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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 tale of Tipi's and kangaroos.

Learning all about Sustainable living. Straw bale buildings, compost toilets and rainwater catchment system.

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When I arrived at Sue and Don’s, I was ecstatic. Located just outside of Daylesford, Victoria. A charming small town, where tourism is it’s only big income. Property value is skyrocketing and sadly enough, unaffordable for the normal working class. The springs are what’s making this town renowned for its spa’s and health centers.

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I was finally out of the city, completely surrounded by nature. The best part was I’d be camping on their magical property in one of their majestic tipi’s. Tipi’s or teepees, the verdict is still out, but both are considered correct spelling. So I’m going ahead with what I think reads better. Already during the first night, I realized their knowledge of sustainable living was vast and they were all about sharing and providing us with even more reading material. An open fireplace in the middle of your tipi, smoldering while you doze off is a very relaxing, authentic experience. Sue and Don have a significant affinity for native American spirituality. They host spiritual unity gatherings on their property and attended them in The States as well. They also do work with local aboriginal cultures and are very much in tune with their Australian heritage. Truly beautiful people.

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Their property, a whopping 40 acres, has a river running through it. Which makes it a very inviting place for all the local wildlife. A family of kangaroos is to be spotted often and the occasional wallaby at dusk. The indigenous birds will sing you awake, especially the over eager Kookaburras and many colorful varieties of the cockatoo family. There is something to be said about being woken up by the thumping sound of kangaroos passing right outside your tipi. Other wildlife, I was not so keen on meeting for the first time, were the spiders. I do not recommend trying to go to sleep in a bed where a huntsman was lurking around just 5 minutes before. I’m still get the creeps just thinking about it. I saw a bunch of big spiders and okay, they were all harmless. They are so big and ugly and fury though.. So when in Australia, always check under the blankets, clothes and shake out your shoes in the morning. The famous poisonous red back can be found everywhere but apparently he’s slow and never comes out of his dark little hiding spot.

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Back to their awesome straw bale house built about 11 years ago. The front part has two stories, the upper one is their bedroom apartment and the ground floor is the open kitchen living room area. Attached in the back is a large room, work and storage area, where they make their fabulous tipi’s. Everything works on solar energy and rain water catchment. All toilets are compost toilets and the shower was definitely something else. Beautifully decorated with some recycled tiles and other broken porcelain pieces. I gave it a shot as well, trying to make the second outdoor compost toilet in the back of the property look nice. I think the shower still rocks more though!

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There are many unfinished projects scattered around the property. As they hold workshops for learning how to strawbale, many are left that way. That’s where we came in. We finished rendering the greenhouse and energy storage shed. There’s nothing more fun than mixing the cob render and splashing it on the walls with your bare hands! I can’t get enough of it. So what if I am still five on the inside, dying to play in the mud at all times? When we moved the chicken coop to the opposite wall of what could be considered their inner courtyard next to the main house, the chooks seemed a bit confused. At first they loudly made their way into their new home, having a look around, discussing whether they were content with the new arrangement or not, promptly laying their eggs. Though later at dusk they didn’t seem to realize that was their new sleeping place as well. So we had to gently carry them inside and put them to bed for a couple of nights before they seemed to finally understand what had happened. For some unknown reason these chooks loved picking at styrofoam. We made jokes about it all the time. For example if there would ever be a radio show contest of "Guess what this sound is?" and it would be chooks picking at styrofoam, we'd immediately all recognize it and win the first prize! Please let it be a trip to Hawaii... I miss that place..

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Don is also the timber bending expert and runs a wood bending factory in Creswick. As this is a very rare yet extremely skillful profession, people come on tours to check his mad skills out. The Veggie garden was in need of some lovin’, bursting with lots of artichokes almost ready for consummation. They told us artichokes grew particularly well here, so once they found out it was good for pretty much everything, they started growing lots and lots.

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Right before we got there, this particular region in Victoria had suffered from severe rains and floods, leaving the really cute little cottage at the end of the property damaged. The two other helpers decided to stick around for a while and clean it up. Sue and Don gave them permission to do so and stay for as long as they wanted. This was indeed one of those places you’d consider staying at for a bit longer. I know we seriously thought about it. Good times on the gorgeous Victorian countryside. Good times spent with wonderful people.

Love and peace,

Flemish Girl Down Under.

Posted by flemishgirl 02:08 Archived in Australia Tagged victoria green house cottage kangaroos native_americans cockatoos cob wallabies rendering tipi's teepees

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