How do you speak Possum? – The Great Ocean Road

Day 458 – Adelaide to Port Elliott

My uncertain plans have kept people in the hostel amused, so when I finally checked out they were making fun of me. It was goodbye to some friendly people and hello to the new leg of my journey. Leya and Jo collected me in Sunny, the yellow VW camper. It’s beautiful decoration with handmade curtains and bunting was the sign of it being well loved. We picked up Roberto and he and I and the pile of backpacks occupied the back.

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We pulled out of the city into the Flerieu peninsula and began following the coast. The inland view was of tumbling valleys, wheat, cattle and untouched beauty. We had a few photo stops but quickly reached the edge of the peninsula where stood a lighthouse and the ferry station to cross to Kangaroo Island. Since Adelaide a coastal wind had picked up which made it a brief stop. Even when driving the cross wind would make the camper sway precariously.

Shortly after we reached Victor harbour. Roadtripping in South Australia, I definitely feel the distances between towns closing in. Little European like settlements regularly break up the wide open spaces rather than the ‘next civilisation in 2 hours’ situation you find on the west coast. We set about finding fish and chips for lunch and sat on the green surrounded by seagulls with their eyes bulging opportunistically.

We walked the pier to Granite Island, alongside the line for the horse drawn tram which services the island. This little outcrop off the South coast is home to little penguins, but was also home to several whaling stations when this area was first settled by Europeans in 1802. Today, the 2km walk is a peaceful (despite the gusts of wind) look at the dramatic rocks which slant into the sea.

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After the first food shop of the trip, we met one of Leya’s friends Jack who lives in Port Elliott where we would stay the night. Jack was the epitome of Australian Surfer. His full head of blonde dreadlocks was tucked under a baseball cap and he used ‘sick’ and ‘rad’ to exclaim. We followed him back to his house and parked up for the night. Alcohol and music soon followed as Leya and Jack strummed away on the guitar and Ukelele.

Day 459 – Port Elliott to Cape Jaffa

As we left Port Elliott we stopped at Boomer beach, Jacks local surf spot a stones through from his house. Along the beach we spotted blue bottle jellyfish and Leya collected the skeletons of sea urchins who, despite their mean looking underwater appearance, when they drop their spikes are pretty bead like things.

The next town was picturesque Strathalbyn. This Scottish settlement was founded in 1839 and it’s buildings still spoke of a generation past. The park was flourishing with brightly coloured flowers and the stage was being prepared for the evening outdoor carol service!

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The road wound inland to Wellington where a small ferry had to take us and 9 other cars across the river. We had a side of the road picnic stop and followed the winding coastline, pulling off late afternoon to a gorgeous white sand beach which stretched as far as the eye could see and was of course empty. The granite rocks gave this beach it’s name.

In Kingston we came across the ‘Big lobster.’ The Australian craze of ‘big things’ was started in New South Wales with the now famous big banana. This lobster is now one of 150 ‘big things’ dotted around Australia. Created in 1979, he is showing signs of ageing but at 17 metres ‘Larry’ is still an imposing sight.

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Leya is on an unofficial lighthouse tour of Australia so after two more lighthouse stops we camped at Cape Jaffa in a quaint campsite.

Day 460 – Cape Jaffa to Carpenter rocks

Continuing along the coast we came to Robe. It’s craggy cliffs play host to the remains of a Jail and a colourful obelisk to warn incoming ships. This stretch of coast is called the Limestone coast but also nicknamed the Shipwreck coast due to a high number of tragedies on the scattered rocks. A pathway of steep sand led down to crystal clear waters and while the others stayed at the top of the slope I ran down to splash my feet then turned to run back up. The gradient of the slope and the fine, burning sand made it a tiring climb!

Robe was a gorgeous seaside town where we found an ice creamery and sat in the gardens playing a game of chess which ended in a stalemate. The next town Beachport was similarity quaint but with a stunning coastline. After several clifftop look outs we braved the water, although not for very long as the water was cold and powerful.

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At the edge of South Australia sits Mount Gambier which is built on the banks of an extinct volcano. It has beautiful craters. We stopped first at the inventively named leg of mutton, now filled with forrestation. Just a short walk from here was the dazzling blue lake. It’s colour was unreal, a unexplained phenomenon which occurs during the summer months. It is the main water supply for Mt Gambier and at points is as deep as 204metres.

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In the town itself is the sinkhole garden, another geological phenomenon. The ground here is made up of Gambier Limestone and this sinkhole along with others were caused by the erosion of limestone beneath the surface. The sloping gardens sit some 30 metres down, vines hanging over the exposed rock walls.

