In the morning we purchased snacks and food for lunch from a gourmet store in Penola and headed down the road. Well, of course, we had to stop at one more winery in The Coonawarra before we could leave. Only then did we head south to the town of Mount Gambier. With 23,494 people, by our careful count, Mount Gambier is the second largest city in South Australia behind the million plus in Adelaide.
We stopped at Mount Gambier to visit Blue Lake. Blue Lake formed in an old volcanic crater whose last eruption was in 2900 BC. This time of year Blue Lake is an intense, cobalt blue color and changes to steel grey, for unknown reasons, in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.
After a lap around the lake, the CPS “guided” us, in an endearing round about sort of way, to The Great Ocean Road. Along the way, we stopped frequently at the roadside viewpoints to see the sights. We had been doing this since we left Adelaide. Universally, there was never much to see. We felt cheated and figured that the since the land is pretty flat they just put the roadside view spots on any modest rise that you could see out from. “View” must have meant that you could see out, not that there was anything to see.
After a brief stop at Cheese World that was, dare I say, cheesy, we continued onto The Great Ocean Road. Starting in Torquay and ending in Warmambol along the southern coast of Australia, the Great Ocean Road is considered, by guidebook authors at least, to be one of the World’s great scenic drives.
Along the way, we found ourselves in the Henty Wine region. By contractual obligation, we were required to go in and taste the wines. We found a decent, light-styled Riesling and a nice, strongly boytrisized Riesling sticky at Barretts. The reds were not much to our liking.
Down the road, we drove out to the dunes in the rental car to eat lunch at Swan Lake. The dunes and the beach were massive in this area, stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions. The area was unoccupied and devoid of development. If you were looking for privacy on a beautiful beach, this would be a place to get it. Not wanting to get the rental car stuck in the sand, we parked and started to walk out towards the water. It quickly became clear that there were a lot of biting bugs in the air, so Becky beat a hasty retreat to the car and refused to leave. It was probably just as well as we really didn’t have enough time. Instead of eating at the waterside, we ate in the car while trying to shoe the last of the flesh eating flying pests out of the windows.
Further down The Great Ocean Road, we came upon to the scenic Twelve Apostles area. Here we found our first roadside viewpoint that had a spectacular view! We spent a lot of time in this area and took a large number of pictures. The light at the end of the day made the scenery particularly stunning. This section of coastline looks like a more impressive version of the Pacific coast from Half Moon Bay to the south.
Walking out the pathway to a coastal viewpoint, Becky tried to scare me by saying that there was a “salty” or salt-water crocodile in the marshy area near the path. Knowing, or at least thinking that I knew, that there were no salties in this area of Australia, I wasn’t concerned and I told her that the crocs weren’t in this area. I don’t think she believed me because thirty seconds later, I shouted “salty” and Becky jumped and screamed. Thirty seconds further down the trail, I yelled, “snake” and she jumped and screamed again. Another thirty seconds further down the path I thought about saying “spider”, but I knew my mangled body would be found alongside the trail a week later if did. I figured it wasn’t worth it.
At one point there were stairs installed that allowed us to climb down to a nice beach area in a sheltered cove. The inlet was lit by the warm reflection of the setting sun off the sandstone cliff walls that sheltered the small bay. As we walked on the beach with our shoes off, the fine, golden sand filtered between our toes. Our map said that the ocean washing up on the shores was the Great Southern Ocean. Our feet had not been in the Southern Ocean before, so the shoes came off for a quick wade into the cool waters. Later, after consulting Wikipedia, it appears that the Great Southern Ocean was still further south and that our feet were actually in the Indian Ocean, despite what our map said. That was OK for us, as our feet had not been in the Indian Ocean, either.
The light was failing as we headed away from the coast towards are destination for the evening, Apollo Bay. It is quite possible that the speed limit was exceeded on this stretch of road. In this section, The Great Ocean Road heads through a segment of coastal rain forest, or so we hear. We really couldn’t see much.
We rolled into Apollo Bay around 9 pm looking for food and a room. As restaurants seem to close early in Australia, we decided to find food first and then a room. We quickly determined that most of the restaurants had already shut their kitchens and we were redirected to a Thai restaurant that at least served takeout food a little later than the other places in town. After picking up the takeout food, and buying some beer at the local liquor store (no problem with closing early there), we searched for and found a room for the night.
Many of the motels in town were already showing no vacancy. When we found a place with vacancy, we took the price they offered though we thought was high. We learned later that motels can and do charge what they want. When you walk up, like we did, you lose some of the price leverage that you have when you make reservations in advance. I guess we could have tried to negotiate on the spot, but our food would have been cold. Anyway, it wasn’t that expensive. It just wasn’t worth the price.