We leave 2 days later for Warnambool where the famous Great Ocean Road (GOR) starts. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful roads in the world; it swirls along the South-East coast of Australia and has a display of magnificent geological formations.
We take the train to Warnambool so we can ride the road from West to East which is the way the wind blows. The first day is quite easy, the weather is ok and the road flat. The next day it gets worse; this is a pity since this is where all the main geological formations are. But we soon forget the bad weather, as the road and the lookouts are beautiful, especially the Twelve Apostles. They are a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of the Port Campbell National Park. Their proximity to one another has made the site a popular tourist attraction. Originally, the site was called the Sow and Piglets. Muttonbird Island near Loch Ard Gorge was the ‘Sow’ and the smaller rock stacks, the ‘Piglets.’ The name was changed in the 1950s to the more majestic ‘The Twelve Apostles’ to lure more visitors even though there were only nine left.
Their creation is due to:
1. Wave action which erodes the cliff, leaving harder rock as headlands.
2. Waves eat away the rock at sea level, forming caves on each side of the headland. The caves eventually meet up, forming an arch.
3. The arch collapses, leaving a rock ’stack.’
4. Further undercutting by waves and opening up of vertical cracks in the rock by rain and saltwater, gradually reduce the stack to a low platform or reef.
The rate of erosion at the base of the limestone pillars is approximately 2 cm per year.
All those stops make our progression very slow and we are quite late compared to what we planned. We are supposed to go to Lavers Hills but the road is very hilly and it takes us some time to get there. The weather is also getting really bad. It rains quite a lot and at about 5pm, the fog is so dense that we can barely see the cars coming up and we guess they can’t see much of us either. We are not reassured and start going faster and forgetting our stretching session to get to the top before dark. As we step into the camping, it starts pouring like hell, lucky us, it looks like the night is going to be wet! We pay for our camping spot but the ground it already flooded. If we pitch our tent there, we will soon be swimming in it. Sylvie notices that we may be able to pitch the tent between the toilets and the BBQ, there is a small concrete area sheltered by a corrugated iron roof. She goes back and charms the owner to convince him to let us use that space. He, of course, agrees (yes, Sylvie can be irresistible when she wants :op ). We are glad our tent is self-standing and doesn’t need to be pitched to the ground. We still have to find something to hold the vestibules: a big garbage bin and a bucket of water will do. To boost our morale, we decide to have dinner at the restaurant (we are quite lucky to find one in the middle of nowhere). Soup for Sylvie and chicken pasta for Ben. It’s been a while since we last enjoyed a meal that much. Sylvie even finishes the meal with a gooey sticky date pudding.
The next day, the weather is actually quite good although the forecast did say it was going to be pretty bad. We leave happy after having done a couple of purchases for our lunch (Mars bars and crisps!). But 8km further, it’s a disaster, Sylvie cannot cycle, her left knee is too painful. We were too hard on them the day before and didn’t stretch enough, we should have known better. Our moral goes down the drain… besides, it’s Sunday, there is nobody on the road and most buses are not running. Luckily there is a farm a little bit further and Sylvie goes there to ask for help. After nearly an hour, they find a guy who can come and pick us up. It is expensive but we don’t have a choice! We have coffee and a chat with the farmers who happen to have 200 cows and are using some milking equipments that Ben knows. He is delighted :o)
We go down to Apollo Bay with the van and take the bus to Melbourne. There is no point in waiting here, it will take more than a couple of days to heal. No more GOR for us :o( The bus arrives at the same time as the rain, we just have time to put the bikes in the baggage hold and get in the bus and it starts pouring again. Sylvie keeps faith but Ben is still gutted. The road is very windy, it literally follows the coast, it is such a pity the weather is that bad. We arrive in Melbourne at 8pm and Robin is waiting for us. It cheers our spirits up to see him. And also it will prevent Sylvie from damaging her knee even further. As soon as we get back to the house we feel better, we always have a good laugh with Robin and the girls!
We just relax for a few days, pack the bikes and make plenty of meals for our hosts. The biggest successes are the macaroni gratin and the homemade pizzas. We are also invited at Jo’s place for a very nice meal with Terry her husband, they even take us back home :o)
That’s it, we are finished with Australia! What a great time we had, we came to see people and we got the best welcome ever. Wherever we went, Tasmania, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, we were always greeted like kings!
So we take this opportunity to thank all the people who took care of us both in New Zealand and Australia and hope we can do as much when they come and visit us in Europe.
A big, big thank you to:
Liz & Steve (Christchurch, NZ)
Sig & Emma, Dennis & Brigitte (Auckland, NZ)
Robin, Thea & Shannon, Jo & Terry (Melbourne, Oz)
Wendy & Keith, Rob & Anne (Wynyard and Hobart, Tasmania)
Tim & Amelia (Canberra, Oz)
Geoff & Julie (Sydney, Oz)
Also a big thank you to Marion and Matthieu for the nice stuff they brought from France for us and the cosy evenings in their campervan.