Tuesday, January 9, 2001
This was the day to drive the main portion of the Great Ocean Road from Lorne to Warrnambool. There we would spend the night visiting with Mary McAllister’s sister, Carmel, her husband, Gary, and daughter, Nicole, who were camping at the beach.
The drive on the Great Ocean Road is spectacular. This portion of the southern coast, west of Melbourne, is layers of soft rock formed from volcanic ash and rock. It is easily eroded by the sea, forming steep cliffs, caves and tall, skinny islands in the water. The road winds along the water as closely as possible, making for interesting driving and spectacular seaside views. One of our stops was at Apollo Bay, a marina. There aren’t many marine facilities along this stretch of coast. This one was mostly man-made, completely surrounded by a large stone breakwater. There were large waves crashing outside sending spray high in the air. Another stop, for morning tea, was at Lavers Hill Tea Room along an inland portion of the drive. The dessert pies were spectacular, as were the “spiders”, a sort of fountain soda with syrup and ice cream. (Nothing healthy here!)
Probably the best known sight along this portion of coast is the Twelve Apostles, a series of the tall skinny islands described earlier. They ARE spectacular, though a couple have fallen down so there are only ten or so. But the FLIES! Now we know why Australians invented the wide brimmed hats trimmed with corks hanging from strings to keep the flies away. They don’t bite … they just bug! (Get it?) They land and crawl all over your face. They even get in your nose! And, please don’t run or do anything that makes you breath hard because you’ll accidentally swallow a few! Ugh, they were a real nuisance! But the Apostles were cool.
Loch Ard Gorge and the Blow Hole, a few miles down the road, were also plagued with flies, but not as bad. We climbed down to the beach at Loch Ard Gorge messed around in the cave at the bottom and climbed the rocks. This small beach is named for a ship that wrecked nearby. All but two of the fifty-four people aboard drowned. The survivors were washed into this cove. Down the road apiece was London Bridge. This is another tall skinny island-like formation. It used to be connected to the shoreline by a natural bridge, prompting the name. However, in 1990, with two people on the island portion, the “bridge” collapsed without warning. No one was hurt and the collapse did little to discourage the flies that plagued this area as well.
That afternoon we swept into Warrnambool and the Shipwreck Bay Caravan Park where Carmel, Gary and Nicole were camped. After a late afternoon tea and a beer, we left the kids at the campground and checked into the Flagstaff Hill Motel. Later, we returned to the campsite for a great barbie by Gary and partied ‘til midnight. GOOD day … ‘cept for the flies!
Wednesday, January 10, 2001
Finally! A fair, hot summer day with temps in the mid-thirties (deg C, that is). After showers, we joined the kids and Carmel’s family at the campground. Breakfast was prepared on the barbie by Gary with ample portions of bacon, eggs & hash browns. Delicious! Then it was time for the beach.
Warrnambool has a beautiful beach. The campground lies between the beach and a beautiful public park. The only wrinkle was that seaweed was washing up lately, and there were huge piles of it waiting to be transported away. However, the body surfing was great with a good crowd and lots of long lines of waves to share. We even tried our hand at beach cricket, a popular activity with many games going wherever you looked. Sandy had high score with seven runs!
We returned to the campground for yet another afternoon tea and then walked to Penguin Island, a short distance up the main beach. This island, labeled Middle Island on the map, is separated from the beach by a narrow channel that is nearly dry at low tide. The island is populated by fairy penguins. Although the population was out feeding for the day, we found two young ones in a cave and took their pictures.
We then climbed across this rocky island to an early landlocked pool. The water was crystal clear and the kids snorkeled, spotting several pretty fish. Then it was back to the campsite. We went to town and bought burgers, dim sims and chips for a picnic in a nearby park(we decided to give Gary a break) and said farewell to the lot. McAllisters drove home and we returned to the motel in Mary’s van that McAllisters lent to us for the next couple of days.