15.06.2016 - 20.06.2016 16 °C
On the morning of Wednesday 15th June, Claire dropped us off at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport and there we met Julika - our own personal driver for the next 2 days.
We found an advert Julika had put on gumtree looking for ride-mates to join her on a trip from Melbourne all the way to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road. We had originally been looking for another relocation but there was nothing available so luckily gumtree, our last resort, came up trumps. Julika is 21 and from Germany. She is a show-jumper and dressage performer and after doing a bit of travelling around Australia she was heading to Adelaide to work at famous show-jumper Megan Jones's riding school.
We met at the airport and jumped in her jam-packed car - a car her friend had given to her as she was going back to Germany. I was sat in the one seat available in the back and was squashed in by copious bags, bedding, camping equipment and horsey stuff. Lauren sacrificially sat in the front and so had to embody the role of chief navigator and keeper-awakerer. True to character, I fell asleep after about half an hour - like I told Lauren I couldn't help it I felt like I was in some sort of stuff-cocoon.
We drove for a while before hitting the starting city of the Great Ocean Road - Torquay. Now I must point out that a lot of the towns along the famous coastal road have recognisable British names - actually a lot of places, monuments, roads, lakes and motorways do. As well as Torquay we went past Anglesea and London Bridge - but I'm getting ahead of myself.
We stopped for lunch at Apollo bay; one of many surf, swimming and whale-watching spots and had a lovely if expensive health-conscious lunch and cup of tea.
The panoramic views on the rest of the drive were truly breathtaking. Australia's coastline is inimitable; undoubtedly treacherous and unpredictable but unbelievably dazzling. We did stop occasionally; for the '12' apostles (a number of limestone rock formations of which there used to be 12), London Arch (another limestone structure formerly known as London Bridge until the bridge bit collapsed in the 90s) and Bay of Martyrs. There were lots of other viewpoints but it was quite clear that Julika was on a bit of a mission (don't mention the war).
We stopped for the night at the last town on the GOR; Warrnambool (pronounced Warnabull). We found the one hostel available in the area; Warrnambool Beach Backpackers and scoffed at but accepted the price of $60 per person, per night. The hostel was huge and all but empty safe for a few Spanish diving enthusiasts. We were in the 12-bed mixed dorm and discovered as we arrived at our bunk-beds that in Australian hostels you have to dress your own bed. Sure in Asia you had to try and not piss on your own feet when you stumbled into the spider-ridden, stinky squat toilet in the middle of the night but at least someone made your bed for you. Fucking liberties.
There were plenty of redeeming features to the hostel though; the owners were very friendly and kind, there was a resident cuddly cat, the common room was huge and had a massive television and DVD player and most wonderfully, there were vending machines for all your chocolate needs. Tummies rumbling we soon spotted a poster on the wall advertising a local pizza shop's 'backpacker deal'. It was $10 for a pizza with free delivery and a free garlic bread. Like a proper backpacker (and someone who gives a shit about their arteries), Julika rustled up a measly bowl of noodles and vegetables for herself from food she had in her car while Lauren and I, eyes and bellies wide, ordered two large pizzas. In the end we could barely eat half of the pizzas before our stomachs seized up but it did mean Lauren had some lunch for the following day.
We watched a DVD called Oddball - a film about the plight of Warrnambool's native fairy penguins on nearby middle island who a few years ago were almost wiped out by foxes wandering over when the tide was out. The penguins were saved by the introduction of Italian maremma dogs who instinctively guard them from the foxes.
The next morning we set off nice and early to get a head start on the remaining 608kms to Adelaide. Before we got on the highway we stopped to have a look at the aforementioned Middle island. It looked lovely in the bright winter's sun.
We were expecting to arrive in Adelaide in the evening but we somehow made great time and arrived to our stop - Port Noarlunga - by 4pm. We were met by a very friendly Julia (the sister of the lady who's house we were staying in just a few doors up the road) and all had a cup of tea before Julika set off again on her own to Hahndorf town were her horsey job was.
Julia took Lauren and I to our new abode that was on top of a pretty decent hill. The house (owned by my Dad's wife's cousin Carol) was MASSIVE; 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a utility room, a huge deck/balcony, 2 living rooms, a dining room, walk-in wardrobes, pantries and a large garage. And we had the whole place to ourselves. The balcony overlooked the port-town and you could see the nearby beach and gulf of St. Vincent.
We dropped our bags and pranced about contemplating which bedroom we should take. We decided on the downstairs bedroom and just as we were unwinding we realised that the water wasn't on - there was nothing coming out of any taps. We spent the next half hour desperately trying to find the stop tap. Now I will admit we're not the handiest of couples (one con of being a lesbian) but we did look in all the most obvious places - under the kitchen sink (all sinks actually), in the garage, in the utility closest, in the room under the stairs, we even had a look around the perimeter of the building.
