Tag Archives: Great Ocean Road

The Roadtrip Part Three

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We survived the night in the koala-infested outback – all of us kept our limbs too which was great news. The rest of the group continued to embrace the great outdoors while I yearned for a bit of civilisation. The weather, however, made it worthwhile as we ate our breakfast in the sun and prepared our picnic lunch.

The plan for the day was to dip our toes into South Australia by driving up to Mount Gambier on the border, where we would also be able to view the Blue Lakes. This was another place Erin and I had checked off on our roadtrip in January but I was looking forward to seeing them from a different angle.

The Blue Lakes earn their name by the colour of the water that resides in huge craters just above the town of Mount Gambier. Formed over centuries, the pools are fed minerals from volcanic matter that then causes the surface of the lake to be a vivid blue colour. During the summer months, the lakes turn from a turquoise colour to a bright blue, almost reflecting the blueness of the sky. While we were there in October, the pool was yet to change colour, but was still a pretty impressive prospect.

For any Geo-Cachers out there, this is also a good spot to make a discovery.

From Mount Gambier, we made our way to the Grampians and on the journey we were rewarded with stunning scenery. Some of the way, we drove along dirt tracks and long straight roads. The heat of the day was getting to us and we were desperate to get to our destination so that we could partake in some form of ice-cream. We had also been promised a waterfall with a pool beneath it which we could cool ourselves in.

After around three hours of driving, we reached Halls Gap, were the Grampians National Park tourist centre is located. We stopped off to see if we could find a map and more of an idea where we were going, and saw that the area had been recently devastated by bush fires.  The visitors centre at Halls Gap is dedicated to conservation, educating visitors to the area and providing advice and information to those who are looking to explore the surrounding ranges.

We hopped back into our van and drove up to MacKenzie Falls. On the drive we saw the extent of the bush fires in the blackened bushes and trees which covered the sides of the road. Other than the devastation, there were actually some beautiful views down the valley and to the surrounding flat countryside.

There is a gentle walk down to the bP1000645 2ottom of the falls which encompasses sights of the smaller falls that lead to the bigger falls. As with Erskine Falls, we met hikers coming up from the bottom of the falls warning us about the climb. They looked even more exhausted than those we’d met at Erskine and after our climb down, we saw why. It took around ten minutes to reach the bottom, but we were rewarded with a vast and picturesque fall. There was a pool at the bottoms of the fall which discouraged swimming. We did, however, take a dip into the pool to cool down from the long climb.

P1000645 3We were lucky enough that the sun started shining as soon as we had made it to the bottom of the falls and we were therefore able to stay there for a few hours, paddling and sunbathing. The walk back to the top was just as difficult as we had been told. Stef and I powered on, convinced we wouldn’t get to the top unless we got there as quickly as possible. It was a blessing to get back into the air conditioned van.

Back to Halls Gap, and to a popular Halls Gap institution, Coolas Ice Creamery. There are 24 flavours of ice cream to choose from, and I thoroughly recommend their home made waffle cone. While ice cream is perfect for a sunny Australian afternoon, it was actually pouring down with rain when we went to get our ice creams. It didn’t diminish the experience though.

We jumped back on the WikiCamps app and found a couple of possible sites to make camp for the evening. There first site we drove to, completely off the beaten track, was like something from the Blair Witch Project. The general consensus was that we didn’t want to stay there and instead we drove for another fifteen minutes to a rather more civilised looking campsite. We parked up and walked around to discover what the campsite offered and found a few long drops littered around the site along with bucket showers. Once again, I was unenthusiastic about the facilities but we made do.

P1000646After our final night in our van-top tent, we awoke to a glorious morning in the Grampians and prepared for our journey back to Melbourne. We packed up the tent, took care of breakfast and used the tap we had parked next to, to wash our hair, with the help of a plastic bowl. The day could have been incredibly boring compared to the past few days but we managed to pick up a puncture on the way back to Halls Gap. Luckily, some very kind men came over and help us change the tyre and directed us to a good tyre place in nearby Stawell where we could buy a new tyre and get it replace.P1000648

Using our feminine wiles (which was actually all down to Dayna and her ability to Highland fling), we managed to only pay $20 for the new tyre and the labour to get it replaced on the van.

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Our return to Melbourne was slightly against the clock as our puncture had thrown us off schedule, but we got back just in time and handed our van back over to the guys at Wicked Campers.

