The Piglet Highway

‘Pack up the kids. We’re off to see the Sow and Piglets!’

What? You haven’t heard of the Sow and Piglets, those iconic rocky ocean sentinels standing guard along the Great Ocean Road. Thousands flock to see them every year, though judging by the number of signs on the Great Ocean Road reminding you to ‘drive on the left in Australia’ most, presumably, are foreigners.

I don’t know why, but apparently the Sow and Piglets just didn’t work for people, so they renamed them the Twelve Apostles, which is curious given there was only ever nine of the great rocky stacks. But you can’t have the Nine Apostles can you. Which three would you leave out? So the Twelve Apostles it is, although one fell down and now there are only eight. So it is the eight, Twelve Apostles. Got it! Good. Lets move on.

The twelve apostles
The twelve apostles

We visited the eight Apostles on the kind of day every international visitor aspires to, howling wind and driving rain. The greyness sets off the scenery just so and it was a delight to be out, with the rain stinging your cheeks. Us – fair weather travellers? I think not.

"I don't wanna go to the lookout!"
“I don’t wanna go to the lookout!”
Eight apostles
Intrepid

At least our first day on the Piglet Highway (Great Ocean Road) was fair. We visited Bell’s Beach with a lovely orange glow cast upon the breakers and thought we may have arrived in time to catch the action of the Rip Curl Pro. Just missed it as it turns out.

Nice day on the road
Nice day on the road

The next day we snaked our way around to Johanna Beach, just west of Cape Otway (where we saw 13 koalas). Eye catching scenery greeted every corner, of which there is more than a few, and with a caravan in tow there was more than enough time to soak in the views.

Cape Otway Koala
Cape Otway Koala
Johanna Beach
Johanna Beach

Johanna Beach was an unexpected delight. Huge breakers formed up in lines three and four deep with wind whipping up spray which trailed behind them. I took 217 photos of waves while Emma and Khia chatted, Dana, Evie, Amy and Oliver diverted the creek flowing across the beach and Paul turned himself into a human log to help realign the flow. Not one of my photos adequately captures the scene.

Industrious children
Industrious children
Johanna Beach
Johanna Beach waves
IMG_4084
Diverting the flow
Johanna Beach
Johanna Beach waves
Johanna Beach
Greg exploring Johanna Beach

Of course, the Piglet Highway is not all sunshine and lollipops. It’s a treacherous place. A sign just near the Piglets, I mean Apostles, made it very clear.

‘Danger, do not enter, unstable cliffs, you may fall and DIE!!!!!’

I guess that’s clear enough.

In 1990 it almost happened. A couple of tourists walked across the London Bridge before the whole rock arch collapsed into the sea and left them stranded. That’d put a dampener on your day.

The London Bridge, renamed the London Arch since 1990.
The London Bridge, renamed the London Arch since 1990.

We finished our journey along the Piglet Highway at Portland. Portland was supposed to be home to a couple of Gannets, (Mr Gary and Janet Gannet), and a few thousand of their closest friends. Gary and Janet were meant to live at the aptly named Point Danger Gannet colony. Aptly named because the colony, and its viewing platform are situated at the target end of a shooting range! Not to worry, according to the tourist literature it’s all wheelchair and pram friendly.

It’s no wonder Gary and Janet weren’t home. They seemed to have moved out to the nearby Laurence rocks, a couple of kilometres off the coast. All the better to concentrate of diving for fish rather than dodging bullets. Visitors, such as us, would have to fend for ourselves.

Portland also has a petrified forest (which isn’t a forest), and a blowhole (which isn’t a blowhole). Is there a pattern forming here or is it just me? The petrified forest turned out to be a ‘solution pipe’. I was so disappointed at this deception I didn’t think to find out what a solution pipe is.

