We set off in our traditional way after work on a Friday and driving as far as possible towards Melbourne before succumbing to sleep. We made it to Albury, approx three hours from Melbourne, at 1am to rest before we continued our journey in the morning. We spent Saturday with friends in Melbourne before heading towards the Great Ocean Road on Sunday.
We drove along the coast to Lorne where we had fish and chips on the beach. As the rain was closing in we carried on to our camping spot in Otway National Park. Aire River West camp ground was our base for a couple of days. A quiet clearing on the bank of the river it was extremely peaceful and relaxing except of the noisy flock of cockatoos living in the tree above our pitch! We were delighted to see we weren’t the only ones staying in the camp ground, 6 (that we saw) Koalas called this camping spot home, two had babies that were extremely cute. They spent their time sleeping and eating and were a joy to observe on the way to the toilets!
After a late start we spent our first full day on the coast by heading back to Lorne. First we had a short walk up to Carisbrook waterfall just off the Great Ocean Road outside of town, we then got a great coffee from Moons Espresso Bar before heading up to Erskine Falls. Although Erskine Falls was more impressive than the last one it was also a lot more busy, people vying for selfie spots, so we didn’t stay long. After Erskine Falls we went to Teddy’s Lookout over the coast road, it was very windy so it was a quick stop, the view was beautiful.
The next morning we said goodbye to the koalas and moved on along the great ocean road to Princetown Recreation Reserve & Camping. Princetown is only a short drive to the Twelve Apostles so a good base for exploring this part of the coast. It was really hot when we arrived and we pitched our tent and relaxed in the shade for a while. Later that evening we went to the Twelve Apostles for sunset and the chance to glimpse tiny fairy penguins leaving the sea for the comfort of their burrows. After walking around the viewpoint taking in the beautiful coastline we got our spot and waited for the sunset. We miss calculated slightly and had an hour and a half to wait until sunset and the penguins wouldn’t arrive until 30mins after sundown. It got progressively busier the closer the sunset, I had to give up my bench after being surrounded by a group with 15 pizzas and 6 packs of beer, they successfully ruined the tranquillity of the setting. The sunset wasn’t as spectacular as some we’ve witnessed but it was still a sight to behold. We then had a fairly long wait before the first group of penguins braved the beach. They huddled together looking to see if the coast was clear and then ran for the dunes occasionally pausing to check for danger. This happened a couple more times before the visibility was too poor and we headed for home.
Relaxing in the shade we had a lazy morning, it was another roasting hot day. After lunch we drove to a couple of other of natural rock formations, London Arch and the Razorback. Wanting to get out of the sun for a while we we to a local cheese shop. The area is a big producer of dairy products, the area was cleared to make farms after the First World War. Leaving the cheese shop our car failed us, suddenly the low grumbling noise we’d been ignoring since the beginning of the journey became a loud clanking with each revolution of the wheels, we slowly returned back to camp and called in the breakdown services. After an inspection and one of the rear wheels coming off the mechanic diagnosed a broken wheel bearing and we’d need towing to a garage before returning to our journey.
We were keen to get as close to Melbourne as possible as selfishly we were due to see a band the next day and really didn’t want to miss it. So we took advantage of the 200km rural towing option our breakdown cover offers, much to the disappointment of the mechanic from the night before as he was also the tow truck driver and one man band. If we had been able to get the car fixed locally we would have but no one was able to fix the car for a few days and we couldn’t really afford to be stranded for that time. So the morning after the breakdown the tow truck arrived early for our journey to Hoppers Crossing, a suburb outside of Melbourne. The breakdown company told us there would be enough seats in the truck’s cab for both of us however the middle ‘seat’ turned out to be no more than a wooden box with a seat belt and I can say it was extremely uncomfortable for 100kms before I swapped with Jon. We also had to take the back roads as the tow truck required some new tyres we had to avoid the police which was a little alarming, we were assured they were still safe but on one in particular you could see the fabric coming through the rubber!
We made it safely and the car was fixed in time to get to our concert, Tortoise, an American alt rock band. Tortoise put on a great show ‘the best live music’ Jon had ever experienced and we had a really yummy Mexican meal before hand. The next morning we had another early start to get back to Sydney and the first leg of our two week holiday was over.