The Great Ocean Road

Fri 18 Feb 2011 08:22
Leaving South Australia to enter Victoria meant yet again studying the complex interstate quarantine rules. A large sign warned us not to bring potatoes across the state line - as there was no quarantine bin we hastily dumped our clean washed potatoes in the nearest rubbish bin. Fruit, honey and other stuff was also banned.
The highlight of this trip was (to our surprise) a laser light and sound show - the sort of thing we never normally go to. The show told the story of the wrecking of the Loch Ard in 1878, with only 2 survivors. A crew member - Tom Pearce, rescued one of the settler passengers - Eva Carmichael. Tom went on to survive two more shipwrecks - not someone we would have wanted on board! (FPU - say Loch Ard quickly - another reminder of my imminent return! - M). This coast is littered with shipwrecks - after crossing non-stop from the UK, they were faced with navigating through a passage just 8 miles wide, with bad weather and poor visibility a recipe for disaster. We were put off diving as heavy rain meant it was cold and visibility was poor in the water. Also the fact that an Abalone diver had been eaten by two great whites while we were there didn't encourage any desire to get in the water. Maremma dogs from Europe are used to protect blue penguins here. The island with the main breeding site is forbidden to visitors and the Maremma are trained to guard the penguins from many predators, including introduced foxes and native wildlife.
We went on to the 12 Apostles rock pillars. They are quite stunning close up and a close encounter with an echidna made Caroline's day. The echidna had been digging up and ants' nest for lunch and unfortunately the ants left behind were a bit miffed at their mates' demise and a very large ant climbed up Caroline's heel to administer a very painful bite.
One of our favourite stories concerns the London Bridge rocks, which used to arch to the mainland, but the connecting rocks fell into the sea. Unfortunately for one couple they were on the sea side of the bridge as it fell into the water (well, I suppose they were lucky not to be walking on the arch as it collapsed). The couple were then subjected to a very public helicopter rescue arriving back at the mainland to a mass of media. Although the couple were both married, it was not to each other and they disappeared as quickly as possible.
On the way out of Victoria a recommended drive up to Cape Otway lighthouse produced enough Koala sightings to keep the most ardent fan of what one guide described as 'Australias least interesting animal' happy.
We passed swiftly through Melbourne on the motorway and on to Philip Island,  By now we were fed up with the cold and rain, so chilled out for a couple of days doing nothing except a brief visit to a wildlife sanctuary (zoo) to see the Tasmanian Devils. We did attempt a walk by the sea, but the beautiful sandy beach, coupled with a strong onshore wind produced an uncomfortable sandblasting effect.