Pages

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Oz: Badder than the Nullarbor - Mt. Ive Station

Our serendipitous stop in Iron Knob, led us to Mt. Ives Station, and we also purchased this
"Made in China" boxing kangaroo pen.  South Australia, at the gateway to the Nullarbor.  I suspect this is one pen we will not lose.
We were almost upon the Nullarbor, reputedly Australia's biggest, baddest road.

We detoured into the small South Australian town of Iron Knob driven by an urgent need to use their facilities.  While we were there we figured we'd take a spin through town - sure it wouldn't take long!  

The free little mining museum caught our attention.  A couple cold and surprisingly inexpensive (for Australia) sodas and a boxing kangaroo pen later we decided to check out Mt. Ive station, as it looked cool in the museum info.  
From a toilet stop in South Australia's Iron Knob, we decided to tackle 80 miles of dirt roads into Mt. Ive Station, Western Australia.

"Check out the submarine there," the guy at the museum insisted.  "Really."
Yup - there was a sub at Mt. Ive Station's entrance.  Didn't sink there, but was made somewhat recently by a bunch or locals.
Why not? 

At this stage, we have few deadlines, other than shooting for setting up camp before dark and leaving Australia by mid-August.  It's a good feeling.  

The childhood ditty about connections, "The Old Who Swallowed the Fly" rattled through my brain.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, here's a bit of the lyrics....

The Old Lady Who Swallowed the Fly lyrics
"I know an old lady
Who swallowed a spider
It wiggled and jiggled
And tickled inside her
She swallowed a spider
To catch the fly
But I don't know why
She swallowed the fly'
Warning sign at the outset of our detour-on-a-whim to St. Ive Station.  We took this road sign far more seriously
than those on the far more widely traveled Nullarbor.  South Australia.
About 125 km (~ 80 mi) later, most of it dirt road, where we saw only one other vehicle pass us ( a truck with an empty trailer) we pulled into Mt. Ives station.  We did, however, see several emus and some 'roos  along the way.
Our first emus seen in the wild, on the road to Mt. Ive Station.  We are not sure why the emus crossed the road.  South Australia.
It was hot, dusty and we were getting annoyed with the flies.  We could camp, but instead sprung $65 AUS (~$50 USD), using our own linens (to save $10 AUD).  We slept in a sheep-shearer's cottage with no air conditioning, but a fan.  Also included was access to a hostel-like full kitchen, large commons recreation area and bathrooms with hot showers upon request.*  There was a bar and general store open upon request, but we were set.

*A wood-fire "donkey" heated the hot water tank for hot showers if desired.  The heat of the day warmed the water without it for a shower that eve. My "refreshing" morning shower, however, taken after Wayne's, exceeded the solar-heated water.

We were the only guests.

While the shearing was completed a month prior, there were some workers at the station "goating."  At least that was the coy term the working tourist VISA English gal who checked us in euphemistically called the airplane mustering of wandering semi-wild goats soon to be on their way to the local abattoir.
Wandering goats captured and penned at Mt. Ive Station, South Australia.
The goat's haunting, distressed bleats, which we heard periodically, sounded uncannily human.

We, meanwhile, luxuriated.  We decided we got the afternoon we arrived was to hot and fly-ridden to hike.  The next day, the lure of a real bed and hot showers were far more compelling than an early start.  With the sun high in the sky by our mid-morning departure, we bypassed the very attractions -- walking on the salt lake and hiking amongst the eerie natural rhyolite sculptures (like Cath's Castles and Peter's Pillars) that impelled us to visit Mt. Ive.

Yet, the simple experience of a decent shower, an easy-to-use kitchen, a bed in a fly-free room and the novelty of staying in a sheep-shearer's shack, our taste of Australia's still-vibrant "old West" made the detour worthwhile for us.

More photogenic and slightly more expensive cottages next to our simple sheep shearer's shack, Mt. Ive Station, Western Australia.
Without further ado, we made our way to Australia's "legendary" road, the Nullarbor.

