Today, with both me and Fraser feeling “beached out”, we did something different – drove west along the Great Ocean Road as far as Port Campbell. The drive takes you along some absolutely spectacular coastline – including the only stretch of road that consistently makes me car-sick – as well as through ever-changing different types of scenery.
|From Lorne 2009|
Now, the Great Ocean Road is single-lane each way (it was built as a Government project in the late 20s and early 30s), with occasional widening for a “slow vehicle turnout” (much, much less than an overtaking lane – you pull over, put on the brakes, and let the other cars go past) or a “scenic lookout” (like a turnout but usually a little bigger, and here you are meant to park). We were surprised, therefore, to see the “No U turn” signs along the way. It’s frightening to think that someone might have tried to do one along that stretch.
|From Lorne 2009|
Starting at Lorne, in fairly typical bush scrub, you quickly move into the Otway forests, which turn into semi-rainforest (there are better rainforests a short way inland). Then, as you come down the hills, you’re suddenly in rich pastural land (or what passes for it in south eastern Australia, anyway). Lots of cattle and sheep – and then, suddenly, you’re in rugged coastline before you head back into forests. Just gorgeous, and we could really see why this is one of the “must do” drives on so many tourists’ itineraries. There were campervans everywhere we looked, and several groups of German, French and (of course) Japanese tourists, as well as lots of Australians. And, of course, there were the “Drive on the left in Australia” signs after each town, just in case anyone forgot.
|From Lorne 2009|
After a brief “refuelling” stop in Apollo Bay (really to settle queasy tummies), we drove to the 12 Apostles. I’m not sure how many of these there really are any more (the most recent one to collapse did so on 3 July 2005) but the view is spectacular – even for someone like me who does NOT like heights in the slightest. I did let Fraser and the girls do the viewing platform walk on their own, preferring to stay well back on solid ground.
|From Lorne 2009|
On to Port Campbell, which has really boomed since I visited it – it’d be a nice place to holiday, I suspect. We did a postcard run (still didn’t find the cards Fraser is looking for) and had a very very nice lunch in a cafe overlooking the beach. It’s always hit and miss when you choose somewhere to eat based on its menu, but this was a real hit.
Heading back, we stopped near Loch Ard gorge then walked the wrong way and saw some other amazing rock formations instead. By now, Otto had reached her limit, so she and I went back to the car while Fraser and Biggie went on to Loch Ard gorge.
Biggie asked whether Loch Ard was named like the Scottish Lochs, which was a good question but the answer is a definite no. The gorge is named after the clipper ship Loch Ard, which hit a reef out to sea on June 1, 1878. Now, that was the start of Winter, it was dark, and the seas were rough. When I upload my photos, you’ll see what they looked like when they were calm – not somewhere you would choose to swim at all. Of the 54 people on board the ship, only two survived – apprentice crewman Tom Pearce and passenger Eva Carmichael. Both were 18 years old, and they managed to get washed into Loch Ard. From there, Tom had to climb the cliffs to get help.
It would be a terribly romantic story if they OMGFELLINLOVE and were married and settled in Port Campbell and lived happily ever after – but in fact, Tom became a sea captain and survived 2 more shipwrecks (not sure whether you would choose to sail with him or not, knowing his history) and Eva returned to Ireland, where she married and raised a family.
The seas out there are so rough, diving on the wreck is limited to something like 12 days a year (don’t have the book with me where it tells this so I am trying to remember the number) but there is still quite a collection of Found Items in the local museums. Most famous is a 5 foot high porcelain peacock made by Minton’s of England, which washed up nearby after the wreck.
One of the cool things you can do there is paddle in Loch Ard gorge (weather permitting) and, occasionally, find bits of weathered glass worn down into pebbles. We assume they are from the shipwreck, but it’s entirely possible that there is a local tourism activity that involves smashing wine bottles and dumping them out to sea. I’m not sure which is the more appealing idea (have we reached our bottle quotient yet, Jack?).
|From Lorne 2009|
Fraser and the Bigster went paddling in the gorge and found some glass pebbles. Biggie was caught by a wave and ended up drenched from thigh to ankle – lucky I’d packed a towel in the car, which she wore as a skirt for the rest of the day.
OMG I did not mention the FLIES! This part of the coast is Extreme Fly Country, at least so dubbed by yours truly. They were EVERYWHERE! And very aggressive – they’d fly right into our faces, landing on mouths, heads, eyes, backs – at one point I counted more than 20 on the Bigster’s t-shirt (she brushed them off when I grabbed the camera). Ugh!
En route back to Lorne, we stopped near Apollo Bay to visit the parents of a friend who Fraser went to Uni with. They retired to their holiday home (it’s quite a popular thing for older Australians to do), rebuilt it and started operating as a small bed and breakfast – but they have now closed the B and B and just have family to stay. Sadly, we missed our friends, who are just back from 6 months in Spain, but we did get to see their kids. We stayed for afternoon tea and a chat, then drove back to Lorne in time for Emergency Dinner (one of my kids’ favourites, but I feel guilty every time I “cook” it) and bed. Then I snuck off and found wireless internet, paid $20 for 10 hours (the alternative was $12 for 1 so I was being Economical), uploaded about a bajillion blogs, chatted with 2 friends (OMG WHAT WAS ONE OF YOU DOING AWAKE AT THAT TIME!!!) and came back to the house so Fraser could type his blog, drive down the road and upload it. If anyone reading this saw weirdo observation/surveillance activity in a green Subaru in Lorne on Tuesday night? It wasn’t surveillance at all, just us parking outside the hotel with internet access to get our fix. Nothing weird about that, oh no.
It was fun to drive that stretch of road, although maybe a bit much for the kids to go there AND back in a single day. The last time we drove along there was on our honeymoon, when we just stopped wherever we saw something interesting – we climbed a lot of beach steeps to see shipwreck sites and residue. The tourism facilities (yay toilets) have developed a long since then (aside while we are mentioning toilets – they even have a SQUAT TOILET at the 12 apostles – I’ve never seen one of those in Australia before – had to take the girls in and show it to them and encourage them to work out how they might use it) but it’s good development, sensitive to the coastline. The fences along the cliffs are very necessary! Fortunately, the weather was better too – we honeymooned in November (end of Spring) but I remember having to wear two jumpers much of the time, it was so cold and windy. One day, we’d like to drive along and just stop at every single “scenic lookout” to check out how scenic they really are.. We expect the answer to be “very”.
Once we were both back at the house, Fraser pointed out that we were at risk of not playing a game all day – so out they came:
- Mystery Rummy 2: Monkey Mania
- Lost Cities