Magnetic Island – Day 306

I slept soundly except for needing to use the toilet at 3.30am however Jayne said it was a particularly noisy night with the previously mentioned larger gentleman snoring all night and coughing so profusely at one point that the Italian girl in the bed opposite shouted at him to ‘shut the fuck up’… Of the joys of sharing a dorm with 7 strangers!!

We both woke up as the light poured through the open vents masquerading as windows but, with a long wait to use the shower, we both stayed in bed – Jayne continued watching her film and I read some more of my book. Having both managed to finally get a shower and steal the bottom bed in my bunk as the girl checked out, we headed over to the campers kitchen for breakfast of fruit toast and cashew nut spread – it is, hands down, my new favourite breakfast spread! It may even be better than Nutella…
We missed the hourly bus by 10 minutes, so we decided to walk into Horseshoe Bay. Having been reassured that there are no box jellyfish in the water (or any other marine stingers) at this time of year, we decided to pick up the snorkel trail cards for the two routes on the island. Unfortunately, the shop didn’t have any left so we just bought some carrots to feed the rock wallabies and caught the bus to Acardia. Fortunately, the newsagents there had the snorkel trail cards so we walked down the road at Bremnar Point (between Geoffrey Bay and Alma Bay) and got ready for our first ever underwater nature trail. Australia’s first (legal) snorkel trail was developed on Magnetic Island. There are two trails – Nelly Bay and Geoffrey Bay. We decided to go for the latter one as it, supposedly, offers a good selection of fish to see around the Moltke wreck and we would be able to swim out further to the WWII aeropane propeller and engine block (from a CW-22B Curtiss Falcon). 

Having brought all our stuff with us ready for a days exploring on the island, we didn’t really want to leave it by the side of the road so we packed up Jayne’s SLR camera and our iPhones into two dry bags and brought it along with us. Getting into the water off the old pier was easier than we had both anticipated and the water was certainly warmer too. We made our way over 100 metres to the first buoy, consulted our card so we knew we were supposed to be looking for algae and coral and stuck our heads under the water…. Nothing! The water was so silty that we could barely see a thing so we began snorkelling over to the second buoy, catching glimpses of coral which Jayne ducked down to get a closer look as I watched from the surface. Again, there was nothing much to see through the silt so we continued to the third buoy which had a bat fish hanging around on the buoy rope. Having not seen very much at any of these surface markers, we decided to call it a day and head back into shore.Again, getting out at the pier with waves crashing against the concrete was surprisingly easy and neither of us ended up blooded and bruised like we had anticipated. Despite the poor water visibility, we both thought it was a fabulous idea and we’d both had a great time until we discovered that one of our dry bags had leaked and ruined Jayne’s camera… I felt incredibly guilty since it was my idea to take them with us. Not sure whether it will work again with a bit of TLC and a visit to the camera doctors but the prognosis doesn’t look great… Having run out of battery on my underwater camera we were left with our iPhones to capture photos for the rest of the day. 

We got dressed by the side of the road, Jayne unusually quiet and me apologising profusely before we headed over to feed the ‘wild’ rock wallabies. Having been accustomed to being fed, they literally eat out of your hand and the cuteness of it certainly raised both our spirits, especially the wallaby with the little joey sticking his head out of the pouch. Jumped back on the bus we headed to the other side of the island, Picnic Bay, which was once the home of the ferry terminal. Nowadays, it is a low key spot with nothing really there apart from a handful of shops and cafes. We found a shady spot to have some lunch before walking along the pier to watch the local fisherman try to catch something whilst a tourist did a couple of jetty jumps nearby. We decided to follow the rocky coastal walking trail back to Nelly Bay and enjoyed walking through the granite boulders, hoop pines and eucalyptus trees. We came across several gorgeous look outs to deserted bays along the route which we would have certainly never knew existed had we caught the bus. Treating ourselves to an ice cream when we reached Nelly Bay we jumped on a bus and headed to the area known as ‘The Forts’. Townsville was a supply base for the Pacific during WWII, and the forts were designed to protect the town from naval attack. The 4km round trip walk passes lots of ex-military sites, gun emplacements and false ‘rocks’. At the top of the walk is the observation tower and command post which both have spectacular coastal views. The path is also well known for being able to spot koalas lazing about in the treetops… We saw four! They were so beautiful with much shorter hair than the ones we had seen further south in Australia. One had moved by the time we came back down from the 800m loop at the end of the walk and we couldn’t find him anywhere – just goes to show how fast they can move when they want to!– …. . …- .. . .– ..-. .-. — — -.-. — — — .- -. -.. .–. — … – .– .- … .- — .- –.. !

