Great Ocean Walk-Australia
This blog post will mostly be an opportunity for us to share photos of another beautiful multi-day trek we completed. This one is in Australia.
The Great Ocean Walk, along Australia's southern coast, south of Melbourne, is one of the iconic multi-day treks in this country. This was one of the experiences we had planned long in advance and we were very much looking forward to it. When the time came to actually embark on this six day hike, we couldn’t believe it was actually time to do it.
We organized with a trekking company that we would stay in the same accommodation in Apollo Bay the entire week and each morning we would be picked up by the shuttle bus, driven to the starting place of the trek, and each afternoon we would be picked up by a shuttle bus and taken back to our accommodations, which was a very comfortable Airbnb cottage. Then the next day we would be dropped off at the place where we stopped the day before.
We were a bit unnerved by the track notes, which are details of what we would encounter during each day's hike. They were filled with warnings about high tides, poisonous and deadly snakes, high winds, and lack of potable drinking water. But we realized that if this hike was too much for us one day, we could choose to just rest the next day. This “out” gave us the courage and confidence we needed to embark on the first day’s journey, which consisted of only eight easy kilometers. It was a short, leisurely walk through a bit of forest and along the coast and we realized that we had the ability to actually put one foot in front of the other and do this thing. Now we were set to go!
Sunday Day 1, 8 km Shelly Beach to Apollo Bay
For this first day, the shuttle bus actually drove us out the few k’s to the beginning of the track, and then we walked back into town.
We were accompanied on the bus by two other couples; one around our age, and one couple even older than we were. The couple that was around our age, known from here on out as Greg and Jan, or G and J, were doing the exact trip we were doing, while the other couple was doing a modified route.
That first day, as we emerged from the forest, we walked through a camper van holiday park, and proceeded onto the tarmac trail that led back into Apollo Bay. As we were walking, we met a woman who commented on the rainy and windy weather that had occurred the night before. She had actually lost her tent in the wind, and had to sleep in someone else’s camper van when her tent blew away. She was unable to locate her tent the next day and so she was on her way to town to see if she could find another tent for the rest of her journey. YIKES!
While we were chatting with this lady, G and J walked by and we ended up walking and talking with them the last half hour of the day’s hike. And that’s how the rest of the days went with this lovely couple. We were let out of the van each morning, walked at our own pace, sometimes connecting with them during the day, several days stopping together for lunch, and then moving on separately, and then reconnecting during the last kilometer or so of the day’s hike. They are an absolutely lovely couple, and we loved getting to know them and having them as travel companions.
Monday Day 2, 18 km Shelly Beach to Parker Hill Campground
The first big day of the hike. Koala day. The track notes instructed us to keep our eyes open and look up to the tops of the very tall eucalyptus trees and we might be rewarded with a koala sighting. So I did. I walked with my neck craned back, searching the limbs of the tree for something that might look like a koala. After only a little while on the track, I was rewarded by my very first koala sighting. Do you see it there with its cute ears in silhouette?
To say I was excited would be somewhat of an understatement. I mean, I had only seen koalas in the Cleveland zoo, and they were generally sleeping. This koala, although way up high in the tree, was wide awake, and was peering down at us. I was awestruck! We stood there for a while, watching the koala watching us. We saw another koala in a tree that day, and we thought those were some good sightings for the day.
But, then, later in the day, I spotted one more koala in a tree, and Jay moved in to photograph it. I circled around the tree to get a better viewing angle, and ended up looking behind Jay, up the path from the direction we had just walked.
And then I saw it. A koala walking behind Jay on the ground across the path. I gesticulated wildly to Jay for him to look behind him. He pivoted to look, and saw the back side of the koala on the path. We race-walked to where the koala had left the path, and were lucky to get some video of him walking towards the trees. Jay followed it and got some amazing close up shots of the animal.
The poor thing had a great deal of trouble climbing the tree, and so Jay had time to take a video of it. It was pretty spectacular!
For the rest of that day we walked through some amazing forests.
We saw a dead penguin (yes, a penguin) on the beach. We also saw some of the most beautiful butterflies we’d ever seen in our lives.
It was a full day of animal sightings and we were very excited about it. After a long, but exhilarating day, we reached the shuttle bus pick-up point successfully. We were happy to be on the bus, driving back to Apollo Bay, as we were quite tired from the walk.
On the drive back, the traffic came to a halt and we found out that a tree had come down on the road. I said it was windy. People got out of their cars and were just hanging out waiting for some random person to show up with a chainsaw. Apparently in this part of Australia, people drive around with chainsaws in their cars.
