Journey down the Great Ocean Road.

We got off to a surprisingly on-time and smooth start to our Great Ocean Road trip on Boxing Day. It was a holiday we’d talked about doing as a weekend trip, but decided to save until we had a few extra days to explore the area. It was beautiful hot sunshine as we set off, and in fact all the way past Geelong, to Torquay, where the Great Ocean Road officially starts.

Steps to the sand

Steps to the sand

Our first stop was at Coles for food, not particularly exciting … but the next one was at Bell’s Beach where, Silvio told me, the final scene of Point Break is set (although apparently it’s not actually filmed there).

Our beach stop

Our beach stop

We drove on, past several holiday parks, often at beautiful river mouths opening on to the sea, perfect for splashing around in. I was so tempted to stop for a quick dip, and eventually we did stop at a beach but I only made it in ankle deep. Still, it was so nice and refreshing to feel the sea.

My first paddle

My first paddle

We arrived in the late afternoon at our motel in Skenes Creek. It was pretty nice, a car space right outside our room, with patio doors and a view out across the ocean, and a BBQ area just opposite our room.

Our motel

Our motel

We dumped our cases and went off to the rocky beach just opposite the motel, where there was a small rocky beach. The sky had started to cloud over and the wind had picked up, so luckily I wasn’t too inclined to jump in the sea anymore, because it wasn’t really a swimming beach – the waves were crashing on to the rocks. It looked as though the rocks had been formed in a volcano, the shapes were so unusual.

Volcanic rocks

Volcanic rocks

Wind in his hair!

Wind in his hair!

Beach!

Beach!


After exploring the beach, we took a quick drive into Apollo Bay to have a look around. We wandered along the main street, then checked out the beach and the obligatory sculptures by the grassy car park. The sky was starting to look a bit heavy and ominous, so we didn’t stay out too long.

Broken path to the beach

Broken path to the beach

Ominous sky ...

Ominous sky …

Apollo Bay art

Apollo Bay art


Back at the motel, we took advantage of the barbie and set out burgers and sausages. Silvio cooked, I watched with wine and my kindle :) The sun sets pretty late at this time of year anyway, and we got an extra ten minutes of daylight thanks to being further south.

Silvio about to cook

Silvio about to cook

I’ve picked up Silvio’s Italian habit of breakfasting on sweet biscuits, but on Friday morning when I woke up with my stomach growling, it was a disaster – I’d forgotten them! We had to make do with Christmas cake instead …

Me on Gibson's Steps

Me on Gibson’s Steps

With our sugar cravings satisfied, we set out to drive to Port Campbell to see the Twelve Apostles along the coast. Along the way, we stopped at Gibsons Steps and a first glimpse of the first Apostle and yet another beautiful beach.

Seagull posing

Seagull posing

A little further, we stopped at the next lookout and wandered along the paths taking photos. The views were just outstanding! We took a few selfies, and found some nice guys to take photos of us, but got photobombed several times by another lady who seemed completely unaware of it.

Watch the lady in the corner ...

Watch the lady in the corner …

... here she goes ...

… here she goes …

Photobombed!

Photobombed!


A little further on, we found Port Campbell and headed to a fish and chip cafe called Frying Nemo for a carb fix. Silvio brought the hot, greasy paper parcel out and we unwrapped it with glee – only to be bombarded by flies as we tried to eat our chips :( Eventually it was just too much, and we wrapped our lunch back up to eat in the car. We drove all around Port Campbell looking for shade, which took about three and a half minutes, but found none – so Silvio parked up in a cul-de-sac in front of somebody’s house to eat! We got some odd looks from the little girl playing on a skateboard in the driveway next door, but no flies and nobody asked us to move.

Fish and chips!

Fish and chips!

On our little tour, we had driven past a gorgeous little bay with turquoise water, so after lunch we stopped there so I could finally take a dip in the sea! The temperature was in the mid-twenties so it was only just warm enough really to go for a swim, and the water was fre-e-e-e-ezing! Needless to say, it took me a rather long time to go all the way in, although I did in the end, and it was lovely. Silvio was baking in the sun on the sand, so when I got out again we headed back to the car. We filled up with petrol before we left, and I found a leaflet of “Food Artisans” in the area, which looked pretty interesting.

