After a few days enjoying Melbourne, we hopped in our rental (look right! look right!) and headed out to drive the Great Ocean Road. This 151-mile stretch of rolling macadam from Torquay to Allansford is the world’s largest war memorial, dedicated to soldiers killed in World War I and built by Australian troops who had survived that bloody conflict. Of all the allied forces in Europe, Australia suffered the highest percentage of casualties.
People had warned us that because we had a similar drive along Highway 1 in California that the views there wouldn’t be much of a surprise. Boy, were they wrong! First, driving on the left side of the road made us both much more alert than we probably would have been at home, so we were able to take in so many more sights we might have otherwise ignored. But the real difference was the colors, which were so much more vibrant and alluring than most of what we see here in the states. The Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean roll through the spectrum like they own it. I could not recall having ever seen brighter greens or deeper blues. The following photos just don’t do justice to the scenery we enjoyed. We ended our exciting, albeit demanding, drive in the small city of Warnambool, with a hearty meal in a local diner, and some rule-bending off-premises wine sales by the owner. The fabled Australian hospitality just kept getting better and better.
From Warnambool we headed out of town for a morning hike in the Tower Hill Game Preserve, where we met koalas, emus, fairy wrens, and members of the local Aborigine tribe who help operate the park. And sheep. Lots of sheep. Everywhere you look in this part of Australia there are sheep by the thousands filling the grass-covered hills. From Tower Hill we took a drive north into The Grampians National Park, where folks at the game preserve had assured us we would see many kangaroo in the wild. We saw a number of wallabies and echidnas, but the only kangaroos we saw were on the road signs. And, unfortunately, lying dead alongside the road, victims of collisions with the cars and trucks that race along the largely empty park. Despite our lack of live ‘roo, the drive to, through, and away from the park was rewarding. Not bad for a bit of serendipity. Leaving Warnambool we had taken the Grampians off the list as too out of the way. Apparently not. We finished the day in Ballarat, a post-card pretty town built during the mining rush of the mid-19th century.
**Click on individual photos for full-size image