Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stories from Great Ocean Road

Despite riding 145km that day, I loaded the hire car with my bike and its accessories and off i drove another 80km to Apollo Bay, where i had booked a quiet Bed and Breakfast for the night. I spent the entire 80km cursing, wondering why i was so stupid to book a B&B so far away after having endured such torture that day. While I was not tired, my entire body ached and it hurt to sit in the hire car. I found myself stopping at intervals to try and stretch the seizing muscles, and relieve the aching back.

I soon stopped cursing when i arrived at the B&B in Apollo Bay to find that the room I booked had a bathroom attached with... yes, a bath. It was perfect for easing the pain (temporarily) and now looking back, I think it was what made the day after a whole lot more manageable.

I woke up the next day very early, feeling a little bit seedy from the sleeping tablet i needed to take the night before (I couldnt sleep due to the pain of the aching muscles). Nevertheless, I found my limbs were all still able to be moved, and but for a small little tweak in the left knee, I felt reasonably confident that I could get a solid day's sightseeing in - the day was perfect for photography and I wasn't going to miss a moment of it!

I set off very early in an effort to reach the famous Twelve Apostles before high noon. On my way though, I became side tracked. I took the turnoff to the "Cape Otway Lightstation", which sounded interesting enough to warrant the 12km detour from my planned journey.

I was rewarded my picture perfect conditions at mainland Australia's oldest surviving lighthouse. Given that it was still quite early, the place was so quiet, having not yet been inundated by the convoy of tour buses that tends to roll through mid-morning. The lighthouse and the area was home to many stories, tales of shipwrecks, pirates and long lost love. Aside from that, it photographed like a dream!

After roaming aimlessly around the area with my camera, I then hopped back in the hire car and set off down the 12km road back to the main Great Ocean Road. I traveled 5km and came across a number of cars which had pulled over onto the side of the road, and its passengers had gotten out of the cars. They were all standing around looking up into the trees.

To an Australian, this could have only meant one thing - koalas.

Indeed it was. Up in amongst the gumtrees, there were a pair of big, fluffy koalas. One was peering down at the tourists, and i almost caught a smirk on its face. It was the koala watching us watching the koala. The other koala was sound asleep and I suspect a freight train would not have woken that thing up. Feeling the peer pressure, I took out my camera, took a series of photos, and begun telling the tourists that while they "look cute and cuddly", they are in fact quite savage... so no, it was certainly not advisable that you climb up and "pat" it.

I wished the tourists happy travels and went back to the car, only to realise that the koalas were not the only native wildlife in the area - i had left the car window open and i now had about 15 mosquitos flying about in the car. I then spent the next 20kms swatting each mosquito every time it moved into my line of sight. I then turned the airconditioner on, wound down all of the windows and blasted them out, in what i think the mosquitos would have described as my attempt at the US Army's style of "Shock and Awe" tactic. If they weren't going to get blasted out by the sheer power of the air con, they were going to freeze to death!

I arrived at the Twelve Apostles and yes, they are as beautiful as they appear in the photos. The sight itself is one of the most recognised Australian icons and certainly one of the most photographed sights in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world. Sadly, but inevitably, the 12 Apostles have suffered at the hands of the raging Southern Ocean and a couple of them have fallen down. However, as the ocean batters the cliff faces of the area, slowly, over thousands of years, new Apostles will form.

The area has a number of these rock formations, each with different names - eg. Loch Arch, Elephant Rock, the BlowHole, Thunder Cave, and the Grotto. Each are unique in their formations, and each create an amazing spectable for photographers (notwithstanding the countless tour buses that bring thousands to the area each day).

The day ended with a slow drive back to Melbourne and a goodbye to Victoria, Australia for now. No doubt, once my time in Asia is over, I will be back. But it was a timely reminder that as an Australian, the most beautiful places are right on my doorstep.

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