It's c-c-c-cold!

It’s c-c-c-cold!

From Port Campbell, we drove a bit further up the road to see the arch and what used to be London Bridge – a bridge of rock that broke off in 1990, leaving the remainder of the rock stranded out in the sea. The views were once again incredible, and the strength of the waves pounding over and over against the rocks leave no doubt as to the potential power of the ocean. In the arch, the water would rush up to the rocks and then around into the curve, climbing up the walls of rock then dipping down again with each rush, it was almost hypnotising.

The archway

The archway

Back in the car park, I noticed that the car next to us not only had two antlers attached to the windows, but it had a big red nose on the front. I wanted to take a photo of it without looking too obvious, so tried to make it look like I was photographing our own car.

The car parked next to us was disguised as Rudolph

The car parked next to us was disguised as Rudolph

As we started the drive back, it seemed a bit early to be heading home already. As we reached the junction for Timboon, we decided to try and find one of the places marked on the food artisans map, a cheesery and cafe called MouseTrap Cafe.

The gap where the bridge was

The gap where the bridge was

Thanks to my amazing skill with directions, we made it! The grounds were absolutely beautiful, and I almost wished we’d come earlier and had lunch there – it was sunny, green, quiet and peaceful. We had a cheese tasting, but the pieces they offered us to try were so tiny it was almost hard to tell which ones we liked! Perhaps they have a lot of timewasters … but we like cheese, and ended up buying a gruyere as well as a strong tasting soft cheese and another hard one. I also bought a raspberry and rhubarb jam, and a rhubarb chutney, they are both really delicious.

Mousetrap Cafe

Mousetrap Cafe

Cheese counter

Cheese counter

The Mousetrap

The Mousetrap

From the cafe, we headed home and back to the barbecue! After our big lunch of fish and chips (and a few sneaky snacks along the way) neither of us were very hungry, so we just polished off the remaining burgers.

Saturday, we had planned to make the most of the good weather and spend some time on the beach – starting with breakfast out in Apollo Bay. We went to a restaurant called La Bimba, overlooking the ocean. Once again we spoilt ourselves, starting with a ginormous strawberry milkshake for me, and a huge blueberry muffing for Silvio, which I may have helped him with … followed by a proper breakfast with eggs, hollandaise sauce and toast. And we ate the lot :)

The muffin was huge!

The muffin was huge!

Breakfast, all gone!

Breakfast, all gone!

Mmmm ... all gone

Mmmm … all gone


Before heading down to the beach, we went shopping for a little beach tent. I think we slightly regretted having got rid of our beach umbrella before leaving Manly, didn’t really want to buy another one, and this seemed like a better option. We found a perfect one in the local hardware shop.

Apollo Bay has a beautiful little beach, and the weather was gloriously sunny, but unfortunately it was also really, really windy. We tried to put the little tent up in the first spot we picked, but it was obvious very quickly that it wasn’t going to stay put – the sides caved in under the wind, and the poles buckled. We gave up, packed it up again, and wandered along the shore until we found a more sheltered spot near a sand bank, and this time the tent stayed up a bit better.

Our beach shelter

Our beach shelter

I went off for a paddle while Silvio snapped photos of me, grimacing as the cold water hit me. I did manage to submerge myself eventually – up to my neck anyway! – it was even colder than the previous day!

So cold!

So cold!

Cold again

Cold again

I'm in! Almost

I’m in! Almost


After a swim and a bit of chilling out in our tent, and a few too many visitors trying to share it (flies) we left the beach, and headed out on a trip to find some koala bears. Our hosts at the motel had advised us to go down the road towards the Cape Otway lighthouse, where there were lots of them in the wild. We weren’t disappointed – a short way down the track, a group of people had stopped with cameras pointing up into the trees, and when I got out with my own, I could clearly see the koala hugging the branches and peering down at us all.

