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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Epic Aussi Adventure: The Great Ocean Road and Adelaide

Today's Scenery:
Crazy Rock Formations on the Great Ocean Road

The great Ocean Road is a popular tourist drive in Victoria, which winds its way along the coast and through a number of small surfing villages and towns. It was constructed by returning WWI veterans in the memory of their fallen colleagues and meanders for over 200kms of slow but attractive shoreline. My advice for anyone planning on going there; bring a wind and waterproof jacket.
Cute Little Lighthouse

We started our great ocean road adventure in the town of Torquay where we had stayed the previous night after leaving Melbourne late in the day. Torquay seems to be almost entirely dedicated to surf culture and industry and is a short drive from the famous Bell’s Beach. Unfortunately the miserable, rainy weather that we encountered on our visit to this sacred surf mecca, coupled with it being a weekday in term time, resulted in us failing to see any spectacular surfing stunts from the handful of hard core enthusiasts on the water. We continued down the road to the extremely quaint split-point lighthouse in Aireys Inlet and braved the wind and rain to take a photo. It was at this point that the road became a lot more rustic and winding and our speed dropped considerably. We spent most of the morning negotiating sharp cliff top corners and wishing we were in a slightly smaller, more easily manoeuvrable vehicle.
The 12-ish Apostles
It was once we reached the shipwreck coast section of the drive that we realised what all the hype was about. The ferocious seas around this area have created a number of interesting and attractive rock formations, and suddenly there were scenic lookouts signposted every kilometre or so. Unfortunately this section was also horrifically touristy and swarming with Asian bus groups. With all the windy roads, and stopping to see the 12 apostles and other interestingly shaped rocks we had spent almost the entire day on what would normally have been a 3 hour journey so we stopped in the unexciting but relatively large town of Warrnambool for the night. In all honesty we were somewhat unimpressed by the great ocean road and didn’t feel that it lived up to the hype surrounding it. Maybe it was partially to do with the weather (although we have been assured that wind and rain is somewhat typical of this stretch of coast) but we felt there were just as stunning and far less touristy costal drives in Queensland and New South Wales.
ANZAC cookies
The next morning we realised that it was ANZAC day; a national holiday in remembrance of Australian and New Zealand servicemen who fought in the Battle of Gallipoli in WWI. We drove into our 4th state of the trip and headed towards South Australia’s second biggest City; Mount Gambier. Famous for extinct volcanos and great lakes we were somewhat surprised by the size of the city when we arrived. We quickly realised that if this was the second largest settlement in South Australia we were in for a boring drive to Adelaide. To break up the journey we visited the couple of the lakes and parks around Mount Gambier and had lunch in a pan-Asian takeaway restaurant with a baffling, seemingly never ending menu. Before leaving Gambier we bought ourselves some ANZAC cookies; the obligatory foodstuff of the aforementioned public holiday.
Turk meets some friendly German Ducks
The drive to Adelaide proved to be even more boring than we had expected with roads which stretched for hundreds of kilometres through nothingness. At one point, after I had just taken over the driving The BF whinged “That’s not fair, this is your second turn in the road, how come you get all the fun?” We broke up the journey by spending a night sleeping at a rest stop on the side of a road and when we eventually found civilisation the next day we were like caged animals escaping from captivity. We stopped in the town of Hahndorf, a traditionally German settlement 30kms from Adelaide, and had a fantastic time browsing shops full of cuckoo clocks, cured meats and tacky souvenirs. We decided to stay in Hahndorf the night, and headed to the Hahndorf resort, a very pretty tourist park with a large hotel as well as a number of extremely cute Bavarian style chalets and a far less fancy caravan park area. The resort had a number of friendly and tame resident ducks which delighted the BF no end (Ducks and Puppies are his joint favourite animals.) We headed to a pub for dinner and decided it would be wrong not to eat something vaguely German, so ordered schnitzels and beer, which actually ended up being one of the most reasonably priced meals of the trip thanks to a voucher from the resort.
Weird art in Adelaide

