My Stage is the World

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive

Stalkers, songs and shipwrecks

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Just our luck

After a proper breakfast of egg sandwiches, we made lunch and set off (with only a little bit of help packing away our tent).

The morning was devoted to scenery – spectacular rock formations including the Arch and London Bridge… Which has fallen down and is no longer a walkway, but an island. When the adjoining pat of Rock fell in the 90s two tourists were left stranded and had to be rescued by helicopter. I couldn’t help feeling that was the sort of thing that would happen to me and Miss H. How long would our luck hold out?

Passing by the shipwreck coast that had destroyed perhaps more than 600 ships, we saw the Bay of Islands , including the Bay of Martyrs which had a beautiful beach, but was covered in sand flies.

After that we drove all the way to Warrnambool, singing along to summery songs and just enjoying the view, which continued to be amazing, even after we headed inland (more 25kmh bends for me).

Our next campsite was a hostel that had grass available for tents, plus free tea and coffee and a bar – hurrah! I’d barely touched coffee since being in Australia, but I managed a few sips before giving up and ordering a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc which was a steal at $3.50.

By lantern light

After dinner we grabbed a jumper and headed into town for Shipwrecked! – a laser show in the historic Flagstaff Hill maritime village. On the way we had another ice-cream (Champagnums yay) and posed on the cannons. Two lads got out of their car and offered to take a photo of both of us. Too kind… As they then proceeded to chat us up (badly) and invite us to the pub. They were quite inquisitive, but we thought nothing of it, said our goodbyes and headed off to the visitor centre for our nighttime tour of this historic village.

Lantern in hand we followed our guide through the dark, deserted village past the nineteenth century church and shops and shivering with anticipation. The history of British emigrants was a tragic one and by the time we got to the theatre we were quite excited.

The show was a series of photographs and interviews projected onto the water, told from the perspective of the captain, a passenger and a seaman. Those on board had to endure the heat of the Tropics, the icy blast of from the Antarctic, plus seasickness and bad food. It was a perilous journey through the ‘eye of the needle’ to land safely in Victoria.

Sadly this voyage was unsuccessful and only two survived – the seaman and one passenger. They were swept to sea and caught the current through the eye. Thomas found Ethel and rescued her, before climbing the cliff with his bare hands and getting help. Everyone else perished, except for a giant statue of a peacock…

Slightly wet from the spray of the ‘sea’ that attacked out boat we continued on foot with our lanterns, past the pigs and back to the shop (where we bought a Great Ocean Road T-shirt).

As we walked back to our campsite, a voice called out “How was the laser show?” Yup, it was the two boys, waiting for us outside the shop where we’d bought our ice-creams. Creepy!

Declining their kind offer to go to Breakwater, we carried on with their car following us briefly before giving up. Several other cars made comments, but we ignored them and went to bed.

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I like driving in my car

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Fill my little car right up

Up bright and early (although I still missed breakfast), we walked back to South Central Station, via a Hungry Jacks for a frozen raspberry Fanta ($1), and after topping up our Myki cards, boarded the train for Kensington.

With Google Maps as our guide and a LOT of luggage between us, we confidently strode off down the road, realising after 15 minutes that once again we were going the wrong way. Typical. Turning around, we eventually rocked up at Wicked Campers to pick up our little yellow Holden Spark, complete with roof tent.

Sitting behind the wheel for the first time in just over two years was a little daunting, but I took it all in my stride and set off… Realising five minutes later that “there’s not much petrol, you’ll need to fill up soon” meant “the tank is empty”. After ten minutes of quite stressful driving, we managed to fill the car up and set the SatNav for the Great Ocean Road!

On the road

Thankfully Australians drive on the left (something they remind you of constantly), so once we got onto the highway, I was absolutely fine driving, although struggling not to speed (it’s too easy). In just over an hour, we were approaching Torquay Visitor’s Centre, so I parked (perfectly) and we got our bearings.

List of campsites, leaflets and a week’s worth of food in tow, it was Miss H’s turn to drive… For 20km, until I made her swap back to me. It’s just a small issue, but she couldn’t change gear and we were at the top of the hill on a very busy road (speed limit 100 kmh), with lots of cars behind us – slightly terrifying.

Back behind the wheel, I had to be aware of the sudden ‘viewpoint on your left’ signs or we’d have missed them. We almost missed the Memorial Arch, but I managed to swing the car into the car park at the last minute. Perfectly legally… Ahem.

Our cameras were constantly in use as we stopped off at as many (interesting) points as we could. In fact, we’d only just passed Lorne when we realised it was almost 6pm and we needed to find a campsite. This we did after another less than legitimate right turn off the highway.

The campsite wasn’t the cheapest, but it was possibly the most beautiful. Just beyond the sea, the Cumberland River ran into the campsite to form a water hole that was framed by huge hills either side. The showers used rainwater and there were trees and bushes everywhere, plus woods and a private beach. It was peaceful and friendly and full of Australians.

Everybody loves Raymond

We parked up and set about putting up the tent: “You just take the cover off, pull the ladder out and boom. Mattress etc is in there. Have fun.” wasn’t quite accurate…

After ten minutes of giggling and struggling, watched by amused Aussies, about twelve of them came over to help us. The men scratched their heads and pulled bits and pieces, whilst the women who also came over offered helpful advice. The children just looked stunned. I helpfully took photos.

Eventually though, he was up! But there was no bedding and no tent pegs. We did have several poles though that were completely useless. Back to the office I went to beg some bedding and some kind man lent us two tent pegs so – finally – we were all set up.

We were the talk of the campsite! Everyone was coming over, taking photos and asking questions – they all loved it! Most people had been coming to this campsite each year for decades and now brought their own families. They made the area sound so lovely that we decided to stay a second night to explore.

Feeling more outdoorsy now, we got out our stove, ready for our packet pasta (with tinned chicken and veg) and it was all going well (once a nice man turned it on for us), until it ran out of gas. Apparently “you’ve got loads of gas” means “you’ve got no gas”. Luckily the nice couple next door overheard our cursing and gave us a gas canister, also inviting us to fire sit for them while they looked around.

Obviously fire sitting led to a nice evening with them, drinking (their) beer and roasting (our) marshmallows. We even found a use for the redundant tent poles – toasting forks!

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