The Great Big Beautiful Ocean RoadI am resting up against my bike with shaking hands from the morning ride. The shakes have nothing to do with big trucks and everything to do with our choice of following the Great Ocean Walk to get to Johanna Beach. A sandy track ducking under branches and around ferns, skidding to a stop before a trilogy of bays and cliffs shrouded in sea mist and a final beach trudge pushing the bikes a few kilometres next to a sea so wild it makes your global perspective tilt sideways. The Brussels attacks last night are worlds away from this gigantic bubble of raw beauty we are lucky enough to find ourselves in. We are in natures bowl right now, with the ocean to the south and the choice of two very steep winding mountains leading to Lavers Hill to the north. I’m pretty sure a yacht hasn’t come to our rescue yet and I know what’s ahead, but Ill settle down and write for a while before the inevitably sweaty afternoon beckons. We began our journey in Melbournes CBD, farewelling ourselves with coffee and scrumptious cake with my highschool friend Clancy and a stranger who befriended Gee because he once rode around Spain. She was riding with her Spanish flag in tow as usual, and sped up when this guy Jamal started chasing her. Next minute we were having red velvet cake with him.
The Eastern side of the bay threw wind gusts at us the first day, but Uncle Dave and Aunty Kriscilla pampered us like princesses in the evening. They taught us not to get dressed in the backyard and then we spoke politics and family genes, rubbing our bellies and sans puffy eyes from plastic camping pillows. We continued south for the ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff. Super sleek cyclists let us ride in their slipstream until they had to break off at a café for an extra hot double shot macchiato. G and I continued on, wide and wobbling with our mismatched uniforms, a newly acquired trailer and camera slung over the chest. Every house along the path deserves its own magazine, and I think I want the one that juts out off a cliff with super tall beams holding it up with lots of space age lights and an all glass walkway to get in. Yep. The iconic painted simplistic beach houses along the Mornington peninsula made us smile, and we munched cheese and bickies on our favourite beach at Mount Martha. We met lots of super humans, including an 80 year old who once cycled to the Arctic Circle, and a Canadian recently retired Wing Commander. He is riding a recumbent bike and preaches zero posterior pain. We were hosted for the night by the parents of a good ADFA friend, Gemma. Julie and Paul welcomed not only G and I, but also Daniel and Anneliese. Over champagne and duck risotto, we shared stories and laughs in the homey seaside town of Ocean Grove.
Anneliese decided to ride with us the next day, so we all put our panniers in Daniels car and rode like a year of Weight Watchers had just paid off. We slapped each others hands out of buying beautiful clothes in Barwon Heads, rode thirteenth beach and reminisced about Cadel Evans, played catch with the wind along flood plains and arrived at the official beginning of The Great Ocean Road in Torquay. With chips minus the fish on the cliffs because we are povo, we kept riding and Daniel even had a go in the saddle with his sandals on. The road just keeps getting better and better down here. The different lighting during the day means that you just cant get enough. We scoffed at the $80 campsite price in Airey’s inlet and went door knocking. The very first young pregnant couple couldn’t have been happier to help us out, and we set up camp in their garden and made a pact not to have to poo for the night so we wouldn’t mess up their yard or disturb them. After a quick drive around town we realised there was no establishment open to sell even the most basic food, so we slumped back to camp and ruffled up some bread with honey, apples with honey, tea with honey, plain boiled rice and free biscuits from Vinnies.
Daniel, Anneliese and I pedalled out before sunrise, watching the silhouette of the famous Around the Twist lighthouse dominating the landscape. The sun rose hot and red over the water while we zig zagged through dappled sunlight terrain. The trees are like fire with the morning sun, and later in the day we saw huge sections of trees literally burnt orange from the recent fires in the area. Lorne was the perfect place for a morning swim and breakfast, and Daniel and Anneliese got so excited about the café scene that they handed in their resumes. Their lives are in the hands of opportunity right now, and I can feel the fear mixed with spring-loaded excitement that is creating. The next section up to Apollo Bay was unreal. We held our bikes above our heads while German tourists took a photo and then we returned the favour. The pounding surf smashed over the rocks below as we crawled along the coast, craning our necks backwards and pressing the pause button so our memory won’t ever forget it. And forget we do, because I rode here when I was 19 years old and can only faintly remember the views and the places. What I do remember are the feelings. Sun drenched, teeth clenched, buzzing, scared of the narrow road and signs that state ‘ In Australia we drive on the left’, sharp hills that give way to something new and amazing, long days and simplicity.
