The whole reason I decided to take a trip down to Melbourne was to meet up with my friend, Carlie, and to take a tour of the Great Ocean Road. The Great Ocean Road is a coastal highway that follows the southern shoreline of Victoria. It was constructed after World War II, mostly by veterans who returned from the war without work. It was designed to rival the Pacific Coastal Highway in California. For the record, it’s gorgeous and much easier to drive, but still can’t compare to the PCH in my opinion.
The day began a 5:30am as I had to meet Carlie down at her hotel in South Melbourne at 6:45am. From there we got picked up directly by the tour company and started on our 12 hour journey. Yup, that’s right 12 hours on a bus (more like a large minivan).
Our first stop was Bell’s Beach, a famous surf beach featured in the final scene of Point Break. We were walking down the beach and Carlie asked me if we could find the species I study here. I said that I thought it was too sandy here and that we would have to walk out to the point. Of course, 14 seconds later, Carlie looks down in the middle of a sandy beach and finds one. I couldn’t believe it and am still convinced that it’s more an example of Murphy’s Law than anything else. Look how excited she is! Being a marine mammal scientist, she promptly anthropomorphized her finding, naming the sea star Sandy. That’s what happens when you spend too much time studying dolphins.
This first stop also illustrated how entertaining a few members of our tour group were going to be. First, there was this british women that was just absolutely crazy. Sputtering all kinds of ridiculous muttering, she “befriended” a korean girl and called her “her daughter.” She also asked the tour guide to talk to god about the rain. As most of you know, I am pretty versed in British dry humor and sarcasm, and I promise you that this woman was totally serious. Carlie dubbed her Photobaggins and this was appropriate as she had the Korean girl take all sorts of pictures of her and Carlie always seemed to be in her way. The best part is that we all found out she was actually on the wrong tour and our poor guide had to spend her lunch break sorting her out on the other tour.
The other hilarious event involved a Chinese man who was on the tour with his family. During our first stop, he snuck off and stole coffee from one of the other tour buses. Our guide saw this and told him nicely that it wasn’t for our tour. Five mins later, he went to go get some more, prompting our guide to have to chase after him. Considering it was only 7:45am, it was a pretty funny morning.
I can’t say that we had great weather; it was rather gray they entire day. However, there was still enough light to take some good photos. The tour basically consisted of stopping at every scenic lookout along the road. I’ve posted all my pics on Facebook, so feel free to check them out there.
We also had some “bonus” stops. We got to check out a small Koala colony and see and feed some parakeets. Unfortunately, they give you seed to feed the birds. The next time any of you see Carlie, you should ask her about her bird feeding experience. If you don’t start laughing at her uncontrollably after she tells you the story, then come see me and I will tell it to you properly. I also learned a funny bit of trivia at this stop. I am not sure if my elementary school music class was unique, but we had to sing the song, “Kookabara sits in the old gum tree.” At this stop, we got to see a Kookabara, and low and behold, it was sitting in a gum tree (eucalyptus tree). Suddenly, that goofy little song made a little more sense to me. It always amazes me when something that sounds so exotic is really very simple.
We also stopped in a temperate rain forest. This was also pretty interesting to see. It was filled with large ferns and giant eucalyptus trees. It felt a lot like some of the giant Redwood forests in California mixed with some of the rain forests of Olympic National Park in WA, just filled with eucalyptus trees instead. I certainly wasn’t expecting to see that on our tour. Although, it was an extremely short walk (hike) track they took us on. Carlie and I felt like we were on the strenuous Manoa falls track.
We stopped for a nice lunch in the sleepy fishing town of Apollo Bay and then we quickly passed by an important geographical milestone for me. Right after the bay, I went on past the most southern part of the trip and that is also the furthest southern point that I have ever been, just around 38.78 degrees S. Not bad for a kid from Jersey.
The highlight of the trip is at the very end of the Great Ocean Road, and that is the Twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are actually eight rock stacks that line a limestone cliff face and sandy beach near the Port Cambell National Park. There used to be nine of them, but no, there were never twelve and no one knows why they are named as such. All of the remaining pictures below are from the park:
From there, it was a long 4 hour ride back to Melbourne via an inland highway. Luckily, I had my iPad and we could watch a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory to ease the long ride home. I also got massacred in a game of Battleship. Embarrassing. When we got back to Melbourne, we capped off the day with a great dinner at a nice Mexican restaurant in South Yarra. It was the only place for 4 blocks that was crowded on a Sunday night, and it turned out to be a good indicator of tasty food. It’s kind of interesting to eat Mexican here as it is much more of a specialty dining experience than the US…even Hawaii. The place is called Fiesta and has been made famous by a couple tennis pros. For example, I had the Andre Agassi burrito. For dessert, I introduce Carlie to the dangerous and delicious Tim Tam cookie.
I think we were both a little scared about taking a 12 hour bus tour, but in the end we both really enjoyed it. If you go to Victoria, go see the Great Ocean Road. If there are only two of you, it’s worth it to take the tour. If there are more of you, than hire (rent) a car and do it on your own.