Queenscliffe 1 - The adventure begins.
Another of life's little adventures behind me.
But why me, I ask? Why can't things be simple and go as planned - well, as expected at least, because the planning is what most would call "flexible" I think.
If you got a copy of the Bali Story, (See our HOME PAGE.) and though that was as much as anyone ought to be inflicted with in a lifetime, then go straight to DELETE now and forget all about this.
There will be neither Pre-test nor Post-test to catch you out and I promise never to question you if you don't bring up the subject first - so I'll 'Never Never Know' if you've persisted to the end.
I started out on Monday the 10th of October to have a little bike ride on Fanny (Yamaha XV750, registered number TIF-071, TIF- hence "Fanny". Tiffany. TIFfanny! now do you get it?) to see an old friend Chris Hack, whom I taught with in Tumby Bay many years ago when we were only just out of short pants, and whom I had seen on only a few occasions since, each sighting obviously separated by many years of course. Chris got a mention in the Bali Story you might remember, and now grows Cymbidium orchids and Tuberous Begonias (amongst a few other things) at the Marcus Hill Nursery located at Suma Park near Queenscliffe, Victoria.
"Grows" is a fairly loose term really I suppose. He grows, cultivates, clones, crosses, hybrib-ises and all sorts of other things too I suppose, and is what you might call a big wig in the Orchid industry and club scene (big wig is fairly apt because he's just over - or just under - 7 feet tall in real measurements).
But back to the real story - this is getting like the Bali Story already as you can see.
I had hoped to leave early on Monday morning but had a few things to do, and a few things for others to do, before I left. At midday I had given up on the last of these tasks and was just locking the door to leave when the phone rang. Perhaps if I'd ignored it and just gone things might have been different - .
A long diversion into and around town with a fully loaded bike was not a good way to start, neither was the extra hours delay.
Eventually off and up the freeway, through the hills and out onto the good biking road beyond the road works and the hills hamlet turn-offs. Then the first of the threatened and promised showers that I'd hoped to miss by starting early caught me. I sheltered under the Callington Bridge to let it pass,.
Chill turned to cold and then to freezing as I started again and the wind dried me out. I was just looking for a cross over to (illegally) get onto the return track and call it quits when as if by pre-ordained magic the clouds parted and the sun came out. The thighs got warm first and stopped shaking, then the shoulders and slowly the rest of me. Boy, biking is great!
Encouraged, I continued.
Just beyond Meningie it caught up with me again.
Damp - cool. Wet - cold. Wind - freeze. Sun - warm. Boy, biking is great!
By Policeman's Point on the Coorong road I figured I had passed the point of no return to Keith (my first "planned" overnight stop) and resolved to press on regardless. Keith was to be the first destination as those of you who remember the Bali Story well will remember it is where No.1 daughter Emma shares shelter with Midge, and I had been promised a board and a bed for the night. This, being a more appealing option than blowing up an air mattress in the tent on the first night out, was my target.
Why Keith via the Coorong you might well ask. Well, in years gone by the Coorong road was simply the way to Adelaide from Mount Gambier. The little identifying signs naming little places (often invisible in the rain, fog and darkness) meant nothing but they stuck in deep recesses of my memory. Part of this trip was to stop and to smell the roses along the way.
The Coorong road turned out to be great for biking. Fairly smooth, (long undulations are great at high speed on a bike) with long sweeping bends with tight surfaces to be leant into.
Boy, biking is great!
The scenery brought back dim memories of trips long ago. The sand dune forests just out of Tailem Bend have not changed, the salt marshes before and beyond Meningie are the same, the glimpses of the Coorong waters and the bird life and the bare sand dunes on the opposite side endure, and all contrasts with the sheep and cattle grazing on better country, the whole under bleak, grey and threatening skies with ranks of scudding, dripping clouds.
Policeman's Point has no roses to smell, but Salt creek turned up a little fascination or two.
Yes, there is a salt creek that runs thro' the township, bordered by reeds and grasses and home to waterfowl and duck. You probably knew that, but did you know that the first oil wells drilled in Australia were sunk here at Salt Creek? In 18 something or other settlers noticed that a thick, black, sticky substance collected at the downwind edges of the local creeks, lagoons and waterholes as they dried out during summer. This sludge could be twirled into a ball on the end of a gum branch and fired up with a match. The resulting bright yellow, sooty flame lasted for quite a while and was no doubt put to frightening uses by the local larrikins. Of course an underground source of oil seeping to the surface was suspected and primitive rigs were employed in an effort to tap into it.
Failure followed failure, and it was only events such as the dispatch of a ton of this muck to Scotland for refining, with the report returned many months later showing that it produced "x" barrels of oil and "y" barrels of kerosene, that kept activities alive.
Company after re-formed Company went broke in the search, despite the development of more sophisticated rigs which increased the borehole depths from an initial 60 feet with drop rigs, to over 600 yards in later efforts with rotary rigs.
Eventually activities ceased, never to be restarted.
