Wonders of Australia – Day Fourteen

Wonder of Australia – Day Fourteen – Thursday 22 October 2015

Weather: Rain in the am. Sky cleared at the right moment.

As I was walking out of the hotel, I noticed luggage off to the side with Monograms tags on them. If I had time, I would have went looking for the couple who were a day ahead. It would be the last time I would see any evidence of them.

I walked to Federation Square and stood behind the sign for the AAT Kings’ Great Ocean Road and Twelve Apostles Tour. A South Korean mother and son were in front of me and turns out he had just finished his military service (as a bus driver). The bus was full and I saved the seat next to me for a woman who had done both day tours the day before. We left at eight and our driver is Roger.

DSC02178bsdHe tells us the Great Ocean Road was built between 1919 and 1932 by three thousand returning soldiers and is 243 kilometres long. It was a toll road after it was built but the toll was removed when the road was paid for. It is an Australian National Heritage listed road.

It’s pouring rain as we leave Melbourne which Roger notes is built on the third largest volcanic plain in the world. The first two are in Africa and Queensland.

He also pointed out the Vegemite factory. I eventually had to try it when I found a single serve one at breakfast. Do you know how hard it is not to gag at a crowded breakfast buffet?

I saw this at our lunch stop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANo thanks. LOL

I think we were supposed to make a couple of photo stops but it was pouring so heavily and visibility was so bad, I think we skipped them. And that saved time likely gave us more time later on.

We did stop at the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoger tells us that he is going to adjust the schedule to avoid the crowds. He said that most of the buses go to the Twelve Apostles first so that the lookouts are crowded and the line for the helicopter ride is long.

Helicopter ride?

Sign me up.

We make a stop in Lorne for a couple who arranged for a pick-up. Took a few minutes to find them and then we were on the way again. By one, we arrived in Apollo Bay and lunch was at a hotel restaurant. My ticket included lunch and I had the pasta which was pretty good.

From here, we drove a short distance inland on a very curvy road and Roger told us to look for koalas in the trees.

Now, remember, in Cairns, I was standing a metre or two from a bunch of eucalyptus leaves and didn’t have a clue that there was a koala in there.

And he wants us to look up at the trees from a moving bus! LOL

He said he saw one but we couldn’t see it. He pointed out a plant on top of the trees that was intertwined with the tree branches. He said it was mistletoe. The birds consume the seeds and then poop them out and the seeds land on the forest canopy and grow. Then the plant ends up strangling its host tree.

Think about that the next time someone wants to give you a kiss under the mistletoe.

Speaking of poop, Roger pointed out a golf course that is home to almost four hundred kangaroos.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The sand wouldn’t be the only hazard.

Apparently, they blow the poop off the course with leaf blowers. I bet that is a full time job.

I wonder if any golf balls have ever been lost in a pouch.

Roger asks if anyone knows where the name Australia comes from and no one seems to know. He said it was named by Flinders once he realized the continent wasn’t joined to Antarctica. On the map, he called it Terra Australis – Southern Land.

And on the coat of arms is the kangaroo and emu. The interesting thing is that neither animal can walk backward.

Coat_of_Arms_of_Australia.svgWonder if they were chosen to symbolize the country’s future?

Granted, unlike Canada, they can eat their coat of arms. Roger says eating kangaroo can put a spring in your step!

Yeah, I know. Groan. Reminds me of the boomerang I bought. The sales person told me to put it in my luggage so that if it got lost, it would come right back to me.

The Cape Otway Lighthouse is on the coast but we don’t drive in to see it. Not that we’d see much in the rain. The lighthouse was built in 1841 and is the oldest in Australia and the second most southerly lighthouse.

As we get closer to the coast, the skies begin to clear. Roger tells us that these waters have seen hundreds of wrecks. The worst wreck was the Loch Ard on June 1st, 1878. It was a three masted clipper ship built in Scotland in 1873. The ship was approaching Melbourne and got lost in fog. When the fog cleared, it found itself too close to the coast and was unable to navigate away, striking a reef and sinking within fifteen minutes. Of the fifty-four people on board, only two survived. They came ashore in what is now known as Loch Ard Gorge.

