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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

A very rainy hitchhiking adventure from Sydney to Melbourne.

Princes Highway A1 - approximately one thousand kilometers. Goal is to reach Melbourne in 6 days with some decent sightseeing along the way.

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As a rule, Australia is split up in 2 main regions, north and south. The north has a tropical climate. Season are pretty much non-existing. You have “The Dry” followed by “The Wet”. If you’ve seen the news recently you would know Queensland, northeast Australia has suffered tremendously from “The Wet”. Floods are not unusual there and ‘La Nina’ is causing a extremely wet season. Even New South Wales and Victoria, states with a more temperate climate, are getting doused. Our planned hitchhiking adventure would have been a lot more exciting and not cut so short if it wasn’t for the never ending rain fall.

We did manage to hitchhike and see somewhat of the beautiful southeast coast. The plan was to randomly make our way south from Sydney depending on the rides we got along the coastal Highway #1, also known as the Princes Highway and look for spots to poach camping. First we had to get past Sydney. We got on the train in Medlow Bath in the Blue Mountains where we had been HelpXing for the last three weeks.

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Bye to Aurelie, our fellow master cob renderer slash helpXer and the most recognized view of the Blue Mountains. One we actually never got to see because of the low hanging clouds that last day. So we settled for capturing a postcard. Hey, you have to be creative once in a while, right?

This particular train station and town is tiny, so the machine issuing tickets had a limited number of destinations. We quickly realized we were going to get away with only paying 3 dollars each for an open end – pay at your destination ticket. Basically we traveled an equivalent of almost 250 kilometers for that price. So we were off on a kick-ass start!

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Jervis bay is supposed to be one of those elusively beautiful areas and I’m sure it is, but our experience of it was immensely grey and wet. Either way we did have a dry night camping out on the beach of Currarong though and the chips from the local fish and chips shop weren’t half bad either.

All these magnificent places were not really worth stopping for in the pouring rain, but I’ll tell you which ones we thought are not to be missed if blue skies are present.
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Jervis bay (1st picture), Batesman bay, Narooma, Eden, Mallacoota (2nd picture), Lakes entrance (Pelicans) and last but not least definitely go camping in Wilson Promontory National park, an enormous coastal wilderness area with lovely lakes, beaches, wildlife and hikes! You do not want to miss out on that one..
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So because of the wet conditions we had to settle for 3 days of speedy hitchhiking and exploring, instead of a week of sunny activities. Hitchhiking while it’s pouring, is good for one thing though. We met Andrew. He picked us up right when we were ready to throw in the towel. While chatting away during the drive, we mentioned our passion for eco-building and especially building with cob. Once he realized our interests were similar to his, he invited us to spend the night at his place with his family. He couldn’t just let us camp in the rain now, could he? Their house, located on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful valley village of Candelo and filled with all different kinds of cockatoos, was made out of compressed earth bricks and cob. We talked the whole evening exchanging ideas and building experiences.

Another unique moment during our rainy adventure was hitching a ride with a local truckie. He was moving milk from point A to B and back daily. It gets lonely sometimes, he said. So we gladly hitched about 3 hours with this hilariously authentic fella, who couldn’t stop cracking slightly racist jokes.
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All in all, this was a very successful trip. We got were we wanted to be with plenty of time to spare. Too bad about the beautiful places we had to miss. Like they say, tomorrow’s going to be a brighter day, with the emphasis on brighter..

Flemish Girl.

Posted by flemishgirl 23:19 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne rain pelicans milk blue_mountains eden lakes_entrance hitchhiking mallacoota sydey princes_highway truckie jervis_bay nowra

A little something called a hostel.

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One thing you might not have known about Australia but you definitely need to is the standard of living here is quite high. Think Scandinavia. A month’s wage for an average nine to fiver down under will be triple yours. So automatically everything becomes more costly. Backpackers will return home having had to cut their trip short or having spent a whole lot more than originally anticipated. That’s where the extremely popular Working Holiday Visa comes in. Australia has it down!

Bring in young travelers from all over the world and allow them to stay in the country for a whole year. You can even earn points by working some time in agriculture and get an extension for a second year. So Oz has all these foreign youngsters running around spending their hard earned cash at a faster rate than they would have if they didn’t have the opportunity to just get a job whenever they were running out. Plus they will go for all the shitty jobs Australians don’t want to do anyways. Make them pay taxes like anybody else and voila… they can go spend again.

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And Australia scores! This could only be considered as a win-win situation, wouldn’t you agree? Now, where are all these backpackers going to go. Who’s going to help them find a job? Where are they all hanging out while looking for employment? Where do they go to make friends and have a good time? The answer is very simple. It’s a little something called a hostel. Hostels are the gateway to anything you could need. Even more so here in Australia because of the huge backpacking culture. Hostels in the major cities for example are thriving and therefoe an extremely lucrative business. Enormous buildings with endless hallways filled with one muggy dorm room after another. Grubby carpets and slow rotating fans. Buzzing vending machines in lonely corners. How much for one night you ask? Let’s say about 25 AUD per night and there’d be a minimum of about 100 beds in your standard hostel. You do the math! You can be sure to be booked full during summer as the northern hemisphere is trying to escape the cold of another icy winter.

There’s a reason why I, personally try to avoid staying in hostels. For one, I’m getting older and I do not wish to be kept up during half the night because this 18 year old can’t hold his liquor and is puking his guts out right outside my door. When I was still single and traveling by myself I got my use out of hostels but nowadays I’ve got everything I need right by my side. So when I do stay in a hostel, it feels without a doubt more like an inconvenience. This time around the necessity of finding one of these impersonal crowded places was because of the rain. It’s has been coming down non-stop for about a week now. We were supposed to go camping in one of these gorgeous national parks, but let’s be honest. That’s not exactly a whole lot of fun in the rain. We decided to cut our hitchhiking slash camping trip short. Being miserable and drenched was not on our list. We could have gone couch surfing but that requires a couple of days of emailing back and forth. Especially for big cities like Melbourne. So here we are..

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If I was asked to write a review for this particular hostel, it wouldn’t be a very positive one. It obviously has grown out of proportion and has become exactly what every hostel should try and strive not to become. There’s nothing welcoming or pleasant about a place like this. A lobby crammed full with cute little Asian girls chatting away on their laptops. A kitchen lounge area where packs of single young males are loudly displaying their testosterone levels. A bar and restaurant with so called cheap prices, but in reality they charge more than the pub next door. Staff that moves around like zombies. Wireless internet access should be free, but this one charges 10 dollars a day. Towels should be free as well, but here they charge 2 dollars and a 5 dollar security deposit. The kitchen area should be accessible to anyone, should they ever need to use it at any given time. It closes between 10pm and 7am. And the list goes on. Every aspiring hostel should do their utmost to not become such a soulless place.

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I must admit that the thought of starting a business like this crossed my mind a few times by now though. I would envision a more secluded place like the Big Island of Hawaii where we just were or maybe an elusive, beautiful country like New Zealand. It would have the maximum capacity of 20 guests. Five rooms with 4 beds. Each room would be decorated differently with memories of all of our travels in mind. There’ll be no MTV playing on a flat screen in the back ground, but there will be a extensive library and tremendously comfy couches. There’ll be colorful inviting hammocks in the backyard hanging in between our fruit trees. A wide porch surrounding the building for socializing over drinks during the most gorgeous sunsets. No curfew and no extra charges. I could daydream all day, every day about a potential little paradise like that…

Signed,
A Flemish girl down under.

Posted by flemishgirl 16:26 Archived in Australia Tagged melbourne city hostel dorm backpackers beds aud

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