In the words of Justin Lee Collins, awaiting John Barrowman's answer to the question "Cliff, marry or shag?" as proposed by David Tennant: "Don't cliff me, John!" These words gained new meaning as Tony and I drove slightly above the recommended speed along the traitorous cliffs of Victora's Great Ocean Road. (Watch the original question to which I'm referring on YouTube)
There was no way I wasn't going to include a "Don't cliff me, John" joke in this post. It's all I could think of while seeing Tony and, in turn, myself driving in a marginally reckless manner on the State of Victoria's Great Ocean Road. And what a great road it is indeed. For a naive little city boy, like yours truly, the Great Ocean Road is a sight to be seen. From the amazing ocean scenery just aside the road and the small surf coast towns to the great variety of untouched natural beauty, the Great Ocean Road truly lives up to it's name.
We've rented a car, a Hyundai Getz Hatch due to lack of choice in our budget and, set off from Melbourne. Tony and I both took turns behind the wheel during this road trip and, I got to kick off the jam by driving us from the car rental, in the middle of the Melbourne CBD, to our first stop along the Great Ocean Road, the surf coast town of Torquay. My vocalization of the thought "I'm on the freaking wrong side of the car! This is not going to work, at all!", as I took a seat behind the wheel (with the car still being in the rental's garage) did all but set Tony's mind at ease. Tony is British, by the way... he knows how to drive on the left side of the road. Myself being a mainland European, have never done such a completely ridiculous thing.
After verifying the orientation of the gear stick, the indicators and, just to make sure... the pedals as well, we were off. Turns out, much to even Tony's surprise, the handle for the indicator is on the right side of the wheel. We both expected it to be on the left side because, well, that makes sense if you flip the controls. Tony revealed that in British cars, the indicator controls are indeed on the left side of the wheel. This little Aussie quirk made for a ton of laughs along the trip as the windscreen wipers were called into action, way more than even they'd expected.
Melbourne city holds more surprises than meets the eye and one of these is the infamous Hook Turn. The Hook Turn is a traffic rule unique to Melbourne (it doesn't occur anywhere else in Australia), instated to keep the tram tracks clear at all times. Basically, if you want to turn right at an intersection and there are tram tracks on your right hand side, you have to keep in the most left lane and wait there (in the middle of the intersection) till all other traffic (even those going straight ahead) has passed you, on your right. Only then can you turn right, crossing all lanes of traffic. Feel free to read up on this daring feat of road endangerment at Wikipedia. I had to preform two Hook Turns, on my way out of Melbourne... Tony preformed none upon our return to Melbourne. It went perfectly fine, though, it sounds way more dangerous than it really is.
After a lot of shouting, missing turns, being stuck behind dump trucks and passing the car rental.. again... several times... we got out of Melbourne, onto the freeway! Our first stop was Torquey, although we passed Geelong quite unintentionally, we would've liked to visit that on the way down but, figured we could do it on the way back. After unintentionally (we didn't intend to do a lot of things and yet, they all happened) taking a wrong turn and heading towards Colac instead of Torquay and turning around in a dangerous manner to right this wrong, we finally arrived in Torquay.
Torquay call itself the Gateway to the Great Ocean Road and you can imagine why, seeing as it's the first town you'll hit when driving on the Great Ocean Road. It's a small town with not much action, besides bitch'n waves. A few steps on the beach, a trip to Woolworths for snacks and a bathroom break later we were on the road once again.
Tony takes his shot behind the wheel, the windscreen wipers spring to action once again in a tragic accident of disorientation. Luckily Tony knows how to overcome this and strikes the instruments of the car with a fury that can only be described as; moderately.
Our next stop was Airys Inlet, home of the famous Split Point lighthouse, which you may or may not remember from the Aussie TV series "Round the Twist". The drive towards the lighthouse was quite a fun one, with plenty of ocean to accompany our road side scenery and twists and turns to test Tony's driving skills. With the soothing sounds of terrible music he managed to navigate us to our destination safely.
The lighthouse itself is of course, a lighthouse. Lighthouses are extraordinary creatures as they have the ability to keep absolutely, perfectly still, with the exception of their one rotating eye, which is encased in the head. Protected by an almost acrylic resembling membrane, the lighthouse's eye rotates in an interrupted fashion, while simultaneously being bioluminescent. It is believed, although nobody has every confirmed this, because lighthouses never move, this luminescent rotating eye is part of the lighthouse's mating ritual.
