On Thursday morning I woke up early to run some errands before we headed west. Steffen had found someone online to share the ride with us, a Swiss girl named Nadja. She was meeting us at Jackson’s Manor around 11, so the three of us packed up and loaded the car before she arrived.
Phil, my friend from Brisbane, sent me a YouTube link of a video he took of us during New Year’s, check it out.
Nadja arrived and we were soon back on the road. But not before introducing the girls to some of the car’s … nuances. You see, sometimes it won’t engage in reverse after first starting it in the morning, and we had to do a slow roll out of the driveway of JM, gently rocking the car into a position from which we could drive out.
The first major town outside of Melbourne was Geelong, and we stopped at the visitor’s center to get the low-down on the Great Ocean Road. The staff there was incredibly friendly (of course), and were very impressed that American, German, Dutch and Swiss travelers could meet up, become friends and road trip together. They said that often they get people driving the Great Ocean Road by themselves, a thought unbelievable to us. Who would want to drive such a beautiful stretch of land alone?
As we drove through Geelong towards Anglesea, we were taken by our first glimpse of the south coast and quickly pulled over to take pictures at Aerie’s Inlet (from now on, these kinds of links will take you to the appropriate album of pictures).
The big tourist attraction around Anglesea is a golf course where Kangaroos roam the grounds. In fact, it’s OK for tourists to just park their cars and walk around the greens, stepping in ‘roo shit and snapping pictures. Or at least we figured it was OK and ran out near a putting green to find a group of about 20 of them relaxing in the shade.
Near the town of Lorne was one of the many south coast lighthouses and it gave us a pretty nice view of the coast. Apparently, the last lighthouse keeper (it’s now run by super-intelligent killer robots) rubbed out a hole in the blackout paint on the other side of the lamp so he could make sure the light was still burning while throwing back pints in the town pub. Smart man, though probably not quite as smart as the robots.
We lunched near the beach in Lorne before heading a little north of the town center for another lookout and the Erskine Falls. There was a short, 10-minute walk to Teddy’s Lookout, and from that height you got a great view of the Great Ocean Road in all it’s curvaceous beauty.
Around the bend from the lookout was Erskine Falls. Now, because of the drought we weren’t expecting much, but what we ended up getting was even worse than what we expected. It was as if the rocks were just spitting down the side of a cliff, not even worth a picture.
What was worth a picture was the sign at the head of the short track down to the falls lookout. It was the most intimidating caution sign I had ever seen:
While we were driving along the coast after surviving falling trees and snakes, Steffen suddenly pulled over to the side of the road and both he and Nadja shouted about a koala. We parked on the shoulder and ran back to find a couple standing on the side of the road, staring off into the bushes.
Sitting in a tree, just about 6 feet away from the last bit of gravel on the road was this guy:
He even shot a quick look at me, giving me what I believe was “the curious eye.” Kinda like he was thinking “If I stay still he may not see me, but I can’t, I’m really really hungry.”
After taking multiple pictures and even a video of the guy, we got back in the car and continued onwards. The koala and the crowd that had formed to gawk at him had drawn even more attention from passing motorists, and several people were walking down the road as we walked back up to the car.
Right before we hit the town center of Apollo Bay, the most popular stopover town on the GOR route, we drove up a steep hill to Mariner’s Lookout. People have complained about the lack of people in my pictures, so here’s one that Sophie managed to sneak into:
We finally reached the town center and stopped to find a liquor store, supermarket and someone who could point us towards a free campsite. We price-shopped a slab of beer and found some Toohey’s Red Bitter for$23.99, a steal. Dinner would be spaghetti, red sauce, tuna and mushrooms (the latter was Nadja’s idea, but very welcomed by all — the list of things Jake wouldn’t eat usually prevented us from enjoying such delicacies as canned mushrooms).
People have also been commenting on just how much beer I seem to be drinking on a daily basis. True, it’s probably more than most people, but it’s not enough to make me drunk. In fact, there’s usually several beers of the slab left by the end of the night, and despite being kept on life support in the Esky, we usually have to choke them down warm the next evening.
Unfortunately we weren’t so lucky with campsites as we were with food and beer, and the only park in the area was about 5 bucks a person. Once we saw the immaculate showers and serene creek-side sites, we were all willing to pay the fee. As Steffen and I set up the tents, Nadja and Sophie kicked back in the camp chairs and watched; they thought my tent was “cute”. Steffen and I shared a quick glance and rolled our eyes; we just figured it was the unfortunate side effect of camping with girls. We all pitched in to cook the food, but being gentlemen, Steffen and I took dishwashing duty (don’t worry, it was the girls’ turn next).
After the sun set the sky lit up with stars. Neither Nadja nor Sophie had been in Oz for very long, and had only spent their time in major cities, so they hadn’t seen the stars from the middle of nowhere. Nadja was completely blown away, standing for a long time with her head arched upwards, eyes and mouth wide open. We even saw what looked like a comet in the distance, with a faint tail coming away from it. It reminded me of the comet we saw in National Park in Tassie. I showed Nadja how to find Orion’s Belt and the Southern Cross and told her about the incredibly beautiful things I got to see while working for NASA.
Steffen and I would go on and on about stories from the Tassie trip, and how even though it was getting a bit chilly in Apollo Bay, it was nothing compared to the nighttime temperature in Tasmania. Sophie asked why us four guys didn’t all climb into Steffen’s tent and huddle together for warmth. Steffen and I proceeded to describe how close to death we would have to be to resort to that plan; Plan Z, so to speak. And the number of options we would consider before that, such as: 1) put on all of our clothes; 2) exercise all night long; 3) set aforementioned clothes/body parts on fire.
Sophie honestly didn’t understand why we thought four grown, heterosexual men clutching onto each other in a two-man tent for warmth rather than being a little cold was so objectionable. When we told Nadja she quickly agreed with Steffen and I. It must have been Sophie’s youth. For her sake I hope she holds her tongue in the future, other guys may not laugh the suggestion off so easily.