The Great Ocean Road Trip

Last week was crazy with getting ready to go away. I got back from Sydney and Nicola on Monday and I had very little time in which to get everything in order for leaving for Melbourne on Thursday night. I had an exam on Thursday at 10am and I still do not know my results for that. I studied, and I know I could have done a better job had a read a little bit more of the book. Now I know what to expect for the multiple choice on the final. Ultimately, a learning experience. I basically had just enough time to put together my notes for my exam and finish researching for my major history assignment before throwing together my suitcase for my ten days in Melbourne. I squeezed in a Capoeira class as well so I wouldn’t miss too much by being in Melbourne on Friday.

After the hectic three days, the flight to Melbourne went well. The plane took off as scheduled at ten minutes to 8pm. I had taken a cab to the airport rather than negotiating trains and buses through the city. I had checked in online so all there was to do was clear security and wait for boarding. I sat next to a really nice woman on the plane and we chatted the whole way. Her name was Tracey and she had lived in Brisbane all her life but recently moved down to Melbourne with her fianceé. It was really nice to have something to do on the plane besides stare into space. It made the 2.5 hours go really quickly.

The plane got in a tiny bit late and Tosh was already circling the airport when I got out there. It wasn’t a big deal though and before I knew it we were at Tosh’s house that he shares with a few other people. It was late and Tosh and I stayed up chatting and catching up before realizing that we were exhausted. The next morning we went to the school where Tosh works to check email since Tosh’s place doesn’t have internet and then we decided to go to the areas of South Melbourne and St Kilda to look around and have lunch. We had eaten a fairly late, large breakfast so we ended up just getting a coffee and dessert for lunch. We even found the Synagogue in St Kilda, but didn’t go in. It looked like a standard East Coast kind of modern synagogue. I think there is a more picturesque one somewhere else but I don’t know where. And we didn’t find the area of Jewish shops or kosher restaurants that I had heard about from guides. It’s okay though. I might try again later. I’m going to spend the next few days exploring the Melbourne city district. We were glad we put off going on the Great Ocean Road trip for a day to get situated. We had dinner with some of Tosh’s friends at an Irish pub that served excellent food.

By 9:30am the next day we were on the road on the first leg of the Great Ocean Road drive. Here is a map of our route: 

Google Map for a closer look.

We were only going as far as Apollo Bay that day but we met some of Tosh’s friends in Geelong and took a detour into Queenslcliffe to see the lighthouses and boats. Tosh’s friends were very nice but I didn’t see much of Geelong. I’m hoping to get to visit Grandpa’s Rotary friends out there before I leave, but they are away for a little while right now and I’m not sure when they are coming back. On that drive we also stopped in Torquay which is the home of two surfwear companies and the spot in which the wetsuit was invented apparently. It was very touristy but yielded a very nice fish burger lunch and motion sickness arm bands that had been highly recommended by the famous Ingrid way back in January for the very windy roads on the bus trip to Granada. I did not take her advice and got sick on that bus ride. I had a feeling that we would be hitting some very twisty turny patches of road between Torquay and the end our our journey so I decided to give them a try. The last thing you want is motion sickness on a two-person road trip. So I got the wrist band pressure point things and it’s a good thing I did. I don’t know if it’s the placebo effect or not, but whatever it was, we were on roads that were exactly like the ones I used to get so sick on in Puerto Rico…and Tosh was NOT as consciensious about taking the curves smoothly as Dad was. They’re good. Thanks Ingrid–as usual, you know what you’re talking about. We also stopped at this really cool place where there was a marine wildlife reserve. It was on the coast and the waves were breaking over what looked like volcanic rock because it had all these little pockets in which seaweeds and flowers could grow. It was cool.

Anyway, The Apollo Bay backpackers that we stayed in was nice. It was sort of late when we arrived and we couldn’t find anything really good to eat in the very small town. The town of Lorne right before it is really developed a touristy, Apollo Bay is a sleepier sort of town, which I liked. We ended up making make-shift burritos in the kitchen of the hostel. It was okay but not as awesome as one of my concoctions might normally have been. We didn’t have any tomato paste so I had to use ketchup and the cheese was really expensive and impractical, so there was no cheese…Still we did the best we could. It was a struggle to stay up past 8:30pm after that long day of serious driving, but it was made easier by getting ensnared in conversation with some very drunk, comical and charismatic guys from the UK. One was from Scotland and one from England. They told me all about New Zealand and I got some good advice about what to see.

