The Great Ocean Road

20 December 2019

So, the weather is up to its old tricks again and things were forecast to be pretty hot at times over the next few days. As it happens our ‘late’ arrival into Adelaide and our extra day off in Robe helped and the hottest days were forecast to fall on our easier riding days…

Wednesday 18 December 19 – Warrnambool to Princetown – 88km

Joy and Geoff got up especially early to make us breakfast and see us off and we left them and their fantastic hospitality at 7am – although we could have easily stayed a few more days! We managed to avoid the majority of the busy main road out of Warrnambool going east and not long out of town we joined onto what is known as the Great Ocean Road. This road is supposed to be really spectacular as it goes along the coast and has become quite a tourist draw. A few people mentioned that it can also be quite busy with holiday traffic and that some of the driving can be a bit erratic as a lot of foreigners travel along it, many of which aren’t used to driving on the left.  And as if to prove the point…

Once on the coast there are lots of parking areas and lookout points and so as we headed east it became a bit of a take-a-picture-a-thon! Each different view was spectacular and it’s easy to see why this coast is so popular…

Some of the rock formations have names such as The Grotto…

London Bridge (?)…

The Arch…

And Razorback…

However, the most famous of them all is the 12 Apostles and although they are undoubtedly beautiful, they were rather spoiled by the bus loads of tourists thronging the area…

Not all the apostles are there now as some have been beaten into submission by the Southern Ocean.  I could only count 8!

All the viewing points meant it was stop-start cycling too and this was one of the super hot day/“stinkers”, so by the time we arrived at the campsite at Princetown it was definitely above 35 degrees (forecast for 42 degrees). Luckily for us though that was the exercise done for the day and we found a top camping spot under a shady tree, which was being cooled by a slight sea breeze…

As ever, we sorted our stuff out, ate and were in bed early!

We have mentioned some of the better known Australian wildlife in previous posts, but this time it’s something probably less well-known…

….the Fairy Wren and we had loads of these little males hopping around our campsite all afternoon and evening – very pretty, charismatic and lovely to watch. They were very tame and came right up to our tent.

Thursday 19 December 19 – Princetown to Apollo Bay – 82km

A much cooler day forecast, only up to 26 degrees, but we were still up and out early. For the first part of the day, the clue was in the name…Lavers Hill, and so we spent the best part of 3 hours gurning up a long hill. Although these were the first proper hills we’d encountered for some time surprisingly neither of us struggled, but it was definitely lucky that it was a cooler day or we could have been in trouble.  And just like yesterday, the ride was stunning, through lush forests…

When we got nearer the top there were fewer trees and more fields and the scenery reminded us of home…

…this could easily be Devon!

We stopped in the village of Lavers Hill for a rest and a drink and then started the long descent down, though it was interspersed with enough uphill to keep us sweating. More and more stunning scenery greeted us when we returned to the coast…

Just when we thought that the hard work for the day was done there was one final tough 300m climb out of one valley and over a headland. When we got to the top we’d climbed a total of 1,400m for the day – considerably more than we’ve done for a long time. As we cruised down towards Apollo Bay we were caught up by Adrian, an Aussie cyclist from Adelaide…

He’d just returned from four months touring in Europe and had started out on a year-long circumnavigation of Australia. He zoomed off in front of us, but we’d sort of agreed to catch up in town or later in the campsite. We lost him in town when we went to get a few supplies and unfortunately he didn’t show up at the campsite, which was a real shame as we had been looking forward to talking to him!

Whilst Martina was in the camp kitchen I started the first camp job of putting the tent up.  But I hadn’t even unloaded my bike when a young couple, Ashley and Natalie (and their new baby), came over to chat. Apparently they’d seen us on the road earlier and as Ashley has ridden from Wales to Australia a few years back he was itching to chat to us. They’d already been in a cabin at the campsite for one night and were booked in for a second, but unfortunately Natalie hadn’t been feeling very well, so they’d decided to go home. As the campsite has a no refund policy they offered their cabin to us for the night – so generous and brilliant. We carried on chatting for a while after and then when they’d gone we wheeled our bikes over to their cabin and made ourselves at home!

When we’d finished dinner Martina was being nosey and wondered if there was anyone on our camping spot, and when she checked there was….Adrian! So in the spirit of passing on our good fortune we invited him to join us to stay in our newly-acquired cabin as it had 2 bedrooms.  So he did! He is most definitely a kindred spirit and we have made a great friend and could easily have talked much more than we did.  But we all decided that as another stinker was forecast for Friday we needed a reasonably early night. And we planned to loosely follow each other and hopefully catch up in Anglesea on Friday evening.

Friday 20 December 19 – Apollo Bay to Anglesea – 74km

We were up and out by just gone 6am to try to beat the heat that was forecast to blast down from the north in the afternoon. Adrian had some calls to make as so we left him behind and we got back onto the Great Ocean Road. Yesterday we’d been confined to the hills and spent much of our ride inland amongst the trees. Today, however, the road hugged the coast and followed all of the nooks and crannies of the cliffs and hills. As we were so early we had the road to ourselves and it was a truly beautiful ride…

….and literally around every corner there there was a fantastic view…

Once again however the pictures really don’t do any of this justice.

We got to Lorne, a lovely (bit posh!) village, where we decided to stop for a coffee and found the best cake deal yet! As if to prove that we are in fact in Devon and not in Australia at all we found a place that sells Devonshire Cream Teas (that’s how they were advertised) with a tea or coffee for $6.50, which is equivalent to £3.50, so it seemed rude not to have one! Nearly a proper cream tea although the cream wasn’t clotted but it still had a suitably large amount of calories and was very tasty! A smile of anticipation if ever I saw one…

A little later the scenery changed yet again, flatted our somewhat and the craggy rocks were replaced with long sandy beaches and surf waves. This was our spot for lunch number one…

…and then it was a fairly simple run into Anglesea, our end destination for the day.  The traffic definitely stepped up a notch on this last stretch but we’ve been been told that this is nothing compared to next week when all hell breaks loose as the residents of Melbourne descend on the beaches for the Christmas holidays!

To keep out of the heat we’d booked into a hostel and when we got there at midday it was ‘only’ about 30 degrees, so we wondered whether we should have camped. Our decision was correct however because at about 3pm the wind changed to a northerly one and the temperature went up over 40 degrees! We chilled out for the afternoon and kept out of the heat except to go to the shops and make as much us of the air-conditioning in the supermarket as possible!

We did meet Adrian again, but he had to keep going as he was off to see a sick friend – but I’m sure that we will see him again in the future.

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