The petrified forest
The petrified forest
Solution pipes info in case you were wondering...
Emma took a photo of the sign with the solution pipes info in case you were wondering…

We weren’t disappointed with the Blowhole. It may not have been a blowhole but the shape of the rocky inlet sent ‘ocean fireworks’, as Oliver called them, soaring in spectacular fashion. We all oohhed and aahhed for ages urging the swells to set off more and more spectacular bursts of ocean spray.

The ocean fireworks
The ocean fireworks

Faces of Melbourne

‘It’s a Picasso! A Picasso!’ Well I never. The things you find in a big city.

‘A what?’ said Amy and Oliver.

‘A painting worth squillions’! I said.

‘Huh.’

Huh indeed. Fancy that. I didn’t expect to see a Picasso when I woke up that morning. A tram yes. Tall buildings, sure. The Yarra River, of course. But a funny looking face (the weeping woman) painted by Pablo Picasso, nope didn’t expect that. What a pleasant surprise. As were the Monet’s, Cezanne’s and Turner’s in Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria. That name confuses me though. National Gallery of Victoria… nope I don’t get it.

National Gallery of Victoria Water wall
National Gallery of Victoria Water wall
National Gallery of Victoria Water wall
National Gallery of Victoria Water wall

The paintings were displayed in a most pleasing manner on tall walls, one atop the other in a jumbled if not random manner and with odd non-matching frames. I’m no art aficionado, but even I can appreciate a painting that looks for the entire world like you could step into it and become part of the scene.

We found other faces in Melbourne as well. There was a great big one down the road at St Kilda – the face of Luna Park. I’d never been to Luna Park before and at $40 for the family to take a single roller coaster ride I’m not sure I’ll go again! It is however one of those things Emma and I felt we really ought to do at least once and when were we going to be back? No time soon.

Luna Park essential photo
Luna Park essential photo

 

Oddly enough Amy and Oliver weren’t all that keen on riding the 100-year-old wooden ‘scenic railway’ (code for roller coaster as it turns out) and afterwards declared they really didn’t enjoy it at all. Ahh but I did. The old thing rattled like a stone in a can and I still have a sore neck but it was great fun!

We shrunk at Luna Park
We shrunk at Luna Park

We found still other faces as well. There was my friend Simon’s for example. Simon was my best man at our wedding and it was great to catch up albeit briefly. There were our other friends Megan and Stuart and their delightful kids Greta and Marcus. We parked in their driveway for two nights all but denying them entry to their house! And then there was Grandpa Bruce and Irene.

Grandpa Bruce, whose generosity knows few bounds, drove to Melbourne to swap cars with us – we intend to give his back (maybe) when we are finished at Uluru and fly home. We now have his newly purchased Pajero and he has our old blue Falcon. Doesn’t seem fair really. A tear nearly welled in my eyes as they drove away in old bluey. I know, I’m a sentimental fool. Tis only a temporary parting – we will be re-united! I love that daggy old car. Don’t tell anyone. Oh the places we’ve been.

New car!
New car!
Thanks Grandpa Bruce!
Thanks Grandpa Bruce!

There was also Emma’s anxious face one evening. That was the evening she locked us in the caravan. The door handle needed replacing and Emma was on a mission. She sourced the new part, found a YouTube clip showing how the repair was to be done and set to while I was on the phone to Megan. Mid way through the conversation Emma turned to me with a look of despair and hastened for me to hang up. The door handle was off, but the door had closed and we couldn’t get out! We sprung ourselves free with a butter knife. Never leave home without one.

Delicious Melbourne dinner
Happy faces – delicious Melbourne dinner

I also put on a grumpy face for a while. We hopped off the Melbourne city circle tram at a Melbourne laneway packed with café’s and restaurants. I love how a narrow lane like that can spring up seemingly out of nowhere so packed with life and curiosity. What is it that draws people to such a place? I’ll never know, and Emma I’m sure didn’t care. Too many people there were, and we were hungry, and we couldn’t find anything that we all wanted to eat and it all went a little pear shaped, so I had a little sulk. It happens.