I finally managed to end the conversation and go to bed. I was so tired, but I didn’t sleep that well that night. The next morning there was no mucking around. We got up, had breakfast (which was included at the hostel) and hit the road. That day we were heading to Warrnambool where there were supposed to be lots of whales, but the British guys from the night before said that they had all gone. 😦 So I didn’t see any whales, but that was okay. Warrnambool was still pretty awesome. On the way we stopped at all the famous rock formations along the Great Ocean Road as well as Maite’s Rest that had a walk through some temperate rainforest. The trees were awesome and I got some really cool pictures of leaves unfurling and mushrooms and stuff. It was a good way to get some fresh air before driving the long leg of our journey that day. First comes the Twelve Apostles–clearly the most popular–it has sort of a visitors’ center and everything. It’s pretty cool but it was SO windy and cold that it was hard to stay out there and gaze for very long. There were a lot of people looking at it. You can also take a helicopter ride around them to see them from the air, but we opted not to do this. We were road tripping cheaply. The Arch was the next formation which was just as it sounds. Then came London Bridge, which, unlike the real London Bridge, has actually fallen down. It used to be a double arch of rock jutting out into the ocean but in January of 1990 the first arch collapsed leaving the second arch out in the sea as a new island. Luckily, no one was hurt when the arch collapsed, and when you see just how much rock fell away, you’ll appreciate why. Two people were marooned on the new island, but as it was 1990 and not 1890 they were rescued easily and quickly with helicopters.

Tosh had had enough of theocean and the beaches by the time we finished seeing all the rock formations. He doesn’t like the ocean as much as the woods and rain forest. He liked the rain forest walk better than all the rock formations I think. What I liked about the Great Ocean Road was the powerful feeling you get from the ocean. The waves crash and roll over the rocks and you sort of get the sense of what a crushing power the ocean possesses. A person out there hardly stands a chance. The stretch between Apollo Bay and Warrnambool is known as the Shipwreck Coast since over a hundred ships met an untimely end thanks to the well-hidden reefs and rocky shoals. Definitely unswimmable water, but some people try it. At the marine sanctuary on the way to Apollo bay there was a lone surfer trying to nab some of the waves crashing onto the rocky beach. I think the ocean in all its rumbling glory is one of the most beautiful things in the world. Especially since around the south side of Australia the color is simply unbelievable. As you look across the water will change from deep blue to teal to aquamarine. It was an incredible pallet that photos probably cannot fully capture. I like the mossy greens and shadowy, quiet feel of the forest too, but there’s something really impressive about the ocean since it moves tangibly and you can hear it almost breathing as it teems with some of the giantest life on earth. Aside from outer space, the ocean is the place about which we know the least. For all our technological advancements and thirst for exploration, the majority of the ocean’s mysteries alludes capture.

When we arrived at Warrnambool we had a few hours to wait before we were due at Tosh’s housemate’s parents’ house who had invited us for dinner. The Warrnambool Beach Backpackers was a great little facility with a licensed bar (of which we did not partake) a full kitchen, really comfortable beds, plenty of internet access, and everything was really clean. All the facilities in which we stayed were absolutely superb and very clean. It was encouraging that you can travel around and be assured of good, safe places to stay. I ended up taking a walk into the town of Warrnambool–the backpacker’s was a little outside of the town center, but it was a nice day and I didn’t mind the long walk. It was Sunday, late afternoon, so all the businesses were closes while I was walking around town, which suited me fine because I wasn’t looking to buy anything anyway. As I was walking some rain clouds blew in and it started to drizzle. I ducked into a Coles supermarket since it was the only thing opened and I spent some time wandering around and replenishing the stock of fruit for the car. Tosh stayed in the hostel sleeping to recuperate from the long day of driving and gave me a call when it was time to go to dinner. It was nice to have dinner at a house again. Tosh’s housemate, Molly, wasn’t there, but her mom welcomed us into their home and we spent hours at the dinner table chatting and eating this delicious fish dish that reminded me of stuff that my mom would make when for company came. It was delicious and really comfortable to feel like I was in a home again.

