Thursday, February 16, 2006 - The Great
For once it wasn't too hard getting up at
5:00 a.m., since time had little meaning for
us at this point. After a "brekkie" of toast
and coffee, Dean drove us to the Lilydale
Metlink station, where with the help of a
couple of kindly Aussies Tom secured tickets,
and we caught the 6:04 train into Melbourne
to Flinders Station. The ride took about an
hour. Then we walked just a short way to meet
up with our Autopia tour group at 7:45.
The Great Ocean Road is one of the most
spectacular coastal drives in the world.
Since we didn't have wheels, we hooked up
with a tour. Tom selected Autopia because
they use smallish buses, only 22 seats. We
hate traveling with a horde. Ben and Libby
were our guides today. This is a long day and
a long tour, approximately 14 hours and 580
kilometers (360 miles), but it must be
Construction of the Great Ocean Road began
post World War I in 1918 as a jobs program to
give returning soldiers and the unemployed
work. Over 3,000 men worked on the road,
finishing in 1932. The road is also a
memorial for those soldiers who didn't
return. The GOR runs along the southeastern
coast of Australia in the state of Victoria
between the cities of Geelong and
Warrnambool. Victoria is a beautiful state.
It occupies only three percent of Australia's
land mass but boasts one third of its
The tour headed west out of Melbourne, and
we soon passed through Geelong, the second
largest city in Victoria, about the size of
Knoxville. Then we drove through Torquay
Township, "Surfing Capital of the World," and
turned off on a side ride towards Bell's
Beach, our first stop. As soon as we made the
turn, we saw kangaroos!
'Roo from afar
Bell's Beach is a big surfer beach and was
featured in the 1991 movie "Point Break"
starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves,
although the Bell's Beach scenes in the movie
were actually filmed near Portland, Oregon.
In any event, we got out and had a look while
Ben and Libby set out morning tea. "Tea" in
this instance did refer to tea, or coffee or
if you preferred, and also biscuits
There were quite a few surfers in the
water but not much wave action. It was a nice
seascape, though. More interesting were the
'roos we could see in the distance. It was a
very overcast morning which we hoped mightily
would burn off later in the day.
Toilet block at Bell's Beach
At Eastern View we stopped at the Great
Ocean Road Memorial Arch for the requisite
photo. The Arch was built to commemorate the
servicemen who built the road. In the early
years of the road, a toll was paid here.
Jana and Tom in Australia!
Along the Great Ocean Road
Then to Kennet River, home to the koala's
favorite eucalyptus, or "gum," trees. We took
a walk around and looked for the marsupials
in the wild. Koala spotting is easy. They
sleep 19 hours a day (much like Spike and
Carlos), so you just look in the crooks of
the trees for fuzzy brown basketballs. We saw
heaps of 'em. Koalas look cuddly, but they're
vicious little fighters with fierce claws.
They have three fingers and two thumbs on
each paw, so they can really tear you to
Check out the claws!
The koala's diet consists solely of
eucalyptus leaves. Gee, those leaves must be
delicious! Too bad they're toxic to you and
me. In fact, the leaves are also toxic to
baby koalas, so their parents have to slowly
harden the babies' stomachs to the diet. The
adults do this by initially feeding the
babies a partially digested eucalyptus soup
consisting of koala poo. Lovely. As we left
Kennet River, the sun came out, and it turned
into a brilliant day!
We stopped for lunch at "Naughtygals" in
sunny Apollo Bay. The bay is part of the Bass
Strait, the passageway between the Australian
mainland and Tasmania. We waded into the cold
water, 18-19 degrees Celsius (about 65
Fahrenheit). That's much colder than it
sounds, I promise.
Tom fights dehydration
From Apollo Bay we left the coast and went
inland a bit to Maits Rest Rainforest, part
of Otway National Park, where we took a nice
walk through a 50-million-year-old temperate
rainforest of giant ferns, dense shrubbery,
and towering myrtle beech trees.
After the walk, we returned to the coast
at the famous Twelve Apostles, part of Port
Campbell National Park. The coastline here is
composed of sedimentary limestone. As the
water eats away at the coast, pillars of rock
are sometimes left sticking out of the sea.
At one time there were 18 "apostles," at
which time the formations were called Sow and
Piglets. Now they're down to just eight
apostles, number nine having only recently
crumbled into the sea. They just don't make
apostles like they used to.
South coast from the helicopter
For AU$60 apiece Tom and I took an
outstanding ten-minute helicopter ride over
the Twelve Apostles and up the coast over
Loch Ard and The Arch. It was brilliant! If
you get a chance, do it! It's a four-person
chopper, including the pilot, so everyone has
a widow seat.
When the helicopter landed, we walked over
to the pedestrian viewing area for the Twelve
Apostles and took a few additional
photographs, but the light was all wrong for
photos, and you couldn't see all eight
formations at once. We should have walked
over before the chopper ride, when we weren't
Two of the Apostles
Next we stopped at Loch Ard Gorge, at
38°01.38790' south, the low point of our
Australian adventure. Loch Ard Gorge is a
narrow inlet with gnarly waves pushing their
way through. Here we waded in the Great
Southern Ocean, hopefully proving its
existence to any remaining doubters. The
water is cold here, 15-16 degrees Celsius (60
degrees Fahrenheit), but it seemed colder,
probably because I knew there was nothing
between us and Antarctica but the sea. Two
small caves are located in Loch Ard Gorge,
carved into the limestone by strong winds and
Unexpectedly splashed, Loch Ard
Cave at Loch Ard
The last sight of the tour used to be a
double-arched formation called London Bridge,
until in 1990 part of the formation
collapsed, leaving a couple of nervous
tourists stranded on the remaining portion.
Bystanders on the mainland rushed to nearby
Port Campbell to report the couple's dilemma,
but the police refused to believe that
"London Bridge has fallen down." After much
convincing, the police finally sent a
helicopter to investigate some two and a half
hours later, and they rescued the hapless
tourists. Unfortunately for the couple, the
news choppers had responded sooner, and this
is how the loving couple's spouses learned of
their affair! This formation is now called
simply The Arch.
5:45 p.m. The bus turned away from the
ocean and back toward Melbourne taking the
most direct route possible. We stopped for
fast food in the forgettable little town of
Colac. There was a dearth of choices, and Tom
and I reluctantly wound up at McDonald's.
It's astonishing how McDonald's food tastes
exactly the same everywhere.
9:50 p.m. Back at Flinders Station, we
caught the Metlink back to Lilydale. There
was a crazy lady on the train yelling at
invisible people about how welfare wasn't
good enough to her. We were at first relieved
that we had to change trains midway, but Ms.
Crazy unfortunately changed to our same
train, same carriage. On the new train, her
shouting increased, and was returned by a
crazy man at the other end of the carriage.
Oh, great. They know each other. Security
arrived almost immediately, and they kept the
guy corralled, so we only had to keep an eye
out on her. Thankfully, both crazy folks got
out one stop ahead of us. I didn't want to be
at the station with both of them, with
security still safely entrenched on the
11:15 p.m. We arrived in Lilydale and met
Dean at his work. Despite our faint protests,
Dean still managed to keep us up until 4:00
a.m. drinking a bottle of Jim Beam we'd
brought from the U.S. We moved the party to
the garage in a feeble attempt to not disturb
Catherine. It was great fun! Dean showered us
with gifts, including iconic Australian bluey
jackets and license plates from various
Australian states. We didn't have room in our
luggage for everything, so we took the blueys
with us and left the license plates for Dean
to mail. Please don't forget, Dean!
Can we go to sleep now?
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