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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 01 Oct 2011

Location: Apollo Bay, Australia

MapFurther west along the coast is Lorne, where we stopped for lunch at a burger bar with its shop front completely open to the street, and its staff sporting long hair and board shorts. Its matted-haired clientele had their panel vans parked out the front with surfboards firmly strapped to the roof. We’ve seen evidence of the surf culture all along this coast. Then on to Apollo Bay, where we set up camp for a few days. The road hugs the coast, and it’s a definite advantage to be driving on the left, making it easy to pull over at vantage spots to take in the view. There’s such a photo opportunity every couple of kilometres, as the road ducks in and out of headlands, cliffs and bays. But the sea dominates.

There’s something about the sea. I don’t know what it is, but I seem to find comfort in being near it. I could be sailing on it, or swimming in it, or simply gazing out over it. Maybe it’s the relentless cycle of waves that end their short existence by crashing onto a beach or rocks. Or the infinite expanse of water as it stretches to the horizon. Or the mystery of what could lie beneath the surface. Driving along the Great Ocean Road with a view to our left that is truly inspirational, the sea weaves its magic spell.

Construction of The Great Ocean Road started in 1919 as a tribute to the fallen Victorians from The Great War. Even today it remains a testament to the ingenuity and sheer hard work of the men who forged this road through thick undergrowth and steep cliffs. Every bend in this road brings a different view of the sea and some very precipitous cliffs. The colour of the water is a fantastic aqua turquoise blue, and we can see dark shapes just beneath the surface – submerged reefs that make this area so treacherous for shipping. There have been hundreds of shipwrecks along this coastline over the last 150 years, and we visited one of the country’s oldest lighthouses, at Cape Otway, that was built in 1848 to help ships navigate the passage to Melbourne from the west.

The road into Cape Otway gives us a Magic Moment – koalas. By the dozen and in the wild. Sitting above us in their tree homes, oblivious of the huge attention they’re drawing to themselves at ground level. Look up the word “cute” in the dictionary, and you’ll see a picture of a koala. It’s a unique sight for a Tasmanian, as it’s an animal we don’t have back home.

Also at Cape Otway is a plaque to commemorate the disappearance of Frederick Valentich, the 20 year old pilot who went missing in his Cessna in 1978. He was flying just south of Cape Otway, and his last radio message told of something flying above him, but “it’s not an aircraft”, before he and his plane completely disappeared without trace. I remember it well, and totally strange. Maybe Frederick ended up in the same place as Harold?
We drive though rolling hills of green farmland, forests of eucalypts and dense rainforest, lovely seaside towns with beach frontage, all of which remind us of Tassie.