Technically, we’ve just completed the drive known as the Great Ocean Road since it runs from Torquay to Warrnambool and we passed through there sometime around lunch yesterday. (We only stopped long enough to decide that we’d stay in Port Fairy instead. No offense Warrnambool but it’s a little prettier over here…) Of course the coastal road keeps going so you don’t feel like there’s an end per se but the constant reminders to “Drive on left in Australia” abruptly stop. Ah, we’re going to miss those…
Did you know that the Great Ocean Road is actually the largest war memorial in the world? The Victorian government had the genius idea to have their returned service men build the long-planned road, thus killing two birds with one stone: creating jobs and creating a memorial to fallen soldiers. As memorials go, this is not bad.
It’s kind of fitting that a war memorial to fallen comrades lines a coast that is littered with shipwrecks. Over 50 have been recorded but there were probably many more small boats that ran aground the treacherous waters south of here. Parts of two of the more famous ones can still be seen today in the water on the aptly named Shipwreck Beach. Of course we had to go visit those (at low tide).
These two anchors come from the Marie Gabrielle, wrecked in 1869. We didn’t make it to the anchor of the Fiji thanks to a debilitating bout of laziness. These anchors weren’t lost along with the rest of the wreck because when the ships realized that they were way too close to shore (having come in during high-tide), they often cut the anchor line in a last desparate attempt to get back out to sea quickly. Unfortunately in most cases this was too late but the anchors stayed as reminders of their fate.
As an antidote to all that destruction, we went in search of penguins one evening. We had heard that at several points along the road you could witness them coming back from their daily fishing trips so we headed out to London Bridge, along with the Twelve Apostles one of the most famous landmarks along the Great Ocean Road, to see if we could catch a glimpse. It all started with a ridiculously beautiful sunset:
Then the not-quite-full-anymore moon rose behind us, completing the kitsch fest and making us feel all fuzzy and warm inside.
Now all that was missing were the penguins. So famous were the penguins that we calculated there must be hundreds arriving from the Antarctic waters to sleep at sunset. We waited, and waited. To pass the time, we speculated about their entrance: would they swim under the arch and jump like dolphins or surf the waves in like “Surf’s Up”? And just when I said “That’s it, if they don’t show up in 60 seconds, I’m gone”, a perfectly arranged bundle of 17 miniature penguins got washed up on the beach:
It seemed as if they were a bit frightened by the foam lining the beach or simply surprised to find themselves on the beach at all. It took them several attempts to traverse the offending material (we’re still not sure what it was, soap, oil, sea foam?) but once they did, they marched steadily towards their nests. In formation of course, as you would expect from a bunch of animals clad in tuxedos. (Apologies for the crappy quality of these pictures but it was quite dark at this point and the beach was a couple of hundred meters below.)