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Tuesday 4 Mar 2014
Adelaide, Australia

The Great Ocean Road

At 6am, I was up and ready to head out, but first had to wake the night manager to unlock the kitchen for me.  At $8 a loaf, I was not prepared to abandon my gluten free bread just because they locked the kitchen at night.  I got a taxi over to the Discovery Melbourne hostel to meet up with the Groovy Grape tour, as recommended by Lauren, my Stray NZ travel buddy from last year. 

Groovy Grape runs small group tours, similar in style to Intrepid, led by our fearless leader Emma.  There were 13 people in the group and surprisingly I was the only Brit there – Maaike, Césanne and Iselle (Dutch); Laars (Swiss), Bert and Sylvie (French); Laney (Korean); Tess (Swiss); and Franzi, Robin and two other girls from Germany.

We drove out of Melbourne as the sun rose and headed out towards our first stop on the coast: Split Point lighthouse.  This is where the difference between me and the rest of the group became starkly apparent: They had never watched ‘Round the Twist’! 

Round the Twist was a very popular TV series in the late 80s/early 90s.  A family with three kids lived in a lighthouse, which was variously haunted, attracted monsters, turned one of the kids into something else, etc… you get the idea.  The kids would always solve the mystery before the adults worked out what was going on.  Looking back at YouTube clips now, it certainly hasn’t aged well and was probably terrible even then, but we loved it and discussed it avidly each week.  I’m fairly sure we all had a crush on the older brother, who was probably only 12 at the time!  So I was naturally very excited to see the lighthouse where it was filmed and it brought back a rush of memories.  To everyone else, it was just a lighthouse.  They all stood there completely nonplussed while Emma and I skipped up the path singing the theme tune, which I still know by heart despite not seeing the show for over 20 years.  Altogether now: ‘Have you ever, ever felt like this? Have strange things happened? Are you going round the twist?’ 

Our next stop was Torquay, home of the RipCurl surf brand (quick stop at the factory outlet store, but no luck).  Then we continued to Kennet River for a picnic lunch.  Everyone joined in together and before long we had an impressive spread of salad, bread, wraps, cold meats, grated cheese and an assortment of dressings, sauces and extras making up a DIY sandwich bar.  Emma’s tour guide experience showed through as she got us all involved, making light work of preparation and clearing away.  After lunch, we went for a nature walk to see sleepy koalas, feeding noisy parrots directly from our hands and a warily avoiding a disturbingly tall emu. I have done well on my Aussie wildlife list and we haven’t even reached the Great Ocean Road yet.

We reached the Great Ocean Road memorial in the early afternoon.  A commemorative arch across the road and a bronze statue at the side stands testament to the many men returning from World War I who spent several years carving out the road along the coast.  Although the statue marks the start of the road, it is in fact the entire thing which makes up longest memorial in the world.

We arrived at the 12 Apostles late afternoon and climbed down to the look-out points on the cliff tops.  Like the Harbour Bridge or Uluru, this is one of Australia’s sights that I have seen many times on TV or travel magazines, but nothing quite prepared me for seeing them with my own eyes.  The sea stacks looked almost eerie as they peered through the late afternoon haze, very calm and almost lonely despite the waves crashing below them.  They were originally known as the Sow and Piglets, until the Tourist Board decided the 12 Apostles was a more attractive name, despite there having never actually been 12 of them.

We checked into our hostels, a group of cabins taken over by us and another two groups, ordered pizza from the nearby campsite shop, and took our pizza and beers down to the beach in time for sunset.  Australia treated us to a stunning sunset of golden yellows, burning oranges and deep pinky reds with the Apostles cutting striking silhouettes in front.  I tried to take some artistic pictures of the glowing colours rippling through the glass of my Corona beer bottle by the water’s edge, only to get caught just like I did in Fiji, losing an almost full bottle to a sneaky, salty wave.  My travelling partners gave me about as much sympathy as the Fijian guy did who watched me last time round.  I can still hear the echo of his deep booming laugh.

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #4 New Zealand and Australia

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I had so much fun in New Zealand and Australia that I'm going back around again! This time I'll see more of the North Island and catch up with friends and family in Melbourne

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