.- .-.. .-.. – …. .- – .– .- … — .. … … .. -. –. .– .- … .- ..-. . .– …. ..- — .–. -… .- -.-. -.- .– …. .- .-.. . … -… .-. . .- -.-. …. .. -. –. .. -. – …. . … . .- -… . .-.. — .– – — — .- -.- . .. .–. . .-. ..-. -.-. – ! Having just missed the bus (again for the second time today!), we decided to wait at the bus stop rather than navigate the roads that go through the national park in the dark. As we watched the night close in, even with the light from the solitary street lamp, we were glad with our decision knowing that neither of us wanted to stumble around in the dark – me ’cause I’m scared of the dark and Jayne ’cause of what could be lurking in the dark (deadly snakes and spiders etc. – it is Australia!!). The bus took us to the end of the line where we treated ourselves to a fish and chip dinner. Jayne got hers battered and I got mine crumbed (not sure what that really means) but they were both delicious and the fish was incredibly fresh – it almost tasted like meat! Back at the room to shower off the salt water from our snorkel and the dirt from my feet since I did ‘The Forts’ walk in flip flops, we then climbed into my bottom bunk and watched a film whilst munching on some Oreo Mint Dairy Milk Chocolate. 

Monday 8th August 2016

Great Ocean Road to Port Fairy – day 281

The American lady sharing the dorm with us awoke early. While I have no issues with someone wanting to hit the road as dawn breaks and the sun rises, I think she could have planned it a little better before bed. Not a single item was packed and with a half dozen little bags I think she was trying to rustle every single one. Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and it meant we were waiting for her to leave, hopped out of bed and got ready for the day. Thus, we hit the road at a nice time and squeezed in loads to our day.

The Cape Otway Lighthouse was charging a ridiculous amount to go in to their grounds and we weren’t sure if that included or excluded being allowed climb the lighthouse itself. Not wanting to climb it, nor spend so much money we walked up the path a bit to a lookout where we saw the top of the lighthouse… for free!
We contemplated visiting the Tree Top Walk and Otway Fly in the car when I shouted “KOALA!” Katherine did ever so well to pull over somewhere sensible and we walked back to the place where I saw the fluffy ball of grey fur. I spotted another, but, it was Kat, hopping up and down with excitement like a kid in a sweet shop, spotting a third one that was the best. Definitely the more photogenic of the three, Katherine was beaming and was trying to suggest how the poor lill’ guy would be warmer in the car with us and we could harvest all the leaves it would need. You can start to get a feeling of how much she loves them and would do pretty much anything to have one as a pet.IMG_0040So, having laughed at all the cars passing, straining out the window to try and glimpse a Koala, nobody stopping to ask us, the joke was on us. Around the corner a Koala was sitting low down in a tree, next to the road, munching away. We spent ages watching him and Katherine was encapsulated by the furry guy even when it started to rain. Finally relenting, we drove out of the Otway headland forest and decided to skip the tree top trail and head for the Apostles.IMG_0066IMG_0072IMG_0087There have never been 12 Apostles along the Great Ocean Road. In fact, for a long time they were just called Apostles, some unknown gentleman naming them such to make them more popular. The Twelve Apostles was named some time later, their original name being ‘The Sow and Piglets’. And why not, a bit of publicity for such an amazing landscape is why we have turned up along this stretch of Australia.IMG_0167Stopping at yet another lookout, we strolled along the cliff top trail between lookout points to get different views of the coastline and each view was spectacular. The changing weather; at times bitterly cold, other times the salt water blowing horizontally cutting in to our face, sometimes sun blazing (for very short periods) and all the time mesmerising.We spent hours driving to new landmarks, waking different trails and soaking up the experience. We visited ‘Gog & Magog, ‘The Twelve Apostles’, ‘Loch Ard Gorge’, ‘Broken Head’, ‘Thunder Cave’, ‘London Bridge’, ‘The Arch’ and ‘The Bay of Martyrs’.

IMG_0196IMG_0231IMG_0264IMG_0306IMG_0340IMG_0355IMG_0370IMG_0440IMG_0466IMG_0509IMG_0546IMG_0572IMG_0575Dragging ourselves back to the car at each stop we finally called it a day and headed to Port Fairy. A cozy little YHA, we did Chilli Con Carne for dinner, cuddled up in the living room with the heater making the place all snug and warm. Katherine read one of her Chat magazines while I tried to clear our phones of some of the photos and videos we took during the day.

