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Andy’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 18 Apr 2006

Location: Great Ocean Road, Australia

MapA LONG AND WINDING ROAD:
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Melbourne. Finally. Took seven days, a lot of driving and a few (hundred) wrong turns, but i made it.

Day One - trip started well as we headed out of Adelaide through some spectacular scenery of the Adelaide Hills. Van 2 began to cough black smoke out of its exhaust almost immediately. Stopped off at a place called Murray Bridge and had lunch by the river so we could plan where we were going to stop for the night and our plans for the next few days. We would have planned this all earlier but we it was hassle organising the two vans being Easter weekend. Fairly uneventful until we reached the salt lakes that horseshoe Adelaide. Salt lakes are pretty impressive by themselves but these ones are bright pink! Decided to investigate. Shoes and salt lakes don’t mix well. Almost lost one.

Parked up for our first night by one of the salt lakes that could be found in a nearby national park. Very isolated. Cooked a slap up meal and washed it down with a $10 4 litre box of wine (not all to myself)…..$10 is around 4 pounds.

Day Two - Bit of a headache to begin with. Nothing to do with said boxes of wine. Stopped off at the ‘’old, historic port town'’ of ???? (forgotten its name) for lunch by the harbour. Wasn’t very old (British and Oz perceptions of what counts as old unsurprisingly diverge somewhat) and didn’t seem very historic. Had lunch by the wharf and decided to head off to Mount Gambier which was our next stop. Explored one of the many sinkholes in the town (basically a big, deep cavernous hole in the ground) which has a family of possums living in it. So cute. Touched one. Hissed at me. Discovered i’m Allergic.

Delicious BBQ that night and a round of cards. Without tv when backpackinjg one has to resort to more traditional methods to entertain. I’ve learnt many new card games…Poker, Ring of Fire, Rummie, Uno and Shithead. Am awful at most of them.

Day Three - Explored the Blue Lake in Mount Gambier which inhabits an extinct volcano. In November the lake changes overnight into an unimaginable shade of sapphire blue. Being April (and cloudy) it was not as overwhelming as it is often described.

Decided we would like to see the Grampians (a mountain range/national park) so we had to cut short our stay in Mount Gambier and drive most of this day.

Note: ‘Eye Spy’ only really works as a game when there is more than grass, road, sky or car as an answer as we soon discovered.

Almost toppled the camper because we had to dodge a roo. They are absolutely everywhere. Bounce all over the roads, especially at dusk and dawn. Can be quite hazardhous. Not sure why they are attracted to the roads so much.

Day four - Grampians were fantastic. Very rugged scenery. Reminded the Scots on the trip of the Scottish highlands. Later found out thats exactly why they have the same name as the Grampians in Scotland. Unfortunately there was a huge bushfire in the Grampians around Xmas time. Large areas of Oz is subjected to controlled fires as a forest management tool. In this case the wind blew the wrong way and half the national park went up in flames. Drove for hours on end through charred forest. Bare ground, black trunks. Quite eerie. Reminded me of the Sleepy Hollow forest. In some places though growth had started to emerge but instead of growing on the tips of the trees the leaves had sprouted all over the trunk. Looked like green fur.

Witnessed a great sunset while driving down a dirt track (in the wrong direction - my fault). Map reading not one of my specialities.

Spent the night at Dadwells Bridge. Cooked some Kangaroo steaks on the BBQ. Stayed up and drank/chatted with some local Hillbillies. Would have usually gone to bed when the sun went down (just as russian peasants used to do - remember SSEES crew?!) as we didnt have any power in our vans for a few nights and so when it gets dark there is just nothing else to do; luckily there was a full moon. Felt like a proper camper. Polished off the night with a boogie to some tunes from my video ipod.

Day Five - Explored the Grampians. Rained in the morning so waited until the afternoon. Saw some Aboriginal rock art at the Ngamadjidj Shelter. Depicted the dancing spirit with white painted figures. Very interesting to investigate the world’s oldest continuous cultural tradition (and people say Australia is a very commercial, not very cultural place to go travelling. Dig a bit deeper i say).

This was also the day of the Noodle Wars. When travelling you meet some really cool people. Unfortunately you also meet some absolute tools (for those over a certain age this is another term for idiots). So most of lunchtime was spent listening to half of the GOC contingent arguing over how one cooks noodles - lots of water, or just enough water so it boils down into a sauce. After half an hour of this one slowly loses the will to live.

Parked up for the night in a forested area (middle of nowhere). As darkness fell the ‘Most Haunted’ shannanigans began. Started to hear hissing from some animals in the trees. Then the vans got surrounded by them, one of our team got spat at and attacked (not violently mind you) and all hell began to break loose, probably because i began screaming and running around in a manic fashion - starting to sense a pattern of how i deal with crises. All hopped itno our vans and locked the doors (with me still screaming, which started off one of the girls, then another, and by the end the whole van). So much fun. Going to toiltet in the bushes became a military operation. Alpha team would keep lookout. Beta team would stand (with large sticks) and cover those who needed to attend to their bursting bladders. Unfortunately all our planning and military drills proved useless in the face of my screaming when i saw something under the van. No casualties - but a few trousers suffered splashback in the panic.

Day Six (or Day Seven, i lost track) - Survived our Blairwitch night! Fantastic waterfalls and caves to start the day. Then finally hit the GOC proper. Basically some of the most maginificent coastal scenery to be found anywhere in the world. To our left - limestone cliffs, to our right - the Southern ocean. Very slow going as every km there was something else to stop and gaze at. The Bay is Islands, Bay of Martyrs, Shipwreck beach…etc etc.

Some of the highlights were:
The Cove - Imagine a hole in the ground with the side facing the sea exposed. Little rock pool at the bottom with a ledge separating the pool from the sea.
London Bridge - should have listened to the rhyme, London Bridge was falling down (and fell in 1990). Think of a bridge of rock stretching out to sea. When it finally collapsed into the sea there were two canoodling lovers on the wrong side of the bridge who had to be rescued. Married. Not to each other! Doh.
Thunder Cave - waves crashing into this cave give this rock feature its name.
Loch Ard Gorge - A sheltered cove with two gorgeous sandy beaches, both of which have some strange coves at the back of them. Think of upside down ‘drizzle’ sandcastles.
The 12 Apostles - saving the best till last. Name is now a misnomer as 5 have been swallowed up by the ocean. Erosion (the only thing - apart from ox bow lakes - that i remember from Geography class). Really stunning. A series of rock stacks, some 45 metres high, just off shore.
One of the sights on my travelling ‘to do list’. So awesome. Gazed at them for ages. Beautiful at sunset.

So that was the Great Ocean Road. For more info on the GOC just click on the link: Great Ocean Road

Now in Melbourne. Mammoth camping, road trip is over. Will be adding pictures to this post soon so check back.

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Song of the week:
Forever Young. We only had a radio in the van and this song was played endlessly!! Road trip anthem (not by choice).