It wasn’t quite as early a night this time around since Tosh and I stayed up talking for a while after we got back, but it was okay. The thing is that Tosh and I study the same thing essentially. He did an auto-ethnography for his thesis a couple of years ago which is something like what I am doing for mine, and so talking to him about our respective research and academic interests is really fun. Also we’re both exchange students, or have been in the past, so we naturally have lots to talk about. I still managed to wake up early the next morning because I wanted to explore a little bit of the coastline that neighbored our hostel. This third day of road trip we were turning inland and I wanted to talk a farewell walk on the beach.

When I got to the coast–it was only about a seven minute walk–I discovered that the main feature was not the beach but an island that could be accessed by a footbridge that spanned a small strip of sandy water. It was a really cool, scrub-covered island of which I took many pictures. I walked all around it but then ultimately had to go back to the hostel the way I came. It was a good morning activity before leaving the shore for mountains.

The ride to Halls Gap wasn’t bad. We stopped first in Port Fairy that wasn’t much to look at, so we continued right on to another town where we found a really adorable cafe that had soup and scones for really cheap, so even though it was early we stopped for lunch. It was great and kept us fueled all the way through to the Grampians which is a mountain range/national park. We got there right after noon and checked in to Ted’s Place, which is a hostel with a B&B flavor. It’s run by an adorable older couple who are clearly still in the prime of their bushwalking career. We wasted no time in hitting the trails and doing some of the bush walks. We walked to the pinnacle which was a really hard climb for my inexperienced hiking skills, but it was completely worth it and exhilarating when I got to the top. On the way down I had so much energy from the endorphins on the way up. We went to walk down the 150 steps to the water falls a little ways down the road as well. Then we had to walk 150 steps up to get back to the car. We were beat after that but it was worth it and we felt like we had really earned our dinner.

That evening was Rosh Hashanah and even though I wasn’t going to be going to synagogue or anything, I wanted to have a little celebration with some apples and honey, so I walked down to the supermarket in the little tiny mountain town and bought two apples. Tosh had already packed some honey. We had dinner at a little pizza and souvlaki place that wasn’t closed and then ate apples and honey before going to bed completely exhausted.

We got up early the next morning for the final leg of our journey back to Melbourne. We only had a couple of things to do on the way. First we stopped in the town of Ararat which is one of the only towns in Australia to have been founded entirely by a minority group. Chinese immigrants founded the town or Ararat during the 1850s Gold Rush. There is a Chinese Heritage center tucked away in this small town and it’s very well done. It tells the story of Chinese immigration to the region and had stations in which you could pan for gold and try Chinese calligraphy. It was very well put-together and the roof was the most impressive part. It was made with slate purchased from China–from Ararat’s sister city–and assembled by master craftsmen from China. The building itself was a work of art.

From Ararat it was on the Ballarat which is a town of about 90,000. It’s a gorgeous little town with an amazing art museum that contains a lot of good examples of Australian colonial art pieces. It also has the remains of the flag flown at the Eureka Stockade, which was an uprising of townspeople against unfair taxation policies imposed upon them by the government. It is considered the birth of "The Australian Spirit" of freedom and equality toward man. Itwas the time when working class (white) Australians gained the rights to have a say in where their tax money went. It was a proud moment for European Australian history and there was a great deal of propaganda about it in Ballarat. Ballarat was another town founded upon the waves of the Australian Gold Rush and it was the site of the largest deposit of alluvial gold in the world (so says Lonely Planet). After the art museum Tosh and I had lunch at a really nice café called Sebastiaan’s and then we went to find the Eureka Stockade museum in which you can walk through an exhibit outlining the major points of the battle that went on in Ballarat and watch a movie detailing some of the major points and reasons for the uprising. It was interesting and, once again, more flashy and well-maintained than I would have expected given the nature of Ballarat as a relatively small town.

After we got though the Eureka Stockade exhibit, it was time to turn homward. We got back to Melbourne, spent, but not broke, around 5:15pm on the fourth day. It was a complete trip of the Southern Touring Route. I took 404 pictures over the four days and I had a great time. Stay tuned for pictures of the whole trip. I’ll be writing about the rest of my time in Melbourne when I return to Brisbane and should be writing my history assignment.


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