Well where to begin – The Great Ocean Road was nothing less than spectacular and breathtaking. As I headed home from work on Friday I felt the excitement building as I run through a mental checklist of items.
Billy, my new housemate from Atlanta, has been in Australia for nearly three years and is applying for permanent residency here since he loves it so much. When I ask him why he wants to stay he just seems to respond ultimately with why not, and although I am unsure whether I could uproot permanently from my family, I see what he means. The difference in lifestyle and culture is so refreshing here that it is a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of America.
Anyhow, Billy works for a company selling construction equipment to engineers, and he likes to travel and surf and is super chill…um what more could one ask for in a housemate? Billy generously volunteers to drive to The Great Ocean Road, a historical and awe-inspiring road that runs along the southern coast of Australia, surrounded by The Great Australian Straight.
Bethany is ironically also from Atlanta, and I met her because she previously held my position at The Chocolate Box. She is outgoing, hilarious, and drama-free, making her another perfect travel buddy for me (I have been quite lucky in that department). So as luck would have it, I found myself on the other side of the world listening to a bucket list of their mutual friends in Atlanta college – it is pretty amazing how small the world can be at times.
Our first stop is in Torquay, home of the Rip Curl surfing competition. As we reach the start of the road, about an hour and a half from Melbourne, I am taken back by the vast beauty of my surroundings. We begin to wind around sharp curves, through thick patches of gum and eucalyptus trees which open to steep and rocky cliffs touring over fluorescent waters below.
Three total hours later we arrive at our destination, and behold there in front of me is the real version of an image we have all seen, an Australian icon – the Twelve Apostles.
Formed as a result of erosion from the harsh weather conditions from the Southern Ocean, the soft limestones are hard evidence of the strength of the waves that aggressively beat against their exteriors. And, despite the fact that there actually only nine stacks, The Land of Oz decided to dub them the Twelve Apostles instead. The rocky mammoths seem almost fake, as the cloudy skies whirl around and waves crash violently against their weathered bases. Cue three speechless Americans…not for long of course.
On to our hostel in Apollo Bay, a major surfing town, where we are welcomed by a beloved Huntsman spider (the huge one I shared a picture of in a previous post) in the lobby. The receptionist says they lovingly call him William and that he likes to travel the hostel, but beware he does bite mate, we are warned. Sweet mother of cookies.
After resting up, which includes downing some tasty mimosas and sandwiches, we are ready to hit the…..town? The bar that we spotted on our way in around 6pm is now closed at 8pm, and as we walk down the street, we see that the Bingo Hall is hosting a party….we aren’t quite ready for that yet.
We hit the Carlton Hotel Pub, where the drinks flow quickly and somehow Bethany scores free pizza. We decide to be risky and bar hop, although the streets don’t look promising. On our way to a backpacker (hostel for extreme travelers), we meet a guy from Canada who lives here – he informs us that the part at the Bingo Hall is a wedding and that the place we were just at is the best and latest night spot in town….wowsers Miami you would be outraged haha.
We opt for the other pub still, as we are freezing and want a change of pace anyhow. As we enter the grasshoppers and tumbleweeds roll through amongst the four or five other customers who are intrigued by the three newcomers.
A young Australian musician with curly blonde hair takes a seat. At the front of the empty bar, and we brace ourselves for whatever is about to project through the audio system. Low and behold this youngster is amazing…the three of us engage in his performance, mouthing all of the words to all of his songs to each other and ecstatic at the pleasantly good performance. As he belts out some classic favorites I cant help but think of how different it must be to grow up here, and how a place like this is hard to come by, directly across from the beach and yet so quaint and inviting.
We fall into a trance as he sings, and as he closes we hoot and holler begging for one more song (no such luck). Back at the Carlton Bar we continue on, meeting a group from a “fancy dress” party, also known as a costume or themed-party in the U.S.
We awake the next day and shower and prepare for the ultimate thrill – surfing! Mind you, it is literally no warmer than 55 degrees out and cloudy, but we bite the bullet and decide to go with it. Wiggling into a wetsuit that feels like a layer of blubber, I feel the anticipation building in my mind. As we unstrap the boards from Billy’s car, I suddenly feel nervous as I see the waves crashing along the shore.
I have been a swimmer my whole life, but nothing could have prepped me for the waves I would encounter that day. As I follow Billy’s instructions and paddle into an oncoming wave, I am swooped up and shot all the way into the beach at a crazy speed before I know it….what a rush!
After several attempts (one partially successful) to stand up on my board, Bethany and I end up tangled in each others boards, in stitches with laughter and exhausted from being tossed around at sea. We scramble up on the beach as reality sets in. Bethany screams, we are surfing in Australia Kelly!
She’s right. Holy hell I am surfing in Australia. Mind boggling, and despite the freezing temperatures and cloudy weather, we reflect on how lucky we are to be here and how amazing the beach is. We are literally the only swimmers all morning until a group of young kids shows up later. The shore is clean and fresh, bearing only a few smooth stones on it’s flawless and fluffy sand.
Once we finally leave the beach and return our boards and equipment it is time to head back to Melbs, with a small pit stop at a place called Koala Cove on our way back. Koala Cove is just a short of dirt road off of the Great Ocean Road, where you can see some truly astounding wildlife. On the way there, we turn a bend on the road and see a small kangaroo eating beside the road. This place is an animal lover like myself’s dream come true.
We step in Koala Cove and immediately beautiful multi- coloured birds come and flock on our shoulders and arms, chirping for attention and love as we giggle and snap shots in excitement. Some linger and seem to have a weird sense of humor as they nip at Bethany’s hair and jewelry.
Just as the rain begins, I spot a koala eating gum leaves in a nearby tree. Lucky us, as they are usually fast asleep only to be observed by onlookers. As the koala dangles with one arm from the tree, we are unfortunately forced back to the car because the rain picks up.
Billy spots another good surfing spot, and since he has his own board and wetsuit he heads back out into the icy fun as Beth and I head over to a local diner for burgers and chips (chips as in French fries). After downing far too much grease we head back down the street to see if we catch another koala. Oh what luck, we see another koala, asleep but much closer. As he sleeps, we stare and make ridiculously annoying baby noises at him, literally carrying on an entire conversation and all but inviting him back to our house for tea. Then suddenly he lets loose, and Bethany nearly gets sprayed, as we laugh uncontrollably and decide it is time to go. We round up Billy and head home.
What an unforgettable weekend getaway, I can only hope that I will find the time do this trip again, so that I can explore the many nooks and crannies of the Great Ocean Road and share more of my outrageous discoveries. Stay tuned for details from my trip to Perth (which is now long past), which promises more eye-opening experiences and certainly gorgeous scenery.