I cant think of a better way to spend your birthday than with a bunch of mates on an epic roadtrip.
To be able to do this miles away from home, with new friends on one of the most famous and picturesque ocean roads in the world was very special. 29 is going to be an AWESOME year if this weekend is anything to go by
With the car packed with all the camping gear we could need and supplies from a well timed package from home (thanks Jen!) we set out to meet everyone at the liquor store to get the final essential supplies!
We had all taken the Friday off work so we could take our time cruising the Great Ocean Road in our convoy of 4 cars and a motorbike!
Our first stop was Torquay. Famous for its surf culture there is no better place to learn about surfing than Torquay's Surfworld Museum, but we needed to refuel on some yummy snacks and for me some early bday cake at Sticks and Stones before hand.
A big shout out needs to go to the lovely Carol who welcomed us to the museum and on seeing the size of out group first thought we might be on a school trip which made us all laugh, but on realising that its been a long time since any of us were in school still gave us a group discount so I could go in for free
I wasn't really sure what to expect from a museum on surfing, but we all had a great time. There was loads to look at from the vintage surf boards to a prehistoric fossil of a whale bones.
One of my favourite parts of the exhibition were a group of surfboards which were letters between a father and his runaway son Maurice, these storyboards are by Gordan Stammers and are based on some of his own surfing adventures.
We all lost track of time watching the most random documentary on two Aussie guys who tried to surf across America. That's right they surfed in every state...from riding a surfboard on wheels around Times Square to surfing in a corn field. Looks like they had an awesome time and met some great/weird people.
We were inspired to give it a go!
Being so engrossed the morning had slipped away from us so we quickly got the convoy going and headed to the iconic Bells Beach to check some real surfers in action... Not this guy though...
There must have been about 30 surfers who looked like corks bobbing around waiting to catch the next wave. We all shouted out in encouragement when any of them went for a wave and whooped and cheered when they caught one.
And this is Bells Beach itself... The waves here were made famous in 1965 when during a surf competition the swell reached over 20ft, some of the largest waves in a competition outside of Hawaii.
In a previous blog we mentioned how projects were put together to provide work for the thousands of soldiers returning from World War I, the Shrine of Remembrance was one and building the Great Ocean Road was another. Funded by public donations the GOR hugs the dramatic coastline, revealing bays and cliffs around each turn. Work on the road began in September 1919 and much of it was done by hand by 3000 ex servicemen using natural materials and basic tools. Today it is 241km long running from Torquay to Nelson.
The Great Ocean Road Arch is actually a memorial for Victorians who served in the First World War 1914-1918. 330,000 Australians volunteered to fight in the First World War, 60,000 were killed and 160,000 were wounded. This is the fourth memorial arch on this site, the first was replaced when the road was widened and the second burned down in bush fires and I think the third went down in a storm.
We chased the sun to Lorne, pleased that the scattered showers were blowing in the other direction, for some much needed grub. You visit the seaside without some fish and chips!
Stomachs full we rolled into our cars and headed for Teddy's Lookout point but first we had to find it! After missing the turning we turned round and after several 'woops it was that turning' we soon found ourselves on the very steep road heading up from Lorne, leaning forward willing the cars to make it to the top and wondering whether those extra chips had been a good idea!
We all made it though and what a view!
On a recommendation from one of my mates at work we would be setting up our first camp at Cumberland River campsite, just 7km further out of Lorne, where you can camp alongside the river which opens out into the sea, with the mudstone rock-faces of the Otway Ranges adding to this backdrop. Beautiful and so peaceful....
Well until we arrived
No campsite is complete without a sofa!
Until it pops!
Goblets and tankards at the ready we settled in for a fun evening.
Broomy took charge of the firewood and Dan manned the BBQ
We introduced the group to s'mores, toasted marshmallows and chocolate in a biscuit sandwich (yum yum!) and settled in around the fire for a good old singsong! Dan had gone to the effort of learning a mix of songs including an awesome medley that was so good that even the night warden waited for it to finish before finally asking us to keep the noise down at 11pm.
I was up at dawn and couldn't get back to sleep so decided to go for a wander. A golden glow was beckoning and so I grabbed my camera to go and check out the sun rising over the ocean!
It was spectacular!
It was too good not to share but on turning round to head back to camp I was stopped in my tracks by the awe inspiring sight of a huge rainbow spanning the GOR one side to another!
I ran back to our tent and dragged Dan to the beach so he could see it all too.
We headed back to see if any of the others were awake and after feeding some ducks, Broomy, Toots, Dan and I decided to head back to the beach for a morning swim!
We had a few odd looks from some people bundled up in hoodies when we all stripped down to bathers and headed in to the ocean. It was freezing but who needs a shower when you have the ocean!
We were ready to hit the road again! Yeah!
