On my last trip to Melbourne, I came to know about the Great Ocean Road for the first time. Since then, it has been on my mind. I wanted to go there at the end of my Brisbane stint, but got too homesick and went back to India. Part of my eagerness to do my current assignment was to get a chance to go to the Great Ocean Road.
So on my first long weekend here, I planned to do just that. Some of my friends and colleagues from Sydney drove all the way to Melbourne to join the trip, and once they were well – rested, we set out towards the Ocean Road. I have rarely done any journeys in Australia with a large group, so a group of 7 travelers was a refreshing change.
We began at about 11 in the morning, and drove all the way to Torquay, which is better known as the surfing capital of Australia. The colorful sprawl of surfs and sails in the blue ocean, visible even from a distance seemed to affirm this status. We stopped for a while at the visitor’s information center – to pick up the directions, maps and brochures. We were given a suggested itinerary, something we gleefully accepted. This I have realized, to do a harmonious trip with a large group, either you need one assertive leader, or an external guidance. For us, this list served as the latter (we had too many of the assertive ones perhaps).
After Torquay, the drive is almost entirely along the ocean, and is enthralling. Our first stop was Pt Addis – and I now remember it as the one least visited. We met very few people there, and thus ended up spending most of the time. Point Addis is a national park, which extends on the coast between Bells Beach and Anglessea. Eroded sandstone cliffs line the coast opposite the National Park. We went to one of the lookouts, which offered a great view of both the cliffs and the ocean.
From there, we went to the Anglessea golf club, which is a sprawling golf ground. However, the ground has many kangaroos who can be seen lazying around in the sun, a sight I have never had before.
We traveled a bit further from the Anglessea to Aireys Inlet, which is a settlement centered around Split Lighthouse. I have never failed to mention my fascination for lighthouses, but I do think that Australian lighthouses are too modern to capture the imagination. This one too, was gleaming and shiny, so far removed from the deserted, haunting houses left alone to brave some violent sea. I nevertheless liked the place for its ocean views, especially some misty hills in the distance.
We then went on to Lorne, a pretty city set by a river. We stopped there for lunch and then a dip in the sea. The city was idyllic, specially in its weekend stupor. Everything was composed and serene, even the slightly rough sea did nothing to disturb that peace.
From Lorne, we did not take any stops untill we reached our campsite. We crossed Apollo Bay, then entered the Otway National Park, and drove all the way to river Aire. This campsite does not require a permit, so we were expecting more people than on a usual site. However, we were not at all prepared for what we saw – the campsite was completely full! We took a few moments to get disappointed and do a frantic search – all of which did result in a decent stop. But as soon as we started pitching the tents, a woman came out of the neigbouring tent and requested us to keep our voices down as she was trying to put her kids to sleep. And this was 7 in the evening!
We cound not find another spot for pitching tents, but we did find a place to enjoy the evening away from the ‘disturbing’ tent. We took our beers and sanwiches to the bridge on the river and sat down to enjoy the evening. From then on, everything was lovely. We chatted, ate, drank and shivered. It was chilly and we were nearly unprepared. The tents close by were also partying late, and the night was filled with laughter, chatter and melodies. And a zillion stars. That night, I slept outside the tents and stared into the sky for hours. It was a pristine moment, and was as precious as it sounds.
The next morning, we woke up a little late and then went walking on a trail. The trail led to a lookout from where we could see the river merging into the sea.
We drove on, after a quick round of eating bread. A few stops, and then straight to Port Campbell. I was eager to see the twelve apostles. And then they were. As majestic as I thought they would be. And a pretty site. A few of them have fallen and they are no longer 12, perhaps even the remaining ones too will not last too long. I would like to see them in the golden tint of sunset, that is why I want to make this trip again.
Another beautiful destination was Loch and Gorge, where there were many beautiful cliff formations: the archway, the elephant rock. All of them stand solitary, alienated and braving, and with all their destruction still seem daunting.
We stayed there for a while, went to Port Campbell for a late late lunch (we were all starving by then!), and sat at its tiny, weedy beach for a while. On the way back, we stopped at the Apollo Bay beach – what a lovely beach for bathing. Calm with gentle waves that you can ride, without feeling intimidated.
The entire Ocean is supposed to have some historical and aboriginal significance. And yet, like everywhere else that I have been to in Australia, I found no mark of the aborigine.