The Great Ocean Road and the Grampians: Freedom Once Again

They call it the working holiday visa. You come to Australia thinking ‘great so I’ll work for a bit, go travelling, then work another little bit and go travelling again’. It’s really not that easy. Living in Australia is a great experience but it is a very expensive one. We Europeans arrive on Ozzy shores and hear the wages being offered and think ‘yes! I am going to live the dream’ and then you go to buy a bottle of water and it’s $5. If you want to see Australia in all its glory, it takes some saving and after months of hard work, we reached our goal and left Melbourne on the morning of February 12th. Diarmo, Ela and looked back at Melbourne’s CBD in the distance as we set off on the Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road is in essence the most awesome stretch of coastline in Australia and probably the most awesome we had seen before. Millions of years of erosion and deposition has left it in quite a unique state, one which I think my geography teacher would be in awe of. Our tour guide was really knowledgable, she knew her stuff alright, her name was Foggy. Yes I am serious. I asked her ‘Is Foggy like a nickname?’, ‘It’s short for Foghorn’ she replied. Oh. That’s normal.

Our first stop was Bell’s beach where big surf competitions are held and Diarmo and I were so hyper at being on the road again we ran down to the freezing cold water and played like dogs on the beach. Later on we stopped at a few other lookouts over white sandy beaches; waves crashing against them viciously. The shining light of the Great Ocean Road is ‘The Twelve Apostles’, a collection of limestone stacks just off the shore. There aren’t actually 12, but I am sure at one point there were. They are magnificent on sight and especially on a bright sunny day. In fact, we’ve seen the rainy day photos, they aren’t so great then.

Our last stop of the afternoon was a great little cove surrounded by limestone rock which unlike Ireland isn’t grey; it’s orange, which makes it look more tropical and cooler. Already Melbourne was becoming forgotten as once again, we ran around the beach like kids. Getting back on the bus, we started to realise the rest of the group were not the coolest. Now I am not one to judge on first impressions, but in this case we did and we were right.

We arrived at our hostel at Hall’s Pass that evening and we were exhausted, we just had enough energy to go and catch the sunset by the bay, it was spectacular. Now unfortunately we had drawn short straws with our room mates, 2 big Ozzy boys were in our room and the rumour was one of them was a snorer. In the end, it wasn’t true. Snoring can bother most light sleepers, sometimes even heavy sleepers. This lad’s snoring would cause earthquake warnings. I have never heard anything like it. We awoke the next morning, not fully rested but nonetheless looking forward to our next activities.

We visited a wildlife park in the morning where we got to hold snakes, which was very weird. And then we got to hold koalas, they are definitely the most adorable animal in existence, so much so I used adorable for the first time in any blog. We got to see lots of kangaroos too, the big ones are actually a bit intimidating, the wallabies are brilliant, they are smaller and more lively and the way they jump never stops being hilarious. Ela and I hadn’t even seen kangaroos since we first got to Australia, the only interesting animal you seem to see in day-to-day life are spiders, the venomous ones.

So then we ventured into the Grampian mountains and did some trekking. We got some fantastic views of the surrounding areas and climbed quite a big mountain in the late afternoon. There was an elderly Korean woman on our tour who didn’t quite make it up. Bless. It was just really nice being out of the city and back in the wilderness and to start seeing all that Victoria had to offer. We then settled into our hostel at Hall’s pass and went straight to the off-license. $62 for a case of beer. Even for Australia it was an insane price.

We had a few beers with our fellow tour-ees and tried our best to have some craic, but Diarmo and I had our best craic without them. After dinner at least 5 of the lads on the tour crowded around the one dedent girl on the tour (bar Ela of course!) and hung by her every word while she told her life story. Sadness defined. Diarmo and I took our case of beer to a green area beyond the hostel and gazed at the 17 billion stars above us. Even in Conamara or the wilderness of Laos, we had never seen anything like it. Soon enough we realised, we were not alone. There were about 40 wallabies all around us, probably just wondering what we were up to. Shame they couldn’t join us for a beer, maybe after another million years of evolution they might.

Luck really wasn’t with us with regards our sleeping situation. The snoring rhinoceros was in our room again and sleep wasn’t any easier. He had said earlier on that he would sleep on a hammock outside. He must have been joking – not funny mate. So the next day, we set off into the Grampians once again and did some great treks while taking in some fantastic views. The great thing about this Australia trip would be that we would definitely keep fit; and make up for the beers. Foggy bid us farewell at Horsham; halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide where we took the bus back to the city that stole all my stuff many months before.

Adelaide looked a lot nicer than I remember, maybe it was the weather, maybe it was that I was on my travels this time. We checked into the hostel and went out for a pint and a look around the city, we had a very early start the next day and we prayed that the french couple in our room were quiet sleepers. Our next stop was much further into the wilderness; into the Australian out back.

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