Carolina: Cruising Past 70: The Great Ocean Road in Reverse: Our 3rd Day Trip from Melbourne

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Great Ocean Road in Reverse: Our 3rd Day Trip from Melbourne

The Twelve Apostles, Gret Ocean Road
To avoid the crowds, Bill chose the reverse Great Ocean Road Trip. We started with, where the other tours end, the Twelve Apostles. And that decision made our trip a blockbuster. The comfort break and tea and biscuits at the little town of Colac, 45 minutes to go, an hour from Melbourne, was a great way to break the ice with the group of 18, mostly millennials save for another couple from Norway.

Gibson Steps
12 Apostles and the Gibson Steps

Our first stop was the Gibson Steps, 86 of them, hacked by hand and etched into the cliffs by 19th-century landowner Hugh Gibson. More recently replaced by concrete steps, they led us down to the tumultuous Gibson Beach. A young couple in our group was engulfed by surprising high tides and got awfully wet. The steps were designed to give a taste of what is yet to come and we couldn’t wait!

The most endearing sight for visitors to the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles. Jutting out from the ocean in stunning limestone formations that erode easily, these rocky stacks were seemingly left in the ocean by the retreating land. Today only seven 'apostles' can be seen from a network of viewing platforms made from timber boardwalks that wrap around the cliff tops. Actually, there were never twelve, just eight. A few years ago, one crumbled.
Visitor Center

A tunnel beneath the Great Ocean Road provides access to the viewing platforms from the car park. It leads to the Twelve Apostles Visitor Centre. It was just a kiosk but it was memorable. That was where I found a fashionable red beanie that later lent more color to all my photos afterward.  But I stop here. For this is where we had picnic box lunches from a choice of chicken, egg, and ham salad sandwiches.

Loch Ard Gorge and the Shipwreck Coast

Close to the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge is the location of the Shipwreck Coast’s most
Loch Ard Gorge
a haunting tale of two young survivors. The Coast is where hundreds of shipwrecks have happened. But one special one, the wrecked iron clipper Loch Ard, wove the dramatic story of a 19-year girl saved by a 15-year old boy, the lone survivors. The girl, however, rejected the boy’s fervent plea for a life together.

There are several walks in the area, one leading to a view of the big rock that stopped the clipper in its tracks. Another takes you down to the cave where they took shelter. Still, another leads to the cemetery where most of the recovered bodies were laid to rest. It is a beautiful gorge. My camera could not stop clicking to take in every nook and cranny. Neither could I stop from posing amid amazing backdrops.

vegetation at Great Otway National Park
Great Otway National Park, Plants, and Wildlife

The Great Otway National Park is more than two hundred fifty thousand acres of a rainforest t that contains a diverse range of landscapes and vegetation types within the Otway Ranges. It stretches from the start of the Great Ocean Road in Torquay to Princetown and up towards Colac, featuring both rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, and rock platforms and tall rainforests, fern gullies, stunning waterfalls and placid lakes.

The rainforest is home to the second tallest tree in the world, a species of the eucalyptus, and to many kinds of fungi. Down by Kennett River, we saw a lot of koalas perched on trees,
wildlife at Great Otway National Park
either sleeping the day away or munching on leaves. At the small café, we even chanced upon kookaburras that calmly let us take their pictures. Over near the small cricket grounds, a court of kangaroos was playing. Our bus driver Bryson was very good in hunting all these animals in the wild for us to see!

Memorial Arch and Highest Point

The Great Ocean Road is listed in the Australian National Heritage as a 243 km stretch of road between the Victorian cities of Torquay and Allansford on the southeastern Australian coast. There is a Memorial Arch at its eastern beginning dedicated to the 3,000 soldiers who returned from wars between 1919 and 1932 and built it for their fallen comrades, making it the world's largest war memorial. We also stopped at the highest point, about five hundred meters up, to admire the views.

The Great Ocean Road, highest point, and Memorial Arch
By the time of WWI, this coast of Victoria was accessible only by sea or rough bush track. The road was conceived to connect isolated settlements on the coast as a vital transport link for the timber industry. Winding through varying terrains, it provides access to prominent landmarks, promoting tourism. The road hugs much of the coastline known as the Surf Coast between Torquay,  Cape Otway and the Shipwreck Coast, traveling via Anglesea, Lorne, Apollo Bay, and Port Campbell.

Just before boarding for home, the group of 18 downed about twenty pizzas, including the Aussie Special, and had a happy group selfie for completing its conquest of the Great Ocean Road that day!

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