Koala in the tree

Koala in the tree

I snapped a few shots then left the others to it, but as we pulled away the cars in front had stopped for another koala who was going for a romp across the road. He sat down next to the wheel of the car behind us! Further along, we saw more koalas – most of them were curled up and sleeping in the trees.

Koala exploring

Koala exploring

On Saturday night, after admiring my koala photos, we went to Chill – a tapas place – for dinner. It wasn’t great value, but the food was pretty good, especially the mushroom croquette, yum.

On Sunday the weather was sunny again, but cooler. We set out towards Forrest, to visit some sights along the way before lunching in the local micro-brewery and sampling the beer. The first stop along the way was an “impulsive” one to Stevenson’s Falls, which was marked on the map by a small, gravelly side road. We drove down it for what seemed like forever, but actually around 5km, before we reached a campsite. Just before the campsite was a little bridge with a small, trickling river right before it … I crossed my fingers that this wasn’t what we’d driven all the way down the track for.

Waterfall

Waterfall

A lady at the campsite pointed us on down a winding, gravel road for “another kilometre and a half or so” … we debated whether to turn around, but having already come this far, we decided to carry on. Eventually, we found the car park, then hiked along a path by the river for another kilometre or so, before we saw the waterfalls. They were pretty spectacular actually, finally worth the long trek! The path led up to a bunch of rocks in front of the falls, and Silvio’s inner climber took over: he scrambled across the stones to get closer, and we took a bunch more photos!

Selfie at the falls

Selfie at the falls

Silvio climbing over the rocks

Silvio climbing over the rocks

Rock "climbing"

Rock “climbing”


Back on the road, we also stopped at a dam to walk across the top of it – more nice views, more flies too though. At least it wasn’t quite such a long, windy drive to get to it!

Finally, after the dam, it was time for food! Yay! And beer! Double yay!

Food and beer at the Forrest Brewery

Food and beer at the Forrest Brewery

The restaurant was packed (it did seem to be the only thing around though) and the menu was very inviting. We both tried one of the beers, which was good although quite bitter. An hour or so later, full up and slightly sleepy (me at least), we were back in the car, heading out to Elizabeth Lake to walk off some of the calories.

Elizabeth lake

Elizabeth lake

It was another drive down a gravelly road, the poor car was starting to look pretty dirty! We got out at the lake and I realised I’d left my jumper at the restaurant :( luckily it was pretty warm still. We headed out through the woods to the lake, a bit less than a kilometre up and down some slopes and steps. At the lake, we sat on a bench to enjoy the view for a bit, then decided to venture a bit further to the “beach” – which turned out to be another ten minute walk to a small sandy shore. Some people in front of us had paused to photograph a black lizard, but it darted away before I could see it.

Silvio on the bridge

Silvio on the bridge

Walk around Elizabeth Lake

Walk around Elizabeth Lake

Paths at Elizabeth Lake

Paths at Elizabeth Lake


Apparently there is a colony of platypus by the lake, but we didn’t see them – maybe we were too noisy as we stomped around the paths. By the time we got to the beach, my legs were in the mood for walking, and we decided to carry on around the entire lake. It was supposed to be 4km – the signs at the start indicated it would take 3 1/2 hours – but it certainly didn’t feel that far, and we were back where we started within an hour. It was a pretty walk though, particularly the first part where we had some great views across the lake. The trees around it were so tall that we couldn’t see very much of it at any point, and on the way back we were mostly walking through the forest.

Chilling out at Elizabeth Lake

Chilling out at Elizabeth Lake

We drove back along the twisty roads to Apollo Bay, stopping for yet more meat for the barbie on the way home – I think we must have used that barbecue way more than any other guests. It was still pretty early, but Silvio was suffering a bit from a pulled muscle aggravated by the walk, and didn’t really want to go out anywhere else. I decided to go to the local beach on my own, the sun was starting to sink and the light was getting pretty, it seemed a shame to waste our last evening inside.

Walking along the beach

Walking along the beach

There was a sandy beach not far up the road by a camping and caravan park, with a small river cutting through the middle of it. I did consider paddling through it, but it looked a bit too deep. I walked along the beach to the rocks that marked the beginning of the rocky beach we’d visited on our first day, more of the volcanic patterns that I’d seen there. It was still sunny, but pretty windy.

