Tower Hill, Naracoorte & Mt. Gambier – day 282

We doubled back up the road to visit the Tower Hill Reserve. Descending the hill to the surrounding lake we saw a wallaby with what can only be described as a reddy-orange afro. He was surprised to see visitors so early and you could almost hear him ask the question, “Why are you interested in me, I’m a wallaby? Oh wait, foreign tourists!” And off he hopped. 

We walked for a small bit along the grass to the start of a trail, watching small birds, some with fluffy beige bodies, another set with an electric blue tail and some with patches of red on their nape and body. They added a bit of energy to the otherwise lazy and docile grey kangaroos that adorned the area. We opted for the ‘Journey to Last Volcano’ trail. A loop of 1.9km, the path was well signposted with very accurate measurements back to the visitor centre. Katherine spotted two emus munching on the side of a hill and again they had the same quizzical look before they carried on grazing. The top of the volcano, in my opinion, wasn’t that exciting or picturesque – the surrounding area being much more interesting. We carried on up another hill, heading slightly off the path, to come across a group of 7 kangaroos. When they grunted and got annoyed with me, we turned around and went back. We were now on our way to Naracoorte. Going back through Port Ferry, we were technically off the Great Ocean Road for some time now, but we still considered it so due to the amazing views and coastline we were seeing. We chose the scenic route to Mount Gambier and passed a dozen restaurants that took our fancy for dinner later that evening when we returned to the town.  In 1994 the significance of Naracoorte Caves’ 500,000 year old fossil record was recognised by UNESCO and co-listed with Riversleigh in North Queensland (won’t be able to get there – too far out of the way), as Australian Fossil Mammal Sites. Together the sites tell the story of Australia’s ancient animal heritage and Gavin was our guide for a tour of one of the caves.  The importance of the fossil record and its relevance to science is showcased in the Victoria Fossil Cave (the cave tour we did), and in the Wonambi Fossil Centre (didn’t have time to visit the centre). Wonambi is the name given to a snake only found in the caves here in Naracoorte. The cave we visited was spectacular, with stalagmites, stalactites, columns, drapes and the way they illuminate the corridors and chambers adds to the ambience with colours of creamy yellow and orange coming through the formations of calcium carbonate.    The geography lesson of the area, the cave structures and the formations were a precursor and introduction to the main spectacle. A showcase of some of the 120 species of vertebrates recorded to date, in situ, in an excavated pit of the last section of cave we visited. The bones lying on the cave floor had been there as a result of three reasons: 1) they fell down a small sinkhole and were trapped, 2) they lived in the cave and just died of natural causes and 3) the remains of prey that were brought in to the area by predators. There was a discovery of a large group of marsupials in another area which suggests a sudden closure or collapse of the den or cave structure blocking an escape route (similar to #2). The talk and display inside the Victoria Fossil Cave was incredible. Well worth it and had we known (and had the money) we possibly would have done the full day World Heritage Tour for $250 that takes you to other caves and restricted areas where rare fossils are still in place.  Driving back to Mount Gambier we passed dozens of vineyards. There were a few stout workers out in the cold pruning the branches and one tractor passing down a field pruning with a hedge trimmer. I learned from the experienced alcoholic, I mean Katherine, that wine from these sites are typically cheaper and not as good quality. I good have guessed that myself, with the attention given to other plants in the area. 

We passed by some pine forests as well. But, unlike earlier in the day there were no Roos spotted sticking their heads out of the tree line. Katherine spotted two such individuals, whom I decided to name as Reuben Hood and Little Joey. They guard the South Australia forests from Koalas and often employ the SAS Echidnas (SASE’s) and ninja Drop Bears. 

With little adventure happening in the town, horrific news on the radio about Nice, we opted for a pizza and fizzy lemon, tv on in the background and uploading scenic photos to the blog for the last few days adventures. 

Total distance driven: 398km

Friday 15th July 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