Archive for September 2009
The next several days consist of watching all 3 of the Jurassic park movies, followed by all 3 of the Lord of the Rings movies – the extended version. Needless to say, not our most productive. I do get out into the city a few times and check out the Melbourne aquarium. A bit on the pricey side ($33.00 entry), but I do at least get a discount with my backpacker card. Here I got to see penguins, my first time seeing live penguins, quite a site! Very nice exhibit with snow and a ice pond for them to swin – and boy can they swim! When they’re not swimming they spend their days piling up rocks to lay on – looks like the one with the most rocks is in charge.
Spend another few hours walking around, and stop in to see the shark feeding show where divers get in the tanks with sharks (and stingrays, turtles, and hundreds of fish) to feed them. Mostly they just get sucked on my the giant manta rays. Beautiful room, 2.2 million litres of water in this one giant display. Overall a great tourist attraction, but I think I am partial to the Vancouver aquarium back home.
AFL Grand Final Day is here, and we are celebrating in true Aussie style. A friend that I met on the Contiki tour 2 years ago, Cameron, is living in Melbourne and invited Andrew and I over to watch the game and have a few drinks. We got to meet his fiancé, Fiona, and a whole bunch of his mates. The party ends up going all night and we end up crashing at their place for the night because the buses have stopped running.
The next morning we are treated to a great Australian breakfast – eggs, bacon, toast, avocado, spinach, and cherry tomatoes. Turns out Cameron had quite a night after Andrew and I passed out, took a bit of a fall and wasn’t able to get out of bed that morning. What a guy! Thanks for the great time Cam and Fiona!
So we are back from the Great Ocean Road trip and we move into our new place. Good things about this apartment: 1. Clean (8/10), 2. Own room and own bathroom, 3. Roommates are a couple our age and are in school so they are out most of the day. Bad things about this apartment: 1. Annoying dog (he does grow on me later but is a pain in the butt to start!). 2. COLD – most places in Melbourne we discover do not have central heating – even though it does get down to 0 at night in the winter! And these people do not believe in turning the heat on.
First on my to- do list here is buying some new warm clothes so I have something to sleep in and hang out in the apartment in. Luckily, we are staying right at the corner of Church and Bridge st. and Bridge St. is the outlet mecca of Melbourne so I am able to pick up some new items for very cheap.
We got up this morning planning on doing a few more of the short hikes in the area, but the weather looked like it was not going to hold out. Nonetheless, we headed out to a few of the lookout points that you can get to by car. More breathtaking views to be seen here. The rain started to come down pretty hard so we camped out in the car for a bit playing cards to see if it would pass. After about 45 minutes we decided that the weather had won and started to make our way to Geelong.
By the time we got to Geelong a few hours later the sun was out and we were able to walk around this port side town and enjoy the views. Thanks to Andrew’s brother Chris, working at the Fairmont in Whistler, we were able to get a family rate on the Sheraton in Geelong (they are part of the same brand of hotels).
We ended up having the best room in this ocean facing hotel and had a spectacular view of the harbour from our balcony. With a discount in the dining room as well, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice meal to end off our Great Ocean Road trip. Back to Melbourne tomorrow!
Day 3: Port Fairy to Grampians National Park
We started our journey from Port Fairy YHA hostel to Grampians National Park by viewing the picturesque Port Fairy bay. From the we headed North
East to a little area known as Tower Hill, as the receptionist at the YHA hostel suggested it was a great location for free kangaroo and koala viewing. Upon getting to it’s parking lot, we immediately saw 4 kangaroos. Soon after taking some photos we were surrounded by two herds of 20-30 ‘roos. It was like a scene from Jurassic park! No koalas were sighted here.
From Tower Hill, we drove North to a little town called Dunkeld at the southern tip of the Grampians National Park, stopped at it’s i-Site Visitor Center, then continued north to Halls Gap where the Eco Grampians YHA hostel and main hikes are located.
After a quick stop the Hall’s Gaps i-Site, we decided to do the longest hike in the area, a 4 hour hike to ‘The Pinnacle’. A beautiful layered rock mountainous hike along side reddish-brown flowing rivers, lead us past ‘Splinters Waterfall’ and through ‘The Grand Canyon’, to the stunning view point at the pinnacle. The pinnacle was a breath taking, sky towering viewpoint jutting out of a rock cliff at the top of the hike.
Thankfully, stairs and railings were installed to allow for such safe views of the landscape below. The hike down the opposite side of the trail conveniently had many stairs providing an easier way down. A few more kangaroos were seen along the hike, and at the end of the trail, to our surprise, were approximately 15 kangaroos grazing at the campgrounds. This encounter provided our first views of two baby kangaroos inside their mother’s pouches.
These kangaroos were obviously use to humans, as a few dozen visitors stood around and took photos, some even close enough to feed the kangaroos. And here we were hoping to see just one or two on our trip! We checked into the 4 star Eco YHA Grampians hostel, taking the cake for the best hostel to date. Tomorrow we plan on doing a few more of the smaller hikes and then making our way to Geelong for the night.
Day 2: Lorne to Port Ferry
We are up and at it for Day 2, from Lorne to Port Ferry is where all the action is. You will want to start your day early if you plan to drive this far, however, I would recommend staying in Warambol instead of Port Ferry, it is a much bigger town with more accommodation options. You can do a quick pop into Port Ferry to check out the coast line and warf, but there isn’t much else to see there.
