Driving the Great Ocean Road

When you last heard from me, I was preparing to drive the Great Ocean Road.  Driving that road is an incredible experience, but for those who are not used to driving on the “other” side of the road and on the “other” side of the car (notice that I didn’t say the “wrong” side), the Road creates an even greater challenge.

I’d hoped to rent a motorcycle and take the ride of a lifetime, but between the cost of rentals and the fact that I couldn’t find a bike to fit my 5′ tall body, I opted for a rental car.  I have to confess to feeling a bit nervous about driving in Australia.  I wasn’t so much worried about driving the Great Ocean Road, as I was about getting out of Melbourne!  I even told the folks at the rental agency that I’d pay someone to drive me out of the city 🙂  Ultimately, it all turned out perfectly, and while the car was a blast, after driving that road, I sure wish I could have ridden those curves on my Harley.

The Great Ocean Road is included on the Australian National Heritage List and at 243 km (151 mi), stretches along the south-eastern coast of Australia between the cities of Torquay and Allansford.  Construction on the road began in September of 1919 and was built by approximately 3000 returned servicemen as a war memorial for fellow servicemen who had been killed in World War I.  In addition to being dedicated as a memorial, the road also connected isolated settlements on the coast, and become a vital transport link for the timber industry and tourism.

As a visitor to Australia, seeing these signs along my route were welcome, and within minutes of driving out of the city, I stopped at my first Visitor Information Centre.

The incredibly friendly and informative folks at the Centre loaded up a reusable bag full of maps and pamphlets, which suited this map loving woman just fine.  GPS is great, of course, but I like to say that I use MAPS.  The volunteers recommended that I stop in Geelong, and I’m so glad that they did.   Located just southwest of Melbourne, Geelong  boasts a 19th-century carousel, a curved art deco boardwalk , and a several colorful sculptures that chronicle the city’s history.

After a lovely stroll along that curved boardwalk, I took off for Torquay, the surf capital of Australia, and the start of the Great Ocean Road.

On this, my first day on the road, I only managed to drive 90 km (50 mi).  I just couldn’t help myself: I had to keep stopping!

I mean, seriously! I think I pulled over at every possible place!  Including the Cape Otway Lightstation, built in 1848.

What an incredible gift it was to have the time to explore.  I had no plan other than to go, to see, to breathe.

The sound of those waves crashing on the shore were captivating, and in my next post, I’ll share some video.

The curves were fun to drive, and every so often, I was pleased to be the only car on the road.  At times, it seemed I could have been driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, as the road wound through lush, forested areas.  At other times, the road took me along the dramatic coastline.  I could have taken weeks, not days, to visit the many natural and historic wonders of this road, and I could have taken thousands and thousands of photos.

At the end of an amazing day, I stopped at the  Great Ocean Road Brewhouse for fish and chips and a nice, cold beer.  On this particular day, I’d worn one of my Harley t-shirts and as always happens when I travel, people come up and talk to me about motorcycles.  Even in this day and time, a woman who rides her own bike is still a big deal.  We also talked about the bracelets on our arms, representing loved ones gone too soon.

Next Post: Day Two on the Great Ocean Road

Just One

Along the Great Ocean Road

We are 6 days away from Local Elections here in Radford, and I am working hard to help the candidates that I support win the day!  Since I’ve not really got the time right now to share the story of the last 4 days of my trip, I’m leaving this teaser here for you to enjoy.  As I look at it, I can still hear the waves and feel the breeze.  Just incredible!

I’ll be back soon!

Making Friends and Riding the Rails: Sydney to Melbourne

When last I posted, I’d told you about my amazing day in Sydney.  I then took a pause in the storytelling in order to visit all of you.  Somehow, almost a month has passed since I arrived back in the States, after enduring lots of up close and personal attention at the security checks along the way.  Now it’s time to resume the tale!

You may remember that I took the overnight train from Melbourne to Sydney.  Even though the day time train was taking the same route back to Melbourne, for this trip I’d be awake and able to see the countryside.

