Monday, 20 February 2012

Port Campbell to Warnnambool (and back again)

With a population of approx. 400 people there is literally nothing in Port Campbell apart from a two petrol stations, a pub, a couple of restaurants and a food shop, so we decided to start the day off by revisiting a few sites along the most photographed stretch of the Great Ocean Road.

Starting off at the Gibson Steps, we walked down to Gibson Beach as this is the only place along the stretch of Port Campbell National Park where the beach is accessible to the public. From here we could see two of the Twelve Apostles at sea level and walk along the beach where the tide would allow us. Strong currents and undertows make this a dangerous area if you get stranded by high tides, so you have to be a bit careful about how far you walk. The Gibson Steps were originally cut into the cliffs by hand by local landowner Hugh Gibson in the 19th Century but have been replaced more recently with concrete steps.

Gibson Beach looking east

This photo doesn't give a sense of scale, but these rocks are huge!

Jumping back into the car we drove approx 0.1km down the road (according the road sign) back to the Twelve Apostles to reshoot a couple of the eroded cliffs while the sun was in a better position and then drove a little further onto Loch Ard Gorge.

The Twelve Apostles at their best

This is the site of a famous ship wreck, the Lord Ard, on what is considered a notoriously treacherous stretch of coast (as demonstrated by the number of shipwrecks - over 80 in a span of 40 years). There were only two survivors of the wreck, Eva Carmichael and Tom Pearce (who resecued Eva). Maybe this could explain the Carmichael St connection from earlier? The gorge itself was impressive and it was easy to see how the Loch Ard ran into trouble off Muttonbird Island with strong waves crashing against the rocks, but the water within the bay looking so inviting and serene.

The archway by Muttonbird Island

The entrance into Loch Ard Gorge

The two rocks used to be an arch but are now know as "Tom" and "Eva"

Continuing west along the Great Ocean Road we passed some more limestone formations including the Grotto and London Bridge, named after its British counterpart for once being a double span arch. However, London Bridge had quite literally fallen down as one of the arches collapsed under its own weight on 15th January 1990 where the sea has continually eroded it. Apparently no one was hurt, but two people were left stranded on other arch and had to be rescued by helicopter. It is expected that the second arch will eventually do the same to form structures similar to the Twelve Apostles.

London Bridge

Looking down into the Grotto

The plan for the day was to drive over to Warnnambool and check out the Tower Hill Reserve. The drive took about an hour and we passed through the last town on the Great Ocean Road, Nullawarre - although it's so remote there's nothing to see there. Warnnambool is the first major town after the Great Ocean Road.

The Tower Hill Reserve is an extinct volcano 15km west of Warnnambool, which is believed to have erupted about 30,000 years ago. In the late 1950s Tower Hill underwent a re-vegetation project to restore the environment to the state it had been before European settlers moved into the area. Today it's one of a few places where you can spot wild emus, kangaroos and koalas all in the same place.

View into the reserve from Koroit lookout

View of the Tower Hill volcano

Arriving in the reserve, we settled down for lunch with some emus nearby in the picnic area but before long someone pointed out that there was a (unusually active) koala walking on ground to move to another tree. Whilst watching this rare behaviour an emu sneaked up on Lizzie and ate one of her sandwiches! There wasn't much she could do about it but she was quite upset as she was really enjoying her sarnies.

Before we started our walk round the Lava Tongue Boardwalk we saw our first huntsmen spider of Australia on one of the trees where I was taking pictures of koalas. I think we've been generally lucky not to see one up until this point, however, it did make me feel a little uncomfortable (being a bit of an arachnophobe) but I was glad to see it outside and not in a confined space.

The koala...

...and the Huntsmen Spider, apparently they get bigger than this!

Never turn your back on an emu, they're crafty pickpockets

To finish off the day we drove all the way back to the Twelve Apostles for a third time (via stop-offs at the Bay of Islands and The Arch), to get a shot of the limestone formations during the golden hour before and after sunset.

The Bay of Islands is a well kept secret

The Arch

The Twelve Apostles bathed in the light of a glorious sunset

High tide at Gibsons Beach

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