He put on a short DVD on the wreck but he said he waits until we get out of the curvy inland roads and onto the straighter coast roads before he does that.

There’s a story there…likely involving small white bags.

The gorge is located just west of the Twelve Apostles, so we pass by the full parking lot there and pull into the empty one at the gorge. At first, Roger told us to be back at 3:30 and I thought that was great. Over an hour to check it out. After I left, he realized his mistake and had to track some of us down to make sure we were back for three.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThinking I had enough time, I went all the way down into the gorge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are caves at the end of the gorge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce I found out I had less time, I managed to go down one trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd part way down another.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom here, we continue on west and make a bathroom stop at Port Campbell.

DSC02067boeFrom here, we still don’t go back to the Twelve Apostles. We head to the London Bridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhich has fallen down.

DSC02081bosRoger gives us the story that is going around about the collapse, but I’ve learned it might be a bit more fiction than fact. He said a married couple were on the rock in January, 1990, when the bridge connecting it to the mainland collapsed. They managed to attract the attention of someone who called for help. That turned out to be a news helicopter that showed up and rescued them.

Roger said the couple were a bit shy and the reporter was curious. Turned out the married couple were indeed married, just not to each other. (That’s the questionable part).

DSC02091bpcThere’s a gorgeous beach there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom here, we turn east and it’s a short drive to the Twelve Apostles. About a dozen of us had signed up the helicopter ride with 12 Apostles Helicopters and he pulls into the parking lot and directs us there first. There’s only three people ahead of us but the barriers indicate that it can be a long line. Heck, the seven landing pads say that.

DSC02160brqThey offer several rides but the most popular is the $95 ten minute ride.

DSC02103bpoOne of the helicopters is a beautiful eight passenger Eurocopter (seven plus pilot).

DSC02109bptI was assigned to the seat right next to the pilot who is in the far left front seat. So I’m centre on the left. As with Uluru, you can see here how the sun plays with the colours. When we start going west, we’re flying into the sun. The light drowns out the colour and increases the glare in the windows.

DSC02122bqeBut going back is another matter.

DSC02134bqqGiven this, if you can choose, you want to be on the left side of the helicopter if you’re doing it later in the day, but on the right side if you’re doing it first thing in the morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreat view of the Twelve Apostles. They are limestone pillars and there used to be eighteen. They were called the Eighteen Sow Piglets at that time but that wasn’t a big draw for tourists. Then four of the stacks collapsed and they changed the name to the Twelve Apostles.

DSC02149brfThere were a lot of people doing the math on the bus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce we’re off the helicopter, it’s a mad dash through the parking lot and down a trail to the Twelve Apostles viewing platform.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know I could have gone farther, but time was limited.

DSC02171bsaWe headed back to the city just after five and Roger put on a movie about kangaroos. It was really well done, showing how the joey is born outside of the pouch and has to crawl into the pouch. Apparently, the kangaroo can choose the sex of the joey and if it’s male, it would eventually leave the group (the mob) so that it doesn’t interbreed. The joey can spend a year or more in the pouch and the mother teaches it how to react to danger. The film followed two mothers. One taught its joey better than the other and the second joey failed to respond to a threat and was injured by a dingo and died.

And I had no tissues with me.

The movie occupied most of the ride back which was nice. As we see Melbourne in the distance, we cross over the West Gate Bridge. Once across, Roger tells us about the bridge disaster which occurred during construction in 1970 when one of the spans collapsed and killed thirty-five workers who were on break below the span or inside the girder. The sound of the collapse was heard as much as twenty kilometres away. Faults in the design and method of construction were to blame.

Part of the remains of the collapsed span are on the grounds of the engineering faculty of Monash University in Melbourne as a reminder of the potential consequences of their errors.

We pull into Melbourne at eight and I am spent. I don’t even remember if I ate anything. I got a great night’s sleep.
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