16 – 28 December 2013 – We rested another two days in Melbourne before we left for the Great Ocean Road, described as one of the most scenic and spectacular coastal roads in the world. We left on a perfect day, sunny, not too hot, not too much wind and cycled on great bike paths first through the city, then along beaches and later through wetlands. That night we camped on a football field as the nearby campsites were too expensive. We were unfortunately riding during high season and some campsites would charge as much as $75 for an unpowered site. Too much for two touring cyclists, the maximum we were willing to spend was $35. The next day would become the hottest for us in Australia, at 10am the temperature was at 30 degrees, an hour later at 40! On top a hot wind was blowing and we were told this desert wind can get as warm as 45 degrees. The heat almost killed us and we had to take a long lunch break to recover a little. That day we didn’t make it to the coast, we were too exhausted and stayed at Geelong, looking forward to a sunny beach day. But as always things didn’t develop as expected and the next day wasn’t really nice anymore. The temperature dropped by 20 degrees and later the rain was back. Same the next day, on our rest day. The minute we mounted our bikes to ride the coastal bike path the drops started falling and we returned to the warmth of our campsite’s kitchen.
Weatherwise we weren’t luckier the following days but we still enjoyed pretty views and cycling was great with the ocean to the left and mountains to the right. Despite the holiday season traffic wasn’t too bad. As soon as the weather improved we started suffering from bush flies: these little devils sit everywhere, preferably on our glasses, mouths, in our noses, ears and on our food. Bush flies are a pest and more irritating than the wind or the rain.
By then we also couldn’t hear people’s remarks anymore. Everybody would tell us that usually the weather is much better this time of the year or the flies just started coming out, there haven’t been flies for weeks. Of course everything is so different when we are there. We just don’t believe it anymore and think that the weather ups and downs are just normal in this part of Australia. And we’ve heard about the flies from other cyclists.
During our ride along the coast we stayed at a lot of free campsites along the road with no facilities and were looking forward to a real shower and possibilities to wash our clothes. One night – we stayed at a free bush campsite – I woke up from strange grunting noises getting closer and closer to our tent. As I was afraid that it might be wild boars (even though I didn’t even believe they were existing in this part of the world) I woke Johan who didn’t hear anything, rolled over and continued sleeping. I stayed awake for most of the night as these sounds really scared me. A few days later we learned that I heard Koalas!
The longer we cycled the more spectacular the scenery would become. We mostly cycled on moderately undulating roads, sometimes at sea level and sometimes 100m above the sea. We also had to overcome 2 long and steep hills that really pissed us off. The first part we rode after an early dinner, as we expected a pretty easy ride. It wasn’t and the only reward was that we spotted our first koalas and camped at a great free campsite with more koalas the next morning. The price was more rain, low temperatures, tough cycling with even walking our bikes up on an unsealed road and once more no showers.
We once more survived and after breakfast and a hot cup of coffee served by our nice German neighbours continued smelly to tackle the second nasty hill. Another 15km uphill, again very steep, again mainly through boring forest, again of course against a strong wind and again bothered by pesty bush flies. Even after the top of the hill at 490m (I know, it’s ridiculous once more) we were waiting for more than an hour for a real long downhill. But the road would just continue up and down and for the first time on this trip I almost hated cycling. Seriously. But someone must have felt pity for us as later that day the sky cleared up, we found nice and peaceful Princetown with a nice, peaceful and affordable campsite, a pub and a little grocery shop with everything we needed for the coming days. We had a few bottles of cider to celebrate Christmas and to enjoy our luck a bit more. We rested the next day and only went for a nice and scenic walk along the beach. In the afternoon we met Berti and Berend, two Dutch cyclists in their early 60’s and spent the rest of the day chatting with them. They were heading to New Zealand as well and we are hoping to meet them there again!
And then we continued along the most spectacular and magnificent part of the coast: the Twelve Apostles. We stopped every few hundred meters to take pictures and to admire the beautiful coastline. We didn’t make much progress that morning and cycled most of the distance in the afternoon. It was getting late, our stomachs began to complain when a man stopped next to Johan to ask him if we already had a place to stay. We didn’t and he invited us to pitch our tent in his garden. As we hadn’t done our grocery shopping yet he also invited us for dinner. We spent a nice evening with his family and left the next morning with a few tins of food and 12 of his chickens’ eggs. Once more we’ve been blessed with the friendliness of complete strangers.
We rested a few days at Warrnambool before we embarked on our next Australian adventure, the Grampian National Park and the Goldfields.
18 December, Melbourne – Werribee, 61km
19 December, Werribee – Geelong, 65km
20 December, Geelong – Torquay, 31km
21 December – restday
22 December, Torquay – Jamieson Creek, 60km
23 December, Jamieson Creek – Glenaire, 64km
24 December, Glenaire – Princetown, 54km
25 December – restday
26 December, Princetown – Allansford, 83km
27 December, Allansford – Warrnambool, 20km
28 December – restday, 5km
Total distances cycled: 19,459km of which 1,709km in Australia