The Great Ocean Road (And Grampians)

Well hello there everybody! As I’m sure you all know (or will pretend to know after I tell you again) I was on my Great Ocean Road tour from Monday through Wednesday, and I just got into Adelaide last night. Before I start to tell you about the tour, here is a little bit of information for you:

Adelaide is the capital of South Australia (one of Australia’s 6 states), and it is the driest city in the driest country which is the driest continent. My first impression of Adelaide? It’s HOT. Hot, hot, hot. They are in a bit of a heat wave this week – today it was 40 degrees. Celsius. That’s like 104 degrees Fahrenheit! Yep. Did I mention that it was hot? Also, it is half an hour earlier here than it is in Melbourne. So when it is 2:00 in the afternoon in Melbourne (or Sydney) it is only 1:30 here. But I’ll talk more about my time in Adelaide on another post. First I’ll have to catch you up on my Great Ocean Road tour!

As you may have guessed by my lack of posts and/or phone calls, I didn’t have any kind of internet availability on this three day tour, and phone service was nil. Luckily I only have three days to catch up on this time, instead of five like on the Tassie tour! I’m probably going to cover all three days on this one post – unless it gets too long or I get bored or something, in which case I’ll break it into two.

The tour started on Monday morning at 7:15. I went with a tour company called ‘Groovy Grape’, and I was in a group of about 24 people, including the tour guide. Our tour guide was definitely an awesome person. Her name was Tash, and she had dreadlocks. She was very easy-going, and extremely funny. She actually reminded me a lot of my dear friend Elana, even more so when I found out about her travels to some of the very middle-eastern and Asian countries that Elana has been to!

Tash told us what to expect on the tour and told us a little about herself before we got started. She informed us that this was actually only her third Great Ocean Road tour, and that she used to do the desert tours (just like the Tassie tour guide!). She told us that she and the other desert tour guides used to make light-hearted fun of the Great Ocean Road tour guides – nicknaming the tour the ‘cappuccino run’ because you were constantly able to stop for coffees or indoor bathrooms on the road trip. I guess that means I shouldn’t expect to have any good coffee or indoor plumbing on my desert tour. She went on to say that when she finally did her first tour on the Great Ocean Road, she mentally kicked herself for not doing it sooner because it was just that fantastic  of a tour. Of course, that gave us a nice happy feeling that we were sure to enjoy the next few days!

Boy, were we wrong. After the two spider bites and the near crocodile attack, I didn’t think that any of us would ever be able to enjoy ourselves again. Oh wait… I’m writing NON-fiction here, aren’t I? Just making sure that you were all paying attention!

Moving on! The first stop on the tour on the unofficial beginning of the Great Ocean Road (you’ll see the official beginning shortly) was Bells Beach. We really only stopped here to check if there were any surfers doing their thing. Bells Beach is a famous surfing beach in Victoria that hosts the ‘Rip Curl Pro’ event (a well-known professional Australian surfing event) each year. Unfortunately, we didn’t see many surfers as the waves were pretty non-existent that day. Here’s a picture of the beach anyway. If you look closely you can see a lone surfer walking dejectedly along the beach.


We didn’t stay long at Bells Beach for two reasons. First – there were no surfers. Second – it was cold. I do realize that just a few short paragraphs ago I was complaining about the heat, but it was very early in the morning and we were right next to the sea… and why are you giving me the third degree anyhow? We piled back onto the bus and stopped at a nice little cafe for our first cup of cappuccino before continuing on our journey.

Our second stop was at the official start of the Great Ocean Road. The actual Great Ocean Road was built by a group of ex-servicemen who had served in WWI and it was finished in 1932 after they worked on it for about 13 years. It had started out as a toll road until the government took it over in 1936 and made it free to use. The entire road only takes about three and a half hours to drive along if you go straight through without stopping. However most people who travel it are tourists and stop at the towns and attractions, which makes it an all day event. We managed to drag it out to a day and a half!

The official start of the ocean road is marked by an over-the-road sign, and on the left of the picture is a small memorial dedicated to the soldiers of WWI.

Of course I had to take this opportunity to have a picture of me under the Great Ocean Road sign. So here I am! Squinting into the sun and trying to stay warm!

After the stop at the Great Ocean Road sign we started driving on that great, ocean road. And great it was! It was probably one of the most scenic and beautiful roads I have ever been driven down. Imagine being in the car for hours and being able to gaze outside the window at beauty like this the entire time:

I totally had the money seat – a window that was facing to the road! Half of the bus was not so lucky.

You can see that it was starting to cloud up a bit for these two pictures:

  

You should get the point by now. It was fantastic even to just staring out the window the whole time on this tour.

