Monthly Archives: October 2018
We have now reached Port Campbell, about 90 km further west along the GOR. This little town is in the heart of the Ship Wreck Coast and the base from which we are to explore the Twelve Apostles and the other rock formations spread east and west of the town. The weather has turned decidedly chillier since we have left Lorne, but the sun is out more. The cloud seems to disperse around 11 am with the sun and blue sky emerging. There tends to be a bit of mist and low cloud out to sea, which is very calm. The road down from Apollo Bay turns inland and passes through the Otways, before turning back towards the coast. Not much of the coastline is seen until about 15 km from Port Campbell. The Twelve Apostle visitor centre is on the inland side of the road, it’s really just a big car park, a toilet block and a small café. The helicopter flights set off from here as well.
You walk under the road and then out to the cliff tops for the iconic views to the west of the Twelve Apostles. Twelve stretches the story as there are only seven, there used to be eight, the last to collapse was in 2005. And before that no doubt others. The remaining ones will collapse some time too. The cliff line continues to erode so maybe some more well be created in the future. I hope so because our latest PM is promising to spend $150m on tourist improvements for the area, to ‘enhance the visitor experience’. Looking the other way to the east one looks down on Gog and Magog. Great scenes.
We set up at the Port Campbell Holiday Park, up against a levee holding back the waters of a small creek that flows behind us into the sea in a corner of the beach, a few hundred metres away. Very pleasant spot here sitting on top of the levee eating some cheese, as the sun slips away into the evening, pondering what the next day will bring.
Here we go. We are heading off into the Otways for some adventure. We are gong on a search for the elusive platypus in the depths, or more correctly on the edges, of Lake Elizabeth. Lake Elizabeth is near Forrest, a small town inland from Apollo Bay. It was formed sometime back in the 1950s (I think) when a landslip dammed a small river flowing down to the sea. It is perched quite high up in the Otways, dead trees rise from its depths slowly rotting away. Only small, about a kilometre long and a couple hundred metres wide at most. Our canoe trip was to start at 6pm, meeting at the Forrest craft brewery. What an interesting place to start from! Allthego will pick up the story from there a bit later. A bit to see along the way before then.
Late the previous day we were driving along a back road in the valley behind Apollo Bay and spotted a koala battling along beside the road in the ditch, seemingly trying to climb up the bank. Homealone thought he (is this gender bias?) was lost, poor little fellow. Anyway, Allthego stopped the truck and took a few snaps, the little fellow scuttled up a tree and looked down pensively on the threat below. Homealone thought he was scared. After a little while we moved on back to camp.
On the way to Forrest we called in at the California Redwoods grove, experimentally planted in 1936. Quite a sight, planted a bit over 80 years ago and with a long way yet to reach their max height. It was cloudy and a bit drizzly here, sombre among the trees. A bit further along Hopetoun Falls were working strongly, another one of those short walks to the bottom, but with about 200 steps to come back up. Triplet Falls promised much of the same and we only went about half way before turning back. But it was on this walk that we sighted the shy Otway Black Carnivorous Snail. Homealone spotted it lurking just beside the trail. This slow-moving beast is not a threat to humans but is to small insects, other slow goers and also other snails. Fascinating little fellow.
It was now getting on time wise and we had decided to have dinner at the Forrest craft brewery before going off looking for platypus. Wildlife Warriors need to be fed. Great little establishment this. Allthego had a plate full of lamb ribs, covered in a sticky sauce with dukkha liberally sprinkled over it. Really tasty, Homealone had some smoked salmon and accompaniments on toasted sour dough.
Following dinner we met up with our guide and set off to Lake Elizabeth, about a 20 min drive, followed by a 1 km walk along a reasonably good up and down bush track to the shores of the lake. There were 5 of us plus the guide. 3 in each canoe, which were strapped together so the guide could paddle both at once. Allthego and Homealone got into the canoe with no great trouble, getting out might be different matter but that was to be in about an hour and half after the sun had gone down, around 8.30pm. Lake Elizabeth reminded Allthego of Lake Placid. The movie in which Betty White had nurtured a giant crocodile and to which she had fed her husband. Not a great movie.
We paddled around on this Lake, up and down, side to side for an hour and half, searching out the elusive platypus along the shoreline. As the evening wore on and the sun set a feeling of despondency was setting in as no sightings had been made. Our guide gave a little running commentary on the platypus and where we might see it. He told us there were about 8 platypus in this expanse of water. Feelings of despondency did not diminish at this disclosure! Then out of the blue 50 or 60 metres ahead of us one appeared gliding across the lake headed for the other side. A slim line in the water. We followed it hoping for a closer look. But these little fellows are tricky and we saw no more of it. There were a couple of other sightings of these streaks on the water, which added some excitement and expectation. But no, that was as close as we got!
