Category Archives: Great Ocean Road 2018
The long and winding road……………..
We are home in Brisbane. Homealone can now do all the washing.
The last stretch of the Newell Hwy has taken us up through Dubbo and Moree to Goondiwindi. From there it was along the Cunningham Hwy through Warwick to Brisbane. After leaving Hay and the Silo Art Trail we ran into another painted Silo at a small town called Weethalle. The last train came through Weethalle in 1999. There is not a lot at Weethalle. We had a chat with a lady in the craft shop in the old railway station next to the Silo. Her family are barley farmers, not too impressed with the drought. Crop was only 1000 tonnes this year, 10% of what a ‘good’ year was. A slight saviour was the price they got, about 3-4 times a ‘good’ year’s price, because of the short supply. Very chatty about life in Weethalle, where she had lived most of her life.
Moving along we stopped for the night beside a small river at Terramungamine Reserve a free camp about 10 km outside of Dubbo, down a side road on the north side of the city. Excellent spot here. Some of the company though was a little marginal, not offensive in a violent way. Quite friendly really, just a little light on vocabulary. Particularly adjectives. Not loud, just persistent. The dad’s shorts seem to have lost their waist band elastic. Homealone wasn’t keen on a picture for the blog. Family of 6 fitting the bill for the ‘ugly Australian’ award. The other attraction here were the prolific grinding marks in rocks above the river bank made by aboriginal people. No one is certain of their age, could be about 5000 years old and maybe be up to 25,000.
Further along we spent the night in the Showground camping spot in Narrabri. Another good stopover point, plenty of room. These free camp places make for a quick getaway in the mornings as you can stay hitched up, really just got to lock the door of the van and jump in the truck. We spent our last night on the road at Inglewood about 240 k west of Brisbane. This was where the trip all began just on 6 weeks ago. The only thing different was the grass had been cut and storm clouds were gathering as the sun went down.
The van has been parked, unpacked and it is now tempting to get the maps out and do a little forward planning…………..
The Silo Art Trail
Leaving the Victorian coast we are heading home to Brisbane through the Wimmera Mallee district of western Victoria. Our trail takes us from Nelson north-east to Horsham and then to the small town of Rupanyup. Rupanyup is the starting point of the Silo Art Trail, which heads basically north for 200 km to Patchewollock. Along the way we passed through a number of small towns in the grain belt of Victoria. The fields of wheat and barley just stretch as far as the eye can see. The radio told us that it is not a great season for the farmers, greatly diminished crop sizes.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s these towns were thriving centres of agriculture and each town had its own silo storage facilities linked by railway lines to the coast for export and domestic processing. A number of these facilities in recent years have been decommissioned and lie idle. So an enterprising group set about having artists paint them, as well as some operating silos, with images representative of the districts. In the main these works are of people who have lived and worked in the areas over many years. They are really good! The stories behind the works are very interesting and can be found at http://www.siloarttrail.com on the internet. This painting of silos is a bit of a trend as there are a good number of others scattered around the country where the same thing has been done.
I am just putting the photos in the blog! The names below each are the small towns where they can be found.
We have now reached Hay and are in a free camp at Sandy Point beside the Murrumbidgee River just on the outskirts of town for the night, it is good spot to stay.
We will continue the journey home in the morning.
Nelson is our last stop in our journey across the Victorian southern coastline. We are only a few kilometres from the SA border set up in a van park, overlooking the estuary of the Glenelg River. Very small camp ground, only about 20 sites but they are well positioned to catch the westerly winds whipping along the coast! Nelson is only a small town with a petrol station, kiosk, boat shed, information centre and of course the old hotel from the 1800s.
We suspect the population of a few hundred is mixed up in the timber industry or is retired. Not much else to do here, except go fishing. Which Allthego did, not even a little bite in the promising river. Wildflowers were much easier to catch but hard to identify without the necessary book to guide one.
The main attraction here is the Glenelg River and the National Park that lines either side of its banks. The river cuts through a limestone watercourse, with dramatic cliffs lining its banks. Also along the banks are numerous shacks with their associated boat house, generally underneath the shack. These appear to be weekend retreats for those who like to hang out by the river. Fairly basic and subject to inundation during flood times but probably great fun. We hired a small boat and went for a cruise up the river for several kilometres, an hour and half up and the same back. It was mostly cloudy but we did get some sun to illuminate the limestone walls of the river banks. Homealone took the wheel for a while to allow Allthego to take the odd photo or two of the passing scenery.