Now by this point, the cappuccinos that many of us had purchased at Bells Beach had finally reached our bladders, so we had to stop at the next town – the ‘trendy’ town of Lorne. Tash informed us that Lorne is probably one of the most expensive towns along the Great Ocean Road. What did we do there? Use the bathroom… then left.

I have probably given you all the impression that up until now we had only been staring out the window during our drive. Far from it! Tash was extremely good at keeping us entertained. If it wasn’t listening to a CD of an Australian DJ who liked to call people and play jokes on them, she had us go up to the front of the bus and tell jokes. I told the wok/wabbit one. It was the only one I could remember but everyone laughed. There were mostly Germans and Swiss people on this tour, but we did actually had four Americans. One from Manhattan, one from Buffalo (I have relatives in Buffalo so I asked him if he knew them. He didn’t), and one was from Iowa or some other Midwest state. And then there was me. We also had a Canadian, an English guy, and a girl from Poland. I think that covers everyone! It was a pretty good mix of nationalities.

After we finished with our jokes (the Buffalo guy told a pretty poor in taste joke for an American to tell – or anyone to tell but especially an American – it was an Iraq joke that definitely wasn’t funny) Tash decided that we were all going to represent our countries in a series of contests that would last until the end of the trip. Mostly that involved her giving us riddles that we had to figure out. We were all pretty competitive – possibly because we were representing out countries. I think the contest was pretty unfair though because Germany, Switzerland, and America had the advantage of having four or more people on their team. Right from the beginning Germany and America were pretty much neck to neck, with Germany pulling ahead at times and America at others. I definitely kicked butt at figuring out the riddles though! I’ll tell you which country won the contest after I write about the last day. I don’t want to spoil the ending of my post!

At about 1 we stopped for a picnic lunch on a beach and enjoyed the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks as we ate. I forget what we had for lunch that day so I’ll just make something up. It was sandwiches.

After lunch (you guys are going to be so excited!) we drove through this area that is noted for having KOALAS in the trees. We found them! I got to see a koala that was in a tree, alive and breathing, and not on the side of the road not breathing. They weren’t really doing anything, just sleeping. Apparently, koalas sleep for 21 hours out of the day. But here is a pic of one of them:

After the koalas we went on a walk through the rainforest at Maits Rest. It was another temperate cold rain forest, so it was similar to the Tasmanian ones – or at least similar enough that you probably won’t want to see more pictures. So I’ll just post one:

There was actually one major difference in this rainforest walk though – no waterfall at the end! It was quite a comfortable and pleasant walk. For once it wasn’t cold!

After the rain forest walk, we went to the hostel that we would be staying at on our first night. We would be going to the Twelve Apostles for a sunset viewing so we didn’t have much time, but we managed to unpack and cook dinner before heading out. I do remember what we had for dinner that night. Delicious tortillas with chicken, avocado paste, cheese and lettuce. At least, that’s what I put in mine. Other people had nastiness like onions and peppers and jalapeños. But I digress. Here are a couple pictures of the view from our beach hostel:

  

After dinner, we headed down to the Twelve Apostles… and it just as spectacular as I thought it would be. I tried playing around with the settings on my camera a bit, and ended up taking figuratively a million pictures because I couldn’t see the viewfinder very well in the sunset light and I wanted to be sure I would a few good ones. Here are a few pictures that will help you experience what I did that night:

  

I really liked this one below because instead of the sun, you can see the moon above the Twelve Apostles. The sun was still there to the left, but I couldn’t manage to get both the sun and the moon in the picture.

After the sun had set I had to make a quick stop at the restroom before getting back on the bus. Why am I telling you about my restroom break? Well, it is because of my bladder and that bathroom break that I missed the penguins coming up onto the beach. The few people that were still there and managed to see it told us that at first it was just one or two of them swimming in from the water and waddling up the beach. Then, all sudden, there were 20 or 30 of them! Bugger. I can’t believe I missed that.

When we got back to the hostel we had a few glasses of wine and played a few games. There was one absolutely horrifically annoying game called ‘the moon in the spoon’ which went on waaay too long. And it took me entirely too long before I figured out the answer.

We also met a couple of Australian guys who were staying at the place next to ours. Of course, as soon as they found out I was from America the conversation quickly turned to politics. That seems to happen a lot when I talk to Australians. It doesn’t bother me, I just find it funny that that’s how the conversation always seems to go.

Now I have been rushing through the end of this day so I could end the post. It’s late and I’ve been sitting at the computer for a while now. I spend way too long on my posts, and spend way too much money on the internet! I’ll finish writing about this tour on my next post. Goodnight all!