A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

The Great Ocean Road.

South-west Victoria, Australia. Hitchhiking, camping and hiking.

It must certainly ring a bell when you hear someone mention "The Great Ocean Road". If it doesn't.. What if I mention the Twelve Apostles? Does that sound familiar? Well, as we’ve experienced last week, pretty much the whole world knows about it and it is THE major tourist attraction in Victoria, Australia. Tour buses of every size cramped full with little Asians passing us by every minute, while we are standing on the side, of what for the most part is a one lane windy 243 kilometers (150 miles) long coastal road, with our thumbs up in the air. It stretches from the cities, Torquay and all the way west up to Warrnambool. The road was built by returned soldiers and is the world's largest war memorial, dedicated to casualties of World War I. Honestly, nobody really talks about this important historical detail. What the GOR is famous for is the limestone rock formations, which are slowly crumbling into the ocean. There aren't really twelve apostles, it’s more like 8. In recent years, a couple of these important landmarks collapsed, one actually with tourists still one them. The London Bridge incident anecdote was told to us by a friendly local giving us a ride. Now called the London Arch, cause there’s no longer a connection with the mainland, that’s the part that gave way in 1990. No one was injured, but it left two tourists stranded until a helicopter came to rescue them.

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Originally we would have liked to walk the Great Ocean Walk. A 104 km walk starting in Apollo’s Bay almost all the way up to the Twelve Apostles. Instead we chose for a combination of hiking and hitchhiking. It turned out to be a very eventful 3 days, filled with amazing sights along the way and unexpected experiences. The first day was spent trying to get out of Melbourne as quickly as possible. We used public transport to get to Torquay, the start of the Great Ocean Road. Bell’s beach, a world famous surf beach was the first thing to check out. The weather was perfect for surfing and we did get to see locals have a try at some nice tricks. Our first ride was with a surf dude, with his over-friendly pup in the back of his 20 year old van, just making his way back home from Bell’s Beach. I thought that suited the start of our trip. There are a couple of free camp sites along the way but they were mostly located of the road for quite some kilometers. Finding camp spots wasn’t an issue. Rides on the other hand proved to be a bit more difficult. Lots of tour buses and tourists in rentals. We basically relied on locals to give us rides and they did, only our waiting times were a bit longer than what we were used to.

One goal I had set out for myself was to spot some koalas in the wild. There are heaps of them to be found around the Kenneth and Wye river area and the Otway National park. So we got a ride into Wye river with a local delivery guy and he told us to go to the back of the camp grounds and look up in the trees. And there they were. My first koalas! They’re usually found hanging around or dozing off in the bigger eucalyptus trees.

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We had to do at least a part of the Great Ocean Walk and decided to tackle the last bit towards to Twelve Apostles. We started at the beginning of Port Campbell National park, where all the good stuff is to be found. The sky finally cleared up and it was the perfect day for a much needed photo shoot of the most important part of the GOR.

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After about 7 kilometres of walking along the magnificent cliffs (with all of our stuff on our backs going up and down the whole time may I add) overlooking the Great Southern Ocean, the Twelve Apostles came in sight. Unfortunately the Great Ocean Walk doesn’t go all the way up to them, so we had to hike a bit along the highway. The first big sightseeing stop of significance was the Gibson Steps. They take you down to the beach, so you can really admire the height of those cliffs and some Apostles in the distance. If the tide is out enough you can walk along to the rest of them, keeping in mind you have to get back in time, there’s no way back up on the other side of the ridge. (I actually think there were signs and it wasn’t really allowed, but we saw folks doing it.) Hitchhiking from one point of interest to another (as they are quite close to one another) wasn’t that hard. It has to be said though the place was over-run by tourists so we didn’t get rides that fast.

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Finally we made it to The Twelve Apostles! They are pretty impressive to see from close by and it was all definitely worth it. Even though we still think it has nothing on the Washington coast though. We should start calling it the Ten Thousand Apostles and rename the 101, The Great Wild Ocean Road.