Total distance driven: 217km

Thursday 14th July 2016

Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay – day 280

An early start to catch our 6.31am train from Shepparton to Melbourne. Tracey very kindly dropped us off at the station and it was an easy (and quiet!) 2.5 hour journey through the countryside, catching up on writing blogs and continuing our ‘spot-the-kangaroo’ game. Arriving in Southern Cross Station just after 9am, we headed straight to Thrifty to see if we could pick up our car rental early. A couple of signatures later, we had the keys and directions to find our small automatic car… It’s bright pink!!
Navigated our way out of the city with no problem and we were on the highway heading towards The Great Ocean Road. Driving through quaint villages, calm seaside towns, pockets of rainforests and vast expanses of green, the views of the sheer limestone cliffs were a perfect background to the crashing waves of the Southern Ocean. We stopped at several places along the route to Apollo Bay to look at the viewpoint and take photos, timing it carefully to avoid the sporadic downpours of rain.IMG_9721After about two hours of driving and photographic detours, we ended up at our first ‘official’ stop of the day – Split Point Lighthouse. Since both of us grew up watching the children’s television programme ‘Around the Twist’, it was a must-see for both of us to see the lighthouse and house that was used during filming.IMG_9725 The walk up to the lighthouse was beautiful, even though it was slightly soggy and windy! I did a tour of the lighthouse, climbing to the top and looking out whilst Jayne decided she’d rather keep both her feet on solid ground, especially after she scared herself last time she climbed a lighthouse in Cuba.

I learnt about the history of the lighthouse on the walk up to the top, ranging from the four different ways that they had lit the torch over the years, to where the lighthouse was made (Birmingham, England). I also learnt how they communicated with ships in the olden days, including a network of underground telegraph networks between lighthouses along the coast. I also learnt that this particular lighthouse had a special design of having 2 metre thick walls at the bottom and half metre thick at the top (something to do with sustainability and protection from the elements). The cast iron staircase was beautifully ornate and the lighthouse itself was in great condition. The view from the top was stunning – could see for miles, although the female tour guide assured me that the view wasn’t very good today. Looked out to sea in an attempt to spot a passing whale but the water was too rough to spot any definitive shape. Waved down to Jayne who was walking around the pathways taking photos.IMG_9835Back down at the bottom, we walked to various viewpoints nearby, looking at the cliff formation and admiring the volcanic rocks jutting out from the water. A walk along the beach exposed some caves in the cliff that the lighthouse guide said were safe to visit but the tide was still too high to go exploring. A quick mess around in the playground attached to the car park and we were back in the car and on the road again.IMG_9751IMG_9888IMG_9906IMG_9919Had been told to head towards Erskine Falls as, not only was there a beautiful waterfall, there was a chance to see koala bears and they had also had snow yesterday which made the place even more magical. The windy road though the forest canopies revealed no koalas but we had plenty of snow – we even made a new friend… Augustus the Australian Aboriginal Snowman – the twin of Henry the Himalayan Snowman Sherpa from Nepal.IMG_9931The road down to the falls were barricaded with signs saying ‘do not enter’ (which some people were ignoring). Decided that neither of us had decent enough shoes to navigate icy snowy paths that were already labelled as ‘dangerous’, so we got back in the car and continued on our way, still searching for koalas. Jayne got me to do a u-turn in the town of Kennett River as she saw ‘koalas’ flash up on her MapsMe app. 5 metres down a side road and we got out of the car and found four koalas hanging out in eucalyptus trees. They were so cute and fluffy, with gorgeous shiny black noses – I want one!! There was also an array of birds (cockatoos, king parrots, rosellas), clearly tame from tourists visiting the area as they perched on people’s heads if they stood still for too long… (e.g. longer than 2 seconds!).IMG_9963IMG_0006Drove the rest of the way to Apollo Bay and checked into our YHA hostel. Feels very weird knowing that we are going to be sharing a room with strangers after so long of being able to afford private rooms (thank you SE Asia for turning us into princesses!!!). Dropped the bags off in our dorm and headed over to the supermarket to buy supplies for dinner, breakfast and lunch tomorrow. I think it is going to be kind of nice popping into the shop everyday to get something for dinner, although we are going to have to be careful that we don’t use each supermarket shop as an excuse to impulse purchase useless items, especially whilst we have the car and don’t have to carry our backpacks much!! Jayne made a lovely Thai green chicken and vegetable curry for dinner which we ate chatting to a Chinese girl who had decided to stay at this hostel for a month for free in exchange for work. Sat in the lounge warming up and watching the wood fire then heading up to our dorm to watch a couple of episodes of Modern Family before climbing into our separate bunk beds.

Total distance driven: 211km

Wednesday 13th July 2016