Thursday, 20 August 2009
Apollo Bay to Port Fairy - 18th August
Our still-eager host, Brian knocked on our door at 8.30 with our breakfast - cereal, fruit, toast with homemade jams and orange juice. Having breakfast delivered is a truly magnificent thing. I think someone should start a home delivery breakfast service. Think about it - you wake up slightly hungover with no real desire or ability to fix some food so you'd just call the local café and order bacon and eggs or pancakes or whatever and they'd be 'round in less than 30 minutes. They could even offer asprin and Berocca for those in need. After a leisurely stuff-around, we packed the car and were about to leave when Brian told us about a whale which was supposedly in the bay. Now Yvette and I have had incredibly bad luck with sea mammal spotting. We've been to Merimbula (the supposed whale-watching capital of Australia) and saw zip, we've been to Hawks Nest where dolphins are rumoured to be in abundance and not seen squat, so we were a little sceptical. Especially when we stood on the verandah looking at bugger all while Brian gesticulated earnestly saying, "There! There!". Dubious, we jumped in the car and headed down to the beach for a closer look. Needless to say we couldn't see a thing. After a while searching with binoculars Yvette spotted something that looked like a large log in the water. It turned out to be the whale. Now, I've watched a lot of creatures, from Tawny Frogmouths sitting dead still to Koalas sleeping in the forks of trees and nothing was as boring as this whale. It did nothing. There was no breaching, no leaping, not even the promised frolicking. It couldn't even be arsed to put its tail out of the water. It was just like looking at one of the large dead logs (albeit with barnacles) that you see in Tinaroo Dam. It truly was a fail whale. After a quick double-back to take a final look at Apollo Bay, we headed off on the next section of the Great Ocean Road. Now, the most spectacular road part of TGOR is the bit we'd just done. From Apollo Bay to Port Fairy, the road heads inland through the beautiful forest of the Great Otway National Park which is lovely, but can't compare to the winding road cut into the cliffs. It does however have the most famous parts of the road - the 12 Apostles and the other sandstone juttings along the shoreline. Here's a piece of tortured English about the road from the Tourism Victoria brochure:
Bold words aren't enough to capture the overwhelming scale and spectacle that epitomises the Great Ocean Road around Port Campbell. Vast sea-canyons, gorges, blowholes and battalions of cliffs; simply being close to such leviathans is invigorating.
Perhaps the copywriter should have worried less about being bold and more about pulling their head out of their buttbutt. Before we reached the "invigorating leviathans" of the apostles, we decided to visit the Cape Otway lighthouse right at the end of Cape Otway (natch). Self-described as "the most significant lighthouse in Australia" they do charge you to visit the area but it is well worth it as there are some original buildings still there and a little museum of sorts. Plus you can climb to the top of the lighthouse. What makes it "most significant" is never really explained. I would say the lighthouse that stops you running aground would be the most significant. The lighthouse itself is not very tall but even still, once you are on the top, looking over the cliff tops to the crashing sea below, a little bit of vertigo can set in. They have a guide at the top in case you have any questions and ours told us about the UFOs he regularly sees (but apparently doesn't tell anyone about anymore). I shouldn't be too rude as he did give me a free souvenir magnet back at the giftshop afterwards. After a climb, and a short wander around the grounds, we headed back to TGOR and on to the famous apostles. On the track back to the main road we stopped and watched a koala eating gumleaves in tree branches above us. This is actually more unusual than it sounds. Given that koalas spend 20 hours of the day sleeping, the chances of seeing one of the actually doing something is remote. From here, the road heads north back into the hills before back south again. Avoiding turning down the the mysteriously named towns of Blue Johanna and Red Johanna (warrior princesses perhaps?) we powered on through Princetown, eating leftover pizza in the car in order to get to the 12 apostles. Now I knew this was a popular location but I was not prepared for the sheer amount of goddamn f*cking tourists that were there. There is a huge carpark built on the northern side of the road and an underpass to get to the various viewing platforms. When we saw the numerous cars and tourist coaches I was dismayed. Traveling in Winter has been brilliant so far - very few people on the roads, accommodation is easy to find and most places you have to yourself. Not the 12 apostles though. Still, it wasn't too crowded and there was room enough to take photos. I'd hate to think what the place is like in peak season though... For all my bitching, the rocks truly are spectacular. The scale and the beauty of the sandstone means you can stare at them for ages. Which we did. Although some of that time was waiting for the sun to come out from behind the clouds. The weather had been fine at the lighthouse, but had clouded over just before we reached the parking lot. After finally exhausting the majesty of the view (and my patience with idiot tour groups), we headed off north this time to try and locate a local cheesemaker we had seen advertised in the aforementioned Tourism Vic brochure. After a little diversion courtesy of the TomTom, we popped in at the Whey Apostle Cheese Factory, a small, privately owned business that not only make their own cheese, but run their own dairy farm to provide the milk needed. We did the obligatory tasting of all their cheeses and settled on some herb and garlic fetta, some brie and some stinky blue (for me). Yum. Our cheese urge sated, we headed back down to TGOR and on to the Loch Ard Gorge which is where in 1878 the ship Loch Ard on its way from London to Melbourne struck a reef and the crew of 54 all perished save two, Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael, who washed ashore on a beach at the bottom of the cliffs. Tom proceeded to climb the cliffs and walk about 6km until he found some passing stockmen who helped to organise the rescue of Eva. Eva never saw Tom again and went straight back to Ireland where she promptly married and settled down. The cliffs here are quite spectacular and the sun had now come out and we managed to get some of the picture postcard golden afternoon light on the sandstone. Unfortunately the cattletruck tour buses were going the same way as us and there were just as many people as before. As such, we decided to completely skip the London Bridge viewing station and continued on until we saw a little turnoff to something called The Arch which was much better as it only had a tiny carpark completely unsuitable for the hulking behemoths packed with slack-jawed gawkalots which had plagued us today. For a full ten minutes we had the little area and viewing platform to ourself and although it wasn't as grandiose as the apostles, it was a lot more special. By this stage we were getting a little bit of sensory overload from looking at gorgeous, orange-lit cliffs and besides the sun was getting quite low and I had to drive directly into it. We did make one more stop at the Bay of Martyrs however for that one last photo opportunity. The last part of the drive was a bit of a struggle driving directly west into the setting sun. At times I couldn't see the road properly and just hope that everyone else obeyed the rules of the road (not something one should automatically assume in Victoria). We had booked in for two nights at Clonmara which has a couple of little old cottages on a working Alpaca farm. I had assumed they'd have a cooktop and we stopped in at the Coles in Warrnambool to get some supplies. Unfortunately the cottage only had a microwave. Luckily the cottage was incredibly cute and was quickly forgiven. We heated up some microwave meals we'd had with us in case of emergencies and ate a very ordinary dinner before an early night after almost 9 hours of travelling and sightseeing. It was nice to go to sleep knowing we didn't have to get up and pack up and be out by 10 the next morning.
Posted by Ross at 21:16