Mt. Ive Station definitely set up some nostalgic photo props, like this wagon, though it is still a working station, too.  West Australia.
And our take on those patting themselves on the back for completing Australia's legendary Nullarbor?  Mt. Ive Station is not as long, but far more rugged and remote.  As was the 4-wheel-drive shortcut we took to Esperance from Balladonia.
Sunset with an almost new moon at our camp
last night, near Blowhole Beach, Western Australia
(~70 km from Carnarvon).
Location Location
Mt. Ive is near the part of South Australia that touches the Nullarbor, which is more in Western than South Australia.  We arrived March 10, 2017 and left the next day.  We are currently in Western Australia's Coral Bay "Club Ningaloo" Backpacker Lodge, again dodging the flies.  This time, our room has air conditioning.  Then again, it's also $30 more.  No extra change for the grasshoppers.

Up Next
We're making our way to Exmouth, maybe Karijini, then Broome... as we continue our clockwise circumnavigation of Australia by Land Cruiser.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Oz: Weird S---O-Meter Pegged -- Again!

Mouse on the outside of our Land Cruiser whilst driving through Western Australia -- before Wayne hit the wipers!
We're driving down 5th Street in Western Australia's Northampton, looking for the local mechanic we were told could do an oil change for us.  Scanning the streets to make sure we're on track, I glance up and see a critter -- a mouse! -- staring back at me from just the other side of our windshield! 

Not sure if we picked the mouse up from our campsite 50 clicks or so back (there was one scurrying around the campsite) or at one of our more recent stops in Geraldton or Northampton.

In any case, thanks to some quick thinking on Wayne's part, when he flipped the wiper on, he sent the mouse flying.  We laughed like hell as we watched it scurrying off to safety after its catapult landing.

At least the mouse was less stressful than the huntsman spider we picked up about a month prior (click here to read about that).  

What will we pick up next?

Location Location
We're currently in Kalbarri, Western Australia, North of Perth, South of Broome.

Up Next
Maybe Shark Bay, and certainly Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef  before we pass it on the the Northbound stretch of our clockwise tour of Australia.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Oz's Legendary Nullarbor - What's It Really Like?

Window cartoon at one of the Nullarbor's Road Houses.  Western Australia.
Tell your typical Ozzie you plan to cross Australia's legendary Nullarbor and watch their reaction. The responses we got were akin to sharing our plans of crossing the South Pacific --  concern, disbelief or awe.


You may hear it referred to as Australia's biggest, baddest road, complete with warnings and special preparation instructions for prospective travelers on "how to survive" the Nullarbor abound.
Not all survive Australia's rugged Nullarbor, though it seemed most casualties were winged or marsupial.
This is our Land Cruiser's license plate, after completing our crossing.
Heck - there's even the the mythical half-naked feral Nullarbor Nymph, which spawned a comedic horror movie (no - haven't seen it -- yet).

Thus, we were amused when we stopped to chat with a motorcyclist stopped at gas station, as we approached this legendary stretch.  "'Numb and and bored' is what I call it," he said.   We were pretty sure that witty remark wasn't one he made up himself, though he was about to embark on his 4th crossing.  For him, the Nullarbor was not some wild outback adventure, but just a road he needed to cross to get to where he wanted to go.
That set the tone for us, though our preparation did include Wayne's making sure we strategically chose our points to fuel up.... We were less concerned about running out of gas, and more concerned about not paying top dollar for it because we had no choice.  For the record, we filled up at Port Augusta, Ceduna and Eucla.

Likewise, despite carrying minimal food, we made sure setting out we had enough for several days.  Typically most folks take 2-3 days to cross.  We knew most all produce was confiscated going from Western Australia to South Australia, but hadn't been warned that more the same was true going the opposite way.  Luckily, we'd eaten a fair bit of produce before that South to West Australia crossing, but our stores took quite a hit and planned meals needed some adjusting.


We also took heed of the need to carry plenty of water, as this is a parched country, and in this particular stretch we knew there was little water and less still fit for consumption.

