...What made it Great?
Terms like 'great' are rarely appended to things as mundane as a mere road. Yet here we find ourselves about to embark on a backpackers road trip along Victoria's iconic'Great Ocean Road'
Maybe Friday morning wasn’t the best day to start our trip, an epic Thursday ladies night at Base Melbourne St Kilda made an early night in something of an optimistic assessment of our plans. Were those bartenders really wearing swimsuits? Did I really 'suck it from a bucket' and why do we all feel so sheepish standing around reception hoping we don't see 'that girl' from last night. Argh why did I make such an ass of myself? It certainly was fun though.
It seems like forever getting out the sprawl of Melbourne, but the view crossing over the Bolte Bridge of the worlds most liveable city shows a cityscape as beautiful as any we had seen. A kind of European cosmopolitanism spliced with an American new world aura that no guide book seemed to have articulated in its entirety.
We finally reached Geelong, and from there the first signs appeared labelling the way to the 'Great Ocean Road' and what had began as a hangover riddled chore of a drive began to become something very different. From Geelong we reached Torquay and began our trip along the Great Ocean Road Proper. From Torquay to Anglesea, and from Anglesea to Lorne.
Every cliff, every beach and every landmark seemed cut out of a post card. It was as if our cameras did no justice to the flowing beach road, and as if the very road itself was created in some Gran Tourismo video game. Nature itself couldn’t have crafted something this idyllic, this epic? We stopped at Apollo Bay to get our breath back, the last beach town before we moved inland and made our way across to Port Campbell and the 12 Apostles. We ate, we talked and we rested from four solid hours of straight driving and took solace in the reality that the best part was still ahead of us.
The last part of the drive to the 12 Apostles cut straight through the Cape Otway National Park, where the previously paltry 100km/h speed limits now became an almost absurdity on a road where hair pin turns happened almost continually. The heavy Canopy of the forest that makes up the national park let only fragments of light through cuts in the branches, and the road seemed an almost organic entity that interacted with our humble Shopping trolley. Turn after turn, we overtook tour buses of smiling Asians, and smoked out hippy combi vans full of crazy French, Dutch and German. Still the road snaked on out of sight. Another two hours of hard, heart stopping driving followed until our very forearms burned at the ache of the continual trip.
We were tired, hungry, hungover, dishevelled and smelly (four guys in a poorly ventilated rental car for over six hours....you do the maths!) but we had made it. We parked and made our way along the walkway. It was already evening by the time we made it to the apostles, and if we had previously not been sold on the notion of a 'great' road, the sight of the 12 Apostles stretching out ahead of us dispelled our cynicism. We had made it, and as hungry, exhausted and claustrophobic as we had been, the view ahead of us was something that pictures and words couldn’t ever hope to articulate. Something that had to be experienced and not merely observed. I likened my emotional response to that of when I had viewed Angor Wat in Cambodia, or the Taj Mahal in India...something that couldn’t be truly justifiably captured in words or photos.
It made a bloody good road, something truly great!