Some might consider an 11 hour train ride far too long, but I enjoyed the whole trip!  I chatted with those around me and learned a lot from the train Conductor, who after learning of my interest, would come tell me when something interesting was coming up.   I kept my camera on the scenery flying by and while none of these images will win awards, I liked the movement they convey.

I could have taken a plane but I really wanted to see the rural part of Australia.

You really can’t get a feel for the country from a plane, but the train opens the world to your eyes.

We stopped several times and when there was enough time, I’d jump off to look around.  My favorite story from the day was when we were pulling up to Albury .  The Conductor had let me know that the Albury Train Platform, at 455-metre-long (1,493 ft), was the longest in Australia.  As I walked to the door, a woman jumped up and asked me if I was going to get off at the stop, and after indicating that I was, she said she wanted to come, too.

It turns out that Lorraine (nick named Laurie – what a coincidence!) was traveling for the first time out of her home state of New South Wales.  She and her sister were headed for Melbourne and other parts of Victoria, and she was as excited to be traveling as I was.

Laurie asked me if I’d send her the photos that I took and I happily agreed, of course asking if I could take her photo as well.  What a joyful part of the ride!

The ride continued and the other passengers got used to seeing the happy American walking up and down the aisle, camera in hand.

Before I knew it, we were back in Melbourne.  After a slight challenge getting my luggage out of the locker in the station, I walked to my hotel, which while a 1/2 mile away, was all down hill.  Thank goodness for wheels on suitcases! As I crossed over the Yarra river, I was rewarded by this beautiful view.

I checked into my hotel, enjoyed a cold beer and dinner at the Belgian Beer Cafe that Boomdee had recommended, and prepared for the next day: driving the Great Ocean Road!

Melbourne in 2 Days: The Solo Adventure Continues

With not even two full days to spend in Melbourne, I was up and out early, ready to explore.

The first thing that I did was find new accomodations.  Since my Air BnB experience proved to be less than satisfactory, I walked right next door to the Holiday Inn and booked a room.  Perhaps my assumptions were too high and I expected a bit more of a welcome rather than 3 changes in my contact person prior to arrival.  Perhaps as a newbie to the city, I needed a bit more guidance and information.  Perhaps I just needed a bit more cleanliness. Whatever the reason, my instincts had me moving on.  After booking a room and feeling much better about the situation, I eagerly set out to learn a bit about Melbourne.  I truly have no idea how many miles I walked (more than 5, less than 10), but I do know that I walked the city for hours.

What better way to start my tour than by taking a view of the city from the 88th floor of the Skydeck.

Next up was a walk through the National Gallery of Victoria,

and by the Victoria Barracks.

From the Skydeck I had seen the Shrine of Remembrance and knew that I needed to visit this solumn place.

During my two days of exploring this great city, I was so pleased to see all the green!  Melbourne boasts many parks full of gorgeous, mature trees, and the streets are adorned similarly.

Initially I wondered why so many of the abundant sidewalk cafes were not full (I never waited long for a table!).  Then I realized that the parks were full of people enjoying a picnic lunch.

The public art and celebration of the aboriginal culture were quite evident, as were the signs of activism and efforts to protect the environment. Aren’t you glad I didn’t take a photo of one of the many, many recycling bins?  Well, to be honest, I did! I just didn’t share it 🙂

The city of Melbourne has an annual cultural festival called Moomba, an Aboriginal term which means ‘lets get together and have fun.’
What a crowd!

I thoroughly enjoyed this street performer while drinking a cold, local  beer at a nearby pub.

Both old and new architecture, often right next to the other, were eye catching.

My friends who enjoy searching for the good deal would have loved the Queen Victoria Market.

This city accomodates and all are welcome.  I loved seeing and took advantage of the free and easy Public Transportation, the easy walkability, the recycling bins, the Free WiFi, and YES, the clean toilets everywhere!

Melbourne is such an easy place to be a tourist, and I could not have been happier with my two days there.

Thanks to Boomdee and Alys for teaching me, after 6 years of blogging, how to use a photo gallery.

Thanks for reaching the end of this very full post.  Next Post:  Sydney!