Wayne humors me whilst I mug for the camera at a Nullarbor Road House.  Australia.
Still, it's hard to be that awed by a stretch of road that driving along at pace a bit below the speed limit, we still encountered a road house every few hours.  For the uninitiated, road houses generally offer fuel, a convenience store with some food and lots of souvenirs, a cafe and lodging.  There's also often a little museum, and a golf hole, part of the "the world's longest golf course" -- the Nullarbor Links.  As well, while there wasn't what you'd call traffic, it also wasn't that unusual to encounter fellow travelers.
The road is rife with kitsch. 











 


Yup - Cocklebiddy is really a place.  They even have their very own time zone.
Western Australia's Nullarbor.
Despite the overall monotony and general silliness of most of the Nullarbor, there are places and moments of breathtaking beauty.
Full moon, Cocklebiddy Roadhouse.  Nullarbor, Western Australia.
We witnessed a magnificent full moon (which actually bummed us out a bit as it obliterated what otherwise would've been an awesome starry sky devoid of urban light pollution), followed one of the reddest dawns I've ever seen.
Dawn, Cocklebiddy Roadhouse.  Nullarbor, Western Australia.
The Bunda Cliffs, all well-signed photo-op signs just a quick stop off the road are quite spectacular as well.
Bunda Cliffs, Nullarbor, Australia.
Waves crashing against Bunda Cliffs, Australia's Nullarbor.
Erosion, Bunda Cliffs, Nullarbor, Australia.
Ultimately, we cut off the last leg of the Nullarbor.  Instead we drove ~200km (~125 miles) across a 4-wheel drive dirt road.  We bypassed Norseman to come out by verdant seaside town of Esperance, where the coastline is breathtakingly stunning -- all the more so after 3 days of dust, flies and gray-greens.  

Seen on the 4-wheel-drive shortcut we took off the Nullarbor.  This road struck us as more worthy of bragging rights though clearly we were not the only ones who took this road.  We saw only 2 cars in 200 km.

Honestly, we challenge those ready to pat themselves on the back for "surviving the Nullarbor" to take the cutoff, or to head off to the sheepherding station of Mt. Ives (we -did - more on that in a future post), or maybe take the former railroad trail (we were tempted, but not sure where the road reconnected -- we're not that foolhardy!).  

Maybe spending over a month at sea, over 3,000 miles when we traveled the longest unbroken stretch of ocean where we saw only 3 other boats made us a little jaded.  Three days on the road just doesn't seem nearly that desolate in comparison.  

Nullarbor sign.  Seems to be more worthy of dull-and-bored than worthy of bragging rights.  Australia.

Location Location 
This post was written about our recent "trek" across the Nullarbor, from March 11-13, 2017.  

Up Next
We are currently about to leave Perth, Western Australia, heading Northward as we continue our clockwise circumnavigation of Australia.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Oz - More Transitions! What Bit the Dust?

Road to Blowhole Beach, Deep Creek area, South Australia - 4 Wheel Drive only.  This is one of the reasons we sold our van
and bought a 4-wheel drive to complete our circumnavigation of Oz.  
How many folks allow 3 days to sell one home, move into another much smaller one and hit the road? And how many of those moved only a month earlier from their home of 5 years into another, much, much smaller one? How many of them do that whole process in a foreign country, halfway around the world from friends and family, with no place nearby to store their stuff?

It’s crazy, but not impossible.

We’re living proof.

Our first gauntlet, however, was not 4-wheel driving or downsizing, but navigation Melbourne’s hellish road construction….

We bought our 4 wheel drive in Melbourne, but in large part to get out of Melbourne and maddening driving like this,
encountered on our trip to pick up the Land Cruiser we bought.  Melbourne, Australia.
First, a little background….

Given the available options at the time, we’d decided on the first 4-wheel drive was saw – a 1997 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado Grande with about 300,000 km. “Cruisies are good for at least 500,000 km,” opined our sage Townsville “bush-block” friend Peter. It was set up with a comfy bed, a roo bar, under-bed storage, a roof rack, and – key for us – air conditioning. Other nicities included the usual assortment of kitchen necessities (pots, pans, dishes, cutlery etc), a very small “fridge,” 2 chairs, a substantial fold-out table and an awning. Other than a sunburnt hood, the SUV was in great shape.

