The Great Ocean Road

A year has already long past and the memories of this trip have faded. Memories that include the details of names and dates. This post will be useless to anyone looking to find the perfect tour and route because I’m empty handed or headed. I had meant to keep a journal and I think I even kept the tour guide with the brochure and name of the company with the intention of sharing the information. It was a great tour as far as tours go. A two day trip with an engaging and friendly tour guide. I had plans of sharing, but three days after I returned from my vacation in Australia my mom died, and then none of it seemed to matter. So the details are lost, and all I have left at this point are some photographs, and some small memories- everything else seems to have erased.
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All you have to do if you are in Melbourne is go to the center of the city and ask about tours along The Great Ocean Road. It’s really easy. I had zero information which is usually the case because I am an inefficient traveler- hell, I can’t even tell you what I’m going to do, so if I can book a tour anyone can book a tour. In the center of Melbourne there is a huge tourist center complex. It’s all underground beneath one of the art museums. I believe there was a choice for a one, two or three day tour. I don’t think one day is enough you can’t see much, and three would have been great but I didn’t have the money or time so I picked two days, and it was a great choice. I’d never done tours until this year (which was 2014) except a couple of walking tours many of year’s before, and normally I’m a little hesitant. I picture many white hairs and slow movers- although I’m quickly aging into the white hair population, I still like a mixture of ages. This random grouping of people was high on the diversity list. I was the only American, and the driver was the only Australian. There were a couple from Sweden, two couples from different parts of China, a woman traveling on her own from Hong Kong, a boy from Japan, a boy from Germany, a lesbian couple from Argentina, three twenty somethings from Italy, a couple of girls from England, and an Irish girl. I can’t tell you the route or anyone’s name, but I can tell you every country people came from. Our tour guide had offered up the front seat and no one was interested in taking it so I took the seat which honestly I think was prime seating. I felt a little guilty, so on the second day I offered it to the others, but no one wanted it. Shame in a way, but for me it was fantastic to see the distant ocean rising to greet us.

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They picked us up from the various places that we were staying. I was at a hostel that had the word “space” in it’s name. It was a nice place. I’d recommend it if I could remember. Then we drove off toward the famous Australian roadway. On the first day we stopped where you could see the famous Twelve Apostles which are enormous rocks that had once been a part of the land mass but due to millions of year’s of ocean slamming up against the land and eroding away the softer parts we are left with these giant bits of rock.

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Pre-helicopter ride

We had the opportunity to ride in a helicopter (price not included) which was a splurge for me, but I thought since I had never ridden in a helicopter before, and I’ll probably never do it again that I should take the opportunity. I got to sit in the front seat for this one too; it was my lucky tour. I think the yellow pack around my stomach was a parachute, but it didn’t seem like enough to float my body safely into a sea filled with Great Whites. Obviously, we didn’t crash.
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It is interesting in a helicopter. You have to wear giant headphones because it is too loud to hear what anyone is saying. It’s probably too loud for your ears in general. If we wanted to talk to each other we had to push some button, but we didn’t really feel like talking. Inside it feels like you are moving really slow, but when two helicopters are passing in the sky you can see that you are actually moving quite quickly, but something about the size and the shape slow down the sensation of speed. Even watching the cliffs pass underneath us seemed slow.

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Apparently, enough people have washed their dishes in the toilet that this sign was needed. I can’t fathom actually thinking of washing the dishes in a toilet as being a good idea, but I guess something about the freshness of the toilet discolored water really caught someone’s fancy. Or many fancies.

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What was unique to this tour, at least according to the tour guide, was that we did the route backwards. We started at the Apostles while most tours ended at the Apostles. He said the reason behind the backward approach (which made it take a little longer to get to the coast) was to beat all the major tour buses. I don’t know how unique this tour route really is, but he was right. It was the height or tourist season, and we never met a tourist bus, but about five would be arriving as we left a place.
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Apollo Bay