City Circle Tram
City Circle Tram

A happy face soon re-emerged though, amongst the autumn leaves in the lovely and quiet park in front of the Royal Exhibition building. Nothing like a leaf fight to put the sulks away.

Autumn leaf fights
Autumn leaf fights
Royal Exhibition Building
Royal Exhibition Building

We had a mission to face the morning we departed Melbourne for the Great Ocean Road. Amy wanted, nay needed, a slinky. Oliver had purchased one a few days earlier while groceries were being procured. It took six faces (Mine, Emma’s, Amy’s, Oliver’s, Megan’s and Greta’s) and an expedition up-town on the tram to procure a new $2 slinky.

The slinky
The slinky

It was happy faces all round that departed Melbourne, with a promise to meet up with Meg and Stu again within 12 months. We were looking forward to seeing the faces of yet more friends with Paul, Khia, Dana and Evie due to catch us up for the next leg of our journey in just a day or so time.

Are you travelling?

Along the Hume
Along the Hume

‘Are you travelling?’ I didn’t know what to say. Was it a trick question? I was sitting, you see,  in the driver’s seat of our car, two bikes on the roof and one and half odd tonnes of caravan hitched up behind. The boot was visibly full of chairs, tables and other paraphernalia required for a holiday. What’s more we were in a queue of others cars, similarly decked out, about 20 metres onto a pier waiting to board the Spirit of Tasmania.

Definitely 'travelling'
Definitely ‘travelling’

So when the Spirit of Tasmania man stopped me and asked, ‘Are you travelling?’ I really didn’t know what to say.

‘No. So glad you asked. Seems I made a frightful mistake. Really ought to have taken the middle lane off the Bolte bridge back there but I didn’t. I didn’t know where to go next and so here I find myself jammed between cars on a pier and I don’t know how to get out. Can you help me?’.

The Spirit
The Spirit

I didn’t say that. But I really wanted to. Instead I chuckled a little as I said, ‘yes we are’, and tried not to appear disrespectful. It doesn’t pay to be disrespectful to a man with the power to direct you not to board the ship.

I was excited. We were about to board and I took the liberty of pointing this out to Emma, Amy and Oliver on numerous occasions until they took the liberty of politely asking me to stop. Emma had done a wonderful job of navigating us through Melbourne, after she did a wonderful job of getting us past Craigieburn on the Hume Highway just ahead of its closure for grass fires. My heart had also skipped three beats when we came off the exit ramp and hurtled towards a low bridge (3 m clearance) just before the port entrance. I thought we’d never see the bikes on the roof again. Not sure how much they missed by but it can’t have been much.

Cozy
Cozy

The ship was exciting. Took about an hour of queuing to get on I guess, but our cabin was cosy and comfortable with a shower to boot. We explored all the various decks and turned in for the night. It was flat as a pancake across Port Philip Bay, but then developed a considerable, though not uncomfortable sway. Even that dissipated and it was back to flat sailing as we were woken at 5.00am to get ready to disembark.

Beach fun
Beach fun
Training wheels?
Training wheels?
Wide open spaces
Wide open spaces
Walking to Archer Knob
Walking to Archers Knob

We really didn’t know where to head when we did drive off, so we just followed the signs to Devonport city centre found a park and had breakfast. Three hours later we had groceries, petrol and a tank full of water and headed for the Narawntapu National Park all of 25km away. Here we have been hooting about on our bikes, up and down the beach, watching birds on the freshwater lagoon behind the sand dunes, playing catch and taking the occasional dip in the surprisingly warm ocean water.

Showers last four minutes and cost $2 here. Amy, Oliver and I all managed to wash ourselves and our hair this evening and still had 45 seconds to spare. Thats got to be a record. Tomorrow we are going to… well we haven’t got to that yet, so I have to tell you later.

Pademelon at campsite
Pademelon at campsite
Black sand.. the joy!
Black sand.. the joy!