Leo (the guy we bought our Land Cruiser from) and his girlfriend crossed the Nullarbor, and spent a month travel/ sleeping in the Cruiser, but after 6 weeks of driving, didn’t find they needed it now that they were working in Melbourne. Leo lamented the loss of the Land Cruiser bed though, as they found it more comfortable than the mattress in their apartment.

Before we completed our purchase of the Land Cruiser, we wanted to wait until we had a buyer identified for our van. Leo’s next potential buyer wasn’t around for another week, so we had the time. Apparently the market for Land Cruisers wasn’t as hot as the market for vans.


It was time to close the deal on our-new-to-us Land Cruiser. We paid $7800 AUD, $1000 more AUD than for our 1982 Toyota Hiace Campervan conversion (click here for more about that).

Still blocked.  Our long drive in Melbourne to buy the vehicle to get us the heck out of the big city!  Melbourne, Australia.
What we didn’t expect was that our former 15 minute drive would take us an hour and a half – an hour longer than we’d allotted. A couple main thoroughfares near Leo’s were closed off for a substantial stretch. When we finally got clear, we got stuck behind a road truck. Several “We’re almost there – really!” texts ensued. Fortunately, it was Leo’s day off work, so our tardiness didn’t put him into a jam.

We gave up a lot of "creature comforts" to make the switch from our van to a 4-wheel drive SUV.
Still, a lot came with it, too.  Melbourne Australia.
Then came the hardest part of all….

It was time to downsize yet again, my second time in less than a month – the first time was from our watery home of nearly 5 years to the van. The boat was ~150 square feet plus a ton of or more for storage; the van about 50 square feet for everything (click here to see my embarrassing photos of that downsizing process).

Now our home for the next 5 or so months, the Land Cruiser, was only ~¼ of the storage space of the van.

Once again, I danced my humiliating little walk of downsizing shame, writ large, as this time, it was more public.

Yard sale?” inquired a soccer player, one of many encroaching in “our” space in a formerly deserted field of a Melbourne suburb.

As usual, it took me several hours deciding what to shed. As usual, Wayne waited, as for a minimalist like him, the process took only a few minutes.

How was I going to manage our meals with no kitchen, no sink, a “fridge” only large enough to hold a six-pack, a one-burner portable gas camp stove, one small box for coffee and tea, one box for all my cooking implements and utensils and one box for all food and food ingredients? Oh and did I mention we rarely eat out, we would frequently be in wilderness areas far from grocery stores and that Wayne is on a gluten-free diet?

We also needed to carry our clothes for the next 5 months, all required personal hygiene and 1st aid products, two laptop computers, a Kindle, and iPad, several mobile phones and whatever else we believed we’d need for entertainment and about 20,0000+ km of travel for 5 months.

I began the process late afternoon, and struggled to complete my task as fall’s early darkness approached. Meanwhile, my sorting space got smaller and smaller as the empty soccer field filled with several matches. At least the weather cooperated, it was mild and sunny, neither windy nor wet. My prior downsizing was executed in 100 degree weather a motel back parking lot.

Finally, I was done, at least done enough that we’d tossed some items, identified what would stay in the van for its new owner, what was coming with us, what was getting donated to charity and what was else was getting shipped back to the US to sit in my generous in-laws garage.

What didn’t make the cut (partial list)

  • about half my clothes
  • tupperware” all but 2 bowls with handles, 2 sandwich-sized flat squares, a few really tiny ones and 2 spice boxes
  • the 2 remaining broken, scraped picnic plaid Everett Washington op-shop trays we used for plates (and Wayne adored and we used daily for the last 4 ½ years)
  • fish sauce – used in home-made pad thai and Asian salad dressings (since found a tiny bottle of fish sauce)
  • ketchup
  • rice (I buy pre-cooked when we have a meal that lends itself to rice)

Wayne's favorite and overly-loved dishes... that didn't make the cut.  Downsizing (again!) Melbourne, Australia.
What did make the cut (partial list)
condiments:

  • 3 oils (rice bran, olive, sesame)
  • 2 vinegars (balsamic and rice wine)
  • 1 gluten-free soy
  • 1 oz wasabi paste tube (for sushi, our cheap lunch of choice, out)
  • chili-garlic paste
  • chipotle sauce
  • A-1 (for Wayne - I find it disgusting!)
  • Mexican seasonings, mixed herbs, smoked paprika, salt, pepper
  • mustard
  • vanilla extract (for French toast!)
starches:

