Day 142 – The Great Ocean Road
The internationally renowned Great Ocean Road, ‘one of the world’s most scenic drives…’, was waiting for us today, but first we had to contend with the weather… I know it’s pointless to expect good weather in Victoria, so neither of us was surprised when we woke to find that after a night with perfect clear skies, it was again very, very windy and the dark storm clouds were headed our way.
Most tourists start the road from Melbourne, so the itinerary is a little backwards. Our first stop (other than breakfast in Warnambool) was at the Bay of Islands. I was busy taking photos, and just generally being amazed by it all, but Risa kept telling me that we’re going to see much better than this today (she came here while she was an exchange student in Melbourne in 2006). If that was to be true, then we were in for quite a treat! I knew that this limestone/sandstone cliffs followed the coastline for at least the 100km.
The storms seemed to be cyclical, with patches of very, very heavy rain, followed by drizzle and eventually bright blue skies (and all the time strong gusty winds) – it’s like no other weather I’ve experienced (anywhere outside of Victoria, that is). The rains came just as we returned to our van and started driving to the next scenic lookout, The Grotto. It was still raining when we arrived, so we decided to wait it out. At some points it was like being inside a car wash – the rain was violently thrashing against our car, and we were being shaken by the gusty winds. I felt a slight twinge of pity for the tourists that were not inside their cars when this storm hit…
We waited nearly 30 minutes for the skies to clear, and then when they did, it looked as though there had been no storm – the skies were bright blue, and the heat of the sun was intense. The Grotto is a series of caves and arches that have been created by weakness in the limestone/sandstone that has been pounded by millennia of waves and storms. I later learnt that the coastline is changing much quicker than I’d anticipated – up to 2cm per year is worn away.
Unbelievably, as soon as we’d returned to the car, it started raining sideways again. We drove to London Bridge and like the last scenic view point, The Grotto, we sat in the car park waiting for this storm front to pass us. Again, similar to the other rock formations we’d seen this morning, only this one has actually changed significantly since 1996. Prior to 1996 this large table-like island was connected to the mainland via a bridge, which I’m guessing resembled the London Bridge.
It was a 1km long walk back from Thunder Cave (which wasn’t that thunderous when we were there) to the car park, and as we were returning, we could see the dark skies closing in on us, so we started running. We made it nearly half way back before we were absolutely drenched (well, the side that was facing the rain, our fronts were still dry). I still don’t know why I wasn’t wearing my rain jacket… Still, we fared better than many of the other tourists who returned to the car park looking very wet, miserable and defeated.
The final stop (for us, since we did it in reverse) was the Twelve Apostles. This is the big one that everyone knows about. It was also the first one that had a bathroom, which after a few hours in the cold was almost as much of an attraction as the coastline itself. The other areas were modestly busy, with five to ten cars in the car park. There were close to one hundred cars here, it was crazy busy. It was also raining sideways, so the tourists that had left the shelter of their vehicle were huddled under the eves of the tourist information centre (or inside buying hot chocolate and chips). I saw that the weather was about to change, so I grabbed Risa and we started on our way to the view platform, hoping that we could beat the crowds (we did).
The Twelve Apostles. If I thought it was windy any other time of the day (or in my life), it was nothing compared to what we were feeling here. The closest I can compare it to is sky diving. But, the view was phenomenal, and it was quite clear to me why this is the premier location along the coastline. The name is misleading, as there were only ever nine pillars visible, and one of those collapsed in 2005 leaving behind eight…
A little east of the viewing area it was possible to walk down some (slippery, steep and narrow) stairs to view it from the beach. Firstly, the scale of the cliffs change dramatically when you’re looking up from the bottom, and secondly, the violent water seems so much more aggressive when the waves are lapping at your heels – probably pretty obvious to most people. Anyway, I went for a walk along the beach to see what was around the corner. Answer, not much. But, in a case of monkey-see, monkey-do, a large group of tourists followed me (more likely my footsteps). They weren’t so lucky and had a large wave crash all the way up to the cliffs, leaving nowhere for them to stay dry. I bet they enjoyed having cold/wet shoes for the rest of the day.
