Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Great Ocean Road

One of Australia's greatest tourist attractions is the Great Ocean Road. I've been on it many times but it is always a thrill to do the drive. The road goes from just outside Warnambool in Victoria, through Apollo Bay and on to the seaside town of Torquay which is also in Victoria.

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As you might expect, the road mostly follows the coastline.

The highway is pretty deserted. The trees are usually wind breaks to counter the strong winds that are prevalent at all times of year.

The highway seems to be somewhat boring for mile after and mile. You keep thinking what is all the excitement about. There is nothing much here.

And then you reach the coastline and you begin to understand.

Pathway to the view.

Suddenly you are there looking out and you understand what the fuss is about. The sandstone cliffs are probably 50 meters high.

It's known as the 'Bay of Islands'.

Because it was very overcast with a few spots of rain, these photos do not do justice to the cliffs. In the strong late afternoon or morning sun, the cliffs glow with light.

The cliffs are naturally eroding of their own accord from the effects of wind and sea. However, it helps to protect the cliffs from erosion by encouraging the local plants to grow.

What the photos don't show are the power of the waves rolling in. It was a fairly calm day but you can still feel the power of the waves coming up from the Antarctic.

So here is a video.

The effects on your senses is immense and these signs are used to bring you back to earth. Looking at these cliffs and waves is nothing like going to your normal beach.

The headland at the tiny town of Peterborough. Well it used to be a tiny town but it is growing as more people come to live down on this coastline. Forty years ago there were very few people living down here, now there are lots.

We continued on to a feature known as ' the Grotto'. The timber walkways are designed to protect the local vegetation.

You walk down these steps.

There are no trees in the area. The ground is too poor and the wind is too strong. Only this low scrub survives.

Tourists taking their own photos.

Finally, the grotto view. It doesn't look like much in this dismal light.

However when the sun is shining it becomes magical. This is Robin six years ago.

Closeup of the sandstone.

Ah the good old hippy days. In the foreground is our rental car, a Huyndai I30. I must admit my heart sank when I saw this was going to be my rental car for two weeks. Well before the day I handed it back I had decided this was a very good small car indeed. It was designed in Germany and was a pleasure and fun to drive. It has a lot of inside room but does not feel big in car parks. I had plenty of headroom.

We continued on to London Bridge. When I first started coming down here in 1973 you could walk out onto  the now island. The connecting span fell down in 1990.

O f course you deserve another video. Back in 1973, I took my sister Anne to see the area when the waves were big. The spray flew as high as the cliff tops. That was impressive.

In the 1970's there were no walk ways and you simply walked wherever you wanted. The huge increase in the numbers of tourists to the area has resulted in the walkways which protect the vegetation and also protect people from falling from the cliffs which are constantly eroding. They are quite dangerous.

Because we were due at Wombat Bend that evening, we skipped the rest of the attractions on the Great Ocean Road, including the famous Twelve Apostles. We turned north at Port Campbell and took the faster inland route to Melbourne. Road construction and repair is very common on Australian highways. 

I am always fascinated by the trees in Australia. They are very individualistic, coming in all shapes, sizes, colours and patterns.

For some reason or other, it appeared that the dairy farmers were gathering all of their stock in relatively small paddocks. The surrounding paddocks were empty.

If you ever come to Victoria, make sure you take the time to do this road in its entirity. It really is worth it.