Road trip – Warrnambool to Grampians

Our adventure along The Great Ocean Road had come to an end but we still had a lot more driving to do. Our first stop of the day was an unplanned one, but seeing a sign for Hopkins Falls we decided to follow it. Turned out to be a great little stop with a nice view of a waterfall. At the lookout we discovered a ‘Fotopol’ a brilliant invention! It was basically a permanent tripod for people to attach their cameras. It allowed me to take some really nice photos of the waterfall using a long shutter speed to make the movement of the water look silky smooth. The sturdiness of the Fotopol and the use of my wireless remote combined to create some great snaps.
Tower Hill Reserve was next on the agenda. The reserve was home to an extinct volcano believed to have erupted 30,000 years ago, but now a new habitat for many animals. We walked some of the many trails. The peak climb took us 30 minutes and led us to the highest point of the reserve with views of the surrounding area. The lava tongue boardwalk took us 30 minutes which led us through swamp areas and we spotted lizards, a snake and emus along the way. Journey to the last volcano took us one hour and lead us to the centre of the volcano but to be honest there was not much to see. We spotted a koala sitting in a eucalyptus tree near the picnic area and ash had a brief encounter with a snake near the information centre.
On returning to our vehicle I unlocked the doors and the key broke in the lock! I couldn’t believe our luck, stuck in a national park in the heat. We called Jucy who told us that even though we paid for the full insurance cover the key wasn’t covered. They gave us a number for a mobile locksmith and informed us that we would have to pay. How very helpful of Jucy rentals! We had to wait 2 hours for the locksmith to turn up so we went into the back of the van and cooked up some soup. There we were sitting in the national park carpark enjoying our soup and an Asian tourist took this opportunity to take a photo of us. Eventually the locksmith turned up and managed to cut us a new key for the hefty price of $100. But don’t worry, we did what we do best and complained to Jucy who later reimbursed us. After this setback we quickly got on the road again and headed for Grampians but a bigger obstacle was about to come into play.
The roads were straight and long heading towards the Grampians and we could see the mountainous landscape in the distance. We spotted smoke ahead and soon realised we were heading straight for it. We passed a Fire Marshall who informed us that it was a controlled fire and we had nothing to worry about. He advised us to slow down from 110kmh to 50kmh, to put our headlights on and he’d radio the other Marshall’s to let them know we were heading in their direction. Smoke was everywhere and even though we shut all the windows and vents we could feel the smoke filling our lungs. We carried on down the road only for the smoke to get thicker and all of a sudden we were in a thick blanket of smoke and could not see a thing. I couldn’t see the bonnet of our own car never mind the road ahead of us. The smoke was making us cough and the heat was unreal, even though visibility was zero, it was safer to keep on going. I was driving at walking pace when all of a sudden I had to hit the brakes hard and we stopped inches away from hitting a bollard. It was a bit of a panic but the car was becoming very hot so all I could do is keep moving and Ash suggested beeping the horn as we crawled along the road. Eventually visibility started to improve and there were flames near the side of the road. We could just make out the shadows of some of the marshalls fighting the fire. As soon as we cleared the smoke I put my foot down and wound down the windows, air never tasted so good. It was a very scary experience and one we will not forget. We were very lucky nothing was coming the other way. Ash did manage to film some of it, so we will try and upload some footage at a later date.
We stopped at Lake Bellfield before spending the night at Lake Fyans holiday park in the Grampians. It was a very eventful day and we enjoyed a relaxed evening star gazing with views of the Milky Way.

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The Great Ocean Road – Port Campbell-Warrnambool

Day Three:

We saw the Twelve Apostles yesterday but we just wanted to see them again and go quite early to spend a bit longer and enjoy the sunrise peeking over the rock formations. We were so tired that we just missed sunrise but we still got a beautiful view of the Sun pointing west towards the Apostles which saw shadows of the cliffs loom over them and made for some nice photographs.

We had decided the night before we would have to back track towards Cape Otway to check out the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures as it was too late to go when originally planned – no thanks to Jucy. We drove towards the park looking forward to doing some zip line activities as well as the treetops walk and since we had Merlin annual passes it would cost us nothing….wrongo!! We got there and found out it was free for us to do the treetop walk & nature trail but it was around $100 to do the zip line although maybe 25% off, still very pricey so we gave that a miss. The nature trail was ok, a lot of ferns and trees but a few dinosaurs in between, all very old and in need of repair (the raptors had legs missing). We joined the treetops walk which wasn’t amazing but I liked making it move – the older generation did not. Overall we are glad we didn’t have to pay but it we enjoyed being outdoors taking in the natural beauty.

