Road Trip

After our camping holiday in Robe, South Australia, my friend and I decided to take the scenic route back to Melbourne. This was mainly influenced by the presence of some significant bushfires along the most efficient way home and our desire to see the Great Ocean Road. I coyly suggested the detour since it would add several extra hours to our trip but since my companion had never seen it before, she jumped at the opportunity and we therefore found ourselves packing up camp and heading towards Mount Gambier.

It had been about ten years since I’d been as far along the south coast as Mount Gambier, so I was excited to visit the Blue Lake again. It was still very blue. I was keen to put my Olympus OM-D EM-1 to work here but I’m not sure if photographs can quite do the depth of the colour justice. It did make me wish that I had already bought the 12-40mm M.Zuiko pro lens that I have my eye on. The 25mm prime lens I currently have can’t quite fit in the majesty of a sweeping landscape. The zoom lens will be a necessity before leaving on my next trip (New Zealand)!

Blue Lake at Mount Gambier
Blue Lake at Mount Gambier

Even though the GPS insisted that it would take about seven hours to travel the 550km back to Melbourne, I had initially estimated it would take us a bit more than five hours. A little more, perhaps, when we factored in a few tourist and food stops. Maybe that’s a good indicator as to why I’m late to everything. We intended to have lunch in Apollo Bay and stop at a few of my favourite sites along the way. I remembered some of those were actually before Apollo Bay and I was getting hungry so we stopped in Port Campbell instead. We found a particularly cute café to satisfy our stomachs (carefully avoiding the humourless lady in the general store who was almost offended when I joked about paying her in New Zealand dollars last time I was there).

From there, we really got our tourist on. The southern coast line of Australia is particularly spectacular. I love a golden, fine-sandy beach as much (more?) as the next woman but the sheer majesty of those limestone cliff faces could have me captivated for hours. I was aware that we didn’t have hours if we wanted to make it home before dark but my coast-line appreciation was probably a contributing factor to the fact that the GPS turned out to be more accurate that I had supposed. It knew me too well!

First stop was London Bridge. I will never stop being amused at the fact that it actually fell down, despite the poor souls who were temporarily stranded on the newly created island.  It gets me every time.

London Bridge
London Bridge

Loch Ard Gorge was next on the road. Due to our time restrictions we skipped out on most of the walks around the gorge and just walked down the stairs to the beach. Loch Ard was originally the name of a ship that wrecked near the gorge. The survivors found refuge in a cave in the gorge and one even climbed up out of the gorge in order to get help.  We wondered how difficult it would have been to climb the cliff faces in the absence of the stairs. Even the swim into the gorge must have been dangerous – there were signs up advising visitors not to enter the water. What you can’t see from this photo is the various crazies that decided to ignore that advice. Classic tourists.

Loch Ard Gorge
Loch Ard Gorge

We finally made it to the most well-known attraction of the Great Ocean Road – the Twelve Apostles. The number of apostles has dwindled somewhat over time, but the spectacle is still so popular that they’ve had to build a whole new visitors centre over the road, complete with traffic attendants. We walked over to the lookout via the underpass and were confronted with a crush (?) of tourists (what is the technical term for a group of tourists?). We pushed our way through the crowd to get some snaps of our own before retreating to the safety of our car. So. Many. People.

A troupe of tourists.
This is not even the half of it.
Not so many apostles.
Not so many apostles.

By the time we passed through Apollo Bay, we were glad that we had stopped for food earlier. I’m not even sure anything was open at that point and it appeared the GPS was winning the bet on how long it would take us to get home. Just to make sure of it though, we took a bit of a detour as we went through the Great Otway National Park.

About a year before, I’d gone camping to Bimbi Park in Cape Otway with my cousin. This was a highly successful camping trip, heavily featuring koalas. Never have I seen so many koalas in one place. The locals had (have?) a campaign running to get the authorities to move the koalas to a different location because the population was so large, they were eating through all the trees and killing them off. There were invariably cars stopped on the side of the road, koala-spotting, every time we drove around so I decided we should do some spotting of our own. Perhaps somebody forgot to tell these koalas they were nocturnal as they were very active. Perhaps they were just disturbed by the tourists massing around the base of their trees. Once again, the 12-40mm lens would have been a real treat here, but for now we’ll suffice with a short game of ‘spot the koala’ in the mass of trees.

Spot the koala.
Spot the koala.

The sun was getting quite low as we wound our way through Lorne and onwards to Airey’s Inlet. We stopped at a lookout to take a few more looks at the breath-taking coastline. Airey’s Inlet is home to the nationally famous ‘Round the Twist’ lighthouse. Most Australian children have a particular affection for this lighthouse, having grown up watching the television show that was every primary school teacher’s go-to for a lazy afternoon session. My camera was dead by this point (it had done well to last the whole week of camping) but for demonstration purposes, here’s a iPhone photo I took from a previous trip.

"Have you ever, ever felt like this?"
“Have you ever, ever felt like this?”
It's hard to concentrate on the road when this is in your rear-view mirror.
It’s hard to concentrate on the road when this is in your rear-view mirror.

Our final stop was in Torquay. One of my favourite ways to spend time is a beach day at Torquay Surf Beach, followed by fish and chips from Flippin’ Fresh before heading back to Melbourne (because, yes, I live close enough to the beach to make a day trip out of it and the novelty of that has not worn off for this country girl). I attempted to introduce my travel buddy to the wonders of Flippin’ Fresh, only to find out that it was closed. With that mild disappointment, we high-tailed it back to Melbourne-town and managed to get in sometime around 8pm. Yes, we managed to turn a five (seven?) hour trip into about nine hours, but it was worth every second of it.

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