The best sunrise on earth greeted us for our last day together, and Daniel Anneliese and I set off uphill. Somehow we did enough to create a rollercoaster of downhill on the silky smooth tar, stopping in for a bushwalk at Mait’s rest with our recumbent biking mate Art. The Royal Otway National Park is a true gem, opening us up to luscious forests and soft farmland. We took that short cut along the sand that I mentioned and spent the afternoon injecting glucose. It was 100% necessary for the 800m, one and a half hour ascent to Lavers Hill. When we got to the top, G walked straight into the little general store and they took a look at her and said we could sleep in their garden without us even asking!! We must be pretty buggered. We showered in the public toilets, making a few new friends, then ate couscous and headed to the roadhouse pub. Gee is sitting opposite me reading A Thousand Splendid Suns with an empty Guinness glass. La vida es bien. And we have a huge Downhill waiting for us at dawn.
Cycling Melbourne to Adelaide; 30th March 16
It’s been a few days since we finished the Great Ocean Road. I am cosy as a bear laying on a tarp watching the sun set through a knitted quilt of clouds over the ocean from Kingston in South Australia. G has been saving a James Boag Wizard Smith from Tasmania and finally cracked it tonight. There is a long jetty jutting out to the right with silhouettes of fisherman and chairs. Dolphins are popping up just metres away from us, the seagulls are having a disco, the wind is fresh on my face and I can see the sun lines under my eyes from the screen reflection. They are a worthy price to pay to observe nature’s beauty firsthand. We are waiting for the dark to settle in so we can sneak into the RV only free camping and set up our tents for an early night. We have been forced to ride 150km on the lonely, remote stretch to Meningie tomorrow. This doesn’t make sense unless I explain a series of scary events. We heard that two girls had been camping with a man at Salt Lake just a few weeks ago and he attacked them. One got away, apparently naked and hurt and found help for the other girl. The man is in custody. That sounds pretty bad but we thought we would be right, sleeping in someones garden and making speedy getaways from potential murderers on our two wheels. Last night we were garden camping with a lovely family in Robe, and the father hesitantly told us that he was in a parking bay between Kingston and Salt Creek many years ago having a nap in his truck. He woke to the truck shaking. He waited and it happened again, so he walked outside to do a knee knocking recon and found no one. About an hour ago at the Kingston pub another man told us the same story with a few more strange details, and even though his beer breath and handle bar moustache weren’t 100% trustworthy, we are going with our gut instinct. We are crashing here for the night and smashing out that haunted murdery stretch in one go.
From that high point on Laver’s Hill in the Otway Ranges we slid down through the clouds and tear inducing twists and turns back to the coast, crossing between shires at lightning pace. We pinched ourselves at the Twelve Apostles, parking our bikes next to jam-packed buses, wading through the long lenses, tousled hair and chatter of international dialects. The coast is rugged and beautiful, with the Apostles reminiscent of times long passed. We savoured our miniscule moment in time watching the interesting geological formations; realised one wasn’t going to fall down in our presence and headed to the Loch Ard Gorge and other attractions for more eye gaping goodness. The surf was still so massive and it just added to the force of nature that all the humans (including us) were clamouring to see and document and prove they had been there. The sea kept roaring and punching away at the sandstone as we turned our backs to ride into Port Campbell for a comfortable night of rest.
After sightseeing at the London Bridge and some other spectacular points, our starving tummies arrived in Peterborough for a Community Fire Service bake sale. The gentle oldies filled our panniers with free goodies that kept us going all the way to Warrnambool. At one stage I rode straight past a brown snake and had to stop G from going back for a picture. We said goodbye to the Great Ocean Road, and as with all things Great, you don’t realise how truly Great it is until you’re gone.
Well and truly in the flow. Sat down this arvo for a big pumpkin and quinoa curry and got chatting to the two most welcoming cafe owners of all time (and not to mention all of victor harbours residents). We all shared knowledge stories, they helped us find a garden to camp in and someone payed forward our meals! Two very happy little buddhas ❤
Its time to say goodbye. Exactly one year ago, we stomped into Santiago De Compostela as pilgrims and new found friends on the Portugese Camino. In this year, I have been welcomed into Guis home, we have cycled around the dreamscape of croissants and tapestry of culture that is Europe, we welcomed Gui into our family and community for three months over summer, we haven’t left each others side in five months and we have been travelling Australia in such an eye opening manner that I feel my thoughts being moulded like playdough. Today marks our successful voyage from Melbourne to Adelaide by bike. Today also marks us parting ways to start new chapters (I’ll head home and learn how to drive a minibus then cycle round NZ south island and begin travel guiding). Gui is heading to Kangaroo Island and then who knows for the remaining part of her visa. If she can wrangle an Aussie bloke could stay (any takers? ;)). We have decided that our grandpas are mates in heaven and got together to make the universe literally sing for us. Last night we ended up at a church gathering with an indian theme and munched on curry shouted by new friends whilst listening to a slideshow from an experienced traveller. Today when I left Gui the roads were so narrow I was clenching my heart around every corner and the next minute a van was waiting to deliver me safely to the doorstep of the place I am staying at friends of friends in Adelaide. Life is butter dream for the two of us; a reflection of our own happy minds.