Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aussie 1: Great Ocean Drive from Melbourne

Tweleve Apostles as seen from the Chopper Ride
So, after the series of blog posts on my South Africa trip, I am here again now blogging on my Christmas/New Year trip to Australia. This time again, the preparations started pretty early in August itself. First, we booked our international flight and then focused on the details. This time, I decided to fly in to Melbourne and fly out from Brisbane. Though, I ended up paying slightly extra but this saved us the trouble of reaching back the city we started from. The next step after booking the flight is to make a detailed itinerary of the cities we will be visiting and then book accommodation in those cities. Once accommodation is booked and Visa is approved, I target other things like rental cars and any activities we might like to do in the destination city.
Bells Beach. Totally deserted on a cloudy day
Our flight was to depart from Delhi at 9 am in the morning. Delhi Airport is normally disrupted by fog during winters which delayed our last year's flight to Johannesburg by over 4 hours leading to a painful wait at the airport. To avoid the same situation again, I confirmed the departure status of the flight before reaching the airport. Thankfully the flight was as scheduled and we reached Melbourne early in the morning of 22nd December. The immigration line at Melbourne airport was pretty long thanks to there being only 2 counters open. Its a painful task to be standing in such queues after a long flight. However, soon our papers were checked and we were ambling outside the airport looking for options to reach our hotel in the city. We met an English guy there who was in Australia to watch The Ashes. Sadly for him, England were already down 0-3 in the 5 match series by that time.
Split Point Lighthouse
The early morning drive to our hotel on Little Bourke Street was just 30 minutes long and after a quick check in, we were in the street again looking for some breakfast and sim cards for our mobile phones. However, the first thing we noticed on the streets and most of the stores was the number of Indians/Asians working there. I was literally conversing in Hindi at most of those stores. Getting sim cards was a weird process in this country. You can just buy any sim and then get it activated yourself by calling their customer care. I bought a Vodafone sim only to find that due to some technical issue, they won't be able to activate it within 24 hours. Disappointed, I bought another sim card for 2 dollars. Even then it took me almost an hour to get a single connection activated as I had to find a public computer to access internet to get it activated. After breakfast and an active mobile connection, we finally retired to our rooms for some rest and much needed sleep.
Us posing in the fields near the lighthouse
We woke up late afternoon and then decided to explore the streets close to our hotel. Our hotel being located in the Melbourne CBD area was within walking distance to most of the city's attractions. We spent most of our time wandering in the streets and some time shopping at Bourke Street Mall. We also picked up our rental car which we decided to just leave in an overnight parking from where we can pick it up the next morning. As we had no idea of parking in this city, we asked our hotel staff who guided us to a parking close to our hotel. Food is a big issue for me when travelling as I am vegetarian and need a hot vegetarian meal to feel satiated. Luckily for us, we found a really great Indian restaurant pretty close to our hotel where we had most of our meals while in Melbourne. The food tasted authentic Indian and was decently priced. 
Giant roots in Maits Rainforest
Next morning, we left the hotel around 10 am. As it was drizzling slightly, so two of us went to pick the car while the other two waited at the hotel reception. When we put the parking ticket into the machine, it asked us to pay 80 dollars. I was totally baffled by that. Eighty AUD is equivalent to 5000 Indian rupees and I can park my car for a month here in Delhi and still pay less than this amount. That was really shocking but we hardly had any option so we put in the required amount and left for the Great Ocean Drive. 
Our beautiful stay for the night near Port Campbell
After the parking incident and the number of warnings that people had already given us about the strictness of rules in Australia, I was being immensely careful while driving. I kept glancing at my speedometer every few seconds to ensure that I am not breaching the speed limit. It was so boring driving like this considering my experience on Indian roads. Also, as it was just me who was sticking so strictly to the speed limit, everyone else was overtaking me at will forcing me to keep an eye on the rear-view mirror as well. It was only after an hour or two of driving that I got a little more comfortable and confident of driving there.
A female Kangaroo with her baby in the distance
The Great Ocean Drive starts from Torquay and travels 243 kms westwards to Warrnambool hugging the coastline for the most part. This road was built by returning servicemen after the first world war and is the biggest War Memorial in the world. It passes through rain-forests, beaches and cliffs made of sandstone & limestone. 
Guys enjoying in the beautiful fields around the house
Our first stop on this drive was to be Bells beach. Bells beach is a located in Surf Coast and is the home of the world's longest running surf competition - the Rip Curl Pro Surf & Music Festival. However, as the weather wasn't right today, there was just a lobe surfer in the water. After Bells beach, we stopped at the Split Point Lighthouse at Aireys Inlet. The area around this 34 meters tall lighthouse seemed good for a day's outing with scenic views and nice lawns. There is also a solitary apostle right behind the lighthouse. The importance of these lighthouses is evident considering the numerous limestone formations in along the coast in this part of Australia which is also called Shipwreck Coast.
Port Campbell. A small beautiful township
Next, we stopped for a little while at Lorne to have a short meal and then drove a long way ahead only to stop at Maits Rest Rainforest. Though there were a number of other attractions on the way, we avoided them as we wanted to reach our stay for the night well before its dark. Maits Rest Rainforest is a cool temperate rainforest located in a gully in the Otway ranges. One can take a half an hour walk here while posing with the ferns and the huge roots of the immensely tall trees. The whole rainforest area remains moist across the year and is an energizing walk in the fresh forest air.
Memorial Arch
Refreshed after this walk, we drove another 70 kms to reach our stay for the night, Loch Ard Bed & Breakfast in Port Campbell. This has to be one of the best accommodation that I have stayed at. The house built in the middle of a 400 acre cattle farm is beautiful with great hosts in the form of elderly couple Win & Don. Its located 3 kms inside from the main Great Ocean road resulting in beautiful panoramic views of the countryside and ocean further ahead. You can easily spot some kangaroos hopping in the fields during dusk and dawn.
London Arch formerly known as London Bridge
Next morning, we decided to go further ahead towards Warrnambool to see some more formations like Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge et al before returning back to Melbourne. Port Campbell is a beautiful small town with nice weather and scenic locations all around. We spent some time soaking the sun near the harbour before visiting the view points for these natural formations. To find these view points, you only need to keep moving on the main Great Ocean Road and look for sign posts on the roadside. However as there are too many of these view points, its better if you do some research to find out which ones you want to visit and which one to give a miss.
Majestic beaches hear around Port Campbell
As we hadn't done our home work on which view points to go to, we just continued looking for the sign posts and visited any of those randomly. Moving from Port Campbell towards Warrnambool, the first one was the Memorial Arch. Next, we visited the London Arch, formerly known as London Bridge because of its similarity to its namesake. Before one of the arch collapsed into the sea in 1990, it formed a complete double span natural bridge.