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The next amazing place was The Loch Ard Gorge. The gorge is named after the ship "The Loch Ard", which shipwrecked at this location. There still is a cemetery you can go visit there. An extensive walk all around the place is highly recommended. Some incredible formations make for some very interesting views.

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The Great Ocean Road and all of it’s wonders ends officially in Warrnambool. There is still much more along the way to see only we didn’t have a vehicle at our disposal, so we had to be content with what was accessible to us and take the rides that were offered to us.
In conclusion, everybody knows what The Twelve Apostles are and would recognize them in photographs. Well having seen them with my own eyes (and we worked hard to get there by hiking the last part of the Great Ocean walk), I can honestly state that the whole area is damn spectacular and they are truly one of a kind. Another great little adventure completed successfully.

Signed,

A Flemish Girl Down under.

Posted by flemishgirl 01:25 Archived in Australia Tagged twelve_apostles melbourne victoria great_ocean_road hiking surf locals wild surfing geelong loch_ard_gorge camping backpacking backpackers surfer hitchhiking torquay koala's kenneth_river wye_river great_ocean_walk warnambool bell's_beach

Tasmania Unscripted.

Hitchhiking around Tassie. Using alternative, sustainable methods of traveling. Hiking, camping, hitching, couchsurfing and Helpxing around the beautiful Isle of Tasmania. When they say Tassie’s got it all, they really mean it when they say All…

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Until about 15 years ago, before an opportunist real estate agent made a documentary about Tasmania, this particular state of Australia was almost forgotten. When talked about, it was more commonly known as a joke. Nowadays mainlanders and your odd foreigner are buying up land like their life is depending on it. Granted, it is a good investment. It makes prices skyrocket and it’s no longer affordable for the average person with a serious interest in the country lifestyle. Cause that’s what Tassie is all about. It’s still a place where small villages rule and the local communities are going strong. Front doors do not need to be closed and neighbors help each other out without being asked. This could all be gone in the nearby future.

Anyways, the diversity of this island called for some serious exploration, so that’s exactly what we did. After our initial two weeks in Hobart (See previous blog entry Life in Hobart, Tasmania), we started our hitchhiking adventure around the island. We didn’t really have a plan, but we did pinpoint a couple of destinations along the way. The first was the Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay. Which turned out to be a magnificent little adventure. (See previous blog entry called Camping at Wineglass Bay.)
Next we were heading more north up along the east coast towards the Bay of Fires. Critically acclaimed by Lonely Planet (I’d never heard of it.), thus worth checking out in my book. Hitching to St. Helens was interesting. We almost got stuck in the middle of nowhere until a car stopped way ahead of us with screeching tires, putting himself in reverse and speeding backwards coming to a halt right in front of us. This is going to be interesting we though to ourselves. Turns out they were a lovely couple, providing us with a ride all the way up where we needed to be. After some much needed fish and chips in town, we got to know a kiwi couple living out their campervan. They took us up to the Bay of Fires and we camped in a pretty fantastic spot right next to the beach together. It’s exactly what we expected it to be. Endless perfect white sand beaches, red rocks and clear blue water all the way for miles and miles.

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Sometimes these HelpX hosts fall through and you are put in, what we thought at the time, a rather luxurious position. Extra free time to go scout the island. We reconnected with another host, who took us in last minute for a couple of days. Just because he could and wanted some extra company around. Andre has this little paradise tucked away in the middle of nowhere and we would have wanted to stick around for a lot longer, but as you can guess, there was still plenty to see in a limited amount of time, so we had to say our goodbyes way too early. Tassie seems to be a lot of firsts for me. Catching my first fish and shooting my first riffle! Target practice was awesome and a good skill to have in case the world goes apocalyptic on us and I’d have to survive by killing some scary zombies.

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Next was Launceston (aka Launie by locals)! Nothing much to do or see there. Another big city, I mean oversized village, but this time on the northern part of the island.

