Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Great Ocean Road and Grampians

Over a period of an hour and a half, we loaded a small bus full of passengers from around the world. I use "we" liberally - I was the first pick-up and, as such, I sat near the front and conversed with the driver / guide. After everyone was aboard, we set out on an absolutely delightful drive from Melbourne to Adelaide.

I'll be honest: I'm not sure what to include in this entry. The trip deserves its own entry for the sights we saw, the friends I made, and the general whole of the trip, but I'm struggling to write more than "we went to a sight, we were amazed, then we went to another sight and were amazed again" for a dozen or so stops.

You can look up nice, professional photos of the Great Ocean Road (see: Twelve Apostles) and the Grampians. You can click here for my photos. Really, just like with most natural phenomena (e.g. the Grand Canyon), you "have to be there". That all said, here are a few small highlights:
Halfway along the GOR we stopped at some village to look and see how pretty everything was (and for a bathroom with running water). Our guide mentioned that sometimes there were these huge stingrays that swam under the town's pier. Most folks took a quick look, but no one saw anything. Walking back to the bus, I saw a shadow in the water. I asked the guide what a stingray might look like and we had a little back and forth, deciding I probably just saw some seaweed drifting around in the somewhat murky water.

Well, you know where this is going - I stopped, waited for a minute, and watched. Sure enough, I'd seen a stingray, as it emerged for a moment from the seaweed and murky water into a clear patch. After that, about half the bus came and hung out over the edges of the pier trying to get a glimpse of the thing for the next 5-10 minutes - to their great reward. The stingray, measuring a good two yards in width, kept swimming in and out of visible areas and turned the lot of us into schoolkids excitedly watching for its every appearance. It was a little magical (and had me staring out the bus window for hours, hoping to see a whale, since I'd already seen one thing we didn't expect in the water).

Later on, after it got dark out and after we'd seen a little joey (baby kangaroo) try to hang out with us on the bus, we hit a little snag: the bus had some mechanical issue. It was something about having to clean filters and get the engine hot or something - so we had to stop in the middle of nowhere and let the bus do its thing. A bunch of us piled out of the bus and wandered a bit down a small dirt road where we just looked up. I've never seen so many stars. I certainly have never seen the Milky Way as an adult. I could have stayed and stared upward for an hour, but the bus eventually righted itself and we made our way to our lodging for the night.

The next day we wound our way up a mountain to look out over a great expanse of Australia. I don't really have words to describe the view. It was religious. Again, I could have spent an hour or so staring and contemplating - I don't know if the area was a spiritual area for Aboriginal people, but I could easily see a person climb up to that same spot a thousand years ago to absorb the magnitude of the world. It was absolutely breathtaking. There's nothing I can or could do to capture it.

There are other highlights and lowlights, certainly. From getting to know all the various passengers and all the other sights that captured us in different ways to running over wallabies and the ass-ache of two days on a bus, I have a bunch of small stories. Maybe I'll tell you over a beer someday. All in all, the trip was one I'd recommend to anyone if ever they find themselves in this part of the world.

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