  • gluten-free pasta
  • quinoa (one final serving left)
  • gluten-free bread (we nearly always have a loaf on tap)
protein:

  • 2 4-oz cans of flavored tuna
  • canned beans
  • peanut butter (and jelly)
  • plus whatever we buy for the next lunch or dinner and refrigerate in our six-pack-sized "refrigerator")
beverages:

  • coffee, melitta coffee maker, tea (still trying to connect with my instant Tipus Chai, ordered 6 weeks ago but we just missed), raw sugar
kitchen basics:

  • cutlery set for 4, 2 steak knives, 1 paring knife, 1 cleaving knife, can opener, grater, peeler, ladle, spatula, scraper, pasta stirrer, whisk, 2 liter pourable measuring cup + 1 measuring cup and spoon set


Time will tell what jettisoned items I’ll regret and what kept items weren’t worth their space.

Warnambool, Australia, at the end of New South Wales Great Ocean Road, and where we jettisoned yet more stuff
to lighten our load for our travels through Australia.
What would you keep – and lose – if you only had a few bins for your galley for 5 months road-tripping?

Wayne, reducing drag on our Land Cruiser whilst I added more stuff to the Salvos box.  Warnambool, Australia.
Location Location
We transitioned between our van and the Land Cruiser in the Melbourne area, February 23, 2017. We are currently over 5,000 km and 3,000 miles down the road since then.  We're currently in Western Australia, near Perth.

Our Land Cruiser on stunningly beautiful Lucky Beach, Cape Le Grand National Park, Western Australia.
Another great reason to have 4-wheel-drive when touring Australia.
Up Next
We’re continuing our clockwise circumnavigation of Oz, targeting completion in August 2017. There will be posts along the way, as well as continued catch-up up posts.
We added this $99 AUD (~$72 USD) tent.  We left the canopy off when we set up in this Deep Creek South Australia campground.  The bed and bedding came with the Land Cruiser.  If we're setting up late, leaving really early or the weather is bad, we sleep in the Land Cruiser; otherwise we sleep in the tent.  If it's really bad, we'll go for a backpacker lodging or an affordable motel, but not much room for many of those in the budget.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Oz: Udderly Hilarious

Funny road trip sight two cows one with its tongue out
Two cute calves at Bodalla Cheese Factory, New South Wales, Australia.
Flashback -- a light moment from about a month ago on our road trip....

The beauty of a long road trip is you can stop for just about any whimsy that strikes you.  In this case we were traveling through New South Wales, feeling a little hungry and thirsty. The Bodalla Cheese Factory's kitsch sucked us in.  

We tried a few of their fabulous cheese samples.

Then Wayne sprang for some un-homogenized milk - and we rarely just drink milk.  

Decadent!  We felt like contented kitties lapping up cream.

Wandering back to our van, we noticed a couple cute calves and went down for a closer look.  They were as interested in us as we were them.  

Or -- was it just the milk we hadn't quite finished?


Wayne, about to share the last of our un-homogenized milk with a clearly interested calf.  For all we know, it came from its momma!  Bodalla Cheese Factory, New South Wales, Australia.
What do you think?

In case you were wondering - even though I didn't capture it, Wayne did actually give the calf some milk (and didn't just tease it).

My niece, Lauren, once commented, derisively, "Humans are the only animals that drink another animal's milk!"  Maybe so, Laur, and maybe billions of cows can't be wrong -- the stuff is pretty delish!  And we were willing to share, given the opportunity!

Location Location
Bodalla, the spot that inspired this post, is in New South Wales.  We're currently in between Augusta and Margaret River in Western Australia at Boranup campsite in Leeuwin National Park - but it has internet via our Telstra phone hotspot!
Bodalla - New South Wales, Australia - relatively early on in our road trip -- already three territories ago!