I would recommend that anyone who is visiting Melbourne should take the time to visit the Great Ocean Road. The places you visit whilst there and the things you see will stay with you for a long time after you leave. I enjoyed it enough to do it twice, in two very different ways; whether you travel the whole road in one day, or take your time, you are sure to have some excellent adventures.

 

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The Roadtrip Part Two

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We awoke to a gloriously sunny morning in Apollo Bay, with cows grazing in the fields opposite

where we had pitched our van-tent. We got up fairly early as the tent became hot during the morning sun and we were also keen to be on our way. We packed up our makeshift home and bid farewell to our home for the last 14 hours.

Wicked Campers have a deal you can take advantage of to get an extra day free if you send them a naked photo with you and your van, so the order of our second day was to get the naked photo taken so that we could confirm our extra day. The problem with doing this was that we needed something clever to cover some of our modesty and also, five girls getting naked on the side of the Great Ocean Road would probably attract quite a lot of attention. We therefore set about finding a private area in which to take the photo and perhaps some leaves or something to artistically lay over ourselves.

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We eventually stumbled upon a spot whilst we were looking for a petrol station and got the photo taken on the GoPro, however; it didn’t come out very well. I therefore sacrificed being in the it and took a photo which managed to earn us our extra day of road tripping. Due to this, we were able to take things slightly easier and also deviate away from the Great Ocean Road. One thing I will say to check is that you have enough petrol to get to the towns with the cheaper fuel because we did get fairly low at one point and some of the more rural petrol stations ration fuel (they will give you enough to get to the next town).

P1000607Once we had our fill of views from the platforms, we decided to explore the beach below the road and spent a couple of hours sunbathing and paddling in the sea – the waves were far too strong for any real swimming, and the sea was freezing. Surprisingly, there were very few others on the beach, so it was an incredibly peaceful experience; so much so, that I fell asleep for a while. Our time on the Great Ocean Road was coming to an end, as we knew there wasn’t far to go until we reached Warrnambool. We therefore climbed back into the van and made a plan for the rest of the afternoon.

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One of the highlights of the Great Ocean Road is Twelve Apostles Bay, which constitutes of a series of limestone stacks. Though the stacks are famously known as the Twelve Apostles, there were originally only nine. Presently, eight stacks remain and this number will decrease over the next few years due to the extreme climate of the Southern Ocean. In the meantime, though, tourists come from all over the place to see the view and are able to experience it through the purpose-built visitor centre and walkways to and from the viewing platforms.

About an hour after leaving Port Campbell, we came to the end of the Great Ocean Road – marked by a wonderful place called Cheese World. Erin and I came to Cheese World in December, but I was far too ill to enjoy it. This time, I made the suggestion that we stop so that we could have a drink and perhaps try some of the cheese they had on offer. We tried some of the award-winning cheese and each ordered one of their ‘world famous’ milkshakes. If you have the time, and enjoy cheese, I would certainly recommend a visit to Cheese World during your Great Ocean Road adventure.

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We stopped for supplies in Warrnambool and then set about finding a place to stay for the night. Using WikiCamps again, we found a campsite which boasted free camping with koalas in the trees overhead, just outside of Port Fairy. The only downside was that there were no facilities, so it would be a case of going where you could and no showering. I am, unfortunately, not as at one with nature as my companions, so the following twelve hours were a bit of a struggle for me.

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The campsite was beautiful and there were two other lots of campers staying there. It wasn’t regulated by anyone and you just parked yourself wherever you could find a clearing. Once we had set up camp, we decided to see if we could find any of the fabled koalas, and we were not disappointed. The first koala was pointed out to us by one of the other campers. Unsurprisingly, the koala looked very chilled while he balanced on a branch, completely asleep. We walked on a little further and were very lucky to find a koala with a joey sitting next to her. The joey looked like a grumpy old man and was obviously a little freaked out by the five girls ogling him from below.

Emily cooked dinner for us on the gas stove which came with the van and we sat out all evening eating pasta and drinking goon. Once the bugs began to eat us alive, we reconvened to the tent and Stef told us hilarious stories into the night.P1000629

The second day of our road trip was just as interesting as the first and I think we all had a very enjoyable time. Watching the sunset over the trees, while we were in what was essentially the middle of nowhere, was a tranquil and beautiful experience. Hearing savage koalas in the trees overhead was somewhat less tranquil and rather more like the Blair Witch Project…

The final two days of the road trip will be up in the Road Trip Part Three.

