170109 Great Ocean Road

We’re back on the road again, if only for 7 or 8 days.

Our daughter Sharlee, and her husband Paul, have flown down from Grafton to join us in our tour of the Great Ocean Road region of Victoria. Lyn and I had been before we purchased our Freetime motorhome and  have done a few walks along the interesting coastline of the area. So what better way to visit it again than with family?

We chose to stay away from the known touristy areas and take the car with us to use for transport to and from those very busy spots at this time of the year. Our first town was Colac. It’s kind of difficult to book a spot so close to New Year but we managed to be placed overlooking the nearby Lake Colac. Management allocated us a pull-through site, with an ensuite, which worked out well for Paul and Sharlee; the ensuite became their wardrobe as well.

Lorne, for breakfast at the sea-side cafe, became our first destination for Day 1 followed by a drive to Apollo Bay and a 10km walk along the coast from Marengo. The weather was a little too overcast for much of the day but some sun poked through for short periods. Paul is an enthusiastic photographer and had recently purchased an iPhone 7 to accompany his Canon (we are not Canon people). So he was enjoying giving this little phone ‘thingo’ more than just a test. Throughout the week, he became very proficient in taking panorama selfie shots of the 4 of us with an ‘ace’ background. At an early stage of our week, he had shot 2,500 photos; goodness knows when he’s going to weed and edit all of those, and then find time to make his photo book. But there will be some very good photos in the book, that’s for sure.

The views you come across when walking the Great Ocean Walk, are to be experienced best when the sun is shinning brightly in the morning for the eastern part, and then in the afternoon for the western section around the Port Campbell National Park. Each turn along the track presents a new and exciting vista. And, there are ice-cream shops in most of the towns nearby; a bonus. The one in Apollo Bay is very popular.

Hidden away in the Otway Ranges is a well constructed tree walk. The walk is quite extensive in the high tree tops with a bit of a climb up a tower for an all over view. There is a zip-line run as well that you can enjoy, at a price.

After the tree-walk, we drove down to the lighthouse at Otway Point. We had visited the Rainbow Falls before which are nearby. Paul and Sharlee wanted a longish walk for at least one of their days away. The trail is mainly sandy and is around 5.5km in each direction. Once on the beach, there is another kilometre to the falls. These falls are formed from spring water seeping through the cliff face. Over years, the cliffs have become a golden colour with areas of green and red. With a blue sky and the sun shinning on the cliff, the falls stand out along the coastline.

The next day, we packed up the tent and motorhome and headed towards Warrnambool. Our booking was from 2:00pm, but seeing the sun was shinning and the air was clear, we parked the motorhome at the intersection towards Port Campbell and took the car to the magnificent coastline in the Port Campbell National Park. The coast line is made up of cliffs and islands with ‘flat’ tops. Various sections are named due to their land formations such as London Bridge or The Grotto, or the well known Apostles originally made up of 12 but now a lot less. They have eroded over the years and fallen into the ocean. So you can’t call them “The 12 Apostles” anymore; “the Apostles” is fine. With the blue sky as a background, we were able to obtain some good photos as we moved along the coastline. We missed seeing the Loch Ard section; but another day will eventuate.

On the way back to Warrnambool, we stopped of at the ice-cream shop in Port Campbell. They have a great supplier from the local town of Timboon. If you ever get through there, check the store out for delicious, “end-of-the-day” ice-creams.

We had never been to Warrnambool but found the campsite quite easily. It was right on the beach almost, with a bike/walk trail and a line of scrubs between our site and the sand. The walk along towards the breakwater is easy and deserved a visit. A guy was perched there to take some evening photos. He had a 600mm lense on his camera attached to a large tripod. We got chatting and he had been a well known wedding photographer in the Warrnambool district and had joined up with another photographer in business. The business went bust and he had lost everything, so to say. He sounded destitute. Recently, he had submitted to channel 9, a photograph of a surfer coming down a wave with the spray ascending up behind him. Beyond the surfer, is the tail of a migrating whale. What a picture to own! He had been paid good money for the use of the photo, but still he felt he needed some new emphasis to his life. His expertise is really in people photos so we suggested he join a cruise team of photographers, which he is now pursuing. Our chatting ended around 11:00pm.

