By Colleen Wileman
After covering about 800 kilometers a day while driving through the Outback, we were a little shocked at our slow progress once we left Adelaide. The landscape changed dramatically and we wound our way through wine country, sheep country, dairy country and back to sheep country. On that first day we only covered about 100 kms in total and stopped just at the head of the Great Ocean Road.
Our second day was not much better mileage wise but in the 78 kms that we travelled we stopped at a number of spectacular sites along the way. This coast is known as the shipwreck coast as the waves are unrelenting and the coastline is sheer rock walls. However, each stop was slightly different and amazing all the same.
The Grotto – Probably one of the nicest sights that we saw along the coast. This is a cave and sinkhole located about halfway up the cliff, from sea level. We descended by staircase to the viewing area which was rock pools carved out in the jagged edged limestone. Beautiful!!
The London Arch – This was formerly called London Bridge and was attached to the mainland. However, on January 15, 1990, the arch collapsed and left two people stranded on the outer arch. They were later rescued by helicopter.
Loch Ard Gorge – Loch Ard was a ship that sailed from Gravesend, England in 1878. As it came near the coast, it ended up smashing into the rocks and sank. Only two people survived the wreck. I mean really, why would you sail from a place called Gravesend?!?!?
The next day dawned cool and dreary and the grass was still damp from the previous night’s rain. We packed up our camper and headed to the Twelve Apostles to take pictures without the crowds and the blazing sun. The wind pulled at our jackets as we descended Gibson’s Steps toward the beach, which would give us a different view of the Apostles.
A little further up the road we stopped at a Wildlife Sanctuary for a cup of coffee and a visit with a few of the residents there. We fed a kangaroo, an emu, and a couple of alpacas. We admired a pair of dingoes – beautiful creatures. The young lady that owns the sanctuary with her family told us that dingoes are actually loners and do not travel in packs as our wolves do. Once they are old enough, they find a mate for life and the two of them manage a little section of the wilderness. The two that are at the sanctuary were born in captivity but I am not sure of how they arrived there.
From there we headed further up the Great Ocean Road. The landscape changed yet again. We were now moving through the Otway National Forest. The scenery was magnificent as we wound our way through a series of switchbacks with forest on one side and valleys and sheep meadows on the other. We took a narrow, winding side road down to the Otway Cape to see the first established lighthouse on the coast. After 300 shipwrecks by 1878, it was decided that something had to be done to warn the captains of impending disaster. Though the purpose of the original lighthouse has been replaced by modern technology, it still stands as a testament to the people who went before.
The life of a lighthouse keeper was harsh. A community had to be established and over time a telegraph office and a school. As this area was remote, the community had to become self sufficient with its own vegetable gardens and animals. Supplies had to be brought in by bullocks and wagon – a trip that would take 3 days to a week over land.
We wound our way back out to the main road and thought that the worst of the drive was behind us. How wrong we were!! This road hugged the coastline with hairpin turns, sheer rock faces on the left and dropoffs into the ocean on the right. Richard did the white knuckle driving and I hung on for dear life in the passenger seat. We were very happy to see Lorne, where we were spending the night.
We spent another couple of days meandering our way to Melbourne. Once we left the Great Ocean Road, the driving became easier and we made good time. We spent four days in Melbourne, exploring the city, planning more of our trip, and relaxing.
We spent at total of 25 days travelling this diverse continent of Australia. The beautiful beaches on the east coast. The desert and red dust in the Outback. The green hills of Adelaide. The craggy ocean road of the south coast. Each absolutely stunning. Even Sydney and Melbourne are completely different – both hip in their own way but decidedly different.
Next stop is New Zealand. You’ll have to keep reading to see what kind of trouble we got into there!!
This article was originally published in the September 20, 2019 print edition of the Winnipeg River Advocate. We will continue to post Richard and Colleen’s adventures here until we have caught up with the print edition. If you want to read ahead, visit our archive pages and you can download a PDF of every issue of the Advocate.