Melbourne - January 2009
A new year, and another new destination. I flew
from Auckland to Melbourne where I met a new internet friend, Peter.
Peter kindly drove me from the airport to the city, where we had a drink before settling into my hotel. Unfortunately the first room the hotel offered stank of cigarettes so II asked for a room change.
I arranged a tour of the Great Ocean Road for the next morning, and took a wander around the city.
The next morning I had a 7.25am start, and the tour driver was right on time. We drove out to Torquay for a breakfast snack, crackers with vegemite, coffee, and chocolate lamingtons. This was the start of the Great Ocean Road.
We drove on to Bells Beach and Winkiepop where we saw some surfers. The weather was turning grey and it started to rain.
The bad weather was fortunately only temporary and the sun came out for us as we entered the dense rainforest in the Great Otway National Park. We stopped here for a walk to admire nature and look for koalas!
Back on the road we came to Port Campbell National Park and the most famous part of the Great Ocean Road. Its easy to see why it is considered to be one of the world's most scenic coastal routes. It is here that you see the amazing rock formations known as the 12 Apostles.
The 12 Apostles were created by constant erosion of the limestone cliffs of the mainland beginning 10-20 million years ago. The stormy Southern Ocean and winds eroded the softer limestone, forming caves in the cliffs. The caves eventually became arches and when they collapsed rock stacks were left isolated from the shore.
There are plenty of viewing and photo opportunities at the 12 Apostles. I only wish I could have spent more time there. Like many rock formations the rising and setting sun creates different moods; also there are helicopter flights over the site. I would also have liked to spend time walking along the beach at Gibson Steps, but there were plenty more amazing places to see on the tour.
At Port Campbell there are more picturesque rock formations. Limestone rocks rise from the sea next to gorgeous rugged coastline. Great rock formations such as the arch and the razorback can be found in the area.
Travelling west there is another famous tourist attraction, London Bridge (or London Arch).
London Arch, like the other rock formations in the region, was formed by a gradual process of erosion, and until 1990 formed a complete double-span natural bridge. The arch closest to the shoreline collapsed unexpectedly on 15 January 1990, leaving two tourists stranded on the outer part! They were rescued by helicopter and no one was injured. Prior to the collapse, the formation was known as London Bridge because of its similarity to its namesake.
Close by is another wonderful area to explore - Loch Ard Gorge.
The gorge is named after the clipper ship Loch Ard, which ran aground on nearby Muttonbird Island on the 1st of June, 1878 approaching the end of a three-month journey from England to Melbourne.
Of the fifty-four passengers and crew, only two survived: Tom Pearce, a ship's apprentice, and Eva Carmichael, an Irishwoman immigrating with her family, both of whom were 18 years of age.
According to memorials at the site, Pearce was washed ashore, and rescued Carmichael from the water after hearing her cries for help. Pearce then proceeded to climb out of the gorge to raise the alarm to locals who planned a rescue attempt.
The arch of the nearby Island Archway collapsed in June 2009, a few months after my visit! The remaining two unconnected rock pillars have been officially named Tom and Eva after the two teenage survivors of the Loch Ard shipwreck.
After a long day exploring some of the wonders of the Great Ocean Road, we headed back to Melbourne.
The next day I met another internet friend, Glenn. We went to the Greyhound hotel in St Kilda to see a band. One of the band members was the son of Gerry, who is the sister of my friend Chris from London.
Glenn also kindly took to to Healesville Sanctuary, home to lots of Australian wildlife!
Some of the many interesting creatures at Healesville Sanctuary include the platypus, dingo, koalas, kangaroos and a personal favourite, the wombat. They aren't especially pretty, but I like them and they are at the top of my list, along with quokkas, of interesting and unusual Australian animals.