We were very lucky that the shuttle bus company’s second van was on its way to pick up another party and was stuck on the other side of the tree on the other side of the road. The driver knew we were there somewhere on the road and so he got out of his car, walked up to and over the felled tree and reached our van. After a very short discussion, we got out of our van and followed him down the road, making our way over the branches and trunk of the downed tree.
As we got closer to the other van, a young man walked by with a chainsaw. He just happened to have one in his truck (true story) and so was going to get started cutting up the gigantic tree.
We got into our van, which then turned around and drove us back to Apollo Bay.
Tuesday Day 3, 16.5 km Parker Hill Campground to Aire River
Day 3 consisted of walking through fields and along the beautiful coastal line. It started out so windy that we thought they would cancel the walk for the day. But they didn't. So we put on our wind gear and started on our way.
The coast was stunning. It is hard to describe how overwhelmingly beautiful it was.
It was also snake and echidna day. The snake was just on the side of the road and I took a picture of it. When I later showed it to Greg, he said it was a brown snake, which is highly poisonous. Good thing I came out of that encounter alive.
And what’s an echidna, you ask? I had never even heard of it before. It’s a member of the monotreme family, related to the platypus. It's a mammal, it nurses its young, but it lays eggs. The echidna and the platypus are the only animals to do this. It was very exciting to see.
We also saw some gorgeous birds, including rosella parrots. We took some photos but they were too far away and the pictures didn't come out very good.
On this day, we visited the Otway light house.
It was SO windy there and we were very relieved to have our wind gear.
It was very interesting to learn about the history of the lighthouse and how people lived there and what their lives were like. This used to be a very isolated part of Australia and it was a hard life being the caretaker of the lighthouse.
And of course there were more unbelievably gorgeous views. Again, it's hard to explain how amazing it was and the photos really don't do it justice. But here's one attempt:
At one point on this day, we had to take our shoes off and wade across a river. It was only a LITTLE cold! This is what it looked like where the river emptied into the ocean:
We then walked along the trail, along the stunningly beautiful river,
until we came to a bridge, snapped a photo of the four of us,
and then walked to the shuttle bus point. It had been an unbelievably fantastic day.
Wednesday Day 4, 20 km Aire River to Milanesia Gate
More stunning views.
A fantastic, long walk on the beach:
Breathtaking rock formations:
Getting splashed unexpectedly by a rogue wave:
And plenty of beautiful birds.
Day 4 was a success!
Thursday Day 5, 18 km Milanesia Gate to The Gables
This day we mostly walked along the ridge of the coast, with views overlooking the beach, as well as grassland and forest. One thing we noticed is that as the days progressed, we took less photos. There were just so many stunning views, but we had already photographed them.
This day was the least eventful of our trek. One highlight of the day was the place we stopped for lunch, which was a rocky ledge overlooking the ocean. Besides having to be vigilant for spiders and snakes while eating, it was a perfect spot.
And we didn’t connect with G and J that day at all. As J said, we were just not in synch that day.
Friday Day 6, 19.5 km The Gables to Wreck Beach to Twelve Apostles
It was our last day of walking. We had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, we were definitely getting a bit tired, but on the other, this walk had been so spectacular, way easier than we had imagined it would be, and the lifestyle of walking each day and discovering new views and areas of this country was so wonderful. For the day's track, we were again posed with the choice of walking the high or low path, and again, based on the tide, decided to walk via the beach track.
We were pretty happy we chose this route.
One of the features of this walk was Shipwreck Beach, named for the several ships that had wrecked on the rocks and some shipwreck remnants, including these anchors, were left.
We could now see the Twelve Apostles in the far distance, so we knew we were almost there, but this was the warmest day and we were walking in the open, with no shade, so we were very hot and it felt like we were walking forever.
But, as always happens when you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you get to the end.
And here it was, the famous Twelve Apostles. We had to wrestle with bus loads of tourists to find a place along the railing to actually see the natural phenomenon. But we felt that we had worked hard to get this view while they had just pulled up in a tourist bus. So we were determined to take our five seconds to get the shot. Also, we learned that there are now only eight Apostles standing, as four had fallen into the ocean.
Once we saw the 12 Apostles, we realized that while it was beautiful, the other places we had encountered during this trek had been way more stunning, and the bus tourists would never see them. SO we felt a bit of exclusivity for having completed this amazing hike.
We ended the day and the hike with this photo,
got back onto the shuttle bus, and returned to Apollo Bay, tired and hot, but absolutely invigorated.
That evening we celebrated with drinks and snacks on the Apollo Bay beach with our new friends, until G confessed that he hated eating on the beach. Ha! So we moved the party over to our apartment, and had a lovely time.
We then said our goodbyes to our new friends, and the next morning we were on our way to Tasmania for our fourth workaway adventure, which you can read about here.