We returned to the landing and quickly alighted from the canoe, Homealone and Allthego got out very efficiently. The walk back was at a cracking pace in the engulfing gloom. Our way was partly lit by glow worms in the banks beside the track. Our guide gave up his phone to Homealone, it’s torch guiding us along the trail.
We arrived back at the car and headed for Apollo Bay. In retrospect the Wildlife Warriors perhaps should have thought harder about the chances of sighting the timid, shy and elusive platypus in Lake Elizabeth. But it was good fun and the craft beer and food at the Forrest Brewery topped it off.
We have had an easy day in Apollo Bay just wandering and catching the humans on display in town. The town seems to be a stopping off point for our inscrutable neighbours to the near north on the day dash from Melbourne along the GOR to the Twelve Apostles. Numerous white 12 seater type vans pull up in town, the visitors spill out and make a dash for the fish ‘n chip/noddle shops to devour the no doubt pre arranged delicacies from the sea. They then spread out along the foreshore taking selfies before piling back into the vans and heading for the Twelve Apostles. There a number of buses as well plying this route.
We headed off to the wharf to test the local fish ‘n chips, considerably cheaper than along the main drag. It almost felt like the Gold or Sunshine Coast back in Queensland……..Bundaberg ginger beer with the Fish ‘n chips looking out over the sea and fishing fleet in port. Not bad at all, a nice crisp batter, best so far on this trip.
Back in the main street there was some commotion with people milling around a tree. Driving past we noted all the ohs and ahs and picture taking. It was a koala sitting on a branch quite low down. Must have stopped here on its way through town. Allthego couldn’t resist going back later to take a photo. There were actually 3 koalas in residence entertaining the crowd, including a baby one. They were quite active, climbing around, grunting and eating leaves. Homealone sat down next to one outside a shop, it didn’t say much.
Last thing for the day was to go to Marriner’s Lookout. A bit of a strenuous walk up to the top of the hill from the car park. Great view over looking Apollo Bay and around to Marengo, at top centre right in the photo below.
We will next be heading inland into the Otways and going on a search for wildlife.
We have had a wander west from Apollo Bay to Cape Otway. The Cape is famous for the location of Australia’s oldest standing lighthouse, built in 1848. It marks the entrance to Bass Strait. Across the water about 90 km (not sure but it’s a close estimate) is King Island. A light house was built there on Cape Wickham some 12 years or so later, marking the southern point of entrance to Bass Strait. So ships had to stay south of Cape Otway and north of Cape Wickham. Many times they didn’t and continued to run aground on the coastlines in this region. We have well and truly left the Surf Coast and our journey continues along the Ship Wreck Coast.
The tree lined winding road took us through the National Park and then some grazing land before reaching the lighthouse. On the way we passed numerous manna gum trees that have died back due to attack by the dreaded Koala. Apparently, around 2015-17 Koala numbers expanded considerably and ate out the foliage. There were more than 4000 Koalas in the region, 14 times the sustainable population. Many died of starvation, wildlife officers moved Koalas to other places and contraceptive devices were even fitted to females to control the population. 100,000 trees have also been planted to help vegetate the area. Major problem it seems, whether or not it is solved remains to be seen I suppose. Wonder what would have happened if nature was left to its course here?
We continue to be blessed with reasonable weather, a bit cloudy but the sun comes out at the right moments to highlight the scenery along the shoreline and in the forests. On the way back from Cape Otway we stopped at Maits Rest for a walk through the old rainforest, great tall beech trees and tree ferns abound along this short walk.
Going to have a little quiet time tomorrow in the Apollo Bay village to recover from the Cape Otway excursion and associated walks, maybe test out the fish ‘n chips at the wharf!
We are now in Apollo Bay after coming west from Lorne and stopping in at Kennett River. Why stop at Kennett River? To see the Koalas of course as well as a few birds. One also see tourists, particularly a lot from the near north. They love Koalas. Kafe Koala at Kennett River could do well to set up a ‘Big Koala’ beside the road to help trade.
There is a gravel road and a strip of trees near the Kafe that are the happy hunting ground for Koalas and of course those who want to see koalas in the ‘wild’. Apart from seeing some on Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay we have not seen them in the wild. So it was an experience to see them high in the trees here at Kennett River.
