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 – 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.

Perth to Monkey Mia: Day 2 – Kalbarri, Murchison Gorge, Shell Beach, Monkey Mia

It was an early start leaving the farm and a team effort to get everything packed onto the minibus. We said goodbye to the horses then off we set for Kalbarri National park. It was a beautiful sunny day and once we arrived at our destination we had views to match. A rocky landscape like nothing I’d ever seen before apart from on TV. We walked a rocky path to get to Natures Window a naturally made hole in a rock that frames the river. It’s an iconic attraction and was a great photo opportunity. Lindsay said “is this the window?” which made us all chuckle as it was as if she was sarcastically saying “is that it?” I couldn’t help myself from hanging from a few of the rocks to get some good photo’s. For some reason the film 127 hours came to mind. We all jumped back on the minibus to get a bit closer to Z-bend gorge. The walk was a bit more demanding, at times there was no actual path and a few uneven rocks to climb down but it was nothing too taxing. Nearing the river we met some abseiling guys and for $30 we could abseil down a 30 metre cliff face, which was pretty sweet. Most of the group got involved including Ash whilst those who didn’t took snaps. After that boost of adrenaline we chilled on the rocks by the river before climbing back up to enjoy some more views.

Back on the open road and our stomachs were howling at us like a pack of hungry wolves. Luckily we had some music to sing along with to distract us. My ipod was picked to be blasted out and the first song that came on was “whip it” by Devo. Everyone seemed to find it hilarious especially Antoine who said “this is so 80s”. We stopped at Billabong roadhouse for lunch. No BBQ today but there was plenty of food to make a decent sandwich to silence the wolves. Beetroot, sweet corn, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, carrot, tuna and more. Once again a group effort to get everything prepared and put away again.

Back into the oven we went… Ahem, I mean minibus. By this time it was pretty hot but once we got moving it became more bearable. We’d already seen a lot of wildlife whilst being on the road, a lot of roo’s live and dead. Suddenly Kelly, our tour guide slammed on the brakes, turned the minibus around, stopped and then jumped out. We hadn’t a clue what was happening and then we noticed she picked up a lizard. Somehow whilst probably driving about 100kph she spotted this well camouflaged lizard which turned out to be a thorny devil. It was great to see one up close and in the wild. We all took some photos then she carefully put it back.

IMG_2134

Shell beach was really cool, a beach of shells… self explanatory really. No fine sand just loads of tiny shells. There was no one else there and water was so clear and blue I couldn’t resist a quick dip. You could walk a fair bit out and the sea wouldn’t go any higher than your knees. We all got some great group photos of us jumping in the air whilst throwing a handful of shells. Thanks Kelly for the idea.

It was minibus time again like Adventure Time but without Jake the dog and Fin the human. Actually nothing like Adventure Time apart from the fact it was an adventure. More tunes from my iPod followed, one in particular was Heroes by David Bowie. We were excited to see dolphins at Monkey Mia and the lyric “like dolphins can swim” became a catch phrase, us cool kids on the back row sung the whole song. We arrived at Monkey Mia just as the sun was setting. Straight away we saw something in the sea…Dolphins! As if! Wild bottle nosed dolphins just like that, at least 3 of them swimming no more than 10 metres away. It was amazing and to top it off the beach was beautiful.

We all unloaded our gear at the hostel and enjoyed a BBQ. Steak was the dish and I enjoyed it all the more washing it down with a cold beer. That night a few of us chilled on the beach, the sky was so clear you could see the milky way! We sat there star gazing sipping back a few beers it really was a beautiful night. Monkey Mia had already got a firm hold on me with two hands and I didn’t want to leave.

IMG_2172