The Great Ocean Road: classic road trip destination, bucket list item, and Australia’s answer to America’s Pacific Coast Highway.
After a simply delightful week in Melbourne of good food, good company and, of course, car purchasing, we set off on our second road trip of this year. I can safely say, there is no better feeling than hitting the open road, with no specific destination in mind. We stopped at a Kmart and dropped $175 on a full camp set up – tent, chairs, utensils, the lot – and were on our way (after a very impromptu stop at Werribee Zoo, randomly).
The road itself is as stunning as anticipated; a winding shelf of craggy rock hugging the coastline, interjected with smooth, deserted beaches here and there. I know it makes no sense, but I feel as though I’ve never seen as vast an ocean – it just stretches on for ever.
Driving through the Great Otway National Park, it’s no exaggeration to estimate that there’s a scenic turnout or lookout point at least every 5 kilometres. We pulled over and walked up to Point Addis first, to gaze over the rocky red coastline and clear, turquoise waters to the east – our first real glimpse of Australia’s famous shores.
We are going to enjoy driving around this country.
So, right now I feel like I should tell you a little more about the new addition to our travelling circus.
Meet The Griffin.
A cherry-red, 1994 Ford Falcon wagon. What a beauty.
So what, the radio doesn’t work – the Boy and I will just have to make conversation. So what, she’s a little rusty around the edges, and you have to give her a gentle punch on the dash or she won’t start, and even when she does start she chugs a little… We love her all the same. I love each and every one of her roll-down windows. She is perfect.
(She also cost $1100, approx. £500, so even if she runs for just a month or two… We’ve got our moneys worth.)
In all seriousness, we wanted something we could use for camping – for this purpose, the wagon couldn’t be more perfect. She is HUGE – we actually have a full size double mattress in the back.
Nope, I wasn’t kidding.
Great Otway National Park gives way to Port Campbell National Park – just a sliver of protected land which runs along the coast. Home to the famous 12 Apostles, Port Campbell is literally riddled with incredible viewpoints, mini-hikes and beaches – we’ve been stopping every five minutes to marvel at something new.
The Apostles themselves are truly magnificent; colossal golden sentinels jutting out of the ocean, each its own historic tale of mass erosion. We checked out Thunder Cave (need I elaborate on its namesake?) and wandered down the the Sherbrook River, which outlets onto a calm and beautiful beach, littered with cuttlefish bones and seaweed. There wasn’t another soul to be seen; this is the shit that I was hoping for in coming to Australia.
The landscape and scenery here is ever-changing, yet strangely familiar all the same. On one side, you have the jagged sunshine coastline of California; on the other, the luscious green hills of England’s Peak District, just on a much larger scale. You can find yourself staring over the edge of a mini version of Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, only in yellows and oranges instead of the deep brown, or whacking your way through the heavy forest, reminiscent of humid hikes in Vietnam.
It always makes me laugh how we travel to see new things, yet when we do we compare them to past experiences anyway. So far, Australia has been the most bizarre amalgamation of Canada, the States and the UK, all rolled into one – yet, so completely Australian at the same time. All that said, it has also shown us a fair few firsts: we saw our first kangaroo yesterday, at Sheoak Falls. An impromptu turn off in the road, followed by a (very unprepared) kilometre and a half hike, brought us face to face, literally, with a 7 foot kangaroo and her cosy joey.
I know that they’re so common over here, I do. But, whoever and wherever you are, to finally see a brand new creature, in the flesh and for the first time ever, is absolutely exhilarating. This you cannot deny.
She was beautiful; to me, kangaroos almost seem mythical – I’ve never even seen one in a zoo. She contemplated us from about 10 feet away, surveying us calmly as she continued to chew her breakfast – we were on her turf, after all. It actually felt really strange – there was a peculiarly human-esque feel about her, about the whole encounter. Eventually, she’d had her fill of posing for photos; she bounded gracefully onto our path, gave us a last, disdainful look as if to say, “Enjoy the rest of your day, bloody tourists”, and disappeared into the bush.
Australians reading this will be laughing, possibly even shaking their heads, sniggering at the naive British girl and Canadian boy so star-struck by such a commonplace animal – that’s fine. For us, it was an amazing few moments – a little magical, even. If we could all find a little more wonder in the day to day things, we would probably all be a bit happier. 🙂