Great Ocean
Running on the sand dunes.
At the Grotto.
The Twelve Apostles from a helicopter.
December 23, 2006

This morning I met my twelve other fellow travelers that I will be spending the next few days with. Right off the bat, I could tell that this was
going to be a good trip.

Our guide Greg seems pretty cool. I am sooo relieved. Things like this could seriously make or break a trip.

Anyway, as for my group of fellow travelers… There are a couple Brazilians, a couple Swiss-Germans, some Danish people, an Israeli and a
couple of Dutch people. Oh yeah. There’s also one American…ME!

It was time to hit the road. One of the first places we would go to is Coorong National Park. The colors here were unlike what I typically think of
‘national parks’. They ranged from a deep green to dark reddish-oranges and purples. Greg stopped a couple times along the way when he saw
some different species of lizards on the road. The first one that he went to retrieve was the shingleback lizard. He brought the little guy on the
bus for all of us to see. He also told us what his defense mechanisms were – basically ‘relieving’ himself. We had the little guy on the bus for a
while. The timing was absolutely perfect as within a second of Greg taking the little guy off the bus, he relieved himself from mid-air.

Greg stopped another time when he saw a different breed of lizard. I saw him go to fetch this one and I also saw that this lizard was far from
happy when he went to do this. This was the moment when I thought ‘These Aussies are craaaaazy.’ There aren’t many people at home that I
know that would ever just go grabbing at these things with in the wilderness. But Australians don’t care at all. Anyway, he brought this slightly-
agitate fella on-board and he resembled a snake much more than the other lizard.

For lunch, we would stop at a place in the middle of the Coorong at a local Aboriginal community. Gordy, one of the men from this ‘country’,
would guide us on a bushwalk before lunchtime. He told us a bit about his people and how they can be traced back to 50,000 years ago. He made
it clear how important their history and their culture were to him. I have to admit that there were some times where I zoned out and could only
think ‘This guy looks like an Aboriginal Al Roker’. Sometimes it was almost a bit painful listening to him as he kept rambling on and on and on.
He showed us some different plants and what they are used for. Some were used to fight colds; others were used to keep flies and insects away
(though I think this is a myth as I rubbed it all over me and the flies were still buzzing all around my face).

After lunch we headed out to some sand dunes that were right next to the ocean. Pretty cool. After all, I’m a sucker for sand dunes. Afterwards
we headed out to a beach to see the Granites – some boulders at the beach that resemble whales. The beach was so massive that I got inspired to
do some cartwheels. That’s normal, right?

We were told we were going to go say ‘hi’ to Greg’s friend Larry. I thought it was kind of funny that we were going to stop to see one of his friends.
But then as we pulled up, I realized there was a massive lobster…and this might in fact be ‘Larry’. Sure enough, it was. A Great Ocean Road trip isn’
t complete, after all, without Larry the Lobster…

Upon arriving into Robe (our home for the night), we were given a tour of about the four whole blocks that the main town consists of. We were
dropped off at Foodland so that we could do some shopping for the night and then could go next door to Cellarbrations to pick up some libations.
There was an adorable couple at the wine shop who were pouring wines from their small winery. Everybody here is just so darn friendly. I love it.
Amongst a few others, they also had a sparkling Merlot that was open for tasting. It was great! How I am going to miss these sparkling reds when
I leave this country…

We checked into our Lakeside Manor hostel in the early evening. It was time for all of us to adapt to a unisex life. Both the rooms and bathrooms
were of the ‘universal’ variety. There was one bathroom with two toilet stalls and two shower stalls. For about fifty people. Ahhh, the
backpacking life.

All I knew is that I needed to use one of these showers…pronto. While the sand dunes were fun to run around in, they can sure leave a girl feeling
not-so-clean. And the sand was so fine that it wasn’t really obvious to the naked eye how dirty I was. It was only evident when brushing my hand
across my face and feeling a fine grittiness. Ewww. It was definitely time to de-gritify.

We had a group dinner where Ronen did the cooking and we did the eating. In my defense, I did manage to cook up some broccoli. Nothing like
some pasta to go with some wine. It’s actually funny how much I appreciate these homemade meals now. I really couldn’t stop ‘oohing’ and
‘aahing’ about it.

Marion, one of the German girls, was killing me. Earlier today we asked each other how old we were. It turned out she and her friend Monika are
21 years old. Marion seemed startled when I told her that I was 30. Anyway, at dinner I asked one of the guys how old he was. When he said he
was 23, I was like ‘Oh my gosh. You’re a baby.’ And then Marion started a comment and stopped midway. But she got as far as ‘Well, everybody is
a baby…’ I started laughing. I made her finish the comment. She wouldn’t. I told her “You were going to say ‘Everybody is a baby next to you’,
huh?” Because I have absolutely no problem with my age, I thought this was one of the funniest things I had heard in a while. While it might
sound like it was offensive, to know this girl Marion is to understand that it wasn’t offensive in the slightest. This girl is just funny. Funny without
trying to be funny…which is, of course, always the funniest.

December 24, 2006

We started our day off with a coastal walk in Southport. It would have been a bit better if it had been a tad sunnier. Oh well. Beggars can’t be
choosers and I was really just happy that it wasn’t raining out. After all, all of the forecast predictions were saying that the weather was going to
be wet and windy in this area for the entire time of our trip. Fingers crossed that the meteorologists didn’t know what they were talking about.

After the coastal walk, we had a bit of viewing pleasure from seeing some wild emus and kangaroos.

The next town we stopped in was Mount Gambier. This is famous for the Blue Lake and a sinkhole that has been turned into a pretty garden.
Honestly, these sights didn’t really fascinate me. Especially since it started pouring rain while we were at the sinkhole.

After lunch, we went to the grocery store. Then there was another impromptu activity going on upon arriving at the van - Christmas decorating!

Many people bought garland and little ornaments at the store. Our van was getting decked out. There was just one final touch…stopping off along
the way to get a Christmas tree.

We stopped at one place off the side of the highway where Greg jumped out and pulled a little tree out by its roots. Because of its runt-like
nature, Greg stopped off again further down the road where there were more trees to choose from. After having about a ten minute struggle with
the tree to get it out by its roots, success was had. He planted the first tree back into the ground and now we had our Christmas tree. We
decorated it and capped it off with an angel. Greg also had a surprise for us: our very own Santa hats! Yes, I
did get to wear a Santa hat after all. I
felt this was a good time for me to pass out the candy canes that I brought and we plugged my ipod into the stereo where my ‘Christmas’ playlist
would be played for our listening pleasure. Now it was feeling like Christmas. Good-bye Adventure Tour bus, hello Christmas-mobile!

As we were driving, we saw a small plane next to the highway. The poor plane didn’t make it. Even though it was real, it looked like a life-size
model airplane. There was nothing else around it. And it literally was just a meter or so from the road. Totally crazy. We guessed that the plane
went down probably just hours before as we were witnessing some fire trucks moving from the area. (Sadly, one of the girls in our group found
out later on when watching the news that the man flying the plane didn’t make it – not very surprising if you saw the remnants of the plane.)

Our Christmas-mobile (I’ll just call it ‘CM’ for short) made its next stop at the Petrified Forest in Bridgewater Bay. The stone formations were
pretty cool but were made even better as they sat right next to dramatic cliff that looked directly onto the aqua blue water.

My next treat was finding koalas in the wild as we were driving. Like the kangaroos, everybody else in the CM had seen more than their share of
these while they were on Kangaroo Island. Because I didn’t go there, this sight was an amazing thing to me. Oh, how cute they were!

Not too much later, our CM pulled into Port Fairy where we would be celebrating Christmas Eve. Dinner was at the Royal Oak and we played
some pool in the bar afterwards. I can say with certainty that this was the first time I had ever spent a Christmas Eve in a place of this caliber. I
had a good time and all…but I am hoping to not make this some sort of tradition. When you see pictures of other people that were in our
company tonight at the bar, you will know exactly what I am talking about. There was one guy in particular who walked in front of my camera as
I was taking a picture of the scene. I think this might just be one of the scariest men I have photographed in my entire eight months of being on
the road.