Our first stop is the Otways Rainforest for the treetop walk. This can be reached 2 different ways, one is before Apollo Bay, and one is after so you can time your day accordingly. You will want to budget about 3 hours for this as it is about 45 minutes off the main highway, and then about an hour for the walk. It is a bit pricy, but since the rest of the days attractions will be free, why not? They accept student cards and backpacker’s cards for discounts as well, bringing the adult admission down from $22.00 to $19.50. The walk will take you through amazing rain forest, a great part of which you are suspended on catwalks looking down – not for those afraid of heights. The peak is the tree top house which you climb about 100 stairs to get up and get a 360 degree view of the forest and walkways below. With the exception of the treetop house, it is fully accessible, and they even have carts to pick you up and take you back to the visitor center if needs be.
Back on the road again, we stop over in Apollo’s Bay for lunch time. Lots of options here for food, or you can have a nice picnic on the beach. Again, beautiful waterfront to check out and explore, and there are other walks you can do here as well if time permits.
Just past Apollo Bay is another great rain forest walk, and this one is free. Mait’s Rest, is just off the main road and takes about 40 minutes to complete the loop. Most of it is on boardwalks and is fairly easy going. Cape Otway is another tourist attraction along the Great Ocean Road, the lowest tip of southern Australia. However, to get in to see the lighthouse it is $15.50/pp. A bit pricey considering there are many other lighthouses to see that are free of charge. We took a picture of the poster instead.
Finally another hour down the road, and we have arrived at the major attraction of the day, The Twelve Apostles. This is THE site to see on this drive, and you can’t miss it since it is marked out on every single map and sign in the area. Eight structures remain- columns of rock, standing tall and dotting along the coastline. There is a boardwalk that goes right along the coast that allows for amazing photography. Even on a cold and cloudy day the place was packed. If it is not one of the natural wonders of the world it should be. Take lots of pictures AND buy the postcard for this place.
Not too much farther down the road is the second major attraction, London Bridge. This large pieces of rock stands out in the ocean and has a great arc carved out underneath from thousands of years of water pounding away and wearing down the surface. Also buy the postcard.
The third major attraction on the list, although not very well known, but just as stunning is the Grotto. Here a canyon has been worn away from erosion from both sides. Interesting rock formations that seem to have a lake in the middle. Easier to describe this attraction with pictures! We just squeeze in this last site before the sun starts to set. It’s still another few hours on the road to Port Ferry, but we have seen all the major attractions. We have booked the YHA hostel in Port Ferry for tonight, older building but cozy. It poured all night and pounded on the roof, but the sound was somehow comforting to sleep to. Another full day on the Great Ocean Road, tomorrow we head inland to the Grampians National Park, more to come!
The Great Ocean Road:
If you are staying in Victoria, Australia, you have to make sure you include the Great Ocean Road as part of your itinerary. It could be done in as little as one day if you zip back and forth with not much time for stopping, but I would recommend at least 3 nights so you can take in all the sights along the way. Many companies offer organized tours which can be a great way to do it if you are travelling on your own, or just want to put your feet up, relax, and not worrying about having to drive. The advantage of renting a car of course is that you can meander and take your time, stopping as often, or as little as you like. We decided to rent a car and spend 4 nights along the way as to include the Grampians National Park in our sites.
Day 1: Melbourne to Lorne
We picked up our rental car from Budget around noon, and headed out of Melbourne and to the Great Ocean Road. Since we didn’t have a full day we decided to take our time and drive only to Lorne for the first night. If you start out earlier in the day, another option would be to stay in Apollo Bay. Both are quaint coastal cities with charm. Good views and a number of small shops and restaurants in both. As soon as you hit the Great Ocean Road, you will want to slow down, and take in the sights. There are lots of scenic lookout spots marked where you can pull over and drink it all in.
It is a few hours’ drive to Lorne, which gives us enough time before dark to check out some of the town’s sites. There are a number of great walks around town which you can find outlined for you at the i-Site Visitor Center. First on the list is Erskine Fall’s, the town’s main attraction. Right off the main road you will see a sign that will take you to a carpark. It is about a 20 minute walk to the falls, worth the effort.
Our next walk takes us to Teddy’s Lookout point; a beautiful high vantage point that looks over the coast line. You can park very close to the lookout or park at the bottom and walk up if you are looking for a bit more of a hike.
We saw our first kangaroo’s here, right in someone’s backyard on our way up to the lookout. Now I really feel like we are in Australia! Snap some great shots from up here of the lookout from the mountain over the coastline, and we are on our way. Last but not least on our agenda is walking the beach to the Lorne pier. A newly constructed pier extends quite a ways into the waterfront. Yachts and crashing waves are the highlights to be seen.
We pick up some groceries from the New World which is located conveniently beside the YHA hostel that we are staying at. This YHA hostel is a series of separate cottages located just off the main road, but if feels as if you are in the middle of the rainforest. Flora and fauna abound.
Our room is a loft, meaning that we have to take a ladder to get into it. It has a great cozy feel, like we are sleeping in a tree house, but if ladders aren’t your thing make sure specify at reception. We meet a few other couples that are travelling as well and hang out in the kitchen to chit chat as we prepare our meals for dinner. Andrew and I play cards (no one knows how to play Euchre so we are stuck playing rummy the two of use), and then end the evening off watching, A Good Year. Up early tomorrow so we can get back on the Great Ocean Road, stay tuned!