The road west to Apollo Bay follows the same formula, some pretty spectacular coast line. The sea continues to be quite calm and the weather fine. It would be good to see this in wild weather, quite a contrast I’m sure.
We have booked into the Marengo Caravan Park about 3 km west of Apollo Bay, the Park overlooks the beach and has some great views of the surf. ‘Marengo’ is a ‘left over’ from the French naming places along Australia’s southern coastline (and Tasmania). Marengo was an Italian town where Napoleon defeated Austrian forces in June 1800 and drove them out of Italy. The French explorer Nicolas Baudin, who explored the Australian southern coastline at the same time as Flinders, appears to have named the area ‘Marengo’, after the famous battle.
We are here for 3 nights, Cape Otway being our major interest in these parts. Apart from fish ‘n chips at the local Fisherman’s Co-op.
It was a nice sunny day as Allthego took off on a 4 km walk from the Lorne Pier out of town beside the GOR before starting a trek uphill beside the road, along an old tram line pathway. The tram line had been built before the days of the GOR and was used to transport logs from the Otways down to the pier at Lorne to be loaded onto boats. It was a wooden rail tram way, horses pulled the bogies up the line and the men held on going downhill with heavy application of the brakes. It must have been a physically demanding job, let alone the building of the tram line in the first place.
The walk took me up over the hill and then down to the St George River, the logging operations brought the logs down the river valley to be loaded onto the tramway near the little river’s mouth. The tram way was eventually superseded by the GOR and much of it was dismantled and obliterated by the construction of the road. It was a good walk down to the river with great views of the road winding along the coastline. The walk continued up the river valley before turning up hill and leading to Teddy’s Lookout on top of the hill looking back down the GOR again. Pretty steep and had Allthego stopping frequently to catch breath.
Homealone arrived in the truck and we headed back to town for lunch. The Salty Dog had been recommended to us as an excellent Fish ‘n Chips place, in Lorne it seems ‘Fish & Chippery’ is more the go style wise. It was not bad, but not the best we have enjoyed. Seemed a bit heavy, then maybe that was because of the quantity.
During the afternoon we had a little wander around the town, particularly down at the mouth of the Erskine River with the restored Swing bridge across the mouth. Allthego tried for some fish in the river, but not even a bite from a tiddler.
Last night we took in the movies at the old Lorne Picture Theatre, the new release of A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. A bit more upbeat and louder than the one we remember with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, also different songs. General theme still the same. Interesting in the old theatre, everyone sat in the dress circle looking down into the empty stalls below then across a stage floor to the big screen on the far front wall. Totally different experience to today’s mini cinemas with surround sound.
We head off now for the Apollo Bay township about 50 km further west along the road.
The GOR starts officially a few km west of Anglesea when you go under the Memorial Arch, which we dutifully did and had the event recorded for posterity. I will leave it to my dear readers to work out how this was achieved. Maybe Allthego has acquired a drone, who knows or can guess?
Lorne has been likened to ‘a little Melbourne’. The waterfront street is lined with eating establishments, numerous fashion outlets and the usual collection of seaside things. Much of ‘old Lorne’ built after the GOR was constructed has gone. It used to be a seaside getaway for the well to do. Still is. The buildings are just more 1980/90s than 1920/30s. There is one remaining old guest house on the way into town with the 2 surf life saver ladies welcoming arrivals.
We have settled into the campground that runs alongside the Erskine River just on the outskirts of town and nicely positioned opposite a big Foodworks Supermarket. Luckily we can’t see it, just the pleasant little river and its entourage of ducks. It’s a short walk up into the town and it’s attractions.
Our first day here was a little overcast so we headed up into the Otway Ranges to see the Erskine waterfall, a 30m effort over the cliff to the rock pool below. With all the recent rain there was a good cascade of water coming down. Allthego headed off down to the bottom of the falls to see how many steps there were. Coming back up he counted 233. Homealone had stayed at the top and did not accompany him on this effort.
She was saving herself for the next short walk at the Cumberland River, a few km west of Lorne just off the GOR. This little walk of 3 km return was to a place called Jeb’s Pool, which sounded rather nice. It was a flat track beside the river, which quickly narrowed to a creek, through a high walled gorge. Quite a torrent would come down here in a flood. The way to Jeb’s Pool though seemed to require us to cross over the creek on some stepping stones and rocks. Once a upon a time this would have been easy work for us two, but it now required careful consideration. Allthego had not brought his hiking stick, so balance was an issue in making the crossing. Homealone quickly declined the crossing, Althego said he would have a go and took the initiative. A short video follows of the crossing. The video ends abruptly when Homealone dashed to assist Allthego’s return to the bank.