Rocks at the beach

Rocks at the beach

Back at the motel, we attempted to barbecue some veggies with our steaks – the potatoes weren’t too bad, pretty crispy :) I have to say though, I think I will stick with cooking broccoli in a pan.

Monday, it was time to pack up and head back to Melbourne. We dawdled on the way home, stopping in Lorne to wander along the beach front and pick up some lunch. Sadly the place we went too – with big adverts for fried chicken outside – had no fried chicken! What?! We went to a bakery instead, but it left both of us with a still-unsatisfied-craving for fried chicken …

The rest of the trip home was just as pretty as going – I can’t wait to go back next year!

Byron Bay Bluesfest!

A few days before we were due to jet off to Byron Bay for the Bluesfest, Andrea looked mournfully at me across the desk at work.

“I forgot to cancel the camper van I booked for Byron Bay,” she said. ” I think it might be too late now to get my money back.” She tried calling and sweet talking the rental company, but to no avail: there was a camper van out there somewhere that was determined to spend this weekend with us. Andrea wanted to try and rent it out to anybody who was looking for accommodation, I wasn’t so sure that was a great plan, but we decided we’d figure it out later and just make the most of it. We wouldn’t be able to collect it until Thursday, so we still had to take the tent for the first night anyway.

The next problem was mud. As in, there’s usually lots of it at BluesFest. Oh dear, does that mean we have to go shopping for new footwear? One advantage of being “on the beach” at work … time for online shopping … we found some wellies online and pretty soon they were on their way via express delivery. Woohoo! We’re all set!

Happy campers

Wednesday arrived and we had a pile of cases by our desks in the ThoughtWorks office. Everybody stopped by to ask where we were going (and why the hell do we always take so much STUFF?) The reaction was always the same when they found out we were headed to Byron Bay: “You’re going to have an awesome time!” It’s a pretty good way to start a trip – by the time we left, we were pretty excited! We took a taxi to the airport that afternoon – wearing the new wellies, very sexy we looked in those :) – and settled down in our usual spot in the bar for a pre-flight drink and a gossip. Except that somebody seemed to be finding her email more fun than wine and gossip … I was a little disappointed, but luckily she found her way out of that laptop pretty quickly and we were back on track!

As we boarded the plane, the stewardess glanced down at our feet. “You must be going to Bluesfest!” she said, “Make sure to check out Tijuana Cartel!” She seemed nice and kinda cool, so we decided to try and take her advice. We landed at the Gold Coast airport and found our bus, and some beer, which made the rest of the journey swing by quickly. The Byron Bay Tourist Village was nice, but dark … nothing like rocking up somewhere and staring at a pile of your suitcases on the grass in the dark when you really just want a nice cosy bed all ready for you. We are getting good at pitching tents so it was up pretty fast, although I got eaten alive by little bugs attracted to my headlamp and my apparently tasty blood.

Empty campsite before everybody arrived

Bluesfest graffiti

Rainbow Shop!


Tent up, beds inflated, suitcases tossed inside, now can we please go and hit the town? For food, obviously … and maybe more wine or beer :) Town was a twenty minute walk away, along a fairly dark, busy road with quite a few drunk sounding but generally friendly people coming the other way. It was still quite busy, and we found a place to eat then wandered down to the beach briefly before heading home. I was out like a light, but the noisy birds woke us both up pretty early the next morning.

The beach ...

The festival didn’t kick off until Thursday afternoon, and we had a camper van to collect. After breakfast – it turned out that the kiosk at the entrance to the tourist village made a yummy bacon brekkie roll – we walked into town again to get a bus to the airport. It was a glorious day, and the town is full of brightly coloured shops and hippy signs, which looked fantastic in the bright sunshine. There were no buses until mid-afternoon, so we headed out first for a bit of a shop – I wanted to wander through the Rainbow Shop, and then we found a few dress shops and spent time trying on a variety of clothes. We hit the Beach Hotel for lunch and met up with Korny, who was still a bit dazed having travelled very early that morning.

