This post is mostly about The Great Ocean Road but first a two day wander of Carlton Gardens and Fitzroy with Bill & Katiti. Carlton Gardens is a three block walk of long blocks east. Like NYC Melbourne has long blocks going east to west and short blocks north to south. Carlton Gardens is a World Heritage Site located on the northeastern edge of the Central Business District. The gardens contain the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum and Imax Cinema, tennis courts and an award-winning children’s playground.
The Great Ocean Road Tour
We meet up with our tour guide Tobey on Flinders Street at 6:30am for our 12 hour day exploring the Great Ocean Road. Katiti found this Fit Trip, Feel Good Adventures Tour which we thought would be more enjoyable than renting a car and doing it ourselves and she was spot on. The minute we met Tobey, our guide, we knew we had made the right decision. He was young, handsome, knowledgeable and very charismatic. We also liked that it was a small group tour with only four other people in our group. It was a 2 ½ hour drive to get to the Great Ocean Road so most of us were quiet and slept while Tobey played great tunes.
Our group consisted of two other couples in their 20’s. There are two girls from Austria who are on a two month vacation from their jobs as waitresses and are spending time in Melbourne and Sydney before going on to Thailand. The other couple was from France. They are here to escape from office work in France and are planning on working at a farm in rural Australia taking care of Huskies. They would also like to live in North and South America, Asia and Africa over the next four years. Tobey, our tour guide and driver, is 26 years old and is an actor and dancer when he is not working as a tour guide. He has already traveled the world with his dance troupe and comes from a very artsy family. His brother will be performing in the upcoming opera Turandot in Melbourne. During the drive to The Twelve Apostles Tobey gave us some history of The Great Ocean Road which is an Australian National Heritage Site as of 2011 and is a 243 km. stretch of road along the southeast coast of Australia. It was built by returning soldiers from WWI between the years of 1919-1932 and is the worlds largest war memorial. The work was done by hand at approximately 3 km. per month. It is a breathtaking, spectacular drive and one of Australia’s biggest tourist attractions. Our first stop was to see two of the twelve Apostles. The Twelve Apostles are a collection of lime stone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park. They were formed by wave erosion. They are named after the Twelve Apostles however there were only eight of them until 2005 when one 50 meter tall stack collapsed into the sea leaving seven standing. Due to wave action eroding the cliffs, existing headlands are expected to become new Apostle’s in the future. After seeing the first two we drove to another viewpoint to see the remaining five stacks. It was an extremely windy day making picture taking difficult but on the other hand the blustery weather actually made for better photos.
Our next adventure stop was to the stunning Loch Ard Gorge. This picturesque gorge is home to a smooth pearlescent bay and an inlet of clear blue water. It is flanked by two yellow-washed cliff faces and tufts of vibrant greenery. It also has an interesting history. Back in 1878 a large clipper ship engraved with the name Loch Ard entered the waters of Port Campbell on a dark and misty June 1st. Before they even realized it the ship was in shallow waters, collided with a rock reef and ran aground. Unfortunately only two of the 54 passengers survived; one of whom was a 19 year old sailor apprentice named Tom Pearce and the other a 19 year old Irish girl named Eva Carmichael who was traveling with her family. Tom was first to wash ashore at the sandy beach. Hearing a woman’s cries for help he bravely headed out into the waters and rescued Eva. Tom then climbed the cliff to get help and returned to get Eva. The two became famous among the locals in Victoria with Tom being welcomed as a hero. Sadly the story did not have a fairy tale ending as three months later Eva returned to Europe and married an aristocrat. Tom remained a sailor and returned to England where he died at the age of forty nine, known as a hero of his time. We played a little on the beach, practicing our jumping skills while Tobey took pictures of our pathetic attempts and had a good laugh watching us get soaked by an incoming wave.
Back in the bus we drive one hour to Apollo Bay for lunch. This stop on The Great Ocean Road is a lovely fishing village located at the foothills of the Otway Mountain Range. We chose to eat on the Main Street across from the beach and sampled some fried local seafood. We then drove the scenic rugged coast line to The Kennett River where we did a koala walk and managed to see a few sleeping in the crooks of the tree tops. Koala’s can only live in one place in the world which is Australia. They eat about 2.5 pounds of eucalyptus leaves per day. Hopping from tree to tree to feed. Interesting to note, eucalyptus leaves are poisonous to most animals. Koalas smell like eucalyptus. They are not actual bears but are marsupials and carry their young in a rear facing pouch. The baby called a joey develops in the pouch for six months. Koala is the aboriginal name meaning “no drink”. Koalas get almost all of their liquid needs from the eucalyptus leaf and rarely drink water. They have little energy and sleep 18 hours per day. Although very cute they are known to be very aggressive and have been reported to go after dogs and even humans. Good thing that they sleep so much. No cuddling koalas for us.
We venture further down the Gray River road to feed the birds. Tobey provided those who wished with bird feed for The Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella and white Cockatoos. As you can see some of us were more anxious than others to feed the birds. Jim tried feeding a Cockatoo and it took a chunk out of his finger which took weeks to heal.
Tobey then drove us to Lorne to see the Erskine Falls. We walked down about 150 relatively steep stairs to access the viewpoints of the falls. One of The Austrian ladies, Kirsten helped Sandy traverse the boulders across the stream. They held hands and carefully picked the rocks to step on to get across the brook. For Sandy this was a magical moment of connecting with a perfect stranger for accomplishing a simple goal. This is the epitome of what we love so much about travel. The connecting with other human beings from around the world even ever so briefly.
Our last stop of the day was to see kangaroos who roam around the Angle Sea Golf Club. They are quite skittish when humans approach so we got to see them jumping.
At the end of the day we concluded that it was the best decision to take this tour rather than do it on our own. We met some really cool people who, like us, love to explore the world.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls”