Friday, 1 January 2010

Road trip

Happy New Year everyone! I didn't quite spend mine on the Great Ocean Road, but it was a near-run thing. I got back from tour at 1opm last night, and once I'd unpacked and cleaned my filthy body (my trip, as ever, was like a tour of duty!) it was about time for the bells to chime. All very low-key, then, but nonetheless it was a good start to the new decade. I say this every year, but things are on the up, I'm sure of it!

The tour itself was a bit of a mixed bag. The Great Ocean Road - built by returning servicemen after the First World War to create employment - is simply spectacular, and we had wonderful weather for it too. Time after time we stopped at a lookout to see amazing limestone cliff formations, or wild surf beaches bristling with damp young things in wetsuits, or just families at play while the sun baked boardwalks all along the coast. The highlight, naturally, was the Twelve Apostles, towers of limestone balanced precariously in the sea. It's the tourist mecca of the whole drive, and rightly so. We saw them with all the crowds, but also got to wander alone down a little-known stretch of beach where you could see them towering above you.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, the camping was a different kettle of fish. I was bunking in with a lovely Irish couple, Yvonne and Mark, camping novices who aren't going to be converted by this experience! The first night was OK, but the second had no showers, and we were cooking in a semi-covered kitchen with thousands of flying bugs. That night's chilli con carne had extra protein in abundance, and those of us who were helping with the cooking had to keep stopping to comb them out of our hair and retrieve them from down our clothes. I'm pretty hardened now, but that was horrifying! Afterwards we retreated to the bar (it was an odd mixture - no running water for campers, but a place for them to drown their sorrows in beer), before grabbing not many hours' shut-eye. We were a sorry bunch the following morning, for sure.

However, the Grampians was the next stop, and despite the heat this too was fantastic to look at. We visited the main tourist stops again - MacKenzie Falls, and the Pinnacles - but they were remarkably quiet. At times during our walk up to the Pinnacles, and particularly on our way down through a rocky landscape that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie we were completely alone. We finished the day with trips through the mining towns of Ararat and Ballarat, with commentary from our guide Peter (a great storyteller). And that, I guess, is my last tour in Australia. I'm sad to be going, but excited at the prospect of exploring another country, and happy that I have so many good memories. The next time I write it'll be from a different time zone - 2010 really is starting with an adventure!

1 comment:

  1. May 2010 be as exciting and fulfilling as the last months have been. You look so well. Now off to Lord of the Rings country. With love, Jackie