After lunch, Andrea and I headed to the beach. It was gorgeous – a long, long stretch of pale sand, shallow turquoise water for paddling in, crashing waves and a few surfers for eye candy. Andrea jumped in for a swim, I stuck with paddling and sunbathing, until it was time to head back for the bus to the airport and collect the camper van.

View out of camper van window

Turns out we got upgraded from a Backpacker van to a Britz van – this thing was MASSIVE! It took forever to sort all the paperwork out, but we got a bottle of wine and some free chairs which would be great for the festival! The lady processing our paperwork walked us through the facilities on the van and how everything worked, I started to feel a bit brain-fried quite quickly though – glad Andrea had done this before and knew her way around it a bit better! She got behind the wheel and was pretty cool driving it back to the campsite, especially considering the size of the thing, not sure I’d have been quite as comfortable driving it. The sun was dipping down to the hills on the way home, and I managed to take a few shots out of the window that turned out pretty well.

Back at the campsite, we got ready and headed out to the festival. Disappointingly, the shuttle bus wasn’t free but cost $4 (each person, each way!) – this weekend was turning out to be pretty expensive! But there was no way Andrea was driving – this was NOT going to be a dry night for either of us.

Neighbour Jason

Where's Wally? There ... there ... there ... and there.

Waffles. They're wicked.


The first act we both wanted to see was Eilen Jewell, who was playing on the Jambalaya stage (one of the smaller ones) at 7pm. We had a bit of time to wander through the grounds, explore the food offerings, and grab some drinks tickets and wine. It was pretty quiet, so when we made our way back to the stage there were only a couple of people between us and the stage – it was pretty awesome. She sounded amazing, although I was disappointed she didn’t sing the one song I knew well enough to sing along to (maybe somebody had warned her …) When she was finished, we ended up in the CD tent, where Andrea bought a CD and had all of the band members sign it. They all seemed pretty ordinary off of the stage, which was somehow surprising … the guitarist and drummers were pretty cute though :)

We watched a bit of My Morning Jacket, which was a bit more rocky and more up my street than blues or country. I was getting kind of tired and antsy after that, so when Andrea wanted to try and socialise a bit more I left her to it! Very bad of me … luckily we found each other again pretty quickly and ended up hanging out at the Apra stage and watching a reggae-style band called Kooii, who turned out to be pretty good and worth a bit of a dance to. We finished off the night with crepes in the food tent – mmmmm, nutella crepes. All in all, it wasn’t a bad start to the festival.

That night, Andrea had decided to sleep in the camper van, so I had the tent to myself. I was wise to the noisy birds this time, and slept in lovely and late with the aid of earplugs :) When we finally emerged from our “bedrooms” and got dressed, our neighbour Jason had also surfaced. We hadn’t seen him at all the previous day, which often happens camping but is kind of weird – you just see the tent but never the person. I was pretty sure it wasn’t empty though, I had seen the number of beer bottles rising over the last day or so (it turned out he was using them to mark his tent ropes, so that he didn’t trip over them).

Britz. No boundaries. Apparently.

We all got chatting, he took some photos of me and Andrea with our wellies and camper van, and then offered us a beer. There’s something wonderful about sitting outside in hot sunshine before midday with a cold beer and no worries!

Eventually, we all headed out together to get the bus up to the festival again, for what would be our longest day there! We started off at the Crossroads stage (one of the two largest) and watched Eugene “Hideaway” Bridges and then some of Steve Earle, while just across the fence we could hear G3 blasting out of the Mojo tent. We settled down with our chairs, got some beers, and enjoyed the show for a while. Eventually Jason decided to head off for some beers before we moved on, but he took for-EVER … we checked the two bars nearest to us and couldn’t find him, although they were pretty empty, we couldn’t wait forever so we headed off on our own. Turns out he had gone to get food, turned up where we’d been with three beers and food to find us gone. I felt kind of bad when he told us that later … I don’t think the beers went to waste though.

Beer tickets!

Watching some music

Something was funny ...