 The next morning it was time to head into Adelaide itself, and we were again shocked by the size of South Australia’s capital city. We checked into our backpackers and went for an explore. We were meeting our friend Lauren, an Adelaide resident, for lunch but had arrived over an hour early so decided to check out the main shopping street alone. It turned out that this was plenty of time to get our bearings, as Adelaide city centre’s main shopping district seemed to consist of one long semi-pedestrianized street. We had a nice lunch and catch up with Lauren and made plans to meet up for drinks that evening. After she returned to work, the BF and I felt somewhat lost and decided that we should go and get haircuts as we were both starting to look a little scruffy. Wondering aimlessly though a mall we saw a sign reading “Men’s Haircuts $20, Women’s Haircuts $30” this seemed reasonable to us so we went inside and found a small Korean lady in a tiny hair studio. Her English wasn’t fantastic but her hairdressing was and despite her clearly not understanding what either of us actually wanted her to do with our hair we were happy with the eventual results. Scary moments included her grabbing the majority of my hair and chopping it off en masse far shorter than I had intended and the slightly bizarre shoulder massage which she included half way through the cut; maybe she’s found this helps her customers’ stress levels at the uncertainty of their future appearance. We maintained composure as we paid and left the shop and then broke into hysterical giggles ten meters from the door. Thank god neither of us is particularly vain!

 After a fruitless couple of hours looking for desperately needed new clothes we met up with Lauren and went for a drink or five and some dinner in the slightly overpriced Rundle Street area. We had been told that most of the pubs were situated the other side of Rundle Mall at Hindley Street but our local tour guides ensured us that these establishments were a lot less pleasant. When Lauren decided to head home we weren’t in the mood to hang out at our backpackers so found a tiny cinema hidden behind some pubs and watched the next movie starting (which turned out to be Hunger Games)
Enjoying some food and wine

 The following day I awoke unreasonably early but decided to get a start on the day. after showering and dressing the BF was still fast asleep so I decided to check my emails and catch up on my correspondents. It was then that I found an email telling me that I had been granted my Canadian Working Holiday Visa; something I had been awaiting for months and which had been causing me endless amounts of stress! Elated, The BF and I headed into town and found a Taste of Australia food and wine festival being set up along the riverbanks. To kill some time we visited the Adelaide museum and had some lunch then headed to the festival and spent a happy day toasting our good news with many a glass of wine and a constant stream of delicious finger foods. Basically, we were in our element! It was a lovely sunny day and a combination of the setting, the wine and the relief at obtaining my visa made it one of the high points of the entire trip.

The next morning, however, was one of the BF’s low points as I dragged him out of bed with a horrific hangover to go on, of all things, a wine tasting tour. He succeeded in being sick on a bin as we prepared to leave but decided he would soldier on and come anyway as he had already paid for his ticket. Before getting to the serious business of wine we headed to the giant rocking horse, an Adelaide Hills landmark and then onto the whispering wall; a bizarre phenomenon in which a dam wall was found to have amazing acoustic properties resulting in a person standing a hundred meters away sounding like they are next to you. All this time the BF was complaining that he was dying and was going to be sick again but after a visit to our first winery, Jacob’s Creek, and a couple of sips of different wines he was miraculously cured. The rest of the day passed much like any wine tour should, with a brief stop for a BBQ lunch and concluded at Seppeltsfield winery, an establishment famous for its aged port. We all tried ports of various ages and were even allowed to smell a 100 year old variety! Heading back to our hostel in the Groovy Grape tour bus the BF and I agreed that we had been pleasantly surprised by Adelaide and its (mostly wine-based) charms, although neither of us would recommend it as a place to go to shop or get a haircut!

Turk Meets....A giant Lobster
Turk was licking his lips at the sight of this giant crustacean