Up Next
We are making a clockwise tour around Australia, targeting August for completion.  Margaret River is our next stop, then Perth.  It's amazing how limited our internet time is since we're mostly camping - there are LOTs of catch-up blog posts coming!!!!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Oz: Weirdest place I’ve ever cooked

Classic Nullarbor area road sign. We’ve seen ‘roos, and one wombat (but not in this area) but no camels (yet?!?).  Australia's Nullarbor region -- a different kind of place.  South Australia.
Almost Nullarbor.
Fierce and dusty as the winds were, the flies were worse at Nundroo Roadhouse. Nundroo’s on the Eastern fringe of the Nullarbor. Technically, though Nundroo’s a little over 100 km to the Easternmost edge of Nullarbor National Park.
In any case, it 5:30 pm and time for us to stop the night.
Nundroo Roadhouse does boast a restaurant, but the concept of paying $25 AUD for special $5 off the Scotch fillet steak (aka a cheap generally tough cut) didn’t appeal. Besides, I had the makings for a nice Asian rice noodle soup with precooked chicken breast and fresh veggies.
Wayne, ever resourceful, surmised the laundry trailer offered the perfect makeshift galley. 
Laundry facility, Nundroo Roadhouse, Western Australia.

Flat surfaces (two washer and two dryer tops), running water, and best of all – no flies! He also carried the majority of the supper makings out to the “galley.”
Makeshift “galley” maestro, still mosquito-netted due to a recent run
outside to gather cooking more accoutrements.
I thanked Wayne heartily, for being a good sport. “Are you kidding?!?” he retorted. “You’re the good sport. Other women I’ve been with would’ve demanded ‘Get me on a plane and the hell outta here!”
I guess it’s a good thing we found each other – being able to find humor in this type of travel is not for everyone. We’re lucky, in a strange sort of way.
So, readers – where’s the weirdest place you’ve cooked? Or, why do you believe your particular love match is both excellent and unique? Inquiring
 minds want to know!




















Location Location
We arrived in Nundroo March 11th, 2017 and left the next morning not much past sunrise the next day. While charmless, for $8 AUD for a hot shower, laundry room with running water and ample garbage, Nundroo’s a screaming deal (even if its fly-free bar closes at 8 pm and the wifi’s pretty sketchy). We’re currently stopped briefly in Eucla, the Nullarbor, just past the border of South Australia, in the Eastern corner of Western Australia.
Where the Nullarbor road trip officially began for us, still in South Australia
We just crossed the border at this post into Western Australia.
Up Next

Still lots of cool stuff to catch up on! And we’re planning on another 5 months to continue our clockwise circumnavigation of Australia’s ocean of land. Then, lots of blog-site additions and navigation aids, plus tons of short video clips.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Oz: Agony & Ecstasy -- Australia's Not Always So Great Ocean Road

Map of Australia's iconic Great Ocean Road.  To see more about The Great Ocean Road and its landmarks click here for them from Lonely Planet's map (pictured here).  Or read on about our travels across it....
"The Great Ocean Road is an Australian National Heritage site -- 243 kilometres (151 mi) stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia," intones Wikipedia.

Ocean viewpoint, Great Ocean Road, by Split Point lighthouse.  Victoria, Australia.
Iconic.  Amazing.  Stunningly beautiful.  

Twelve Apostles viewpoint, looking South. Great Ocean Road, Australia.

Over-hyped.  Ridiculously crowded.   Over-priced.

Best territorial viewpoint for the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road, Australia – if the crowds weren’t there!

Yup, that's the same place alright.

Twelve Apostles viewpoint, looking North. Great Ocean Road, Australia.
Which is it?

Andrew makes travel suggestions; Wayne marks them into our Camps 8 book. Laver Hill, Great Ocean Road, Australia.
Yes.

Uncrowded Loch Ard Gorge, painted in dawn’s gentle pastels. Great Ocean Road, Australia.
The Great Ocean Road showcases some magnificent Australian coastline.  The 12 Apostles (well -- what's left of them -- 7 or so) justifiably garners oodles press and thus attracts hordes of international tourists.  There were many worthwhile places to stop and take the vistas in, and we stopped at many.

Razorback Ridge at dawn, Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia. Dramatic – and uncrowde
Yet....

