DAY 35: Today is cold, wet and windy – not what we expected! After a drive around Lake Wendouree, we set off about 11:00 for Apollo Bay, taking the most direct route shown by our map (rather than keeping to freeways and highways). The road we chose changed, first from two lane to single lane (edges were wide enough to allow passing, but there was nothing to pass!) and then to a sandy-coloured unmade surface, which continued for around 10kms, at first through gum-tree woodlands then across wide-open fields. Eventually, we re-connected with civilisation and travelled many more kilometres on what seemed like never-ending straight roads passed some huge lakes to Colac, where we stopped for coffee and home-made cream, jam and date scone. The owners introduced us to their pet fox, Roxy! As we got closer to Apollo Bay, we saw a brown road-sign for a tree-top walk and turned on to a rough road expecting it to be just around the corner. 2kms on another sign told us that the tree-top walk was 25kms – with no turning space and a sign for a waterfall within 5kms, we decided to drive on, winding our way through very attractive rainforest. After a further 2km deviation, we parked up to discover the falls were a round-journey on foot of another hour. As it was still raining on and off, we gave up, returned to the original rough track, ignored the tree-top walk sign and followed signs for Apollo Bay. In all a winding rocky-road woodland journey of over 25kms. Apollo Bay is a very attractive destination with a lovely long sweeping sandy beach and a large fishing-boat harbour, which we spent the evening strolling around. Our evening meal was at Chris’ Sea-Grape – fairly pricey but excellent – Teresa’s Fillet Steak was the best meal she has had this trip, although the neat stack of nine chips gave us a laugh!
DAY 36: Apollo Bay on a beautiful day is paradise, with flies! We started the day with a drive East along the Great Ocean Road admiring the views and stopping to walk to yet another falls which, because of the time of year, was a mere trickle. The road clung to cliffs for about 44kms, swinging slightly inland every now and again to cross a river. The sea was an amazing colour. We arrived at Lorne about 13:00, this was a larger town, we chose to eat at the Arab café (apparently renowned since 1956 and a biker’s meeting place) and then tried a walk along the sands from the pier (a fisherman’s jetty), only spoilt by the pesky flies. We returned through Apollo Bay and beyond to Mait’s Rest Forest Walk, a well-maintained path through spectacular bark-less Myrtle Beech trees and shadow-throwing Tree Ferns – it was cool and fly-free. After a rest at the motel, we set off along the Barham Scenic River Drive, first meandering alongside beautiful rolling hills, then into more rainforest, the road eventually became yet another rough track, but there were a few houses scattered along the route and we kept going towards yet another falls, only to discover at the end of the road, there was a further hour’s walk (and it was about to get dark). We must forget falls from now on – wrong season for the effort expected!
DAY 37: Our first planned stop this morning, was to be Otway Lighthouse (12km off the Great Ocean Road) – here we attempted a walk on the headland, but we were pestered by flies so much, we soon back-tracked and opted for the tour of the lighthouse and its surrounding buildings. This was well worth the stop, the stories and information given were very interesting and we rounded our visit off with a coffee and a well presented video telling the story of the shipwrecks and lighthouse history. The mercury-based mechanism that allowed the light to rotate almost silently and without friction has been used throughout the world and was invented and manufactured by a company called Chance Brothers, based near Birmingham (about as far as you can get from the sea in the UK!). As we returned to the Great Ocean Road, we were lucky enough to spot a koala sleeping in one of the many eucalyptus trees. Most of the rest of our journey to Port Campbell was several kms inland, but a few kms before our destination, we stopped first at Gibsons Steps, then Twelve Apostles – these were stunning sights spoilt yet again by thousands of flies (everyone was wearing nets or fanning themselves continuously). We decided to go find our accommodation, eat and return later, hopefully, when it would be cooler and therefore fly-less. Our return found it hardly cooled and with just as many flies, but we managed to see The Blowhole, Thunder Cave, Loch Ard Gorge and Sherbrooke River mouth with its limestone cliffs and wide sandy bays ...just as the sun was setting.
DAY 39: After a great breakfast, we drove to Pea Soup Beach and spent a couple of hours paddling, watching small fish and sitting on the rocks at each end of the small bay. We eventually persuaded ourselves to leave this little idyll, returned to Oscar’s for a melt-in-the-mouth shortbread star and coffee/fruit tea. After a stroll around Port Fairy, we returned to Oscar’s for another coffee/mint tea and star shortbread (irresistible – the coffee, the tea and the shortbread!). We then drove to, and whiled away some time on, East Beach, followed by a stroll on Killarney Beach and a drive inland to Koroit (this whole area has an Irish flavour). There was an amazing salt marsh valley next to, and about 250ft lower than, the village. After our evening meal, we drove inland again, through Orford and back to the coast at Yambuk, which had a lovely river scene, a huge slide on the side of sand dunes, and look-outs over salt marshes, sand dunes and beach. Then on to The Craggs, a craggy headland with yet more sandy bays, some very rough seas and some unusual flat rocks at sea level. Finally, we returned for a walk, at dusk, on Griffiths Island, to sit quietly and watch as hundreds of Mutton Birds (Lesser Shearwaters) return from the sea to roost - quite a sight, but very cold by now, and we hurried back for a goodnight coffee.