We took a much needed coffee break at Wye River before making our way towards Apollo Bay. Its nigh on impossible to get a decent shot of the scenes that come around each turn but I can tell you that despite the rain there were still plenty of times we came round a bend and said Wow at the view.
Fortunately when we reached Apollo Bay we had left the rain behind and it was perfect weather to go fly a kite.
Despite best attempts it didn't go very well, even singing 'lets go fly a kite' didn't help! But that didn't matter as the group had a great time chilling on the beach, playing footy and generally mucking around.
This is the best timed photo ever!
The photo op I missed though was the moment Dan walked face first into a lamp post! I wish I had filmed that
After lunch we stopped to check out some of the rainforest that spans the Otway National Parks by taking a stroll along the 800m boardwalk of Maits Rest. This area was named after Maitland Bryant who would rest his horses here during his patrols between Apollo Bay and Horden Vale in the early 1900s.
Full of giant ferns, moss and intricate networks of intertwined trees and roots, it was like stepping back in time.
You could imagine a dinosaur coming out from behind a giant fern, although I wasn't prepared for when Broomy jumped out from behind one!
Again the day was running away from us, and we almost missed seeing the last stop off of the day the Cape Otway Lighthouse.
On the way we spotted our first koala!!
This is the southern most and oldest lighthouse in Australia, with the light being in operation since 1848. It was often the first indication of land that immigrants from Europe would have seen after being months at sea.
As we made our way singing 'have you ever, ever felt like this, when strange things happen are ya going round the twist... (Unfortunately after a bit of a google I have discovered this wasn't the light house from Round The Twist!), a gentleman in red beckoned us to follow him into The Telegraph Station.
This is where we learnt about how messages were relayed and the developments from ships signally with flags to using morse code. Amazingly a message could have been sent from the UK to Australia in half an hour, so people could keep up with the cricket scores of course! With closing time fast approaching we made a dash up the spiral staircase of the lighthouse to check out the view at the top.
What we weren't prepared for was just how windy it would be!
Our second campsite was at Bimbi Park "camping under koalas" and it definitely lived up to its name. Even on the roads leading up to it people were pulled over koala spotting, and once you see one you see these balls of fur everywhere! We even had a close encounter with a mum and her baby as she came down from a tree to make her way to another one.
This was more like camping in the bush and we set up camp to the gutteral soundtrack of our koala neighbours who clearly weren't impressed with our arrival.
We also got to see our first kookaburra!
I had heard that there was a glow worm walk that was meant to be good in the area. Turns out it was Maits Rest so we tucked into some BBQ grub and waited for the sun to go down before going to check it out.
The gang surprised me with some birthday bling, sashes and balloons.
Our luck was changing and it was starting to rain but this didn't deter a group of us from hopping in the cars to check it out. In hindsight it was probably the worst conditions for me to start driving again in, pitch black, raining and me freaking out about koalas with a death wish! But we made it and armed with torches took tentative steps into the forest. Now we were a bit of a scared bunch so didnt venture too deep into the forest. Every couple of paces we would stop to turn the torches off descending into darkness and hoping to catch a glimpse of the spectacular glow worm show... This didn't happen and although we saw a few glowing specs I am not 100% sure if they glow worms or just white spots in our eyes from looking in torch light!
Slightly disappointed we headed back to camp but were soon lifted by a few drinks and another epic singsong. We huddled around the fire rotating to avoid the smoke. Despite the rain being in full flow we didn't let it dampen our spirits.
This morning would bring out the inner child in all of us as we started off with birthday cake for breakfast and a visit to the Great Ocean Road wildlife park.
We were a bit early for some of the residents....ahhhhhh
But once word got round that food was on offer they soon woke up
From baby dingos to grumpy wombats
There were all sorts...
After making sure everyone was sure of the directions "just keep the ocean on your right" we headed to see the 12 Apostles a definite highlight for any trip down the Great Ocean Road. Although there aren't actually 12.
A very romantic spot
If the top section of the hole in this stack was slanting in the other direction it would be a great advert for Apple!
We said goodbye to half of the group who needed to get back to Melbourne, those of us who remained with hangovers now kicking in took on the winding roads to find Erskine Falls, the largest waterfall in the Otway National Park. Not gonna lie it was a bit of a struggle but after stocking up for refreshments and a few chips we carried on and sore heads were soon forgotten when we saw this.
An epic end to an epic weekend!!
Huge thanks to Dan, Broomy, Toots, Robyn, Ria, Noreen, Phil, Nelson, Shane, Tom and Lauren for amazing bday memories. Hope you enjoy reliving this as much as I did....
Come on Barbie Lets Go Party!!
Where did Tom go?
Meow, Meow, Meow-Meow, Meeeeooowww!!
Who's up for the Grampians!!