Moon rise at Warrnambool

Moon rise at Warrnambool

The rain turned up the next day so we visited the Maritime Museum for the morning and a cafe lunch of soup and home made scones; it was cold and wet, so the soup went down well. The museum is well worth a visit as there were many shipwrecks near Warrnambool during the time of the setting up of the British Colony of Melbourne in the 1800’s. Many artifacts and valuable treasures are on display in the museum such as a diamond ring found attached to one of the female survivor’s inner garment, in a cave from a shipwreck. There is also an expensive sculptured peacock, some $4.5 million worth.

Sunday, we travelled to Port Fairy just 20 or so kilometres away to the west. This town is well known for the Port Fairy Jazz Festival and the Port Fairy Folk Festival. It is also a fishing village where trawlers bring back their overnight catches of abalone and crayfish. The walk around the small island close by known as Griffiths Island, is the breeding grounds for the migrating mutton bird. We wandered the main street of upmarket gift and fashion shops with of course, an ice-creamery at the end of the street (amazingly not as good as Port Campbell).

We returned to Warrnambool in the early afternoon and unhitched the bicycles for a ride along the waterfront trail towards the whale viewing platforms. Normally, when the whales are migrating, this area would be very busy with tourists. But the ride has done us good after being a little too tourist-type visitors.

In the evening, I thought I would send a message to some friends we had made while on our South American trip in 2015. They live in Toowoomba. Would you believe they were in the RSL at Warrnambool, just visiting. What a coincidence! So we met up for the evening to reminisce on the past few months since we had travelled the Mekong River together in September.

We had decided to stay in the region an extra day and moved to Port Campbell Campground, much closer to the Loch Ard land formations which we had passed by a few days ago. The weather was brilliant for photography. We stayed there for 3 or 4 hours, finding different viewing platforms to view and photograph the various land formations. Paul managed to shoot another 1,000 photographs and numerous panoramas on his iPhone. The ice-cream shop took our interest again and deserved  another visit before we returned to the Apostles region. Our plan was to climb down the Gibson Stairs for some sea-level views at sunset.

From ‘sand-level’, the pillars of rock tower above. However, the sunset didn’t give the impression that it was going to present good a picture. So we moved over to the touristy area.  We didn’t have to wait long for a magnificent sunset to begin painting the western sky. It is amazing that there are no National Park Rangers on duty as so many overseas tourists jumped over the safety fence to get a better picture. Imagine the picture if someone had slipped on the ‘ball bearing like gravel’ on the narrow ledges they were tip-toeing on and fell to their death.

When Sharlee and Paul visited again for the next day’s sunrise, a local photographer, who had been returning to the Apostles for 30 years, told them that he had never seen a sunset like it. That made us feel special. Paul was very happy to have returned for a sunset visit to this Victorian icon.

The Tuesday became our ‘return home’ day, so clean the inside of the motor home and get the laundry ready for the arrival back home. Paul and Sharlee wanted to visit the Apostles for what turned out to be a ‘dull’ sunrise and then complete the full length of the Great Ocean Road while we made our way in the motor home to Torquay where we found a lunch spot overlooking the ocean. Our son Jay and family live in Geelong and we managed to have pizza for dinner before returning to Jeanette Street; refreshed and with cameras full of photos. (When shall I find time to do the editing and movie making?)

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Here’s a suggestion for anyone who visits the Great Ocean Road. Pick the days you visit by taking out at least 7 days and then choose according to the weather forecast.

As a kiwi writing this on Australia Day, and knowing that New Zealand has some terrific land forms to view, I have to concede that Australia’s Great Ocean Road region is superb and well worth the visit. And guess what, we’re having ice-cream for dessert tonight.

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161225 Snowy River

With all the beauty in Australia, we chose to head east in the State of Victoria for Christmas. One of Lyn’s clients suggested that Marlo was a pretty place beside the ocean and well worth a visit in our gr8l1f motorhome (Ah!! the one that still has Queensland licence plates.) We set off around 12ish and after a stop for lunch, headed out past Bairnsdale and turned right at Orbost. Marlo is just a small village on the mouth of the well known and written about, The Snowy River.