From here the road stopped following the coastline and started to head into some beautiful forest. While I remember, I was expecting that the road would follow the coastline with grand views of the cliffs. We’d get the occasional peek, but nothing like the way I’d imagined (again, managing expectations). The road started twisting and winding, and I began to see why it’s considered one of the world’s great driving roads.
We made a quick detour to Cape Otway Lighthouse, only to find out again that it is a private facility and there was an entrance fee. I thought I’d found a sneaky way to walk around and see it from another (free) track, and while I technically did see the lighthouse (quite small) it wasn’t what I was hoping for. At least the walkway was pretty…
As we were driving down towards the lighthouse, every so often there would be cars parked all over the narrow road, blocking lanes around blind corners. It took me a few seconds the first time to realise that they were taking photos of koalas that were up in the trees. Once I realised that, we saw them everywhere. I’ve honestly never seen so many koalas in my life, literally more than in a zoo. We found safe and empty place to pull over, it was then a case of going for a small walk and looking for the koalas (I found five within 50m of the car, though most were too high, obscured, or just sleeping). This one was pretty active though, especially when the winds started shaking her (she had a baby) tree. Which got me to wondering, how often do koalas fall out of their trees?
Found out on the way back… there were cars stopped on both lanes of the road and people out of their cars. We saw the koala on the road, and at first thought that it was crossing the road. Then we saw the small grey lump behind it, and my first thought was it’s lost a leg (like legs just pop off), but realised it was its baby. We then saw the blood on its face and on the road and realised that it must have fallen out of a tree… There was limited mobile coverage, so we told the crowd that we’d drive back to the main road and call the Victorian Wildlife service. We gave them the details of the animal’s location and kept moving, hoping that they’d be able to find the injured koala. Sadly, we had a call at 7PM, three hours later, that they were having a hard time finding the koala…
If the road was enjoyable through the forest and mountains, it was absolutely amazing further along from Apollo Bay to Anglesea. Here it followed the coastline and the road was barely straight for more than one hundred meters. Even in our land whale of a car I was grinning like an eight-year-old boy. The weather continued with heavy showers and judging by all the small landslides, broken trees, and the giant pools of water, it was probably not that usual. The sun made a last effort sunset, but it quickly disappeared behind more rain clouds.
We hadn’t originally planned to push all the way to Melbourne tonight, but with the weather set to continue like this for the next day or two, we thought we might as well. There wasn’t much that we wanted to stop and see anyway (though, in honesty, I didn’t look at what there was to see…). It’s nice to have a warm bed for a few nights, especially since I was still damp and the heater in our car isn’t working (the ac didn’t work in the north where it was hot, not the heating isn’t working in the south where it is cold…).
１４１日目 １０月 ２日（水） 嵐のグレートオーシャンロード
風は、冗談抜きで台風のレポートなみ。 本当に飛ばされるかと思うほど！iphoneで写真を撮ろうとするも体も腕も風に持ってかれるので、写真をとるだけでも至難の業。。 それくらい風がヒドいので、もうみんな諦めて笑っています。
帰りに寄った 灯台に行く途中の細い1本道の両端には、たくさんの野生のコアラの姿を見る事ができました。 こんなにたくさんの野生のコアラを見たのは、初めて！ でも帰りに強風のせいか、木から道路に落ちてしまった様子のコアラを発見。 最初このコアラの足がもげているのかと思ったら、なんと赤ちゃんが袋から落っこちてしまったようです。
メルボルンでは、ニセコで知り合い、ブリスベンでもご近所で仲良くしていたミッキーとエリース カップルの場所に滞在させてもらいます。 到着したらすごい豪華な、高級住宅街。 びっくりしていたら、実は、ミッキーのご両親のお家で、ブリスベンから引っ越してきてまだバタバタしているので、週の半分以上を海岸の別のお家で過ごすご両親と今の所住んでいるとのこと。