Also visited the Princess Margaret Rose Cave in the Park. This is a limestone cave discovered in the 1930s but only named after Princess Margaret in the 1960s, she never came here. The cave is a little unusual in that it is actually an eroded fault in the limestone host rock, quite narrow but is home to numerous cave features of stalagmites, stalactites and pillars etc. Quite impressive, as were the 68 steps we had to descend to enter the cave and later ascend to return to the surface. It seems that we were about 25-30 metres below the surface. Tree roots had also penetrated down into the cave. The roots of one tree have been traced to the actual tree above ground by inserting dye into the root and then testing trees above ground for the dye. It has a ribbon tied around it and is well visited.
After our 3 nights here in Nelson we are now turning for home and will work our way up through western Victoria and into central NSW.
Portland claims it’s place as the birth place of Victoria with some pride. There are signs everywhere about it. The town was founded by whalers a year or so before Melbourne. The whalers had been coming across from the now Tasmania hunting seals and later whales. Today the town scape is dominated by its working harbour. The Portland Aluminium Smelter requires imports of its raw materials into the manufacturing complex and then exports the completed Aluminium ingots. It is a big operation, as is the pine log and wood chip export terminal. Allthego has never seen so many pine logs lined up for loading into ships and wood chips being stored beside the wharf. The big trucks bring these to the port. The trucks are then raised on ramps to almost 60 dg and the chips slide out the back onto the stockpile. This goes on all day, there seem to be 3 ramps operating at once. One wonders where all the timber comes from and when it will run out. The answer to that question came to us a few days later when we saw the vast pine plantations on the way further west to Nelson. There is plenty of wood out there! Added to this activity is the recent development of the town as a cruise port terminal. The town has about 12,000 residents and when a boat comes in with its 2,000 or so tourists a fair bit of activity is generated.
The town’s touristy highlight is the Portland Tram which rumbles along the waterfront 5 times a day, operating like a ‘hop on hop off’ bus. We enjoyed our ride around the town seeing the highlights. The Botanical Gardens were a particularly impressive stop with the rose displays and old restored gardener’s cottage.
One of the area’s Lighthouses is on ‘Whaler’s Bluff’ directly behind us in the caravan park, the other is at Cape Nelson ,a few kilometres away. Both still operate.
We were lucky to be able to go out to the Gannet colony, on a point near the Aluminium smelter complex, and get inside the protective fence with our guide. This is the only mainland colony of these birds in Australia, the guide estimated there would be about a thousand birds here. There is an island out from this point that is swarming with the birds. They are so overcrowded there that a number ‘migrated’ to the mainland to start the new colony. They are quite big birds and have a wing span of about 175 cm. Amazing sight.
Still further out of town is Cape Bridgewater, claimed to have one of the best beaches in Australia. The arc of white sand stretches for miles and is in fact the rim of an ancient volcano’s caldera. We had lunch here overlooking the bay. Dominating the farm land along the coastline is a large wind farm. These wind turbines certainly look big out in the paddocks, but when you see the individual blades close up their size is appreciated. At 82 m long and weighing 40 tonnes they make an impressive sight on the back of the truck coming towards you.
We have had a few days here in Portland and it is now time to move on to Nelson, 70 km west and almost in South Australia.
We have now moved a little further west from Warrnambool to Port Fairy. Our travel plans had not involved stopping here but such was the exhausting 30 km drive down from Warrnambool that we felt we had to stop under the gigantic Norfolk Pines beside the Moyne River for a couple of nights. Port Fairy is a very pleasant town, retaining a village atmosphere and streetscapes from the 1800s. The fishing boat port is picturesque with the buildings along it residential rather than representative of an 1800s commercial port. It’s also very chilly here and the weather has turned a bit on us. Rain at night and cloudy, windy mornings. Generally though the sun has come out as the afternoon progresses.
