This was the plan…
To spend three days driving from Newcastle to Melbourne, hit the town Saturday night and spend the next day knocking about Fitzroy. I would then gather up an old friend and continue onto the Twelve Apostles, an Australian attraction that I had been wanting to see for only my entire adult life.
There was one glaring issue; we only had a day in which to do this. To complicate matters even further, I had to drop off a rental car in Melbourne’s CBD at 8am, then journey out to The Noveau Melburnian’s house, where we would finally hit the Great Ocean Road, on a quest to make it to the Apostles before sundown.
It was an ambitious idea, I will admit to that (luckily, I’m not the only one who’s tried to see the best of the Great Ocean Road in one day. I feel somewhat justified in my decision).
So -ambitious, yet possible? I wasn’t quite sure myself, but I was certainly determined to find out.
What are the Twelve Apostles and why was I so desperate to see them? Once part of the cliffs of Southern Victoria, they are now a collection of limestone stacks that have been eroded away by the elements over time. The name is deceiving, as there have never really been twelve – but you have to admit, it does sound snappy and rolls nicely off the tongue.
Indeed, what remains of the Apostles seems like a point of contention, at least online. Wikipedia states that there were nine and now there are eight. Parks Victoria seems fairly confident that there were eight and now seven remain. According to the 12 Apostles website, one can see seven from the viewing platform, with a further two – nicknamed “Gog and Magog” viewable at beach level from a car park further east. To be honest, I did not really care how many were left at this point in time. All I wanted to do was to see what I could of the Twelve Apostles in one day.
The Southern Ocean is harsh and unforgiving. It is believed that as the waves continue to abrade the cliff face, new limestone stacks will form in the future. The chance of this happening in our lifetime is minimal/non-existent, as the headlands are eroding at the rate of 2 centimetres a year. I am no geologist, but it seems that in this century at least, there exists a better chance of the stacks crumbling. Thus, I wanted to see them for myself, before the majority of them disintegrated into nothingness.
It is a beautiful thing, to travel through one’s own country. There’s no sense of displacement or culture shock. Everything is new and familiar, all at once. My determination was as such that I would get my fill of one of Australia’s most famous rocks (we have a few) before I flew back to Europe for who knows how long. I was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stand in my way. Not even my constant adversary during this particular trip back home… time.
Countless things went wrong from the moment I rolled out of bed. I had to scour the streets of the outer reaches of the Melbourne CBD to find petrol, then navigate through endless roadworks to the drop off spot. (All the while feeling eternally grateful for Melbourne’s grid-like road system; so much preferable to Sydney’s spaghetti streets.) We were running forty minutes behind schedule by the time I made it to TNM’s abode and so we took to the road immediately.
There are three big problems with the Great Ocean Road. The first is – it is stunning. When driving through to the Apostles, you start on a stretch of the road that lines the cliffs of Southern Victoria, which is not exactly an ugly part of the world. You then move on to dense bushland/rainforest, before finally emerging once more into endless stretches of paddocks and rolling hills dotted with cows, sheep and trees. It is really hard not to make constant stops to take in and photos of absolutely everything.
Being a coastal road, there are many twists and turns along the way. Neither TNM nor I identify as speed demons, so we took our time navigating these unfamiliar roads.
On top of that there is just so much to do along the Great Ocean Road. We pulled into Lorne for brunch – a necessity as we were both starving by this point in the journey. I have a slight beach addiction (as anyone reading this blog may have noticed) and wished to stop at as many as possible, in order to get my fill. We had another break at Apollo Bay, did a rainforest walk at Maits Rest and on my request, took a massive detour to Cape Otway, a national park that boasts a famous lighthouse and a plethora of activities to do. With tickets at twenty dollars each and it being late afternoon by then, we both opted out. On our way back to the car, TNM made a casual observation:
“I hope the Twelve Apostles don’t close before we get there,” she commented. I whipped around to face her.
“Close?!” It was so obvious, yet in my frenzy to do everything, it hadn’t occurred to me that we might miss out on the sight that was at the top of my list.
We ran back to the car in a panic, threw ourselves in and zoomed out of Cape Otway. It was three in the afternoon, we were still around an hour out and neither of us had reception, in order to ascertain what the closing time of the attraction actually was.
What a fine thing it would be, if we were to finally make it there just as it closed, I thought to myself. I silently considered my options. Hurling myself into a nearby corner and crying my eyes out seemed the most appealing. To be honest, I didn’t know what I would do. I was desperate to see them and I knew it would probably be many years before I would have the opportunity to do so again.
We pulled into the car park around a quarter past four, locked the doors and ran through the kiosk towards the rocks. It was freezing by this point in the day. Our multiple layers were no match for the wind coming in off the Southern Ocean, which somehow managed to snake its way into every nook and cranny; causing us to shiver in its wake. On top of that, we had to deal with the sort of intermittent rain that Victoria is notorious for – Four Seasons in One Day really should be made the state’s official anthem.
These conditions however, were perfect for our purpose. Here we were, at one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions and both the weather and late hour of the day meant that there were only a handful of other people about. That meant we could snap away to our heart’s content, or simply stand there, agape, marvelling at the beauty of these strange anomalies. We couldn’t go down to the beach; the waves were wild. Yet, it was enough, at this point in time, to finally see them from the viewing platform with my own eyes.
Best of all, upon our return we saw that the kiosk was closed (which also hurt, as we were both starving and in need of a warm drink). We must have just made it. Our respective hunger pangs could only distract us so much from our sense of complete satisfaction in accomplishing our mission.
The drive from Melbourne to the Twelve Apostles takes approximately four hours along the coast; two and a half if you choose to take the direct but less scenic backroad (which we opted for on our return to the city). The Apostles themselves are part of the Port Campbell National Park, which boasts a collection of other rock formations and activities such as nature walks, fishing and diving.
If you ever have the chance to see these stacks, just go. It can be done in a day, after all.