Strictly: Straya – Part #1

My Australian experience so far has been pretty tame, lots of lazy mornings and days spent exploring at a glacial pace. So, as you can imagine, joining my G Adventures tour, going from Melbourne up through the Red Centre to Darwin was more than a bit of a shock to the system. Our first full day started at a mind boggling 6.45am as we had to get on the road early enough to make it onto the Great Ocean Road before it was descended on by hordes of tourists. My tour lasts 3 weeks and is conveniently split into three separate parts, so I think to make my own life easier I’m going to split this post into three parts. Part 1 will be the 5 days we spent on the Great Ocean Road, from Melbourne to Adelaide. Part 2 will cover the journey through the Red Centre, from Adelaide up to Alice Springs, and then Part 3 will tackle the final leg, from Alice Springs up to Darwin. As I’m sure has become glaringly obvious by now, I’m pretty bad at sticking to my own structure when it comes to writing, so let’s see how it goes this time.

We only spent three full days on the Great Ocean Road, but they were so bloody full it felt more like three weeks. For those of you who don’t know, or haven’t heard of the Great Ocean Road, it’s a road, it runs around the South coast of Australia next to the ocean and it’s pretty great (both in size and its general attitude, it’s a very chill road). It’s also the longest war memorial in the world – it stretches to almost 250kms in length and was built after WWI as a project to employ veterans returning from the front. It also, it turns out, features a lot of towns with English names. In three days we passed through Anglesea, Torquay and Peterborough, saw the London Bridge and visited Tower Hill. I’m pretty sure there were more English named places we visited which I’ve just forgotten about. When it comes to names the Australians were not apparently very inventive.

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London Bridge, or what’s left of it
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The Twelve Apostles

Anyway, I’m digressing, again, from the point. Despite only spending 3 full days on the road to Adelaide we saw quite a lot so I’ll try my best to remember the highlights. For anyone doing the Great Ocean Road the ‘must see’ sight is always the Twelve Apostles, a collection of limestone stacks just off the coast. There aren’t twelve of them, so I’m not entirely sure why they’re called the twelve apostles, but they are pretty impressive to see. The whole of the Great Ocean Road coastline is filled with impressive sights, mainly rock formations made from weathering of the coast by wind, sea and rain. As well as the apostles there are loads of sights to see on the Shipwreck Coast, including London Bridge, which is no longer a bridge because it collapsed, and so is now more commonly known as the London Arch, and the Jaws of Death, which is a very appealing name for a stretch of coastline. You could probably spend a whole week on the Great Ocean Road and see every sight, but it’s a long old way to Darwin, so we only spent a day and a half cruising the coastline before heading up into the Grampians, where I had my first experience with wild Aussie critters. On our way up into the Grampians we stopped for lunch at Tower Hill Reserve and got harassed by a group of wild emus who are apparently used to stealing food from unsuspecting tourists. Then when we got into Halls Gap, our home for the night, we were confronted with a whole group of wild kangaroos just casually feeding on the football field. As you can imagine, I got pretty overexcited by the prospect of petting wild kangaroos. We also had a hilarious encounter with some wild parrots who kept scaring unsuspecting Chinese tourists by constantly dive bombing them in the hopes of stealing food.

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Like the Great Ocean Road, I imagine you could spend weeks in the Grampians hiking and exploring. Unfortunately we only had a day, so had to make do with a visit to Mackenzie Falls and a very early hike, in the wind and rain, up to The Pinnacle. The weather made scrambling over rocks and up hills much more challenging than is really necessary at 7am, and by the time we got to the top it was so bloody windy that I felt sure I was going to be blown all the way back down, but as the clouds cleared the little snippets of view were pretty impressive.

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Mackenzie Falls

Being so stupidly busy means that time goes ridiculously fast, and before we knew it our big purple bus was rolling into Adelaide, ready to start the Outback leg of our great Aussie adventure. Thankfully, we did have a day off in Adelaide where we made the most of it by shopping for an impending fancy dress party and enjoying the beautiful weather on the beach, but we did also make the maybe not so clever decision to go on a night out right before a nice early start, and a day that involved driving and wine tasting. I’m pretty sure we did other things on our way to Quorn the next day, but I was not in the best state to appreciate them.

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And there we have it, The Great Ocean Road is done. This took up far fewer words than I expected, but I’m going to be good and stick to ‘a part for a part’ so I’ll finish here and pick up in Part 2 with the Outback, aka ten days of the earliest starts known to man.

Just before I go I’ll say a little bit about touring with G Adventures. When the idea of doing a tour first came up I was a little apprehensive, memories of group trips with school, filled with team bonding activities pop immediately to mind. Turns out it was by far the best thing I’ve done since I started my travels. For 19 days I spent every waking moment with 19 other people, touring, exploring, hiking and playing a lot of bus games. They’re people I probably wouldn’t have met in any other walk of life but we had the best time together and I’ve definitely made some lasting friendships. Also, our tour guide Wease was awesome and is maybe the happiest person I’ve ever met.

Leah Out X

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