I don’t remember the names of any of the places except for a few. One of those places was Apollo Bay. It is a sleepy beach community that is also a popular destination. A friend of mine had lived there for many years and he is the artists of one of the wooden sculptures. I also remember Bell’s Beach which is a popular surf spot. There they have surf schools which we watched for a bit, but Bell’s Beach has a greater significance other than just being a prime spot for surfing. It is the greatest surf in the world according to the movie Point Break. In fact, in 1991, according to Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) that year at Bell’s Beach there was going to be a record monster wave that he and his gang of surfer bank robbers were going to ride. That was the motivation behind all of the bank robberies. If that isn’t a major plot line, I don’t know what is (alone with the whole screw the system and the banks theme). Point Break had a special place in my teenage heart since my friend and I saw them filming a small part of it in Portinfino, California. We were 16 and thought we saw Patrick Swayze, and we began screaming and jumping up and down until we realized it was his stunt double. I really wanted to see Keanu Reeves. I think I may have had a teen heart attack if I ended up seeing his double.
We ended up staying the night in a surf hostel a little outside of Bell’s Beach. Can you imagine? A surf hostle. I think I was standing at the edge of one of my major life fantasies.
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Our friendly tour guide

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A traveler from China, and an Australian parrot.

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Before settling into our sleeping arrangements we wandered through a rain forest, and then an open park with wild and sleepy Koalas, and wild and hungry parrots. Then we ventured to a famous lighthouse that had something to do with some British show that I had never heard of, and then we stopped at a beach named Torquay. I remember this place because there was something special and powerful about it. It was a surf spot, and small, and looked like the other surf spots but there was a powerful energy in the air and with all my heart I wanted to stay. I was hoping they would just forget me, and I would have to make my way surviving in the town, and learning to surf; raising a family; and teaching my dog and cat how to be surfers or at least to ride skateboards. I pictured it all. I would have sand-stars hanging from my hippie windows, and wear wrap-around skirts that would make Stevie Nicks jealous, and be incredibly happy with my partner Bodhi. Or Keanu. Alas, they did not forget me.
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That night our wonderful tour guide made us a bbq of seafood and other bbq meats, and a huge salad. This was also included in the price. We all sat together and ate and chatted. It was at this time that we began to get used to one another and started learning the very basics about each other. The Swedish couple were both bartenders traveling during the dark dismal winter of Sweden. They were traveling for a few years in as much sunshine as possible, but they both agreed that when they decided to have children they would go back to Sweden to raise them even though the winters were awful. One couple from China were traveling through all of Australia for a month which was really unusual to find a couple from China that could take that much time off, but they had saved for a few years. And, there were more stories like that.

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Australia is known to have fires. Many fires. Especially, in the Melbourne area, and on our second day there was a huge fire that was spreading and filled the sky with so much smoke that I thought I was back in North China. The day was dark and warm and all the colors were subdued.

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We took a ferry somewhere, and ended up at a small park where you could hand feed the Kangaroos, and the Wallabies. They also had some pretty lazy Tasmanian devils. They are said to be nocturnal creatures, but that’s no excuse for laziness.

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Then we went to a place along the Ocean that reminded me of part of Hawaii. In this spot you could see sleeping boxes for penguins and wild wallabies. Lastly, we went to see the tiniest penguins in the world. Yes, I just about died. I really did. The penguins roll in on the waves. Literally, they wash up on shore from what ever rocks they’d been out playing on, and with each wave they tumble in little roll poly clumps like masses of seaweed, and the huge crowed of humans gasp and coo then they all rise from the stadium like seating and try to follow the path that the penguins walk on their way to their tiny beds. It’s well controlled they keep them roped off- I mean the humans of course. I was so caught up in awe of darlingness and daydreams of stealing one and bringing him back to my fantasy beach house in Torquay, he would definitely be the pet to surf, that I lost track of time and was late to the bus. This was a little embarrassing since the Italians held the record for being late, and I ended up beating them during the one time the tour guide said, “it’s important not to be late for this part of the trip”. Then he eyeballed the Italians. Little did he know that I would succumbed to the pull of penguin seduction. He even had to come and find me. I try to be remembered.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any photos of the darling little butter balls of cuteness because we were not allowed to use flash and it was night. They were seriously strict about the flash (people did try) because it’s like strobe lights to the little guys, and the flash frightens and disorients them to the point where many of them go crashing back into the ocean where sharks and other meat eaters are waiting for them.
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Penguin in a box

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At the end of our two day journey we were dropped off at our respective places of temporary habitat, and said our good-byes, forever. I left Australia invigorated and happy, but as I said, three days later I would be heartbroken by the loss of the most important person in my life. Now, that so much time has passed, and even though I still ache when I think too much on my mom and how much I miss her, I can finally share the events of January to February 2014.

It was a really nice trip momma- you would have loved it.

And for your extra entertainment, I present for you the trailer to the original Point Break:

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