We woke up cold inside the car, with every item I could think of draped across me to form a makeshift blanket: skirt, sarong, towel, scarf. After cooking sausages on the public beach BBQ, we were ready to get out of the windy town and on to Mount Gambier.
The info center was a haven of helpful little old ladies and copious amounts of wifi, which helped us plan the day. The Cave Garden was a tranquil sunken pit surrounded by flowers and small waterfalls smack dab in the middle of town center’s hustle and bustle. Next we hiked around Blue Lake, the towns primary water resource and the bluest lake I’ve ever seen. Our trail continued past the remnants of “Leg of Mutton” Lake and then Valley lake and uphill to Centenary Tower, giving us an incredible view of the lakes, the city, crops and fields, and even an inactive volcano. We met two Aussie high school girls on the trail, which gave us the opportunity to ask questions about their school system and they asked us if we saw celebrities all the time because we’re from America.
After our strenuous hike and some leftover sausages for lunch, I brought Byron to a bakery I researched earlier that had birthday cakes. He picked out a chocolate one (surprise, surprise) and we brought it to Umpherston Sinkhole to sing, blow out a candle, and enjoy some birthday cake. For his present, I gave him wine from our vineyard day and little pieces of paper saying 24 reasons why I love him (he told me not to get him anything until Asia where everything is cheap).
The sinkhole was naturally formed and some guy (Umpherston) in the early 1900s decided to turn it into a beautiful garden with palm trees, hanging ivy, peonies, and roses.
From there, we drove to Port Fairy, but we were well on Empty miles away. We knew we’d pass through Port McDonnell and assumed we’d be able to fill up there. Wrong. The only pumps there were circa 1960 and didn’t take our credit card. We had to drive on the the next town of Nelson past fields of hay and small farms and nothing else in sight, leading me to conjure up plans if we ran out along this empty road.
Luckily we made it to Nelson’s one gas station (which took our card) and we chugged along to Port Fairy just as the sun set and we were stuck finding a place to sleep. Again, everywhere had signs banning camping in your vehicle, and once a local told us the police were strict about it, we frantically tried calling the caravan parks advertised in our brochure at 9:30pm. Luckily, one picked up the phone and was happy to have us stay. Since it was a “no dramas” sort of place, we were told not to pay until morning, park in the back, and enjoy the hot showers.
After a breakfast of cheeseburgers and mango, we went to Griffith Island to walk on a trail past mutton birds, a light house, and rolling waves.
We finally started our journey on The Great Ocean Road, which brought us to the Port Campbell National Park. The park was home to incredible rock formations staggered along the ocean cliffs. The towers of limestone rock had once been part of the mainland, but had eroded away into different formations, each with individual names, like the London Bridge, The Grotto, Loch Ard Gorge, and the most famous of all, the Twelve Apostles (although there’s really only like five of them). The bright white rock, the calming green blue ocean and the fiery deep orange sand made for one impressive color palette. Even thought the Twelve Apostles is the most famous, I found the others to be even better due to the lack of oversized tour buses, aggressive selfie stick usage, and pushing to get the best view.
We continued on past identical looking seaside towns with shopping, cafes, and beaches, such as Apollo Bay and Lorne. The road followed the ocean for the most part, but also took us deep into jungle-esque scenery. Other than stopping at an ocean lookout at Split Point Lighthouse, we kept chugging along on the terrifyingly windy road, just feet from the cliff edge and the ocean below. Thank goodness for the oldies rock station we kept blasting from the radio to keep myself distracted from worrying about the twists and turns Byron was navigating. We hit our evening destination of Torquay, surfing capital and home to brands like Quick Silver and Rip Curl, and were greeted again by signs firmly staying camping wasn’t allowed. We drove in circles praying there was some place to stay, but the info center was closed, all the caravan parks were booked out, and our phones were about to die. Just as we were about to give up hope, a yoga instructor walked past us, setting up a sign for her class the following morning. We bombarded her with questions and she told us to drive a bit out of town and we’ll be fine. We took her advice and cheered when we found a tiny park without a single sign telling us not to camp there and made friends with some French travelers with the same idea. With a hearty dinner of leftover cheeseburgers and birthday cake, we slept for one last night in the car.
Jan. 7 – Road Trip Day Five: Melbourne
We felt like we’d seen enough of Torquay after walking along the main beach that morning and decided to continue driving along to Geelong. Geelong turned out to be just another city with waterfront, so we rushed through it and strolled the harbor for half an hour, eager to drive into Melbourne.
Before returning the car, we were required to get it fully cleaned, and pay top dollar for the quality hand wash they recommended. To save some moolah, we drove around (almost empty on gas and running out of time), until we found this run down Self Service wash, costing us a total of $3. It helped that it started pouring rain, saving us anther dollar or two on a rinse. Thank you, Mother Nature.
We scrubbed and vacuumed as best as we could, stressing over a smudge here or a scratch there, yet when we pulled up to the Wicked Camper lot, the dude glanced at the car for a second, and told us we were good to go. Figures.
That pouring rain that helped us out earlier was now drenching us as we tried to navigate the streets to our hostel, Pint on Punt. I am cheap (almost to a fault) and refuse to take taxis anywhere that I can walk or take public transportation. However, when Byron hailed a cab and dragged me inside, I reluctantly admitted it was a welcome relief from the downpour.
Our four person room was a bit of a squeeze, and relied on ventilation from a window above the constant traffic of the busy street. All this aside, it was so much better than sleeping in the back of a car, using park toilets and beach showers. We immediately did laundry and showered all of the camping grime away and ate one of the backpacker meals in the Irish pub below. After a healthy dose of wifi, we attempted to sleep through the wailing and screeching of Karaoke Night from the bar.