REDISCOVERING THE WONDER OF THE GREAT OCEAN ROADby TONY EVANS
As I pass Aireys Inlet, and the road gets windier, the drive - and the view - just gets better. Driving a mate’s 1975 Kombi along the Great Ocean Road isn’t your usual relaxed drive - it feels like wrestling an angry bear. I took off on my adventure from my hometown of Barwon Heads a few hours earlier, a glimpse of the road visible through a hole next to the gearstick.
I didn’t have a clear plan in mind, but was keen to see where the old girl might lead me. With lockdown restrictions eased for the first time in a few months, driving further from home than I had in weeks felt freeing, if a little weird.
I’m stoked to live on the Surf Coast at the best of times, but even more so this year. The feeling of being able to explore this part of my world without any set times or destination in mind was really exciting after the last few months at home.
I head for the Great Ocean Road, with a vague idea of making it to the Twelve Apostles. The weather couldn’t be worse, but I’m grinning from ear to ear as I get a feel for how the Kombi drives.
As I settle into the trip, my arms get used to gripping the steering wheel tight to keep the beast on the road, I realise how meditative it is. I can’t think of anything else, just the road beneath me and making sure all four tyres are on it at all times.
I head for the Twelve Apostles, enjoying the glorious slow drive past Lorne before a much needed coffee break in Apollo Bay. I arrive a few hours later, and the wind whips around me as I step out of the van. I glance across the grassy plane down at the majestic cliffs. The warm sun bounces off them and I’m struck and humbled by the beauty of the rugged coastline.
I sit here for a while, watching the waves smash the cliffs, with the sun bouncing off the white clouds as they pass by. One wave in particular grabs my attention. As the energy builds up and up, it bears down on the cliff with the force of an oncoming mob of brumbies, the froth boiling over the top of the monstrous wave as it smashes into the cliff and spray reaches right up past the horizon. The power is palpable.
As I try to capture some of the magic around me, I’m not sure I do it justice, but then again I’m not sure any image can do this part of the world justice. You have to experience it yourself to really appreciate its wonder and power. A bit like the old Kombi.
The weather’s rolling in again so I pack up the van once more and head towards the Otways to find a place to spend the night. I camp at the Aire Crossing Campsite, deep in the Otways. It’s a cold night, but it feels so good to be out in nature, away from home. Nature doesn’t care about COVID, and for a little while, I don’t need to worry about it either. I’ve got the campsite to myself, and in the morning I wander down to the creek to explore the surroundings and breathe it in.
As I pull out of camp and head to a higher altitude, a light patter of snow starts appearing on the side of the road - by the time I am up on the ridge, there is 10cm of snow all around me, in the rainforest - covering the ferns. This is such a rare treat, it feels like I’ve been dropped into a Disney movie.
Later in the morning, I set up for a little while in the Redwood Forest in the Otways. A slow trickle of rain falls through the sunlight streaming between the trees, and surrounded by the beauty of nature, I find my mind slowing down once more. Focusing on the beauty that’s in front of me.
After a while, I decide to head back home along the coast once more, stopping in at Wye General Store for a hot coffee, and pulling over in Lorne to watch the longboarders dance their way across a wave.
As I meander my way back along the Great Ocean Road, I’m feeling refreshed and surprisingly zen, despite wrestling with an angry bear. There really is nothing quite like being out in the elements, and I’m already counting down the next chance to take off again (although I might plan for some warmer weather next time)...