Driving Along The Great Ocean Road
It was the 19th of July when my day started with worry as I drew the curtain of my room. Nice! The forecast was right- the weather did not look good. At all! But deciding that I should not let anything ruin this birthday trip, I showered and braved the rain to go to the Crown Metropol- hoping that the guide that I booked through KKDayPH would show up at 10 AM. Oh, please!
I felt more than relieved when just a few minutes after arriving, I saw a man, probably around his early fifties, approaching me. His name is Paul, who I later learned is a cousin of a (former) ACDC drummer, and he was our driver for the day. He told me that his father spent the last thirty years of his life with a Filipina wife and is involved with the Filipino community in Melbourne. Also, the first word he uttered when he greeted me was Mabuhay, and boy did I feel at home?
There were just seven of us in the bus, Paul included. We were all youngsters, so we were just like a family going on a road trip! Of course, I took the opportunity to sit in front to get the best view of The Great Ocean Road. I had to make sure never to forget to fasten my seatbelts all the time, though!
We made a quick stop in a town called Anglesea for a restroom break since the official start of The Great Ocean Road was an hour and a half from the city. We found the toilets in a small park beside a lake. The view would have been flawless if it was not gloomy. As we got farther from the city, the weather seemed to worsen. If I could just do a sun dance while sitting, I probably would have done so.
The Great Ocean Road, as Paul told us, is the oldest tourist road in the world dug and built by soldiers who returned after the war in memory of those who died, making it the world’s largest memorial. The dramatic coastline does not only boast the view of the ocean but the native wildlife as well. There were signs to watch out for as local animals might cross the road all of a sudden. The rainforest and waterfalls also teased us along the road.
Although the surf coast is a famous summer destination, Paul was not surprised when we saw that there were people who were still surfing even during winter- a rainy winter at that. Taking advantage of the waves, eh?
The weather was bad, true. But it seemed to be cooperating each time we took a break. When we reached Lorne, the rain stopped a bit. In this town, we had lunch, and I got to meet some cockatoos! For a holiday town, Lorne looked exceptionally quiet when we visited. But I was told that during the summer, the city's population could blow up to 20000 from the usual few thousand plus.
From where we stopped, we could also see the pier where the Pier to Pub swimming race starts. It was a cool concept that started as a dare in the '70’s. The members of the Lorne Surf Life Saving Club used to dive from the pier and swim before going to the Lorne Pub. They even got into the Guinness World Book of Records! Today, the event interests more than 4000 racers and is an anticipated happening every year.
As we drove along, Paul pointed out a long line of black dead trees. It was heartbreaking to know that a lot of people lost their houses on Christmas Day of 2015 because of a bushfire that was started by a lightning strike. Bushfires are unfortunately common in the area that is why even lighting a cigarette is prohibited. When trees burn, the root systems become week, making it impossible for them to work hard during torrential rains- another reason why the tourist road is prone to landslides.
Since we were traveling The Great Ocean Road, we were obviously chased by the waves of the ocean as we go further along the journey. But for some reason, I could not get tired of watching how the waves crash against the cliffs and rocks. It is such a shame that I could not get a lot of photos because we were continuously moving. But it was breathtaking and I think my photos will never do justice. I remembered that life-changing ride on a habal-habal in Cebu where we made a shortcut through the mountains and admired the fantastic view of the lush green trees. I hope that I can also go to places like The Great Ocean Road in the Philippines, soon. I bet the experience would be amazing as well.
I have a soft spot for rock formations and I was ecstatic to have found a lot during this trip. The vantage point where we stopped at for picture- taking offered a stunning view during winter. I can only wonder how perfect a road trip along the ocean road would be during the summer. But I admit, I am so glad that I made it this winter because there were lesser tourists. It may have been a risk because of the weather, but I was pleased that it still worked for us somehow.
Just like in Bondi Beach, I caught some people fishing along the coastline. It was also fun when you literally see where the rivers and the ocean meet. So cool!
Paul would take the time to tell us a story for every famous spot on the road. He pointed out the house included in one of the scenes in the first Mad Max movie. He also made sure that we saw the pole house which is also a popular landmark in the area. I also liked the fact that he played 90's music in the car. Road trip dreams came to life, yeah? I always wanted to do one, so to say that I was feeling thrilled on this day would be such an understatement.
The highlights of The Great Ocean Road trip for me were visiting the Loch Ard Gorge and The Twelve Apostles.
Loch Ard Gorge was named after the clipper ship Loch Ard which was supposed to go to Melbourne but just a day before reaching their destination, the ship was wrecked and only two out of 54 passengers and crew aboard survived. It was such a beautiful sight to remember such a tragic accident. The place, just like the whole road is full of history rather than a mere attraction.
The Twelve Apostles, on the other hand, got its name from the 12 limestone stacks on Port Campbell National Park. They were originally 12 but nature has its way of creating its wonders, and so while the other members of the apostles have already collapsed through the years, new ones were born as well. To date, only six of the original twelve apostles remain.
Since we were able to spend more time at the Twelve Apostles as we waited for the sunset, I was able to enjoy this place the most. There were poems all around the park. But what caught my attention the most was the reminder: “Take a moment to stop, listen and reflect on how you feel being here." It prompted me to think about many things- how lucky I am to be able to travel to places, to be able to take a vacation from work in the first place and to be able to witness such a magnificent scenery. The gift of sight is often taken for granted because we are born with it. But sometimes, grandiose views like The Twelve Apostles reminds us that we are blessed to be able to see how nature makes itself a real wonder.
My experience with KKDay on this tour was perfect and hassle- free. Of course, no one had the control over the weather, but I am so glad that we were able to start early and finish early as well. We were fortunate enough that as we reached our last two destinations, the weather completely cleared up.
All my tour mates were well- behaved; Paul, who was like a father to us, would even offer taking photos of me since I am a solo traveler. Believe me; it is a huge plus when you travel alone.
I am usually a DIY person when traveling, but since going to Hualien last year, I realized that there are times that it is worth it to join tours to hear the stories of the places I visit from the viewpoint of the locals. More often than not, I would learn stories that I would probably never hear should I have not joined in a tour hosted by a local. Believe it or not, you still cannot find every single detail in Google.
I bet that even if I knew how to drive, I would not drive along the scenic road by myself. The views are perfect, alright. But enjoying the coastline with other people, especially with the insider stories of the tour guide, made it more delightful. At the end of the day, I felt so fulfilled as I knew to myself that not only did I have photos as souvenir, I learned about Australia and its heritage as well. And after all, isn’t that the whole point of traveling?
Note: You can also book affordable and convenient tours and activities around the world on #KKdayPH ‘s website.
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