Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day Nineteen: Great Ocean Road

Wow. Just woke up to the most incredible view outside our window--ocean as far as the eye can see. And a big bunch of white cockatoos in the tree only a few feet away. And the sun starting to come through! Maybe we'll have nice weather for our epic drive today!

We had our first "home-cooked" meal of the trip this morning, seeing as our kitchen could support a dinner party. I must say, it didn't hold a candle to the superb breakfasts we've been having. The sourdough was a vague beige with no discernible sour flavor, and the instant vanilla coffee (called "Jarrah!") tasted a bit like melted-down plastic wrap. Oh well! We're alert and ready for our adventure.

Just returned, a little past 9:00, after a full day on the road. Because I'm a total chicken about driving on the left, D did it all, and with a bad cold, too. (I better not get it!) Aside from the last bit, the drive was stunning, and the stops even more so.

We began with a twisty section between here and Apollo Bay, a sleepy little town where the Great Ocean Road sights officially begin. Despite the blue sea to my left and forests to my right, I had trouble staying awake (lousy sleep last night) and was glad for a little stop to clear my head. We went to Cafe 153 across from the Visitors Center for a "snack," and Readers! You must go there if you come this way! I wish I had taken a photo of my pasta with rose sauce, chicken, mushrooms and grana padano. Because? I think it's the best pasta I've EVER had. I was actually mournful that I couldn't finish all eight pounds of it and didn't have a way to store the leftovers on the road. Actually, when you combine with last night's dinner in Lorne and a late-afternoon scone the size of my head in Port Campbell, I'm thinking the Great Ocean Road is the foodiest middle-of-nowhere in the world.

Onward, to Mait's Rest, a rainforest walk in the Otway Forest. It was only about a mile, but wow, it was like we were in South America or something. (At least when we could escape the tour bus crowd.) Huge frondy ferns bending over the wet, muddy path, and trunks covered in kelly-green moss. Everything all cool and damp and quiet. Bliss.

Next stretch of the drive wended through a lot of open fields with cows and sheep--for some reason, the cows are almost always black. It seemed quite a while before we hit Princetown, the beginning of the most scenic patch of the Great Ocean Road, and I joked that we were going to get there right as the sun set. (It was more like 3:00.)

Between Princetown, Port Campbell and Peterborough, the wonders came fast and furious. First, the famous Twelve Apostles, of which eight remain above water (though we only spotted seven.) They rise out of the water in a group, looking eerie and cool. I liked the signs that said "You are an idiot if you go outside the fence, an idiot who is going to fall and die." I'm extrapolating only slightly, Readers. The lookouts were jammed with tourists so even though those Apostles are lookers, I didn't enjoy this one as much as some of the others.

Of which there were several. We visited London Bridge (missing one of the arches now, which fell on January 15, 1990, stranding two tourists on the new island--they had to be rescued by helicopter, and I'm thinking they now have the bets cocktail party story ever) and The Arch and The Grotto (loved this one, especially since we were alone down there, and I couldn't tell it was cool until I reached the bottom) and Loch Ard Gorge, where we got to walk on the beach and it began to rain. The Loch Ard was a shipwreck with only two survivors, an 18-year-old girl and the ship's steward who saved her. The whole area is riddled with shipwrecks.

I wanted to walk on the beach, but we couldn't find the one on my little map, and we ended up at Wild Dog Cove, a small beach with a tiny, hidden staircase to the bottom. We had it all to ourselves, and David showed me all the cuttlefish washed ashore, and we found some cool shells, too. I loved it except I got spooked at the end that wild dogs were going to get us, even though David said it was just a name. As we were leaving, I actually saw a huge dog emerge from the bushes and I screamed, and then David cracked up when the dog's owner appeared right behind it.

It was a cold day, probably not more than 55 degrees the whole time, and sometimes sprinkling, but we really warmed up from what I called "guerilla sightseeing," lots of running up and down staircases. We also started doing iPhone self-portraits to commemorate every stop, which delighted me immensely, especially since they look totally green-screened for some reason, like postcards. Don't they?

Right around sunset, we returned to London Bridge for the march of the tiny penguins (I know, it sounds made up, but I'm beginning to learn to expect the unexpected in this wild land) but sadly, they didn't appear. It was getting cloudy and dark, so we had a quick break in Port Campbell before hitting the road.

A long road. Ugh. I stayed totally alert the whole time because it was so horribly dark and there seemed to be no signs and everyone drove so fast. We broke it up with dinner in Colac (I joked that it sounds like a medicine; David agreed), pizza that I liked but David picked off every mushroom. And then the last stretch, twisting through the Lorne-Otway Forest, was sheer horror, even though I'm sure it would have been very pretty by day. At night, dripping with rain and wrapped in fog pockets, the deep primeval forest encroaching on our car ("the road! it's going to be washed away!" I kept wailing) pleased me not. Twenty kilometers felt like 100.

1 comment:

Sambo said...

Back in the days of the super continent of Pangea what is now Australia backed onto Antartica and South America, so the plants and animals from the 3 area's (OK fossils for Antartic) are very similar and quite related indeed.