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We camped for the night at Carpenter rocks underneath a lighthouse on a beautiful stretch of beach. A wreck of a fishing vessel was half emerged by the water, marooned on the beach. Here we later watched the sun disappear into the ocean.

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Day 461 – Carpenter rocks to Portland

On the final pass of South Australia was along the coast. Fairy penguins inhabit the rocks so we had our eyes open for them. Although we didn’t spot any there was interesting shaped rocks such as Camel rock and Rhino rock.

We crossed the border into Victoria, my fourth Australian state. Finally we gained the half hour bringing us back into sync with European time zones. Victoria is Australia’s smallest mainland state (apart from ACT) and home to Melbourne. We visited Discovery bay and followed a sandy peninsula as the river ran into the sea. The beach was a gorgeous white sand with undulating dunes. The water was icy cold so the swimwear seemed unnecessary but we collected shells and played beach games such as long jump. The horizon was empty of people and the sand crispy where the surface had remained unbroken for so long.

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We had lunch by the brilliant blue Jetty in Portland, restocked our esky and headed out for yet another lighthouse! This one sat on a beautiful stretch of craggy coast.

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As we drove on we passed towns with a Christmassy sense of humour, Santa having a BBQ on the front lawn, riding a Kangaroo and riding a Harley!

Our next stop was a ‘petrified forest’ originally believed to be a coastal forest petrified over town as it looks like lots of hollow tree trunks. The real reason is due to that Limestone again which is so prevalent on this coast. It is a collection of hollow tubes of limestone eroded by rainfall gathering in a shallow pan of sand dissolving the limestone. The mineral saturated solution then cements the sand forming pipes. It is such an unusual effect and gives the cliff a ghostly feel.

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We free camped in a beautiful forest. It was Roberto’s birthday so we had bought a cake. To distract him during lighting the candles I kept pointing out ‘squirrels’ in the trees. He was getting more confused by our giggling but appreciated the cake.

On my way to the toilet I noticed a couple looking up, a wild koala was at the top of the tree having a munch. Once you had noticed one, it was easier to spot little fur balls balanced in the tree top around camp. I was ‘the girl who cried squirrel’ as I went back to the tents and tried to convince the others to come and see.

Roberto cooked us an amazing Italian risotto and we sat around sharing wine and stories.

462 – Portland to Port Fairy

As we were having breakfast a Wallaby visited us with a joey in her pouch. They were the most adorable pair to watch, the joey peaking out cheekily.

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On our coastal area we passed more beautiful coast, craggy rock and into adorable Port fairy. We parked the kombi and walked around Carpenter island, a beautiful island with sheltered rocky beaches and, of course, a lighthouse.

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Back in the high street we explored the book, craft and toy shops and then perched in the sun with an ice cream.

Our evenings camp was on the beach, but we found more shelter to sunbathe on the grass around the tents. The long evenings of sun is a lovely thing about this part of Australia and we watched the clouds turn pink for sunset. In the evening we played a question game where we got to share stories. It started off with ‘what’s your favourite Disney movie?’ and it’s finale was ‘what is the meaning of life?’

Day 463 – Port Fairy to Port Campbell

Early in the day we passed through Warnambool, the biggest town on the great ocean road and we picked up a Christmas CD. Whilst at first it was novel listening to White Christmas in the sun, strange soon turned to sad as Jo, my fellow Brit, and I began to turn nostalgic of Christmas at home.

We officially entered the Great ocean road having felt that so far the whole South coast was pretty memorable. The first stop was Bay of Islands where limestone rock stood apart from the coast line, remnants of where the coastline used to be, 18 metres further out. The rock erodes 2cm a year and will retract a further 22 metres into the land.

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Bay of martyrs was similar, the overcast sky really bringing out the fantastic colours of the turquoise water and yellow stratified rock. At London bridge the first few appropriate drops of rain began. London Bridge used to have a second arch from the mainland but the whole thing collapsed suddenly in 1990 leaving two people stranded and awaiting rescue.

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Back in the car the rain started pouring, more typical of Victoria’s unpredictable weather. We sorted out a picnic in the packed car making sure to not spill beetroot juice and hummus on the luggage.

After an hour or so of car games the weather cleared and we visited Loch Ard Gorge, the site of a famous wreck on 1st June 1878 on a journey from England to Melbourne. Of the 54 passengers only Tom Pearce and Eva Carmichael. Their survival stories are followed at the site in a titanic-esque manner, almost hinting at a holiday romance.

The surrounding coast was steep and winding. My favourite bit was named the razorback, a long Island of rock with a jagged, razor like top. The rock islands create perfect habitats for isolated animal species such as the migratory mutton bird colony which we could observe off the shore.

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Where we camped at night was transformed after dark with huge Kangaroos who came hopping through camp, unperturbed by passers by who frequented the toilet.

