Anyone Seen A Pair Of Glasses?
It’s funny how these things work out. We left North Queensland in a heatwave and arrived on the south coast of Australia to a lower than average temperature for the time of year. Over the course of a three hour flight a drop of over 20C. And a positively raging sea.
It was never going to be straightforward packing for this trip. Traversing the length and breadth of a country the size of Australia needs preparation for any eventuality including a woolly jumper or several. Three suitcases between the two of us then. It may be cooler, some might argue more comfortably so, but the landscape down south is no less dramatic. And neither is the bird life.. some of it closer to home than we’d come to expect.
Australian King Parrot
I hope Gerrie, at Canberra’s Green Spaces (here), will correct me if I’m wrong.
And of course the glorious yellow crested cockatoo.
The longer we spent in our new temporary abode the more we came to notice a greater than our fair share of avian visitors. Not least the morning Mike went to open the doors on to the balcony..
..and this happened.
Hmmm. Previous tenants might have shared their breakfast do you think? I was somewhat relieved to get our deposit back without being docked for any extra cleaning. Cockatoos are wonderful birds though. They have a natural curiosity, head tipped to one side as they observe and listen. And the fabulously flamboyant unfurling of that crest. Destructive in the garden they may be but oh, what characters!
A valley full of tree ferns
There are rainforests in the south of Australia too. Temperate rainforests. In five minutes I’d probably seen a million pounds worth of tree ferns at the price we Brits pay to import them.
So majestic, growing literally everywhere in the Great Otway National Park. The palm trees of the southern ocean.
We drove for miles through the national park in search of spectacular waterfalls such as here at the Erskine Falls. A steep descent to the bottom of the ravine. All that step training chez duck has a purpose after all.
Wow. The Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road.
The force of the wind hits you just getting out of the car. By the time we’d reached the viewpoint it was almost impossible to stand up. Clinging to the railings, facing the ocean and into the wind literally did take my breath away. But oh my, what a view. An iconic view. Mike’s photograph, taken in the most extreme of circumstances, perfectly captures the ferocity of the wind, the spray and the churning sea. A visit on a fine day wouldn’t have been nearly as atmospheric. If perhaps less costly. Mike’s reading glasses are down there somewhere, lost to the wind. Though they could easily have shown up in the Northern Territory by now.
The impact of the weather and relentless battering by the waves have constantly eroded this section of coast and it’s easy to see why the Great Ocean Road is running out of Apostles. Today only eight remain. The latest casualty, in the foreground above, was in July 2005.
It’s possible to walk down yet more steps and view the Apostles from beach level. And that’s just as awesome. Little Penguins come in on the main Apostle beach at sunset. A pleasure I unfortunately missed.
The Loch Ard Gorge
The Great Ocean Road is said to be one of the world’s greatest drives and justifiably so. East of the Apostles the road hugs the shoreline and is almost impossibly scenic, with no shortage of burger bars and pizza joints if that is what turns you on. To the west the going is quieter and it plays host to many of the key sites. Just minutes from the Apostles, the Loch Ard Gorge.
There’s a story behind this one. In 1878 the clipper, the Loch Ard, travelling from London to Melbourne was sunk just off these rocks almost within sight of journey’s end. Out of 54 people on board there were just two survivors, a young woman passenger and the ship’s apprentice. They sheltered for the night in a cave before the apprentice climbed out of the cove to summon help.
It was on the Great Ocean Road that we had our first serious encounter with the selfie seekers. And there are hordes of them. Many make the trip out from Melbourne and back in a day. That’s at least three hours in a coach or a hire car (five and a half hours for the scenic route) perhaps an hour to move between the nearby sites, snap the obligatory square photos, then straight on the bus for the long trip back east. And I have to say, why?
In years to come will they regret that each of what could have been a great set of shots has been partially obscured by themselves? If indeed the pictures endure any longer than the time it takes to fire up Instagram. “Ooh look, here’s me at the Twelve Apostles.” And, “Oooh look, here’s me again at The Arch.” And, would you believe it, “Here’s me again at Loch Ard.” When we witnessed a woman spread prostrate on the tarmac between the cars in the parking lot just to have her picture taken I thought I’d seen it all. If anyone can explain it to me, please do.
How much better would it be to take the time to walk out over the headlands and experience the real tranquility and beauty this place has to offer by finding the glorious but hidden spots like this little cove?
Only I suppose that it comes with a danger warning. On 15 January 1990 two tourists wandered out across what was at the time a double span London Bridge only to find the nearest section collapse behind them, leaving them stranded until rescued by helicopter. Further evidence that this stretch of coast is in constant flux.
And finally. There is one other thing that the Great Ocean Road is famous for. I’ve been in Oz almost three weeks (already). Did you really think you were going to get off that lightly?
More may follow..