Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Melbourne to Apollo Bay - 17th August

Surprisingly, the day was fine (but very windy) when we woke up. So far, most of packing and leaving has been done in the rain. Hopefully this was going to be the change in fortune that would stick.
We'd decided to wait until after peak hour to leave as we were heading west along a busy road, over the Westgate Bridge and then on to Geelong. The TomTom mostly behaved itself (it seems to get confused on straight highways of more than one lane) and we were out of Melbourne in very little time at all. Leaving Melbourne felt good. Even though we both loved the city, big cities are no longer our thing - especially after all the time we'd spent in the country beforehand. For all its good points, Melbourne does nothing to impress those leaving (or arriving I guess) from the west. It is a concrete and steel mess of roadworks, construction and industrial clutter. In a lot of ways, reaching Geelong is a visual improvement.
Our first stop was the Wathaurong glass and arts factory on the outskirts of town. A wholly Indigenous -run operation, they make beautiful glassworks for construction, awards and decoration. Although we loved the pieces, we decided against trying to ferry one around the country. They do have a website and apparently there is a business in Port Douglas that sells their works (although I imagine their markup would be huge).
It was time to begin The Great Ocean Road which really was the impetus for this whole trip. Originally the plan was to nip down to Victoria, drive along here and then head back up. Everything else from Adelaide on was added later. So it was with great expectations we headed down to Torquay which is where the road officially begins. Torquay is a beautiful, as-yet-unspoiled seaside town (which is odd, being so close to Melbourne) with a large parkland in front of some lovely beaches. It is pretty much nothing like its namesake in the UK and I think someone is missing a great opportunity by not opening a Fawlty Towers there.
After a quick lunch in the park, spoilt only by the wind (which would become a constant, annoying companion on our trip across) we began. Much has been written about The Great Ocean Road. It is an amazing engineering accomplishment that provides an almost constant, breathtaking view from Torquay to Apollo Bay. Winding and climbing, you hug seaside cliffs and scoot across little bridges over seemingly pristine bays trying to keep one eye on the road, and the other on the view. Occasionally we'd stop at laybys and lookouts to take in the splendor and to marvel at what we were doing. Making only one tourist stop at the Split Point Lighthouse (a fairly ordinary and unimpressive lighthouse) most of the day was spent driving slowly along the road, allowing people behind us to pass as much as possible. There was no way I was going to be hurried along. Even still, we made Apollo Bay in reasonable time and arrived while it was still light. We checked in at the Harley Reef B&B, a B&B in the style of a quality motel. I gathered that the regular owners were away and the place was being looked after by a friend. A rather eager seventysomething called Brian. He was friendly enough and seemed to take delight from pointing out all the various things inside the room. After unpacking and a wee rest, we headed down into town to see what Apollo Bay was all about and to possibly find some dinner and drinks. One thing I have noticed about the towns we have visited that are 'tourist towns' is that the price of meals matches those in big cities. Even the pubs are doing food for between $22 and $44 which seems a little ridiculous. After a slow walk down the main drag, we managed to find a pizza place that seemed reasonable and headed back to one of the pubs to work up more of an appetite with a couple of beers. The second pub on the strip had two local beers on tap and we just had to sample a pint or two each to get a proper feel of what they were like. They tasted and felt good. After a quick meal of some quite delicious (and reasonably priced!) pizzas, we wandered back to our funny little B&B and very quickly fell asleep. The next part of the Great Ocean Road lay ahead...

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