At least that’s what I thought I was going to get along the Great Ocean Road, in Victoria, Australia. We got all of those but we also got wind, chill, pelting rain, and lots of (other) tourists!
The Great Ocean Road is one of the Melbourne’s favourite weekend getaways. Every Friday the road is full of city-to-country wannabes. So most people travel east to west, out of the city. Also, since you drive on the left in Australia, the south side of the road is closer to the water and all the lookout points. Travelling the other way you practically have to take you life in your hands to stop and take a look.
But stop and take a look is what we did. A lot! I loved it! I lived by the sea until I was nine and ocean salt runs deep within my veins. Give me “flung spray and blown spume” (to quote John Mansfield) and I am one happy camper.
Even before we reached the ocean, we saw the Blue Lake in Mt. Gambier. I couldn’t believe the colour! Such a rich cobalt blue! Apparently it turns this amazing blue colour each November and then by autumn, starts turning back to its winter grey. According to Google, this is something to do with the calcium particulates in the water precipitating out during warmer weather, but why other limestone based lakes, even ones in the same neighbourhood don’t do it… no one seems to know for sure.
This colour change seems to affect the ocean waters too. These limestone heavy waters are perfectly grey when the sky is overcast but let the sun break through and suddenly you have brilliant colours. I couldn’t believe how dramatically the colour changed during our walk along Apollo Bay. It was like a different ocean!
But I am ahead of myself. Our first real exposure to the Great Ocean Road was the Bay of Islands. Here a stiff wind was blowing, sending a nice roll of waves into the sea sculpted islands. I love watching a wave form, starting from the darker blue appearing on the sea’s surface, to the rising of the swell that gathers sun scattered reflections, to the clear glass-like pinnacle, to the curve of the crest with foam edging the top. Then that exciting moment when the wind catches the top of the foam, spraying it backwards like the mane of a wild horse whose hooves are churning the leaping sea beneath it. Oh. My.
We stopped at London Bridge, thus named because, with its flat top and series of arches, it did indeed look like London Bridge. Unfortunately, like its famous namesake, it too has fallen down. At least the first arch joining the second arch to the mainland fell in. It did this in <<1990>>. Luckily, no one was hurt but two people were marooned on the ocean side and had to be helicoptered out hours later. Can you imagine being those people when the bridge fell? What a helpless feeling!
By our stop at the Arch and Thunder Cave, the heavens had opened. Only G and I were brave (or foolish) enough to hike along the water soaked trail. At the end was a beautiful natural arch and twin ravines.
The weather was at its worst at the Twelve Apostles. There are only eight of the original 12 pinnacles left, with only a bit of rubble indicating where the others stood. Thus is the power of the constant pounding of this ocean against the limestone cliffs. It is an ever changing landscape.
As dramatic as the Twelve Apostles site is, I don’t know if it was worth the tourist hoopla around it! There were buses and people from all over the world. The tour guides must have handed out plastic ponchos because we were constantly dodging shrink wrapped tourists, their plastic wings flapping in the wind.
We decided to spend a day in Apollo Bay. It was so nice to take a vacation from our vacation! The weather had improved although the wind was still chilly. One thing Jim and I did was find a rocky shore and just sit and watch the waves. It was lovely! Except it was hard to find a sheltered spot, and after a while of enduring the breeze off the ocean I was ready to rename the Southern Ocean back to the Antarctic!
When we left Apollo Bay, we had a wonderful time wandering the curvy roads and marvelling at vista after vista. I loved it… but I’m glad I wasn’t driving!