All set to get into the Chopper
After this, we moved back to the other side of Port Campbell where the major attractions like the Twelve Apostles, Gibson Steps & Loch Ard Gorge lie. However on this side, there are too many view points and the walk to each of them from the Car parking is pretty long. The day we went here, the sun was shining quite harshly and we couldn't gather the courage of walking to all of them.
This formation is called Razorback. Rightly so
With no home work and no map to tell us the "must see" points, we ended up missing out on a number of them. For example, we missed the Gibson Steps and also the traditional view point for the famed Twelve Apostles. However, there are so many of these view points that after a while we started to feel that all are the same and it doesn't matter if we miss a few. Also, we compensated for all this by taking a helicopter ride over this area. It was just a 20 minute ride but totally worth the money for the majestic views it offers. Being at a height over the ocean allows you to grasp the beauty of the entire coastline in one view. After this chopper ride, we rushed back to Melbourne taking the inland route in order to be quicker reaching back as this was the Christmas eve and we expected some crazy parties in Melbourne on this occasion. Due to a lack of time and tired legs, we didn't even go down to the beautiful beaches that this coastline has to offer. These undeveloped beaches with red sands will remind you of several movies and are a must visit for anyone visiting the Twelve Apostles. Also, for anyone visiting Melbourne this GREAT OCEAN DRIVE is a must do.
Here is a video of the Chopper ride:
For those who go here and take this chopper ride, I would recommend taking the Chopper with video option as its smaller and takes only three tourists. Due to this, all the tourists get window seats and have an unrestricted view of the marvellous scenery. Here is the video during our return: Twelve Apostles

You can stay here for hours mesmerized by the beauty in front of you
Credits: Some of these pictures were taken by my friends travelling with me.

1 comment:

deepak said...