We found a national park close to Otway Fly Treetop Adventures which has a waterfall – Triplet Falls, named apply for its gradient fall. We had a slight incline to walk but we had fun, especially being rewarded with a picturesque view of the waterfall. Some people had took an unofficial detour to get the bottom of the water to have a swim maybe, Sean tried but felt it was a bit steep for me to be comfortable with. However we had some great views from the three levels, it took us about an hour return and was not too strenuous.

We headed forward on the Great Ocean Road, stopping off at a few more monuments near the Twelve Apostles. The coastline between Cape Otway and Port Fairy is a notoriously dangerous stretch of water. In the days of sailing ships more than 80 vessels came to grief on this 120km stretch in just 40 years. The most famous wreck was that of Loch Ard, hence the lookout name; Loch Ard Gorge. This was our favourite lookout on the GOR, it had a beautiful but small beach which was like a cove surrounded by two huge cliffs. These cliffs created some monstrous waves and you could see why people are not allowed to swim these waters, It did not stop some silly women frolicking around like a beached whale though – a local however pulled her out un-amused. I could have stayed here all day but as the tide came in and started washing people’s belongings out to sea (someone lost there iPhone here) we decide to make hast and drive onwards to some more lookout points.

We saw many more along the way, Including Thunder Cave – a name referred to by the noise made by the waves crashing inside the cave, London Bridge – a famous rock formation named recently due to two tourists in the 90s being stranded when rocks collapsed separating the stack to the mainland.  Bay of Islands and Bay of Martyrs were pretty amazing too with a vast sight into the distance of yet more rock stacks. We realised that in years to come the very spot we were standing would one day be another apostle, this was a crazy thought.

As the sun started to decent beyond sight we got back in our van and drove to Warrnambool, the last destination on the Great Ocean Road. We found a campsite to stay overnight which was quite small and Sean thought, very Bogeny (Aussie term for redneck). We cooked some camel burgers, which just tasted like beef, and enjoyed the starry skies.

We loved the GOR and would miss the beauty of the coastal drive especially the fun windy roads and the lookout after lookout, but we were only a quarter of the way into our roadtrip as we had plenty more to see towards Port Lincoln and then inland towards Sydney. For now though we had to catch some zzz’s after a long adventure filled day. Night John boy.

The Great Ocean Road – Anglesea – Port Campbell

We had an early start for day 2 of our great ocean road trip to make up for lost time. We woke ourselves up with a walk along the beach before driving to Aireys Inlet. We walked a short trail with scenic coastal views and saw Split Point lighthouse which was featured in the classic kids TV show ‘Round The Twist’ (I’m very tempted to watch it again and see if it was as funny as I remember).

Our next stop was Memorial Arch for a photo opportunity. The arch is a big wooden structure above the great ocean road in memory of all the serviceman that helped build the road and served in the Great War. The road itself is the worlds biggest war memorial, first built in 1939 and then replaced in 1973. It was then rebuilt following it’s destruction by fire in 1983. It is a very popular destination, coach loads of people were turning up all wanting a photo so we didn’t spend too long loitering. We then stopped at Teddy’s lookout for another great photo opportunity of coastal views before making a short stop at Apollo Bay for some fish and chips by the beach.

On the road again we drove through endless tunnels made of tree’s before arriving at Cape Otway. There was another lighthouse to see although we had to pay admission for access to the park. Within the park there were a few attractions such as the lighthouse, military bunker, aboriginal shack, small museums and nice views. In 1978 an aeroplane went missing in the area piloted by Fredrick Valentich. The last radio transmission he sent was “the strange aircraft is hovering on top of me again and it’s not an aircraft”….Strange! UFO? To be fair there was not much to see and if we had known probably wouldn’t have paid the admission.

We drove to Castle Cove for more coastal views and on route Ash’s eagle-eye spotted a few koalas up in the eucalyptus tree’s.
Finally we arrived at Port Campbell National Park, home to the 12 apostles – the most photographed stretch of the great ocean road. Our first stop was the Gibson Steps which led us down to Gibson Beach where we came face to face with one of the apostles – A large rock stack in the ocean. We then travelled a few minutes down the road to the 12 Apostles Visitors Centre where there were several lookouts to view more of the Apostles and a great place to watch the sunset. It was great seeing something up close that you’ve only ever seen in tour magazines. We would have liked to take a helicopter ride to see them all but sadly didn’t have time or the money.