Well it is time to go to bed now. Tomorrow is Christmas morning.

December 25, 2006

I will have to say that Christmas morning was a bit anti-climatic. Once we ate some breakfast, we all put on our Santa hats, boarded the CM and
got out on the ‘real’ part of the Great Ocean Road.

We made many stops along the way. All of them were beautiful yet they all blended in a little bit with each other. We stopped at The Bay of
Islands (sandstone formations in the middle of the ocean), Bay of Martyrs (similar to the Bay of Islands except for that there was a beach), the
London Bridge (which is no longer a bridge as part of it collapsed though it was only about 18 years ago that it was fully intact), the Grotto (which
formed a hole where you could view the ocean), and the Loch Ard Gorge (the gorge was viewable from a beach; there were also fantastic viewing
points from certain paths on the top).

Before continuing we stopped for lunch. There was not one thing in town that was opened so we made our way to a picnic area. Upon getting out
of the CM, we all immediately came back in. It was sooo cold and windy outside that it was unbearable. So Christmas lunch was going to be had
by all in our lovely Christmas-mobile. At least there was some lovely Christmas scenery to look at, right?

The last, an arguably the most famous, thing we would see along the coast was ‘The Twelve Apostles’. While it’s called this, there are actually
only eight ‘apostles’ still around. It was wonderful to see but because it is so widely photographed, I had already seen these many times before.
Never mind that there were at least ten times more people here than at any of the other sights we saw. I decided to treat myself to a helicopter
ride as a little Christmas present to myself. I was happy that I did as it gave an entirely different vantage point. Of course the weather decided to
take a turn while we were up in the air. We were already battling wind but now we were also in rainy conditions. It didn’t really matter as
helicopters are so smooth that it was really only apparent because we could see the rain coming down on the windshield. Otherwise, I would have
never have known the difference. After the ride was over, I was happy that I gave myself this little gift.

Our last stop of the day before arriving in Apollo Bay was the Melba Gully in the Otway Ranges. This area is a rainforest. We took a little walk. It
was pleasant though it was nothing like the rainforests up near Cairns. Upon leaving here, the CM was heading to our ‘home’ for the evening.

And it literally is a ‘home’. We have it to ourselves. It is a pretty nice treat to not have to deal with sharing space with other groups of
backpackers. Merry Christmas to us, right?

We went to the only restaurant in town that was open. It served anything from Fish ‘n Chips to pizzas to pastas to Chicken Schnitzel. While the
place lacked heavily in the ‘atmosphere’ department, the pizza that I had was fabulous. A lovely Christmas meal of seafood pizza and some
Chardonnay. Could have definitely been worse…

December 26, 2006

Today was the last day of our trip. We would stop a couple times along the way but mostly we were just driving on to Melbourne.

The drive along the coast was almost identical to driving on the Pacific Coast Highway in between Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. It made me feel a
little bit like I was at home. The main difference here was that there were also koalas in the trees. What a great way to say ‘good-bye’ to this area…

The last stop on our way to Melbourne was Bells Beach. I had actually heard about this beach last week when I was watching the news in
Brisbane. A 25-year old surfer had a run-in with a shark out there. He was in critical condition. While I had no idea if he made it, our guide told us
about the incident and mentioned that he did survive it. Lucky guy.


While I thought I was going to be in Melbourne just an hour after writing my last journal entry, I was mistaken. We had a three-hour delay in the
form of a broken down Christmas-mobile on the side of the highway. Since it’s Boxing Day, there seems to be a lack of roadside assistance. That,
in combination with the Boxing Day Test Match for cricket in Melbourne, made the prospects of a quick vehicle repair very bleak. We broke
down at 11:00am; the mechanic got there at 2:00pm.

So much for me having a full day in Melbourne. It was during this delay that I realized I was not going to be able to go back to Sydney before
leaving Australia. This was pretty sad to come to terms with because I was so excited about going to revisit the areas that I loved. There was just
no way that I could only spend a bit over one day in Melbourne. So now I will have just a bit over two days in Melbourne. Still not much but at
least a bit better…
Back to Australia.