Road trips going to visit my half-brother in Petawawa on the military base were my first taste of travel when I was really young. I guess this was when I became addicted without even being aware. I’ve loved road trips and plane journeys ever since. Even though sitting in one seat no matter how long, the act of moving is something I long for, something I need and lately I’ve been fulfilling that urge consistently.
This was my first road trip in quite some time though. I’ve been on the road as they say, traveling, but I was looking forward to this for a few different reasons. Reunited with a good mate I’d met in Cambodia and traveled Asia with for three months, we rented a car to drive from Adelaide to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road (GOR). Known for its scenic coastline, formed over millions of years as the rough ocean battled against the rock slowly chipping away its defenses. Dense forest lining sections of the road winding through.
The first day coming from Adelaide we barely grazed the coast. Once we had left Adelaide and the hills behind us, the road became flat and more or less desolate. Stopping at Robe, a small holiday town it was clearly the off season. The streets eerily empty, businesses closed, except the pub of course and the kitchen was closed. All we wanted was lunch. Catching a quick bite at a fish and chip shop on the way out of town, it was back on the road. A couple hours out from our next stop the landscape became carpeted in perfectly rowed forests making our way slightly inland. This reminded me of the rubber tree plantations in southern Thailand. The sky began to glow as the sun went down and we crossed the state border into Victoria and shortly thereafter pulled back up to the coast and into Warrnambool.
After breakie at Figsellers, a quaint little diner we hit the GOR, or at least where I considered it started. Technically it was the 243km section of road between Port Campbell and Torquay, but some of the most awe-inspiring sights are before it even begins (or after, depending on your route). Shortly after leaving Warnambool the road begins caressing the curves of the coast, overlooking the powerful waves below. Before long we were approaching the Bay of Islands, the first tremendous rock formations along the way and probably remained one of my favorites. Half a dozen large islands within the bay, water crashing around them into the cliffs. It seemed at this point every few kilometers there was another viewpoint looking out over some of carved rock limestone. The Bay of Martyrs, Grotto, Arch and London Bridge all before the GOR even officially starts. The London Bridge obviously named due to its resemblance to London Bridge, but sadly yet inevitably with constant erosion the arch connecting it to the land collapsed in 1990.
Pulling into Port Campbell for a coffee break the signature spots were ahead of us. The ones that this road is known for, that all the others were building up to. If you see a picture of the GOR these are it. Not far from this end of the GOR is the ‘razorback’, a thin wall of stone honed by wind and water to a sharp serrated blade facing the clouds. Loch Ard Gorge follows. First walking along the top looking down into the deep gorge, we then descended the stairs to the beach. Between the vertical beige cliffs you could really see the strength of the current. Water sent a dozen feet in the air as it collided with the walls. A real demonstration of the force of nature and the ocean as it beats down the coast forever changing the lay of the land.
Last but not least, the piece de resistance, the iconic landmark of the entire Great Ocean Road, the 12 Apostles. Limestone spires jutting skyward from the turbulent waters, the apostles have lost a number throughout the recent past. Even though there was never 12 anyways oddly enough, in 2005 their numners went from 9 to 8. Along with the ever changing landscape, its name only last century was ‘the Sow and the Piglets’, changed in 1922. So far only experiencing small groups at each of the sights, this area was loaded with people and noise. Helicopters coming and going constantly it was time to escape the crowds and turn slightly inland through the Great Otway National Park across windswept heathland, lush rolling pastures then tall forests coming right out into Apollo Bay. One of my top days in my short three months in Australia, nothing like a few pints and a schnity to cap it off.
I took over the wheel for the last leg of the GOR from Apollo Bay until Torquay when the road became highway leading into Melbourne. Getting used to the left side of the road wasn’t so bad, but I kept hitting the windshield wipers opposed to my turning signal. Winding pavement scaling the hills right along the coast the weather couldn’t decide on sun or rain. A full rainbow followed us through the mist, past Lorne into Torquay where the famous surfing spot, Bells Beach is located. The founding location for both Quiksilver and Ripcurl, we watched from above as the diehard surfers waited for their wave.
Melbourne came soon after concluding the road trip and my first stint down under with it. I was already looking forward to my return to Australia barely scratching the surface of this huge country. Renting or buying a vehicle being the best way to traverse this country, I expect this will not be the final road trip here. In the meantime though, I had a few places to be, but didn’t plan to let my visa tick away too long without me. Until later this year…