Not-so speedy getaway. Ali slept shitty. No spiders, just exogenous crap. A short walk from the hotel (after an epic conversation with the proprietors – last night’s many bushfires further inland, the possum family in their roof at home, tourist season in Port Fairy, the Great Ocean Road), we nail a hearty breakfast and some postage stamps and are on our way.
The Hyundai passes many cows, a prelude to entry into Warrnambool (pronounced – Warnable), home to CheeseWorld, a major roadside attraction dedicated to curds and, probably, whey. The Uebergang family has been local milk moguls for quite a few generations and pride themselves particularly on their milkshakes. We depart with much cheesy swag and milk moustaches on our faces.
Warrnambool’s the western terminus of the Great Ocean Road (actually Portland is, but nevermind). We’re driving that train, high on, um, cheese beverage. Along the GOR there are many scenic turn-offs with paths to promontories. The storm clouds that threatened earlier blow away all of a sudden, but the wind does not subside. The true magic of the day becomes apparent at the Bay of Islands, our first overlook. We stand on a great bluff with a panorama of scudding clouds and frantic teal blue surf that batters golden limestone towers before expiring on an inaccessible beach. The sunshine and bluster could not be more bracing. The more easterly we drive, the more formations to stop and gape at. Particularly striking is London Bridge, which had been a double-arched peninsula until the landward arch collapsed stranding two hikers in the 90s.
The final group of towers is the famous Twelve Apostles. Simple observation discloses four and a half Apostles. Apparently, this is the third most popular attraction in Australia, after the Sydney Opera House and Uluru. Busloads of heedless wankers disgorge here, stalling in the middle of the walkway to obliviously wave their selfie sticks. A smidgen of superficial guidebook research reveals that the original name for the Apostles was Sow and Piglets.
We’re cranky now. Reconnoitering the seaside hamlet of Port Campbell for sustenance proves fruitless as the town is suffering from a power outage. The wind today has been relentless, more challenging than we knew. We rip into the remaining banana bread. The turnoff to the Cape Otway Lightstation winds through temperate rain forest. The eucalypts here are astoundingly tall and slender, with scant foliage. Their white bark stands in stark contrast to the blue blue sky and the canopy bows and ripples like a vast curtain of gray-green lace. The road has become unsealed due to ongoing construction/reconstruction. We are undaunted, despite the Hyundai’s modest transmission. We know mud: this ain’t no MUD. We arrive at the gate just as the guy is shutting and locking it. But. But. But. It’s only 3:30. Apologetically, he explains that they’re closing the road on account of mud-related trauma.
So, we’re in, yet we have no dinner, having had no lunch. Kindly staff gives/sells us a couple chicken-y wraps and a pasta salad left over in the café’s larder. We’ve brought a bottle of Pellegrino along, thank God. The wind blows and blows, but we sleep very soundly.