Big Question Marks

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chasing the Fifty Year Storm

Last weekend we finally got away from the city routine and headed down to the Great Ocean Road-- a winding, 250-km-or-so stretch of gorgeous highway running along the southernmost point in mainland Australia (built by returning soldiers after WWI). We'd been hearing about it for ages, and so when our friends Bianca (the German) and John (the ranger) invited us to join them for this leg of their trip, we jumped at the chance. We set off last Saturday morning, girls in one car, boys in the other, equipped with VHF radios and off to see a picturesque corner of Oz none of us four had seen, outside of many, many postcards and books.

After emerging from a traffic jam around Melbourne's west end, our first peek at the coastline was in Torquay, Victoria's surf capital. With a surfing museum, surf lessons galore, and outlet stores for every surfer brand imaginable from Rip Curl to Billabong to Blunt (etc.), there's no doubt we'll be heading back to explore. But, we had a lot of ground to cover in two days, and made our first stop just outside Torquay at the legendary Bells Beach. And why does this name sounds familiar, you ask? Movie buffs, here's your clue:

JOHNNY UTAH: I knew you wouldn't miss the fifty year storm, Bodhi.

Who can forget Keanu in his hot surfer days in Point Break? Not us. We soon learned that despite our differences in ages and homelands, all four of us were huge Point Break fans, and so visiting Bells Beach--home to that dramatic final scene in the film-- was a bit of a pilgrimage. It wasn't long before the Point Break quotes were flying back and forth on the VHF. Appropriately enough, it started to pour rain like crazy just as we left our cars for the long boardwalk descending down the cliff. THE FIFTY YEAR STORM HAD ARRIVED! We tried looking for Bodhi in the waves, but it was pretty choppy and hard to get a good look (though we're sure he must have been out there...). Visiting Bells did finally confirm what Adrian and I have been suspecting after watching Point Break over here: the final scene was definitely NOT filmed in Oz. First of all, there are no beaches lined with pine trees in Australia; secondly, the beach in the movie is a tiny little cove, while Bells is actually a long sandy beach. *Sigh* (Check online and it seems we've all been duped: the "Bells Beach" pictured in the movie was actually a beach in Oregon) We got drenched during the walk, and spent a good part of the day with the only warm clothes we packed now sopping wet. Not so much fun. [If you're craving a little surf right now, check out this live web cam (and photos) to see how the waves are down at Bells.]

After Bells, the road became more winding, often running along cliffs which dropped straight into the ocean. The views were gorgeous and reminded us a lot of the drive from Port Douglas to Cairns (except colder). Though it's not always beside the ocean, as the name led us to believe, the farmlands it travels through are pretty spectacular too. We explored waterfalls, a lighthouse, cute little towns (Lorne, Apollo Bay), and watched packs of surfers along each beach, beginning to realize that the GOR may very well be Daisy's true home. Ever since we bought her (and who knows for how long before that), she's had a Bells Beach Rip Curl Surfing Pro Competition poster stuck up on a window--which eerily enough, fell off as we were lunching near Bells Beach-- and a sticker that says "I played Apollo Bay 2000" (the Apollo Bay Music Festival is a hippie music fest held in a cute GOR town in March) along with a couple of surf brand bumper stickers as well. We're sure she was quite the happy van despite the many twists and turns en route.

One of the other coolest sights from our first day on the road came when we spotted a bunch of cars stopped at the roadside ahead of us. At first we thought "Car accident!" but then Ranger John pointed out the bare branches of the trees around-- KOALAS! We pulled over with the other tourists to snap photos and film the adorable koalas munching on eucalyptus in their natural habitat. It was just after 6pm and they were lively as ever, hopping from tree to tree in the cutest of ways. They were also brown, not the typical grey variety we see on postcards. We even got quite close to one in the forest nearby.

That night we camped among sand dunes at Johanna Beach, site of one of many shipwrecks on the coast. It was gorgeous but so much colder than Queenslander camping (we'll pack better next time!). As we ate breakfast, tiny birds with bright blue stripes on their heads chirped and flitted around us. We set off for the most famous of GOR sights Sunday morning: the Twelve Apostles, a set of giant limestone towers just off the coast that are slowly being eroded by the elements over the centuries. These monoliths, alongside the high cliffs of the shoreline, really do make for a spellbinding scene, even after seeing it in a million photos (just like the Grand Canyon, or like Angkor Wat). We took plenty of our own pics, because, who knows how much it will change by the next time we visit? It'll be cool to find out.

There were more interesting rock formations along the way -- like Loch Ard Gorge, with a giant, noisy, creepy inland blowhole -- and plenty of historical plaques dedicated to all the ship which were destroyed along the treacherous coastline. The landscape here was fascinating-- the road was slightly inland, following the shoreline along a flat, desertlike plateau that suddenly drops into the crashing ocean far below. It was also neat to think about how close we were standing to Antarctica (you sure felt the chill in the air) as the wind howled straight at us from the south. And all this, just a few hours from our home in Melbourne! We turned back on Sunday afternoon, leaving Bianca and John to continue on their grand tour of Oz, and we headed back to the city, our zest for the camping life completely revived and thankful for our good old trusty surfin' van Daisy! We'll definitely be making a trip back to the Great Ocean Road as soon as we can--maybe next time with boards of our own.

WHOAAAAA! We just found out there will be a Point Break sequel.
Vaya con dios, brah.


Anonymous said...

Vaya con Dios! Yeah!!! Sounds beeeautiful!!!!

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Sean said...

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if you want the ultimate, you gotta be ready to pay the ultimate price..


Anonymous said...

nobody puts baby in a corner

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