That night we stayed in Port Campbell Holiday Park for another night in the van.

The Great Ocean Road – Melbourne – Anglesea

Day one:

Our destination: Port Lincoln Shark Diving!!
Vehicle of choice: Jucy Rentals
Booked through Peterpans Travel
Duration: Booked for 13 days
Cost: $57 + $25 (insurance) a day

Ever since we started talking about travelling Australia we have always had two things on our bucket lists, dive the Great Barrier Reef and Cage Shark diving. It’s something we would never get the chance to do again and we just love marine life especially the mysterious Great White Shark (white shark). We went straight to Peterpans in Melbourne and knew exactly what we wanted and booked! So we decided to do the Great Ocean Road along the way and check out Adelaide, yes it would be cheaper to just fly over but we would miss out on all the glorious views, locations and memories of doing this journey.

Our day started…..no wait….3 hours later our day started. We woke early aiming to get our car around collection time at 10am and arrived not long after to find a bit of a queue but not much, about 5 people. An hour of waiting on the queue we start getting annoyed as we really should be on the road heading straight for The Twelve Apostles not in some stark collection office. We realise that a few of the people haven’t even com  to collect cars but enquire about booking one so the people waiting to collect can’t because Jucy haven’t got a proper queuing system and not only that the only 2 Jucy staff that seem to be working then take each person outside to see the vehicle, which take another 20 minutes and at this point we’re tapping our feet, shaking our heads and watching the clock. The staff were slow, to busy having conversations about “how sweet your trips going to be” and less time organising and handling the customers that want to be on that sweet trip!

We finally get to the front of the queue and its been 3 hours and our plans for going straight to the apostles is not happening, it would be after sunset by the time we got there and we did not want to miss out on seeing places on the way. The assistant smiles and says “sorry about the wait is everything ok?” We remind her how long we have waited and how we are a day behind now which we are paying for as we speak only to then be told ” sorry about that, it does work out that most out that most of the time people do loose a day but that’s just what happens” she wrote it in the notes for us to mention to HR but that was it. Thanks Jucy for your amazing customer service. NOT.

So day one finally starts after getting supplies for the van. The plan today is to aim for Anglesea where we would find accommodation before starting the Great Ocean Road in the morning. We decide to stop off in Torquay home of Rip Curl and Bells beach where surf competitions take place annually. There wasn’t much in terms of surf for us to watch as it was getting late and the weather quite cold and I’m guessing the sea is even colder. The area was beautiful though and coastline amazing to see, I always find staring out in to the ocean very hypnotic and calming.

We moved on towards Anglesea where we found a camp site for the night, it was quite dark at this point but it was a nice, quiet location and there was loads of space. We parked our van and took a little look around. We were close to all facilities and we had privacy with help of the trees surrounding our space and we were right by the beach too.
The walk to and from the toilets was fun, my feet were black and I creeped myself out walking back in the dark but the showers were great, clean and the cost of $– a night per van was good.

We headed 5 minutes away from reception to grab some food as we weren’t allowed to use our stove on the camp site. We found a pub that served food and went with the kangaroo roast dinner which was delicious although the cook thought he only had to make one dish, I waited and asked the waitress who had to tell him to make mine but it meant Sean had to eat without me. After the meal we called it a night and walked back to the van to plan day two when we heard something in the shadows. We freaked when we saw a massive kangaroo a few meters away from us, it bounced off eventually into the darkness and we were left aware but delighted. After a bad start to the day it ended pleasant and we hoped nothing else would get in our way that would change this.

Formula 1; The Melbourne Grand Prix – Part 2

It was Friday 14th March 2014, the day me and Ash get our first look at the new Formula 1 cars in all there glory. We made an early start to avoid the rush on the trams and it paid off. Before we even entered the gates of Albert park we spotted Mark Webber being interviewed. Sadly we didn’t get near him but popped off a few paparazzi shots before leaving him in peace. We walked around before settling in our grandstand seats for the first F1 practise session of the day. We had bought some earplugs from my experience hearing a formula ford do a lap a few years ago but to my surprise the cars were a lot quieter, now fitted with their V6 turbos as apposed to the V8 monsters they once had. We sat in our seats for most of the practise before walking to the inside of turn 13 and 14 for a different perspective.  That day we also watched the Porsche Carrera Cup, RAAF roulettes and the deafening F/A18 Jet air displays as well as the second F1 practise session. Hamilton looked to be very fast and consistent throughout the day.