We drove through the small town, and headed further east along the coast towards Cape Conran. Cape Conran has a lookout to view even further east towards Mallacoota, a well known lakes region 30-40kms off the Pacific Highway. Our main reason for the extra distance was to look for a nice free camp on the coast without venturing onto gravel roads. Yes, we did a U-Turn and back to Marlo.

There are great fishing facilities for the angler but as fishing is not our ‘thing’, we decided to stop in the local caravan park and try to enjoy the sunset from a motorhome parked in a caravan park. After dark, we sent Christmas wishes to many of our sites and friends. In the morning, we realised that we didn’t have any 240 power so checked out the power supply and switches, and had the wife of the owner check the power (with her trusty electric power drill). No solution, so she called her fisherman husband who was out in a dinghy for that elusive early morning fish. He returned, to even find out for himself, that there was another isolation switch that had tripped – problem solved.

Without too much discussion before deciding, we exited the caravan park and headed back towards Orbost where we had noticed a lot of small free camps along the Snowy River. Ah, found one that didn’t take much to convince us to stay. The reflections in the river were just so relaxing and inviting. So we set the motorhome up on its ‘pegs’ and extended the slide-out to make this 48 hour stay enjoyable. (The notice said 48 hours – the site needed our presence for just a little longer. It is Christmas and the authorities are having a long break. LOL.)

Breakfast was late but holidays for us, is commonly a two-meal-a-day formality. What a sight to enjoy breakfast at; the reflections were just superb. We have 4 still cameras and a movie camera with us and all of them were getting over-worked; in just the first two days, our iPhones alone took over 100 photos. A friendly lizard comes by regularly for his food supply of insects and foliage. I just wished he had an appetite for flies; millions of them reside here. The local kookaburras are joyful in the morning as he hunts for worms and other insects that may have died in the last 24 hours or so. The cicadas seem to switch on their ‘sound blaster’ around 7:00pm for an hour and then are gone. But they are not like the all day ‘music’ we had at Seymour a few weeks ago. We have to stop talking sometimes due to the close proximity of the main road to Marlo, but the scene before us and the nearby ‘friendly gum tree’ is in the right place for us to be shaded during the afternoon; we have a heat-wave happening.

Christmas Day was very quiet but there needed to be some gardening done. The shire has been regenerating the river banks by fencing off much of the vegetation along the Snowy. There are a number of spots along the banks that have been cleared, lawned and made beautiful for the Free Self Contained motor homers and caravaners. However, in the cleaning up, they had poisoned some of the large weeds just in the foreground of our view. These browned off weeds needed clearing, so I donned the gloves, shoes and gardening shorts to pull them out and move them to a pile for the council to collect at their leisure. The view is now more enhanced.

The only ‘real’ problem with ‘free camping’ is that the facilities in the motorhome need to be serviced. For the uninitiated, at free camping spots there are no water faucets, no toilets, no power, and no drainage. To service the power problem, we have 3 x 150w solar panels feeding into a pair of 100amp truck batteries. If there is no solar energy available, we have a 2.6kva generator to charge up the batteries and also run the convection/microwave oven and air conditioner, when needed. We have water storage to 250 litres and ‘grey’ water storage to around 100 litres. Leaving a neat and appropriate site with great reflective views, is hard. We thought we could find a site on the other side of the river, but first, we needed to drive into Orbost to empty the cassette and grey water at a dump point, and refill the fresh water tank. After a ‘hot’ breakfast of tea and toasted raisin bread at the local bakery, we drove the road on the other side of the Snowy River. Before we came to any free camp sites, we came upon a fallen tree that was preventing us getting any further. A year ago, I purchased a pruning saw in case I wanted to saw off some branches from fallen trees for a fire. The saw came in very handy clearing the way as if a chain saw had done the job – but a little slower and with more sweat. Each site was a little too difficult to get into so we drove back to the Marlo Road side of the river, and after checking all the vacant sites along the river, believed that we needed a further 48 hours in the site that we had left earlier in the day.