The route is clogged with busses disgorging multitudes of passengers at the most popular stops, especially the Apostles.


The only Asian tourist at Loch Ard Gorge, bundled up for dawn and happy to mug for the camera.
"Don't bother trying to get shots of the Apostles at sunset," warned Ozzie local Sally, when we chatted at some waterfalls near the Great Ocean road.  "Last time I went there, a guy set up three big tripods in the best viewing area and wouldn't budge.  He just kept moving between each one.  Plus, there were all the others...."  

Arch at Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia.
Worse still, we discovered, were the rental vans, manned by folks who were clearly unused to driving faster than 60 km on the smooth, curvy highways with 80-110 km speed limits.  Nor did they get the etiquette of pullouts or protocol of passing lanes.

Loch Ard arch shining in the early sunrise glow. Great Ocean Road, Australia.
We came across a brilliant cartoon that summed it up nicely.  It showed a campervan wending its way through the hills.  "Look at this pristine country!" the driver exclaimed.  "And not a single car in sight!"  The driver was followed closely by a dozen vehicles, hidden to him behind his pokey rig.

"I call it Phyco Circus," was Andrew's opinion of The Great Ocean Road.  We met Andrew, another Ozzie local, in Laver Hill, just off the Great Ocean Road.  It was early.  Andrew was sipping a coffee when Wayne wrangled him for some local where-to-go advice.  


Posing upon request with his BMW motorcycle at Laver Hill.
While the crowds drove the joy out of cruising great Ocean Road for Andrew, he recommended Loch Ard Gorge; said he liked it better than the 12 Apostles.

Vibrant cliffs above Shipwreck Bay, Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia.
Indeed, the crowds at the 12 Apostles sucked the much of joy out of what was otherwise a lovely series of scenic vistas.  I quickly nixed my earlier notion of returning from our nearby Port Campbell digs for a sunset photo.  It was pretty likely Sally's photo-zilla observation wasn't just some one-time exaggeration.

Then we saw the tour busses also parked outside Loch Ard Gorge....


Stalagtites, Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia.
Wayne brilliantly suggested since our Port Campbell hostel room was only a 15-minute drive from there, that we get up early enough in the morning to see it before the crowds arrived, and in time to make it back to our room and hit the showers before check out and hitting the road.

Shipwreck Bay just after sunrise. If we were staying longer, this would’ve been a great place to spend the day on the beach and swim. Great Ocean Road, Australia.
The hostel was top-rated, and quite nice.

And yet....


The Grotto, overview, Great Ocean Road, South of Port Campbell.
It was also $140 AUD -- that's over $100 USD, for a simple private room, but a shared bath (but far cheaper then $270 for the Best Western).  Ok, linens (sheets and towels) were included, as was wifi and full access to the communal kitchen, but little else was free.  You could gaze at the hostel's barista-made coffee for sale, while either imbibing in some free instant or doing what we did, making our own.

The arch to the see in The Grotto, Great Ocean Road, South of Port Campbell.  I did have to wait for a couple to stop taking selfies first.
We got up at 6:30.  Hit the road by 7, and were at Loch Ard Gorge well before sunrise.  And we had it nearly all to ourselves!
It was amazing! 

London Bridge, mid-morning, not too crowded. Great Ocean Road, South of Port Campbell.  
Bottom line -- Agony or ecstasy – should the Great Ocean Road crowds keep you away?


Maybe it’s like pizza… even when it’s bad, it’s kinda still good.

If you have the time to go, and can plan to be at a scenic spot in good weather before the sun comes up, the Great Ocean Road is positively magical. Great Ocean Road is good as or better than the promo pictures, and best captured by being there, whether your photos do it justice or not.


Watching the waves roll through the gap at London Bridge.  
Location Location
This post reflects the time we spent on the Great Ocean Road, February 24-27, 2017.  At the moment, we're getting in some last minute wifi and topping off our gas tanks in Ceduna before we begin our trek across Australia's famed desolate Nullarbar Road.

Up Next
More catch-up and more on our circumnavigation across Australia's ocean of land.

Wayne and Dana, bathed in the sunrise light over Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road, Australia.