We returned back to the campground a bit bone weary with the promise of a fine sunny day to come.
We have had some busy days here in Anglesea and a little further west at Airey’s Inlet. Anglesea is an interesting little town that was heavily impacted by the Ash Wednesday fires back in 1983. There is a fair bit of peat bog behind the town and this caught fire and being difficult to put out burnt for some time afterwards. To deal with the smouldering bog the area was flooded and remains so today. It has been turned into parklands with bridges criss crossing the flooded bog. The bog has apparently had another effect in killing off the fish population of the estuary due to sulphur escaping from the peat creating acidic contamination. The mouth of the estuary has been closed for some time, so it is a closed system. Result, no fish despite the brochures etc claiming it’s a haven for fishermen. This caused Allthego to put his lines away for another time and head for Aireys Inlet.
Aireys Inlet is the location of the Split Point Lighthouse built in 1891 and still operating today. Allthego walked along a well walked cliff top track from Sunnymeade beach for 3.5 km to the lighthouse, some great views of the coastline and the lighthouse. There were a few wildflowers out in the lighthouse area and some interesting ornamentals in nearby resident’s gardens.
The other attraction at Aireys is the Rogue Wave Brewing Company. This is housed in the old Aireys Hotel on the GOR. We had lunch here on the way back to Anglesea. Homealone enjoyed a smoked beef satay. Allthego a double beef and bacon burger washed down with a paddle of the craft beers. Both of us left very satisfied and requiring only a cup of soup and some cheese for dinner later that night.
After 4 nights in Anglesea we headed off the next day to Lorne, a bit less than 30 km further west.
Between Torquay and Anglesea is Bells Beach, one of Australia’s iconic and world class surfing locations. The big touristy thing to do is to go to Bells Beach and stand around in the car parks and on the elevated platforms overlooking the beach taking pictures, or staring out to see looking at the board riders and appearing to know something about surfing.
You only venture in the water here if you know what you are doing or think you do! We went a couple of times to check the place out. Both days were sunny but the sea was very flat with only a small swell, lots of people in the water though trying to catch a wave. There were some stand-up paddle boarders in action too. The water depth drops off steeply from the beach and it is interesting to see the waves run up the beach and then surge back down, quite a rip effect at the edge. Not for beginners here!
A more sedate place is inland from Bells, the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie is a must visit place. Even if you don’t buy any chocolates just wandering around in the place makes your mouth water. An enormous range of chocolates beckons in a beautiful garden setting beside the GOR.
There is also some great ice cream. Allthego had a small tub of vanilla and honeycomb and Homealone her favourite rum n raisins. Some delicate cakes and treats were also on offer but were resisted strongly. We could though not resist a selection of truffles and a ‘couple’ of chocolate bars in fancy GOR packaging to take with us on the road ahead. I suspect most of these will be gone well before we get back home. They will go well with some Baileys port! This is the sought of place one could go back to!
We have headed back to Torquay to check out the action in the surf capital. The weather was kind to us and we got in some good stop offs at Point Addis and Bells Beach to see the rugged coastline. The surf was relatively flat with seemingly long waits between wave sets for the board riders. Some of the boys and girls on the boards appear to be veterans of the coast, maybe just nomads in vans reliving the good old days.
Torquay is a fairly commercial place exploiting its surfing history to the fullest. We had a wander around ‘Surf City Plaza’ full of surf wear shops and various hangers on to the industry. The huge Rip Curl shop was a standout, full of all sorts of gear for the enthusiast and wannabes.
Enjoyed some fish ‘n chips and calamari for lunch at Growlers overlooking the beach. After lunch we spent some time in the Australian National Surfing Museum. It is full of stories and surfing memorabilia going back to the early 1900s, surf boards, wet suits, VW Combis etc. Also some great video of surfers riding the ‘killer waves’ off Hawaii and other parts of the world. Plenty of interactive stuff to amuse those of all ages. Later we managed to talk a chap into taking a couple of pictures of us surfing off of Bells Beach, close inspection will show Allthego wearing thongs to ensure a firm grip on the board.
Got back to the camp ground for a late afternoon tea and a reminisce about the waves we missed getting on to at Bells.