The weather is overcast with a little rain falling making the atmosphere humid but cooler. In the morning, we decided to venture on towards Lake Tyers. I had researched the free camps at Nowa Nowa and one photo there of the site, provided by a camper, showed a suggestion on a tree, “why stay here when you can come on down to Lake Tyers Waterwheel Pub where we have power, water and en suites for free?” So, after checking with the pub owner, we took the last spot available for the night, so we thought.

While at dinner, a horde of little backpacker vans arrived and filled in the gaps. The ‘wide open spaces’ had become their kitchen, their clothes line and their socialising point. They are all good kids from Germany Belgium Switzerland and Holland. I say “good”, because they all cleaned up their sites well, before leaving. (Often that is not the case at free camps in the bush.) At 10:30pm, we heard a “Beep, Beep, Beep” of a vehicle reversing over the sound of our air conditioner. It was this Japanese guy in a hired motor home who ended up about 18” from our motor home. He had clipped his van on the roof of the en suite beside us, in the process of reversing. Karma, I say. No one should arrive into a free camp at that time of night, and trying to park on the side of the ‘road’ is not a good selection.

The beach is not too far away so we took a walk in the very humid overcast conditions for an hour or so. The main problem with the camping sites is that there is no TV reception, no radio reception, no phone connection and therefore no internet connection. Just near the pub you get a weak communication signal. If we want to know the cricket score, we have to find out inside the pub. So we feel like an arm has been taken off us. LOL!

A couple of days ago, I got a chill and have a tap-nose that won’t turn off. Many of you know, I am also an excellent sneezer. (I got that from my mum.) And so for me to have 3 or 4 sneezes is a disappointment for Lyn. She loves to count up to 7 or 8 before she’s satisfied.

After a morning sunrise that needed viewing, breakfast and another walk along the beach, we headed towards Lakes Entrance to fill up with diesel. I had noticed the price in Orbost was 135.9 cents per litre so was ready for a hike in the normal prices we pay, only to be surprised we picked up some for 115.9 cents per litre – a holiday period surprise. Lyn felt she was back in Melbourne and didn’t want to be in the ‘busyness’ of shopping so we quickly exited and made our way to Metung. There is a free spot just prior to arriving in the village, close to the water and the moored yachts. (I had seen a great spot for taking a morning sunrise if it was like today’s, so watch out for tomorrow’s sunrise shots.)

As I said, the village of Metung is not too far away, just 2 kilometres, and so we took the walk along a delightful boardwalk. Along the boardwalk, Lyn realised that we had brought our bikes for just such an occasion and they were still attached to the motor home. Metung is a quiet little village with quaint shops that overlook the Gippsland Lakes. An ice-cream is always on our list of an afternoon, before making our way back to the camp site. There are only 3 other vehicles here tonight, 2 of them are residents of Australia and we haven’t spoken to the third. The forecast, ‘lots of rain’, hasn’t hit us yet but looks like it is on the way for tonight.

Yes, it did rain over night. We noticed it when we brought the slide-out in. Some of the water on top of the slide-out came in and then ran down the sides and into the motor home, making a bit of a wet mess to soak up. Lesson learned? Brush the top of the slide-out before bringing it in; you may get rid of both leaves and water accumulated on the roof. The weather was looking promising for a short distance and then more rain to travel through. We headed to Bairnsdale and on to Maffra to do a little supply shopping. Not knowing exactly where our destination was, and the phone GPS not looking like it was doing a good job for us, we had to sort of guess our way to Cowwarr Weir. This is a very nice spot but only for self contained vehicles, which mean the vehicle should have storage tanks for waste water and its own toilet. However, there is a toilet block here.

What a great ‘hidden-away’ gem? The grass is green and mown and the weir is shallow and looks inviting to the kayak enthusiast. There were just 7 other ‘seniors’ in their caravans for the first night we stayed here.

The weather turned cold and bleak on New Year’s day so out with the warm jackets, even during the day. Finally, we decided to come home the day after, stopping for a meal at Yarragon along the way and arriving home early evening.