Griffiths Island masks the entrance to the Moyne River and is a haven for the Mutton Bird, the island is covered by nesting Mutton Birds, Shearwaters to the purist. It is a real maze of places where one can not walk because of these birds and their nesting habits in burrows beneath the vegetation! A walking track does go around the island and reveals some beautiful coastal scenery. The Port Fairy Lighthouse is a highlight of a visit to this town, standing near the entrance to the river.
Numerous 1800s buildings remain. Unlike Warrnambool, the whole town has that ‘sea change’ appearance. The new seeming to seep into the old rather than having to overcome the resistance of the past. A recent tele movie “The Broken Shore ‘ was made around Port Fairy and it is described as a ‘atmospheric, character driven piece, quite dark and mysterious’. A crime plot but mixed with near town rivalries and ‘fractured lives coming together’. The house that features in the movie is on the outskirts of the town, near the links style golf course. It is like one of those manors on the Scottish coast cloaked in the weather of the moment and would add an eerie atmosphere to the movie. Must track down a dvd of this movie!
We next head further west to Portland, the founding town of Victoria. The weather appears to be on the improve, with the savage westerly abating!
We have had a few interesting days in Warnnambool. It is the biggest place we have seen for over 3 weeks; 32,000 people live here. It is the technical end point of the Great Ocean Road and is the last stop on the railway line from Melbourne. It is a telling point that back in the early 1930s ‘we’ hacked a road out of the wilderness along the coast to here, built a railway further west to Port Fairy and then in the 1980s (?) closed it down! I think some people live here in Warrnambool and commute to the big smoke to work. It seems a very 1960/70 ish town, many of the houses have that look. Those 3 bedroom brick, red tile roof houses with the step back from the front lounge room, then there is the porch and a little further back is the third bedroom……there is a lot of these in town. I’m sure there are more ‘modern ‘ areas around but we didn’t see any, except for up at the Hopkins River mouth and the area near the whale sighting platform over looking the Bay.
Some nice old buildings have been preserved around the town, no longer hosting their original purpose but retaining their facades; if not ‘defaced’ by today’s marketing ‘graffiti’. We enjoyed the movie ‘Ladies in Black’ at the old revamped Capitol Cinema. The old 1800s bakery was a highlight, we later saw an old historic bread cart at Flagstaff Hill. The old Boathouse on the river is now a restaurant and function centre.
Warnnambool’s history story is actually quite tightly controlled within the confines of the Flagstaff Hill complex. All that needs to be known seems to be here. The Ship Wreck Coast gets a good run, but underlying that are also the stories of the early settlement days, particularly whaling. Flagstaff Hill is a ‘model’ early/mid 1800s village seaport. It is very well done, with much of the infrastructure and displays consisting of original items from the era. Indeed some of it is constructed from ship wreck materials, including slate roofing tiles from England. We also enjoyed the Light Show depicting the seafaring and whaling history, along with the Loch Ard ship wreck saga. The story of the ‘survival’ and subsequent display of the china peacock is amazing.
Another landmark for the town is the Fletcher Jones manufacturing complex, long closed. Some of my readers may remember Fletcher Jones, they specialised in men’s trousers. They started out in the late 1940s, manufacturing trousers in Warrnambool and then retailing them off around Australia in company owned stores. Every one in those days wanted a pair of Fletcher Jones. Allthego in his younger days remembers the Fletcher Jones store in Parramatta and in more recent years there was one in Indooroopilly, using the brand name but made o’seas in you know where. Today most of the complex is in mothballs, except for an area occupied by ‘antique’ sellers. Well manicured gardens surround the entrance to the complex. Some of the ‘antiques’ could perhaps be labelled otherwise, but it is an enormous collection of stuff, you could spend hours wandering through the place. Allthego could see little gems of memorabilia everywhere, Homealone was not that impressed with the opportunities. Nothing was acquired!
We are now heading off further west to Port Fairy for a couple of nights. It’s a long drive of about 35 km. The wind has really got up and Warrnambool is living up to its name as a windy place.
