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.

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.