Saturday was another fun filled day. We spent some more time in the action zone before checking out some of the Ferrari’s and Lotus cars around the park. We walked along the V8 pits and went to the autograph stage were I met and had my photo with the Rolex grid girls and Ash met and got autographs from some of the skateboarders but sadly not Tony Hawk. We watched the third F1 practise session, Ferrari road car parade and the over head air displays. Towards the end of Saturday the F1 qualification began so we found our seat and didn’t budge. It was very exciting soaking up the atmosphere, hearing the roar of the engines and seeing some of the pit action. It was definitely better than watching the qualification at home on a TV.

Sunday was the big race day and the day we spent most of our time sitting in the grandstand. Before finding our seats Ash bought me an early birthday present in the form of a McLaren Jenson Button cap. We watched an ultimate speed comparison lap where a 2013 F1 car, current V8 supercar and a     all raced each other. There was also the F1 drivers parade and of course the 2014 Melbourne Grand Prix! I was cheering on Button and Kimi but believed the Mercedes looked very capable of a one, two finish. It was great to watch and we found the screen opposite very handy. We soon found ourselves cheering on Riccardo along with majority of people around us. After the race we managed to fight our way onto the track which was a bit of a struggle but managed to get close to the podium just after the champagne spraying. We watched the speeches, took photos of us on pole position before walking the track towards turn 3 finding some rubber from the tyres along the way.
It was a great weekend both me and Ash had a great experience. I still believe, however that watching the formula 1 is a television sport but you can’t beat the atmosphere and a weekend full of action.

Formula 1; The Melbourne Grand Prix – Part 1

We left Sydney to do a road trip along the Great Ocean Road starting from Melbourne. Timing was perfect as it meant we were in Melbourne for the Grand Prix. As much as I love watching formula 1, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend one, so what better excuse than seeing the opening race. We pre-booked a 4 day grandstand ticket. Unfortunately the Schumacher and Clark stand were both sold out so going by the location and reviews the next best option in our price range was the Webber stand $320 each.
We stayed in Nomads hostel which is located in the CBD near Grand Central and the free tram to the Grand Prix was on our doorstep.
Thursday was the first day and free entry to the public. As soon as we arrived at Albert Park we thought we would check out our seat for the weekend. It was a good location on the pit straight, we could see the V8 pits and the end of the F1 pits. We also had a big TV screen opposite which would help us keeping up with the action. There was no shade or shelter from the rain so we would have to make sure we came prepared for anything as Melbourne weather is very unpredictable. We caught a few races including historical cars before we decided to go explore.
As it was a free day we invited Josefine to meet us there. We spent a lot of time in the very impressive Action Zone where there was plenty of entertainment. We watched 3 motorcyclists dice with death in a cage aptly named the globe of death. It’s amazing how little space they have yet the three of them are criss crossing each others path whilst riding upside down and side to side. To add to that during the show we had RAAF Roulettes performing a jaw dropping air display above our heads. There was a massive skateboard vert where Tony hawk and friends performed some rad tricks. I couldnt believe that we got to see a legend of skateboarding twice in the space of a month. We also enjoyed Flair motor trials display where there was 2 dudes on motorbikes along with one guy on a bmx and another dude on a unicycle all getting air and tricking of some crazy ramps. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier there was an awesome high wire stunt with a dude riding a heavy motorcycle along a high-wire whilst a talented lady hung beneath the motorcycle performing trapeze-like stunts.
After our adrenaline kick we walked around other areas of Albert park checking out various sponsors and cars that were competing over the weekend. Near the historic car garages we bumped into David Coulthard surrounded by a mob of people.
Before leaving Albert park for the day we checked out the V8 supercar pits before catching the end of a Porsche Carrera Cup Race and boy were they loud!
That night we met up with Josephine and Elisa for food and drink. We had a good old chat about all our adventures past and present and sadly had to say farewell. Josephine was heading to Thailand and Elisa to Perth. Two great people that I’m sure we will meet again.