, a beautiful lookout where we saw...HUMPBACK WHALES!! Paddy reckons it was a mom and her calf, as we saw two whales berth together every so often.
- Bay of Islands Coastal Park, a series of rock islands and a gorgeous sapphire-blue bay.
- Gibson Steps, atop a cliff with stairs leading to the beach.
- Logan's Beach, a whale nursery where we saw a whale tail!

We stopped for food in Warnnambool, a decent-size town that marks the end of the Great Ocean Road, and perused the shops to stretch our legs before setting off for a town called Portland, where we parked on a quiet residential street and watched The Castle (a classic Aussie flick) before falling asleep.

Friday, 10 July

Today we awoke to overcast skies, so we drove into the Cape Nelson National Park to have breakfast before setting off for South Australia, specifically Mt. Gambier. Despite the on-and-off rain, we took in the beautiful lookouts:

- Blue Lake, a crater-made lake containing enough water to fill 8,500 Olympic-size swimming pools. Too bad it was cloudy, as the water is supposed to appear sapphire-like.
- Valley Lake, which isn't nearly as blue, funnily enough.
- Centenary Tower, located up a slippery, gargantuan hill but that provided incredible views that reminded us both of the English countryside.

We left as the rain worsened, but since Adelaide was still 450 or so kilometers away, we drove to Kingston instead and settled into a caravan park. There, we discovered an inconvenient problem: because our sunroof hadn't been secured properly (something we discovered later was actually done by the guy who rented us the van - no wonder we couldn't get the sunroof open during the trip!), water began dripping through the ceiling, soaking one of our mattresses. With 300 kilometers to tackle in the morning (our van was due at the Adelaide depot by noon the following day), we placed our esky under the leak, and rented a trailer room for the night. Finally, a real bed and a heater! It felt like a five star hotel next to what we'd been sleeping in for the week.

Posted by Alykat 05:18 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking

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