The White Queen Split Point Lighthouse at Aire.
The White Queen Split Point Lighthouse at Aire. Contributed

Travelling with Gramps

AUTHOR and theorist Henry David Thoreau once said: “The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready, and it may be a long time before they get off.”

I may have slightly altered this quote to suit my life some years ago, but the message stayed the same, and that is that you are in charge of your own destiny and if you wait around for other people to come with you on your travels, you may never get to where you want to go.

I have implemented this into my life, and on most occasions I have held true to this.

But when it came to The Great Ocean Road, that was a whole different kettle of fish.

I somehow convinced myself I couldn't do it alone.

Now I realise I was just being silly because if you have backpacked through Europe alone, driving along a coastal road in southern Australia would be a piece of cake.

I remember the moment I actually decided to do the trip: the thought of my mortality and the weathering of one of the natural wonders of the world became overwhelming and I finally booked in some time to drive the much-loved route.

For a long time, I had wanted to share the drive with someone.

My sister was top of the list, but she never travels.

My then-boyfriend was another option but that relationship didn't last.

But there was one family member whom I knew had already been there: my grandfather,

Darcy. He was happy to accompany me and show me a bit more of Oz.

It is quite expensive to stay in hotels/motels along the way, so we opted to stay in our caravan at spots along the coastal road.

The winding roads were not too bad to tow the van and it actually made the trip easier.

If you are too tired, you can just stop at one of the numerous caravan parks along the way.

There was that daunting feeling of being the youngest caravaner on the road but that was also part of the magic.

I was a young nomad, and I loved it.

The journey took us seven days from the Mornington Peninsula to Adelaide.

The Great Ocean Road is actually only from Torquay to Warrnambool (243km) but we wanted to start a little earlier and go a little further.

The sights to check out along the way are man and varied, depending on your taste.

Some of my favourites are: The 12 Apostles, The Grotto, Loch Ard Gorge, Bells Beach, Cape Otway, Apollo Bay, Otway National Park and London Arch.

Every part of the coastline is beautiful and I was in awe of everything I saw.

I nearly steered off the road at one point when I tried for a photo out the window.

That is one tip: pull over and take your pics, otherwise it can be very dangerous – as I learnt.

When it comes to photos, I was intent on snapping my own unique shots of all the popular attractions.

To some extent, that worked, but by the end of the trip, I realised that with the number of people who have taken photos of these natural wonders over the decades, my shots would not be that exclusive.

I did opt to take a helicopter ride over The 12 Apostles – well, seven of the 12 Apostles – to get a different perspective of them and some diverse shots.

I had saved up a little extra money to take the trip, and it was well worth splashing out on.

The pilot gave us commentary on the main sights and the ride was lots of fun.

The weather is very unpredictable on The Great Ocean Road to say the least, so a cruisey and relaxing drive along the coastal road is unlikely if you are looking to get photos with sunshine.

I felt like we were constantly chasing the blue sky: trying to get to The 12 Apostles before the rain started, walking down to Loch Ard Gorge without getting a wet tail, and taking the helicopter trip in good weather.

Cape Otway was also one of my favourite places.

I had never been up in a lighthouse before, and the experience was amazing.

I started singing the theme song from Round the Twist while I was up there.

My grandad looked at me strangely but, funnily enough, a girl and guy who were my age heard me and joined in. Lighthouse karaoke – another highlight for my trip.

While driving back from the Cape, we stopped in Otway National Park when we noticed lots of people out of their vehicles looking up at the treetops.

I had never seen a koala in the wild before.

I took about 50 photos of them.

Our touristy commotion actually woke a few of them up and they gave us a bit of a show, jumping from tree to tree and shimmying down the trunk to check out what was happening.

Koalas are quite inquisitive when they want to be and oh, so cute.

I held one at Currumbin Sanctuary on the Gold Coast once and that was an incredible experience.

The rainforest was a nice distraction from the plunging cliffs and blue water, but the coast is where it is at.

I much prefer the beach over the bush.

Affectionately known as shipwreck coast, The Great Ocean Road offers visitors stunning views, quirky townships and lovely people.

I look back on my trip fondly and I feel blessed to have shared so many amazing experiences with my Gramps.

 

THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

More than 3000 servicemen worked on its construction between 1919 and 1932

The road is the world's largest war memorial, dedicated to casualties of the First World War

Last year, more than 7.5million visitors from Victoria, interstate and overseas experienced The Great Ocean Road's stunning natural beauty.

 

The road was added to the Australian National Heritage List in 2011.

Other National Heritage listings:

Bondi Beach

Great Barrier Reef

Fraser Island

Kakadu National Park

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Tasmanian Wilderness

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park

Shark Bay, Western Australia

Macquarie Island, Tasmania

Old Parliament House and Curtilage, ACT

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