Friday, March 23, 2007

The Great Ocean Road

One of the main reasons we had flown to Adelaide was to drive the Great Ocean Road along the coast towards Melbourne. It is considered Australia’s most scenic coastal drive, and one of the top ten in the world. (I wonder if the Sea to Sky Highway is on the list. If so, it’s probably off now that it has been straightened.) The road was completed in 1932, and in many places is carved out of the limestone rock. In other places, it runs through forests and very barren landscapes. For a while, we thought we might not get through since the brush along the road was smoldering. But we subsequently learned this could have been the result of controlled fires. (The irony is that the smell of smoke remained in our car for days, and I was concerned I might be charged the $500 penalty for which renters are liable, if it is determined they were smoking in the car!)

Along the way are numerous viewing areas, but the most famous is the Twelve Apostles, referring to twelve giant rocks in the ocean. Unfortunately, one of the Apostles collapsed in 2005, so now there are only eleven left, but who’s counting. (It’s difficult to see them all at the same time, anyway.) To enhance the viewing experience, the State government has built a small information centre and underpass beneath the highway. It is really quite well done, with the centre’s metal roof a coloured patchwork to match the surrounding vegetation.

We arrived as the sun was setting, but didn’t want to stay for the sunset, since we still had an hour’s drive to Apollo Bay, our destination for the night. Sally doesn’t like driving at night in Australia. It’s because of the kangaroos and wambats. They come out in the evening and hang around the middle of the road. People who do a lot of night driving often have large ‘Roo Bars’ mounted on the front of their vehicles. But our new red Camry was not so equipped. So we missed more dramatic sunsets, but managed to make it to Apollo Bay before all of the rooms were booked, and before all the restaurants had closed. People tend to eat much earlier in this part of Australia.

We had planned to leave immediately after breakfast, so we would have plenty of time to explore the many sights along the road. But before setting off, I went to buy some postcards. I found one of the town…with a golf course featured prominently along the ocean. The course was off the main road, so we had missed it when we arrived. The newsagent told us it was only nine holes, and that was all we needed to hear. We joined Frances and Noelle from Melbourne. Noelle said she didn’t play golf, she just enjoyed the walk. Sally said she was the same. But when Noelle didn’t tee off, we realized she wasn’t joking. She really was along just for the walk.

Interestingly, as visitors we were not allowed to play the same tee boxes as the members. Frances explained that this is common on some courses in Australia with small tee boxes. Otherwise, too much wear and tear interferes with the members’ enjoyment of the course. While the layout didn’t compare with Port Fairy, it did have scenic views and was time well spent.

From Apollo Bay we drove to Lorne, which was very disappointing. Developers have ruined much of the waterfront. We then drove through other small communities, eventually arriving at our destination, the historic town of Queenscliff. As you will soon see, time has stood relatively still in Queenscliff.

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