Let me preface this post by saying that I did really enjoy the Great Ocean Road itself - there were just a few hiccups along the way. I arrived in Torquay on Wednesday (only about an hour outside of Melbourne) with plenty of time to do some exploring. Checked into my AirBnb, stopped at the flagship Billabong and Rip Curl stores and came out with a new baseball cap. Score. Time to head to the beach, but not after having a late lunch/early dinner of Red Snapper Poke, which was delicious by the way. Walked the beaches and called it an early night.
Thursday morning I woke up nice and early to get a head start on the Great Ocean Road! At the advice of my AirBnB host I stopped in Lorne for a coffee and biscuit. This is where things started to go downhill. Little did I realize that this week was Chinese New Year holiday. I am not a racist person, but holy mackerel, were there hoards of people everywhere. I couldn't even get down the sidewalk. I grabbed my coffee to go, and headed on towards the 12 Apostles. I was a bit nervous about accommodation because everyone I talked to said, 'no, no don't worry, all the kids are back in school - you won't have any issues.' Except for Chinese New Year.
I stopped a few times for photos (you'll see below) and ended up snagging the last room at a campground in Princetown. I stopped for a quick ham and cheese sandwich and decided to hit the Twelve Apostles that night and get the hell off the Great Ocean Road the following day. Crowds give me anxiety.
The Twelve Apostles are a collection of limestone stacks formed by erosion located just oustide of Port Campbell. Currently, there are only eight left, the ninth collapsing in July of 2005. They were worth the hike (and the mass amounts of Chinese people.)
I won't go into too much detail of that evening - if you've ever experienced food poisoning, you know what I mean. I think it was the ham and cheese sandwich.
I will tell you the next morning, after about two hours of total sleep (and about 5 million mosquito bites from running back and forth to the campground bathroom), my trip had taken a turn for the worst.
I had to check out that morning at 10 AM and couldn't check into my room that night until 4 PM. What the hell was I going to do for six hours with a gut that felt like the aftermath of a tornado? At the advice of my friend Glen, I headed to a dormant volcano. I parked at the bottom, pulled out my sleeping bag and took a two-hour nap in the back of the SUV. I woke up sweating with three hours to kill. I figured I'm here, so I hiked the volcano.
Mount Leura is a volcanic cone surrounding a dry crater 100 meters deep and is the central and component of a larger volcanic complex in the area. Honestly, to me it just looked like a big hill - but it was enough of a hike to kill a few hours.
It was finally time to check into my new accommodations. I booked a room at this American-Horror-Story-type hotel with rooms upstairs and a nice little pub/restaurant downstairs.
This place was amazing. I took a shower and melted into the pillows. The next day was much, much, MUCH better. I had a good 6 hour drive, so after a cup of tea, I hit the road and headed to Grampians National Park. Stopped at a cute little winery just outside of Halls Gap and got some tips on where to hike later in the day. I booked two nights at the Kookaburra Motor Lodge - best decision of my trip. The couple who own the motel are the sweetest, friendliest people I've met on the trip. The wife came running after me in the parking lot, 'Kelly, Kelly, come see the kookaburras!' And the view from my patio was unbelievable - filled with the Grampian mountain range, kangaroos, ducks and cockatoos. I met the kookaburras, changed into hiking gear and set out on a 5-hour hike to the pinnacle. Wow. Only pictures will do it justice.
I treated myself to a nice dinner that evening at the Kookaburra motel and hit the hay. Got up early the next morning and hit the mountains once again. A whole lotta wow.
I considered staying an extra day, but there's so much more to see, so I headed to Renmark, a town in South Australia's rural Riverland area. I booked myself a room in a riverboat of course. Checked in, had a beer and headed to the river to do a sunset kayak tour. As luck would have it, it was just me and the tour guide Jim.
Got up in the morning, went for a little run along the river and headed to the Barossa Valley. The Barossa Valley is a fairly wine-producing region north of Adelaide - similar to Nappa Valley in the U.S. I rented a room from two gals who run a small farm in Rowland Flat. I was greeted by two Kelpies and some chickens. Perfect. I spent the first evening drinking wine with my hosts, petting their horses and watching them do farm work. Not a bad night. The next morning, I borrowed a bicycle, hopped on the trail and did my own personal wine tour. I made it through Jacob's Creek, St. Hallett's and Rockford. Rockford was by far the best because they actually make their wine the traditional way (which I don't really understand, but it looked cool and the bartenders were the friendliest.)
So now I am back in Sydney for the weekend - FINALLY have WiFi. Heading to the southern coast tomorrow and back Sunday. Booked a flight to Auckland on Monday, so New Zealand, here I come!