A day out eating
Having seen plenty of rocks we decided to head inland for a day along the Twelve Apostles Gourmet Food Trail. Allthego thinks the word ‘gourmet’ gets a bit overdone these days, with all sorts of characters claiming there ‘artisan’ produce is ‘gourmet’ and deserving of a big price tag. Any way a number of local ‘artisan’ people have got together and linked their establishments on a trail through the Port Campbell hinterland. It’s a pleasant drive through rolling green pastures and hills covered in dairy cows. These cows give up most of their milk for the benefit of the large Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory Co Ltd and their competitor Bega.
As we know the farmers are complaining about the price they get. So a few of them have set about value adding by getting into small-scale cheese making and milk bottling under their own labels. We visited two of these establishments and the cheeses were quite nice, although a bit on the ‘mild’ side. We couldn’t resist a small tub each of gelato at the Apostle Whey cheesery made from their own milk. The chocolates at GORGE chocolates were excellent, as were the freshly picked strawberries at Berry World.
Down at the Timboon Whisky Distillery we had lunch and a taste of their two single malt whiskeys. One was a bit on the light side and the other of more substance, meaning Allthego thought it was superior. As was the price! Allthego learnt something today. The Scots spell ‘whisky’ without an ‘e’ whereas the Irish spell ‘whiskey’ with an ‘e’. The Americans, with their Irish heritage spell it with an ‘e’. Australians on the other hand don’t care and just drink both.
Only a couple of minor disappointments on this trail. The olive place wasn’t open, the owner had gone off somewhere we were told for 3 months and would be back soon. The owner of the Sow and Piglets Brewery outlet in Port Campbell (Allthego had tried a pale ale here) was on the Trail committee and he told Allthego that the olive owner, Aldo, was a good guy but was a bit loose in commitment to the Trail. He also said the Berry World lady, also on the committee, was really nice but a bit eccentric, because she walked around all the time with a white cockatoo on her shoulder. This sounds like a committee Allthego would like to be on!
The other disappointment was that the Sow and Piglets production brewery was also closed, but would be opening for ‘the season’ the next day. So much for the advertised German sausages on the BBQ and a splash of Kölsch! We thought about coming back for the opening, but didn’t. Just as an aside, the Twelve Apostles and Mutton Bird Island (the Loch Ard ran aground against it) which is just nearby were named the ‘Sow and Piglets’ by an early navigator. They only became the Twelve Apostles in the 1930s.
But the BIG DISAPPOINTMENT was that Simpson Snails, the snail farm, had closed down! We had driven up and down a road for half an hour trying to find it, before being told at one of the cheese places of its demise. Great disappointment. It had been sold and the new owner had closed it down, she was the Simpson (a small village) publican. The cheese lady thought it was all a bit sus and something was a foot, maybe even a conspiracy of some sort. But, the snails have not gone into their shells and not come out, they have just moved on……slowly. As it turns out one of the ladies at Berry World told us that it was to reopen, but based at the Simpson pub. This very same lady was going to be there the next day at the opening helping serve plates of snails done 4 ways, with a glass of bubbles. Another reason to come back the next day! Another time perhaps.
After a great day out in the country we headed back to Port Campbell with some supplies for the road ahead and to share at Christmas (maybe!) upon our return to Brisbane. The produce was all good and reasonable prices too, that whiskey though….. Allthego will have to hide it! We needed to pack up, as we were heading off to Warrnambool the next day.
More Rocks and Sea
We have had a day out and a couple of evenings looking up and down the coast near Port Campbell at all the rock features. The weather has been very kind to us, cloudy days starting out but by late morning the sky starts to clear. After a while it becomes a bit like ‘not another rock’. But there are lots of them and Allthego cut loose and has taken a lot of snaps of the rocks. One might suggest too many! So here are a few of them, not too many!
London Bridge is no more of course, with the first arch having collapsed back in 1990, now it is called London Arch. We recall seeing the actual formation before the arch collapsed and remember the tale of the two tourists who had just crossed over it before it went down and had to be rescued by helicopter from the new stack! Nearby is the Grotto, a sink hole with a window to the sea. And Loch Ard Gorge site of the famous ship wreck.
The sunsets we saw were not spectacular events, there are many postcards and books in the shops showing amazing sunsets, but they were still a little special, if not for simply showing the Apostles in different moods.
We are off inland next on a food trail through the Port Campbell hinterland, chocolate, cheese, ice cream and whiskey!
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.