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Some lovely couchsurfing and a visit to the gorge later and we were on our way to Deloraine. This was where we were going to base our visit to Cradle Mountain out of. We thought we were pretty lucky to have found these awesome hosts. They were tremendously accommodating and we owe much to Graeme and Geraldine. Without their help we wouldn’t have been able to experience how beautiful this region actually was. Not to mention their house! Perfect example of using recycled and readily available materials.

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Cradle Mountain was gorgeous, we saw our first wombats (alive and not as road kill, very important detail). An initial 20 minutes of blue skies was the start of our 3 day planned hike. Then trouble began to rise to the surface or rather come down on us. Icy winds, snow storms and pathways turning into rivers wasn’t exactly what we were prepared for. We do have some warm clothes in our backpacks but no mountaineering gear though. So after drying out all of our stuff in one of the shelters, we decided to cut the hike short and make our way down to the sunny valley of Sheffield, a town famous for its murals.

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We followed the Tasmanian trail (Devonport to Hobart, north to south, straight across) for a bit and camped out in a forest nearby town. And what a fabulous alternative that was. The pine trees very much reminded us of home. The distinctive Eucalyptus trees are basically the only vegetation we’ve been seeing here so far in Australia.

Hitchhiking is definitely more easy in Tassie because of the small island mentality. We thought it was never going to be as easy as Hawaii again (Where hitchhiking is a very common way and very much accepted to get around the island. See previous blog entry The Big Island of Hawai'i), but Tasmania has proven to be the most helpful and trusting place. We stuck our thumps up once again and crossed the state in less than four hours making it all the way down to Woodbridge, to our last HelpX place. Another hidden little piece of paradise with a gorgeous view of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island.

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Dagmar, our host made us feel at home instantly and I know, I didn’t really feel like leaving at all. We meet many folks the way we are traveling and a lot of them we won’t remember, but once in a while there’s someone you will want to keep in contact with and maybe one day visit again. Dagmar is definitely one of those. We’ll miss her and her crazy nonetheless extremely lovable pups. Because we are traveling, there’s no time to get a dog ourselves any time soon. So it expresses itself into a lot of love for all these puppies we meet along the way. Bonnie especially, she kept us busy taking us along for her extensive swims. She could be a little neurotic but such a beautiful Stafford terrier. She definitely did a good job at keeping us entertained. You had to watch out though or she would have taken off by herself and swam all the way to Bruny Island.

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One other animal we encountered for the first time in Tasmania was the black Tiger snake. They seemed quite scary to me and I didn't realize Tasmania is much populated with all kinds of Tiger snakes. They are extremely venomous, but locals succeeded at making me less nervous with stories of their encounters and bites that they knew of. When they hear or see a human, they will make their way out of there, as they are not big fans. Only when you step on one they’ll bite and the chances of the venom actually making it into the wound are small. So when I actually saw a few over the next couple of days in the backyard and surrounding areas, I remained calm and couldn’t be bothered less. (That last part is a lie.. I still freak out of course. What do you want? I'm from Belgium. Last time I checked no venomous creatures to be found there.) Though I will admit I banged a couple of pots together to chase the first one I saw away…

Our last night in Tassie was spent camping on the waterfront in Devonport, waiting to leave on the ferry the next morning back to the mainland. A beautiful sunset was our goodbye gift.

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So in conclusion, Tasmania is ranked high on my favorite places in the world list. It still has it all. Cozy little villages, beautiful beaches, mountains, an abundance of lakes and part of it, the west is still wild and uninhabited. But most of all, I liked the friendly islanders.

Dear Tasmania,

Please don’t ever change.

Sincerely,
Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:53 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset hiking mountain tasmania gear camping hobart snake ferry recycle hitchhiking devonport helpexchange helpx tassie deloraine cradle_mountain hitching woodbridge tiger_snake stafford terrier bonnie recycled_materials

Camping at Wineglass Bay.

The Freycinet peninsula - National Park, East Coast Tasmania.