 

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The Roadtrip Part One

P1000524One of the best things about living in Melbourne is the location. I know I complained about the location when I first moved here because it was the main reason for the bad weather, but there are so many things on Melbourne’s doorstep that makes the location actually fantastic.

The Great Ocean Road is a 243 kilometre stretch of road which runs from Torquay to Allansford along one of the most scenic stretches of coastal road in the world. The first time my travels led me there was in December 2013 during my roadtrip with Erin. We began at Warnambool, which is often cited as the start of the Great Ocean Road. Unfortunately, I was incredibly ill during that first trip and was therefore unable to enjoy it as much as we could. Due to my illness, we made haste on the journey so that we could get to Ballarat where a good nights’ sleep awaited me.

My second visit to the Great Ocean Road was, however, very different. I’m not sure who first had the idea, but it was certainly struck upon that we needed to hire a camper van and go on a roadtrip for a few days while we had a little break in our workload and before 3 of our group went off on their next adventure. Stefani found a great company called Wicked Campers who have vans that have been painted with various slogans and spray paint, with tents added to the top, tables added to the inside and a kitchen at the back. Stefani was also hard at work planning the route for our trip which would take us all along the Great Ocean Road and then perhaps on to South Australia or further North into rural Victoria.P1000517

One Monday morning, on a bright October day, with an assortment of bags and Eskies, the five of us showed up to collect our camper van. The van, an old Toyota, was decorated with an array of colours and peace signs, bearing the slogan ‘Hippy Freaks’ on one side, with ‘Smelly Hippies’ on the other. This was to be our home for the next four days. We were given brief instructions on how to erect the tent on top of the van, told where the nearest petrol station was and we were off.P1000530

The first part of our journey was spent getting to the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, which was about an hour and a half to Torquay. Once there, we were able to really begin exploring.

There are so many coves and beaches which run all along the coast of Victoria. We ventured on to one such beach and were mesmerised by the beauty of the rock formations; caves and cobbles and beach for miles to see. Dayna decided that wading through the sea to get round a headland was a good idea, but was quickly thigh deep in water and the rest of us deigned not to follow.

P1000545Just outside of Lorne begin sign posts to Erskine Falls. We took a winding road up from coastal road and after twenty minutes we arrived in a car park surrounded by trees. The decent to the waterfall was steep and we were warned by those walking back up that though the sight that awaited us was stunning, the climb back to the top would be intense. We did have the thought of perhaps being able to swim in the waters beneath the fall but once we got to it, we realised this would not be possible. Not only was the water dark and dingy, but it was also freezing cold. However, we were able to explore and scramble over rocks – although on a return visit, I will remember to wear better shoes.

Our fellow tourists were not wrong when they told us the climb to the top would be difficult, but we persevered and got to the top, perhaps a little more sweaty than we would have liked.

We pushed on to Lorne, which was practically a ghost town compared to when I had previously been there during Falls Festival. The shops were quiet and we took our time looking around. My favourite stretch of the Great Ocean Road begins just out of Lorne and continues for the next 140 km; the most beautiful and breath-taking views I have ever seen. On a day like the one we had – bright and sunny – the views of the coastline extend for miles. The road winds in and out of rock face and bush, with houses suspended on stilts looking over the Bass Strait.P1000572

The sea was a little moody due to the wind but it was still the most brilliant blue colour and the contrast between it and the sandy coloured rocks made for many a perfect photo opportunity. We were able to stop at lookouts and marvel at what lay before us before clambering back into the van to continue the journey.

We began to think about where we would stay for the night and Dayna suggested using Wikicamps to find a cheap or free campsite where we could park our van and erect our quarters for the evening. The campsite we settled on was just on the way out of Apollo Bay and had a wonderful view over a river and farmland. It was $9 each for the night which was pretty good considering the facilities (shower and toilet), as well as the location.

The tent went up just as the guy we picked the van up from said it would and it was incredibly spacious inside; plenty of space for the five of us to sleep. Without much further ado, we created a nest for ourselves, got our goon and clambered into the tent. None of us really stopped to check the time and were therefore very surprised to find that it was barely 7pm and we were all feeling incredibly tired after our day of travelling. The wind picked up and we were glad of our shelter. After chatting for a few hours, we got into our sleeping bags. Needless to say, we were all asleep by 10pm.

Our first day was probably our busiest so the remaining days adventures will be up in The Roadtrip Part Two.

 

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