Despite plenty of talk regarding the inevitable finality from the past couple of days I woke up this morning really looking forward to the ride ahead from Mount Gambier to Lorne. Why? Because today is going to be when I get to hit one of Australia motorcycle riders most coveted bit of tarmac - The Great Ocean Road. But before I was able to get to the Great Ocean Road I first had to get out of Mount Gambier and not without first visiting the Blue Lake.
The Blue Lake in Mount Gambier sits in the mount of an extinct volcano and has been the town’s primary water source since 1884. But that’s not what is so interesting about this 36,000 million litre body of water. As the name suggests you could be forgiven for expecting the water to be blue. Apparently the Blue Lake changes colour in early November and it will last through to around March before it fades and the grey winter appearance is resumed. Very lucky for us its transformation was well underway and the water did indeed look blue. The overcast sky in the morning prevented a decent photo capturing the colour of the lake, but take it from me it was quite striking. I’ll also mention the tap water in Mount Gambier is the best I have tasted on this entire trip.
Having spent enough time dallying around the Blue Lake it was time to get going into the green countryside. Small towns are sprinkled along the road every 20 or so kilometres now so there was plenty of choice for pulling over and having a break. I stopped for lunch in Port Fairy with David Cook and found it to be such a picturesque spot that I’ll have to remember to come back to if I come back to this area again. Who am I kidding, of course I’ll be back. Having had lunch I was now starting to wonder where exactly is the Great Ocean Road?
Turns out the Great Ocean Road starts just after Warrnambool and runs to Torquay. It begins inland for a short while until we finally rounded a bend and there the ocean was, with the first lookout was up for grabs moments later. If you’re going to do the Great Ocean Road and really appreciate the many, many, manylookouts dotted along the way I would highly recommend allowing a full day. While the road itself is only 250kms long there is a lot to see if you choose to do so. With Cookie following I kept pulling off the road at every opportunity, the rugged coastline (to use a cliche) was so interesting and the limestone cliffs had so many colours and shapes.
It wasn’t long after Peterborough that we finally found the 12 Apostles. There’s a tourist information centre on the left hand side (inland side) of the road and we walked the short path that went under the road and out to the 12 Apostles themselves. I should point out here that there’s actually just seven apostles left. In September of 2009 another of the Apostles crumbled and fell into the ocean. North from the lookout it is possible to see just a small pile of rubble where one of the Apostles once stood. The 12 Apostles were formed as the softer limestone in the cliffs was worn away leaving the Apostles out to sea, but over time it appears they are all destined to disappear. A group of Around Australia Ride motorcyclists had earlier been through with Stuart and Emily up in a helicopter taking footage. Speaking of helicopters I’ll mention that not only was the tourist area around the 12 Apostles just packed, but there were four or five sight seeing helicopters running in a racetrack formation overhead. The constant drone of these helicopters did take away from the experience somewhat but having had a ride myself above Katherine Gorge I’m sure it’s a fantastic view.
Now at this point I have to fess up to something. From a motorcyclist’s point of view the Great Ocean Road was so far quite, well, boring. Sure the scenery was great and the road was in reasonably good condition, and there were gentle sweepers here and there, but I have been on far more interesting and exciting roads than this to get the heart pumping - so what’s the big deal? Well unbeknown to me at the time, if you’re coming in from the north then it is around 20kms after the 12 Apostles that the road finally gets exciting, except it has gone inland. So now I was on some great amazing twisties surrounded by trees and forest, and running the Yamaha Road Star hell for leather. This is a motorcyclist’s road, this is what it’s about, this is what it means to have fun! That is until the rain started and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees – seems I can’t win a trick. It’s also due to the rain why my photos basically came to an end when the camera got buried in the bags again. Getting myself from the 12 Apostles to Apollo Bay was a mix of hard and fast running on grippy tarmac, and slow cold pussyfooting on slippery wet stuff. If not for the conditions I would have had a ball the entire way, although the best was yet to come.
Pulling into Apollo Bay I was cold, wet and getting quite tired. Getting here from the Apostles was only around 90kms but it would have taken me close to two hours due to the tightness of the road and the bad weather. I stopped for a hot chocolate and had a chat to a local who was admiring my bike, until he found out it wasn’t the Harley Davidson he thought it was. Not for the first time I had someone telling me if they had known about the Around Australia Ride they would have been on it for sure with their Harley. Apparently his was a 2002 model, he doesn’t get out on it much and it only has about 12,000kms on it. How long has the trip been, he asked. About 14,000kms to this point, I said. Oh, he said. Well how many k’s has your bike done, he asked. Well it turned 100,000kms in Perth a couple of weeks ago, I said. Oh, he said. Oh.
Heading out of Apollo Bay towards Lorne I saw it was only another 44 kilometres up the road, but that guy had also said it would take me about 45 minutes to get there. I soon found out why. Yet again I was in sharp tight twisties like I had been experiencing earlier through the forests, except this time I was right next to the water. And I don’t mean high on a bluff seeing the water, I mean it was right there, so close that if I misjudged a turn I would be swimming. As it happened I picked up Craig “Banno” Banning on this last leg and we burned through that road as though the hounds from hell were hot on our tails. A couple of times we were held up by traffic despite the “pull over for faster vehicles” signs dotted along the way. Overtaking opportunities were few and far between and most corners where signposted at no more than 50kph, but Banno was well impressed by the note of my Road Star when I would knock it back a couple to slam the throttle wide open to take over some less-than-courteous drivers. Nothing says get the f… out of my way quite like 110db of V-Twin fury can. On this last stage the weather held off and the road had dried enough for us to have some real fun. Banno lamented the fact that his helmet cam had run out of battery power earlier in the day as he stayed close to my rear. The forests and this magic by the sea is what the Great Ocean Road is about for motorcyclists. I was really glad we came in from the north so we could end the day on a high.
Dusk was approaching as we got into Lorne, a just gorgeous seaside town/village. After getting sent on a wild goose chase for accommodation we finally checked in to a wonderful three bedroom apartment that had views across the water. Turns out I was sharing with Banno and Adam, although Adam who had arrived a couple of hours earlier was out to it as his broken ribs were causing him an incredible amount of discomfort and he had taken some heavy pain killers. There’s only two more days to go to get to Thredbo, it would be so cruel for him to pull out now, I really hope he makes it.
Wow, two days to go. The end is almost here. This is getting quite difficult to handle.