We eventually swallowed our pride and went back round to Julia's who let us use her shower and said her husband Jim would come and have a look later. Julia then took us on a walk down to the pier and around the town. We saw the beautiful and vast sandy beach and deep blue gulf where lots of whales hang out. The town itself was very cute; pubs, antique shops, hardware shops, fishing and surf shops and restaurants.
Later on Julia and Jim took us out for dinner to a nearby Thai restaurant Ampika's Kitchen. The food was lovely and good and spicy too - like it should be and we all had a good laugh getting to know each other and telling stories about each of our travelling experiences. When we got back Jim popped over to help us with the water situation and instantly found the stop tap opposite the front door in between some shrubbery.
For our first proper day in Port Noarlunga we basked in our opportunity at doing absolutely nothing. We lay around watching TV, only heading out to get some food from a Coles supermarket nearby. We also made the most of having a proper kitchen to ourselves to cook; Lauren made us a delicious sandwich for lunch. We ALSO capitalised on the presence of a bath - a luxury we didn't know we missed until we saw it.
The next day Carol's daughter (Julia's niece) Liz and her little 1 year old Max came round to take us out for the day. We drove almost 2 hours to Gorge wildlife park, deep in the heart of Cudlee creek (cute I know). Halfway through the drive little Max woke up from his sleep to find us two strangers in his mum's car chatting away. This understandably caused him some distress and he started crying his eyes out. He just wouldn't settle so we stopped at a petrol station and Liz moved into the back and asked Lauren to drive the rest of the way. This was fine until we got to the valley and its dramatic winding narrow rounds with blind bends and sheer drops. With an ever-lengthening queue of traffic behind her, Lauren slowly and cautiously drove around the snaking roads - conscious not to prang this woman's car who we'd just met.
We made it unscathed and as soon as we were outside of the car Max made friends with us. So much so that for the rest of the day wandering around the park each of us took turns to hold him (he's not a fan of walking).
The wildlife park was great - better than the one we'd been to in Sydney and quite a few dollars cheaper. It was the perfect semi-wild environment for all of the animals - of which there were plenty - deep in mountainous valleys with lots of trees and other flora. We saw reptiles, amphibians, many big and small birds (including a gorgeous albino peacock) and of course hundreds of marsupials (kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, bilbys, quokkas etc.) We also got to swap our new baby friend for a koala which was a little odd because in New South Wales it's illegal to hold koalas but in South Australia (where we now were) it's absolutely fine.
We finished off our day by eating dinner at a local 'Asian' restaurant to eat and watch Jim perform (he's a singer-guitarist).
The following day Julia let us borrow her car as she had fractured her arm (what can I say we bring bad luck). We drove and parked at Port Noarlunga train station and head out on the train to Adelaide city, 40 minutes away. The views out of the window were pretty; along the coast and through a few provincial towns.
We got to the city centre and walked to Flinders street market where there were lots of vintage, homemade a crafty things for sale. We had a browse and munch at some free samples and then walked back to the main square to have a look at the big old buildings. The roads and pavements were nice and wide and it was cold and crisp but sunny. We then walked to Rundale market (a shipping centre) to eat lunch and finished our jaunt by visiting the Art Gallery of South Australia which was amazing. The format of the gallery was something I'd never encountered before; a complete mix of contemporary and classic art - paintings, sculptures, furniture and visual art - old and new. It was really different and interesting and we spent a good 2 hours there wandering around.
We managed to find ourselves another relocation to get back to Melbourne from Adelaide and so the next day Jim very kindly took us to the airport to collect our car. We got a great little Hyundai i20 new compact car that, to Lauren's relief, I was happy to drive.
For the rest of our last day Julia and Jim took us on a drive around the Fleurieu region. We stopped for tea in Strathalbyn town and then drove to Port Elliot. We stopped at Victor Harbour for lunch in a pub with live music on where as well as the food we paid for we also got free leftovers from a finishing function. At Victor Harbour there's an old horse-pulled tram that still goes through the town as well as a steam cockle train.
On our way back we drove through the McLaren Vale wine region - Adelaide is famous for its vineyards producing some of the best wine in the world. Although they weren't so lush as it's winter, they were very picturesque. At odds with the pretty sights for some reason we all got on the topic of famous Australian murders - lots of which have happened in Adelaide. Over the decades loads of backpackers have been picked up and killed. We were glad we weren't hitchhiking.
Although we didn't do much while in Port Noarlunga we thoroughly enjoyed chilling out in our very own pad and embracing the quiet beauty of South Australia. Only an 8 hour drive back to Melbourne...