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Day 464 – Port Campbell to Cape Otway

Whilst the sun was shining we headed early to the Twelve apostles, the most famous formation on this stretch of coast. They were stunning despite seeing them featured time and again on postcards. Each strut of rock was unique in size, shape and scattered along the coast.

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Retracing our steps from the day before in the better weather we walked to Thunder cave, the romanticised cave where two survivors of the Loch Ard shipwreck spent the night before rescue. The sea showed the full might with huge waves crashing in to the inlet. The path followed a clifftop walk to secluded river where the river led to the sea.

Following the Lighthouse trial we drove a particularly beautiful stretch to the coast. Despite finding the lighthouse closed the journey was not wasted as the Manna Eucalyptus trees were full with wild koalas and in the late afternoon they were active. Their inquisitive faces peered down at us. One little one hopped up the trunk of the tree then proceeded to play in the branches. Koalas are notoriously rare in the wild so we felt incredibly privaledged to experience them at close quarters, until we got to camp where the grunting sound of their mating calls resonated through the camp.

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The ocean road then veered inland a bit past Great Otway national park. The roads weaves and tall trees transformed the view. We walked through Melba Gully spotting cascades of water, bright fungus and even a carnivorous snail!

Day 465 – Cape Otway to Lorne

We woke in the morning with several Koalas in camp, two mothers with babies clinging onto them, nestled underneath. Their sleepy faces were adorable.

We drove back into the Otway national park and visited Triplet falls, set in damp forest, a wild contrast to the twinkling turquoise of the coastline. We spotted cascades of water, bright fungus and even a carnivorous snail! Huge trees imposed on either side, shutting out sunlight and leaving only intriguing noises. More rain drove us to seek refuge in Apollo bay, the point of Great Ocean coast where the iconic shipwreck coast meets the surf coast to Melbourne. Here we sheltered in a beachside cafe enjoying cake and hot drinks waiting for an improvement in the changeable weather.

In the afternoon we visited Kennett river, a spot for Koalas and friendly parrots. Our campground was nearby, only just off the windy great ocean road but elevated for an amazing view along the winding coast.

Day 466 – Lorne to Aireys Inlet

In the morning the sun paid us a visit and we visited picturesque Lorne. the beachfront shops and relaxed feel made this town instantly likeable. We walked along the beach and around the rock edge to the pier where opportunists were lined up fishing. After our jaunt we had lunch overlooking the bay. Its on the road you really appreciate Australian with its wide open spaces and outdoors lifestyle.

We drove on a little way to Aireys Inlet, a tiny settlement with one notable tourist attraction, the lighthouse which was home to kids TV show, Round the twist! Have you ever, ever felt like this? Strange things happen when you’re going round the twist!

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We explored the windy beach with its amazing dramatic cliffs, then the town (it didn’t take long) before setting up camp for the night.

Day 467 – Aireys Inlet to Highway

First stop of the day was Anglesey, on the coast but also with a wetland area to explore. Following a long pattern of English place names we then visited Torquay, a surf town and the home of Ripcurl and Billabong. The weather was finally playing ball and we got our long awaited beach time. We also got ice creams as big as our heads!

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We camped side of the highway about 50km from Melbourne. From our camp we could spot both ringtail and brushtail possums in the trees.

As Leah, Jo and I sat around asking each other more ridiculous questions we could practically see Roberto counting down the hours. He pleaded with us for ‘no more stupid questions!’

Day 468 – Highway to Melbourne

From 40km away Melbourne’s impressive skyline could be seen. We crossed Westgate Bridge into the city which was gleaming in the sun. As we sat riverside swapping trip photos it was a relaxed Sunday afternoon, friends BBQing and picnicing.

Leah led us through her home city, the end of the trip particularly significant for her as this was home after 10 months on the road and an entire circle of Australia in Sunny the camper. We walked along the sunny riverbank to south bank. Here stands the arts centre, shaped to imitate the Eiffel Tower. Along this arty strip is also the performing arts centre and several museums with a fantastic view over the city and federation square. This was where the roadtrip ended, in Melbourne’s bustling heart. Leah dropped us at the hostel and we said our goodbyes after a fantastic trip.

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Lighthouse count: 8
Koala count: 25
Total showers: 4

Strangest tourist attractions
1. Larry the lobster
2. Camel rock
3. Round the twist lighthouse

Spent so far (between 4): $792.50
Tent set up record: 3 mins 55

Port Noarlunga $1.22
Wellington $1.34
Kingston $1.35
Mount Gambier $1.40
Kingston $1.39
Warnambool $1.23
Apollo Bay $1.31

Now for an Australian Christmas in Melbourne…

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