We watched some of G3, then saw Candi Staton, who was pretty good, and one of the few artists there that I actually knew :) After that we caught some of Seth Lakeman and Buddy Guy – who is 76 and still playing! – then planted our chairs in the wrong area to listen to Keb Mo for an hour. He had an amazingly smooth voice … Andrea was totally into the music and getting up to dance, but I was getting pretty tired. The last act we caught that night was Earth, Wind and Fire, who blasted on stage with Boogie Wonderland and got me up out of my seat for a few tracks.

Saturday was another gorgeous day, another lovely late morning, and another early beer. I could definitely get used to this kind of life! We had decided to take a trip out to hippy town Nimbin for something to do before the festival, so we piled into Jason’s car while Andrea tried to navigate from the back seat with Google maps. Nimbin was a quieter version of Byron but without a beach – we stopped in a pub for beers and I was amazed at how cheap they were! We wandered around a few shops before heading back, where we hung out at the campsite for a while, drinking beers, eating pizza and Tim Tams and generally enjoying chilling out.

Fancy a bit of hemping?

We got to the festival in time to catch Seasick Steve, but something was wrong with the sound system and we could barely hear him – we had just packed up our chairs and started to walk away when guess what? Yep, it’s back on – and dammit, we’ve lost our good spot! We stayed and listened to him for a bit before heading out, and lost Jason again when he wandered off in a different direction. Never mind, he seemed pretty capable of amusing himself! We watched Bettye LaVette for a while but she was kind of depressing … we found the stewardess’s favourite band Tijuana Cartel, who turned out to be pretty upbeat and dancy, so we bopped along to them for a while.

Some kind of reptile!

More Keb Mo

Candi Staton


At some point we headed back to the Mojo tent and set up camp … I was feeling pretty festival’d out so was happy to sit and watch from the side while Andrea still wanted to get in the thick of the crowd and dance. It actually worked out pretty well … we watched Ziggy Marley, who was awesome, Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot and John Fogerty for the rest of the evening, leaving only after he sang Heard It Through The Grapevine, as Andrea insisted …

Sunday was our last day … Jason was also leaving, he had a long drive back to Newcastle and headed out long before we finished clearing up. With the camper van full of our stuff, we headed out to the beach and parked up – I couldn’t be bothered to change into my swimsuit, but after paddling in the water I couldn’t resist getting in either, so ended up jumping in with my t-shirt on!

We headed into town to get some food, but didn’t get very far before the traffic was thick and slow, and we turned around to go back to the festival instead! We ate and listened to Yann Tiersen for a bit before leaving to go to Ballina Airport, which is one of the smallest I’ve ever been to.

It was all over … :( the one nice thing being that we still had Monday off before heading back to work! We made the most of that too … I had grand plans to go on a long walk around North Head, until I stopped by Andrea’s to help her put up the tent to air it. She invited me up for a wine … and, well, there’s something pretty wonderful about sitting outside on a balcony, looking across Manly beach, with cold wine and no worries …

Peace out

I found the beach.

Quackers enjoying a bit of North Steyne beach


Last weekend, I went out to Manly to meet up with some friends, and also managed to fit in seeing a couple of flats. Everybody had warned me that it’d be hard to find a place on the beach at this time of year, so I figured I needed to get going with looking for one as soon as I could!

It paid off, because I ended up going to see two places on Sunday! Both were really nice, the first one was a flat had a glorious view of Little Manly beach and a shared outdoor space, the room was a decent size and it had wooden floors. My only reservation was that the current tenant would want me to join her lease and sign up for 12 months … well, I’d only been there a few days and it felt like too big of a commitment, although I did like the place.

As I walked into the second place, a semi-detached bungalow, a small ball of fluff hurled itself at me enthusiastically, while Chelsea poured ice cold white wine into two glasses. I knew instantly that I wanted to move in! It’s just a couple of minutes’ walk from North Steyne beach, with a beautiful outdoor space and a huge barbecue, and three fluffy housemates – Harry the dog and two cats.

With the deal finalised on Wednesday of this week and moving-in-day tomorrow, I’m so excited to be moving to the beach. The photos demonstrate what is going to be part of my commute and where I hope to spend a lot of my time, sunbathing, learning to surf and chilling out … life’s good!