Stunningly beautiful Wineglass Bay is probably the most populated tourist attraction in the whole of Tasmania. Hoards of colorful campervans and tour buses unloading visitors of many different origins and ages, indicate that you’ve arrived at a pretty special place. We hitchhiked our way up the east coast all the way from Hobart to this overcrowded, yet still amazing destination in about 2 hours and a half. Which for us was probably a personal record. Several times along the way, we barely had our thumbs sticking out in the air or a car had already stopped to offer us a ride. To make sure you understand exactly how smoothly this hitchhiking trip was, we beat the same campervan three times. Every time after we got dropped off and they had spotted us yet again, they waved at us. But still no ride from them though. I thought they would have gotten the message, but then again we could have been sending out the wrong one. Obviously we had gotten there without their help and pretty damn fast.

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There’s a moderate hike involved to get to the lookout point, which gives you a massive overview of the area and the Bay. To actually get there, there’s another hour or so, depends how fit you are, down the hillside. By then you don’t really need to worry anymore about being overrun by other day hikers. Only about 30 percent makes the effort to hike down to the beach, which is a shame. We planned on camping 2 nights on the peninsula. Unfortunately we had to stick to one campsite, on Wineglass beach, as we didn’t have a place to leave all of our stuff we didn’t need behind. So we hiked in with all that we own on our backs.

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Pretty heavy, let me tell you that but we made it without panting too much. First thing we encountered, when we arrived down at Wineglass, was the wallabies. Uninformed selfish tourists (screw the rules for a picture, right?) have been hand feeding them. In return creating these tame daring little wallabies. One cheeky big one, probably that huge because of the easy food access, just carelessly hopped over to where I was sitting next to the tent with the open daypack containing our lunch in between my legs. The mischievously cute daredevil had his nose down the backpack before I even knew it. Now, you have to realize this was my first close encounter with a wild marsupial and I noticed the size of his claws. Especially the sharpness of them. So naturally, not knowing if it potentially could act up and decide to scratch my face, I didn’t dare to push it away. I got up and yelled no at it, like it was a dog. Hilarious to onlookers, but I did the trick.

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The whole peninsula is a not to miss destination on your maybe future Tassie trip. Plentiful of wondrous hikes, beautiful camp spots and an abundance of local wildlife. One hike we did easily, was to walk across the thin part of the peninsula to Hazards Beach on the Great Oyster bay side. At once, after your arrival on the beach, you understand why the naming of the place involved oysters. Thousands of oyster shells, some very pretty and shiny, some almost fossilized, cover the entire length of the beach. It’s hard when you’re backpacking around and have to resist taking some extremely glittery ones home with you to show to your family or just as a remembrance of an amazing time spent on the Freycinet Peninsula.

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There’s a steady flow of young backpackers and old and wise local hikers, passing though Wineglass bay’s camp site every day. (Certainly during peak season) It’s from one of those locals, we heard why precisely this gorgeous bay is called Wineglass. Back in the day, they used to trap whales into it, to slaughter them more easily. Therefore the bay, shaped like a wineglass, colored blood red during these events. Like a glass of red wine. Sad story, yet it is part of the local history. It’s just not so fun to hear when you have an imaginative mind like I have. Anyways.. Hooray for the Sea Sheppard, who actually just anchored in Hobart. Alas even though we are in the area (very, very close), we won’t be able to go pay them a visit and give them a pat on the shoulder. The local ‘FBI’ has closed the area off and is continuing to investigate the ships. Anyways.. Well done, boys! I heard there was a party in one of the local Salamanca bars. I bet they have lots of groupies by now…

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The last morning, we woke up relatively early and started to hike out before the sun got too high. It was a very special feeling to turn around, glance one last time over Wineglass Bay and see that the only footsteps you could see, were yours. It was an unusually quiet morning. You could hear merely hear anything but the sound of the calm small waves rolling in. It probably only lasted for another hour before another day of being overrun by tourists began. I put my faith in the Tasmanian park rangers, to keep this wonderful place safe.

A Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:24 Archived in Australia Tagged beach camping national_park wineglass_bay freycinet_peninsula wallaby

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