Ant and Christine do Oz travel blog

Wednesday 29 July

We had planned to get of Jill and Bren’s hair on the Tuesday but Jill had a dinner on Wed and was going to Sydney overnight on Thursday so we decided that we would ship out Wed/Thurs/Fri instead of Tues/Wed/Thurs. As Jill was out of town she v generously lent us her sweet little Peugeot convertible to drive the Great Ocean Road (GOR). It’s supposed to be one of the great road trips of the world, winding its way westward of Melbourne, and I particularly wanted to see the 12 Apostles, a group of limestone pillars by the coast.

So the first hour of the journey was on the freeway out of Melbourne.

Random Observation #1 (the first in a series) – the Aussies really do add “o” to shortened forms of words – for example a sign on the motorway advertising fresh fruit at the exit of the servos. We wondered what this meant and then saw the sign for the motorway services ie servos. Also an article in the paper running a campaign under the headline “Save our ambos”. Closer inspection revealed this to be referring to ambulances. Love it.

RO#2 - Melbourne drivers are useless on multi lane highways. The drivers seem to find it impossible to use the inside lane, regardless of what speed they are doing and despite regular road signs saying “keep left unless overtaking”.

RO#3 – Australian traffic lights take ages to change from red to green. And then Oz drivers take ages to respond. There’s a lot to be said for the red/red and amber/green system.

After an hour on the highway we hit the Ocean Road proper and quite breathtaking it was too. The gods had been kind to us by this time and sent some bright skies altho not kind enough to make it warm, but we were determined to get that roof down. Our first sightseeing spot was at a lighthouse at Split Point, where we walked up the hill to get the views, which were exactly what you would want them to be – rolling breakers, azure blue water, snaking coastline of cliffs. As we left Split Point, we put on out coats, turned up the heater, pressed the button to lower the roof and drove off like Thelma and Louis playing a CD of Fidelio to get familiar with it before we go to the performance at the Sydney Opera House at the end of the holiday. Jill had warned us that we could need a hat – I used my sunhat, not least to keep my hair out of my eyes, which was fine. Ant thought he didn’t need a hat but after about half an hour was too cold. There’s not always an easy place to stop so to keep his head warn he took off his fleece and wrapped it round his head like a poor man’s Lawrence of Arabia. We have the pictures to allow others to share the sartorial experience.

The Great Ocean Road is v windy (both linearly and meteorologically) for the whole of its length and the views vary from fabulous to breathtaking. Jill’s car was perfect for the job – small and nippy and of course the roof down. There are very few turn offs as it is literally carved into the cliff sides. It was funded to provide work fro returning ANZACs after WWI and then during the Depression and for the most part was built using picks and shovels, which is incredible when you see it as despite its winding it feels wide enough to be safe (altho this may be in comparison to the hill roads in India which scared the living daylights out of me). The history is borne out by some of the names eg Shrapnel Creek, and there is a nice monument as you start on the road telling some of the history. The Aussies are v good at labelling every piece of water you travel over and we think it might be to help identify where you are when you have travelled miles and miles of road with no settlement so if you break down you can tell where you are more precisely. They are also v good at not only providing parking spots at lovely viewing spots but advertising well in advance too, so we took lots of pics which will no doubt become “here’s another lovely cliff with crashing seas at its base” looking v much the same.

We made good progress in the car – we hadn’t booked anywhere and Jill had recommended a nice resort on the Road called Lorne, which indeed looked great but we had energy and fuel in the tank so we decided to press on. Bren had sent us an article on travelling the GOR which recommended a hotel called Chris’s near Apollo Bay, the next town on, which fitted with our desire to stop so we went to check it out. It was about 3km off the road on a seemingly almost vertical side road but boy were you rewarded with a view at the top. Accommodation was in little lodges perched on stilts, as was the restaurant. We drove up like two Saga louts, with the roof down, wearing comforters and with Fidelio blaring out like some cut-down version of Apocalypse Now.

We booked in and were shown to our lodge, which had two bedrooms, a comfortable lounge complete with two sofas, TV and DVD player, a little kitchenette with sink, fridge, microwave and dining table but most impressive was the picture window and balcony. The window was two panes at angles to each other which provided a 180° view of the coast – just fantastic. There was even a washing machine, drier and ironing facilities.

We were v pleased they had a restaurant which meant we didn’t have to drive into town and find somewhere to eat, and what a find – it was excellent. By the time we sat down it was dark but the restaurant too had floor-to-ceiling picture windows with treetops views which we could see as they were lit by spotlights, with the lights of Apollo Bay itself in the distance. The spotlights attracted moths and the moths attracted a beautiful owl, which kept us entertained with its close up aerobatics. The restaurant itself was quiet – it is of course a holiday place in winter – but our waiter Kent could not have been more fun. He was camp as a row of tents and while we had of course become familiar with hearing “no worries” several times a day, Kent introduced us to “no drama”, whether in response to changing reservation times, asking for water etc. (Sadly an epithet subsequently adopted by AJCM, without the same ring….)

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