A tour of the lighthouse was available but, unfortunately scheduled at a very inconvenient time. We therefor decided to walk around it, take pictures of the lighthouse and it's stunning location and departed shortly afterward. Airys Inlet introduced us to the first of the many, many, many, many, "Unstable cliffs"-signs, which we would find many, many, many, many, many more times along the coastline of the Great Ocean Road.
The drive up to Lorne held no excitement and neither did Lorne itself. We had a little lunch in Lorne, walked along the pier, took some photos and that was about it. The drive to Apollo Bay got more interesting. More curves and bends in the road, steeper cliffs and greater views of the ocean. We stopped a few random times in several of the designated parking spots along the road in order to enjoy the scenery at a nicer pace and take some great pictures.
Apollo Bay was on our radar from the start. It's one of those towns that you hear people mentioning and figure is worth checking out. Apollo Bay, all be it another small coastal town is a nice coastal town, nice beach and a nice area to sit in the grass and have some lunch in the sun. Unfortunately we already had lunch in Lorne, thus the nice grass was rather waisted on us. We did enjoy the scenery, that should count for something. The creative branding of the shops was also a sight quite mentionable... after all, just call your shop Ocean Road Meats and people will know what you sell.
As the sunlight had already started fade while we were in Apollo Bay, we decided to visit at least the Cape Otway lighthouse and do the Twelve Apostles and Otway Fly Treetop Walk the next morning. The Otway Fly Treetop Walk only allows people to enter before 4 p.m. and we would arrive there at 5 p.m., at the very best. The Twelve Apostles were out of our reach when it comes to having any sun light left to see them. We were destined to miss a sunset at the Twelve Apostles from the start, unless we drove straight on from Melbourne without stops, which is of course, no fun at all.
The Great Ocean Road travels through Otway National Park from Apollo Bay towards the West. This causes the road to curse more inland than it has previously, making the ocean disappear behind several kilometers of trees and other, almost forest like, plant life. The once scenic road by the ocean turns in to a curvy pathway through the forest. With the sun light fading away we were rushing through the forest to get to the Cape Otway lighthouse with sun light to spare. After sharing the road with several cows, who all greeted us with a very unimpressed demeanor in response to the car horn, we arrived at a little shop surrounded by a large parking lot. Strangely enough, the road ended here and there was no lighthouse in sight. The only way to the light house, as it turns out, was through the shop, after paying around seventeen Dollars.
For the seventeen Dollars we were let through the shop into an open area behind it. This area seemed to have been preserved like it was in the good old days, with the lighthouse keeper's residence, the assistant's residence, a radio tower and another building, of which I can not recall it's purpose. It has been turned into a small museum now, featuring relics from the lighthouse's past.
We walked up the stairs of the lighthouse, to the top, to be greeted by a sunset, just over edge of the land, almost into the ocean. As it continued to set, we walked along the top of the lighthouse, enjoying the view and contemplating life. The latter is of course vital to any visit to a lighthouse.
As the sun continued to set we had decided we'd drive all the way to Port Campbell from this point onward. Everything we'd pass was bound to be in the pitch black darkness, thus it had no point to make any other stops.
The drive to Port Campbell was as eventful as you can expect a drive in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, to be. We fiddled with the car's lights, making sure they were on full beam, we saw two kangaroos hopping dangerously close to the road, I broke the LCD screen of my camera and we finally arrived in Port Campbell.
The hostel we stayed at was the Port Campbell Hostel, a very neat and modern appearing hostel on the edge of a sleepy town. Next to Tony and I, there was only one other guest staying at the hostel at that time. The winter is not Port Campbell's prime season, as you can imagine. Non the less, our stay was very pleasant, partly due to the amazingly comfy beds and the first night of peace and quiet we've both had, for several weeks at least. For a nice price of seventeen Dollars we grabbed a meal at the 12 Rocks Cafe and Bar, enjoying a local Prickly Moses, served in a pretty awesome glass.
After dinner we did a little walk around town and it was freaking cold. Obviously a town by the ocean would get some of that amazing ocean breeze but, still... Good thing I brought my coat, poor Tony just had a fleece. Unfortunately though, during the winter, on a Monday evening, Port Campbell is not very exciting. Back to the hostel and time for some World Cup followed by bed. The match Portugal v. Korea DPR was on that night, ending in a dramatic 7-0 for Portugal. Of course this is all old news.
Parts 2 and 3 of the blog are on their way. The video for part 2 is already up, just use the annotations (in the top left and top right corner) in the video frame to navigate back and forth. The video for part 3 will be up tomorrow.