Developments in scientific knowledge and later investigations eventually showed the cause to be not oil, but a particular algae which grows in warm and concentrating salty environments, being most prolific in the optimum conditions which frequently occurred around Salt Creek. As this algae grew and died it floated to the top of the water in great quantities and brewed into the black sludge with oil-like properties. Indeed in later years attempts were made (without success) to develop an emergency oil industry based on the intense cultivation of this algae.
But back to the real story –
Some 20 or so Km beyond Salt Creek there is a road that goes inland from the Coorong to Keith. The old map which I had showed that it was initially un-sealed but becoming a surfaced road about mid-way, probably at the border of two District Council areas. This was my intended track provided that it looked in good condition and with hopes that it might by now be fully sealed. With delight, on arrival at the intersection, I saw that bitumen went around the corner and up the first hill. Thinking that my luck had changed I pressed on and was only a little taken aback at the top of this first hill to see the expanse of dirt stretching out before me. With some trepidation (after a quick "off-the-throttle-and-on-the-brakes" activity we (Fanny and I that is) sailed over the great divide and onto a thankfully fair and firm surface. Thus encouraged we pressed on for some time before encountering a thankfully short length of loose gravelly sand surface, with enough forewarning to allow slowing down with dignity and a peaceful traverse with desirable aplomb.
I should have been warned but I pressed on!
After this first warning the truth hit home with speed and force.
The surface deteriorated into a slick, loose, slippery, rutted and potholed bush track that did not deserve to even appear on a map. Much time was spent in second gear with both feet off the pegs ready to scrape along the sand to prevent a tumble.
Boy, biking is great!
Frequently, on my slow and erratic passage over the next 30 odd Km's, I observed that the recent release of the rabbit virus has not reached all out of the way places. 20 to 30 rabbits congregated on the road at the bottom of a hollow were not un-common. Fortunately they scattered at the sight of me and I was not required to take evasive action on their account in addition to that needed for their water-filled scrape holes.
Eventually the promised sealed section was achieved and progress speedily resumed in the now fading light to cover the last section into Keith.
304 Km travelled in some 5.5 hours including stops to refuel, to shelter and to smell the roses, consuming just under 17 litres of petrol - 5.6 litres per 100 Km, giving Fanny a range of some 230 Km on her little 13 litre main tank - for those with a yen for figures.
A welcoming beer or two with Midge, a good feed from Em, a hot shower to sooth flayed nerve ends and sleep was not far away, lasting until after 8 the next bright and sunny morning.
Boy, biking is great!
Here endeth Part the First -more may or may not follow!
(ps Indeed it does- ;>)
Queenscliffe 2 - Getting closer.
I left you, dear reader, on the bright and sunny morning of the second day of my journey, at Midge’s establishment in Keith. I had abluted to the uttermost, washed, scrubbed and breakfasted, toured the new gardens, and found myself at peace with the world.
Biking is great on a day such as this!
There remained but one task following fatherly farewells to daughter, Em, that to be to photograph the (now) “Pennyfarthing” eating establishment that had been part of the retail empire of Chris who I was going to Queenscliffe to see. I also wanted a photograph of the recently newsworthy fountain at the front of the shop by the edge of the highway – you know – that one which had recently had a dead baby dolphin dumped into it. Now I can feel sorry for the dolphin but I have to say that the “water sculpture” is an even greater disgrace. I thought that the artistic couth and sensitivity of Keith had obviously deteriorated since his departure.
On with the story and on with the tour.
As soon as Fanny kicked into top gear on the road to Mount Gambier it became chillingly obvious that the sun may be bright but it radiated little warmth at 110 kph. The breezes swept past the long gloves and into the tiny exposed part of the vent behind the tightly studded cuffs. From here it seeks an exit so that more may follow. Long before it has warmed to anywhere near body temperature it has passed the elbow and what had once been a comfy armpit, on around the neck which is too tightly encased in leather to allow egress, down the once cosy spine and, eventually out via the waist band which once encircled a toasty tummy. Now those not familiar, or at least not recently familiar may think that this at least leaves the legs and nether regions in a comfortable state. Not so! Touring bikes inevitably have what are known as “highway pegs”, footrests further forward and a little higher than the normal riding footrests. This allows changing foot, leg and posterior postures to ease aches and cramps. What it also does is provide pair of highly efficient air scoops just above ankle level at the bottom of each trouser leg. To preserve the delicate sensitivities of my daughters who may read this I will not go into details of the route that this frozen gale travels. Suffice it to say that the only remaining warm spots on the body after the first 5 minutes are to be found just under any toe that remains tightly clenched against the boot sole. Well, I hear experienced riders say! Why didn’t you wear spats then? Well, smart bums, I thought that the weather was going to be good – otherwise I wouldn’t be here would I? –and I’d left my spats at home! What I was going to do if things didn’t warm up a bit was buy a hank of cord at the next servo and bind my trouser legs like old Ben Bowyang in the ancient cartoons.
Biking is great on a day such as this!
Willalooka came, and went in a blink (I don’t think it even had an 80 kph sign and I only mention it in case one of my readers happens to be a native of the place), followed by Padthaway.
Now Padthaway simply cannot be ignored by any traveller with eyesight even mildly above zilch! The well remembered and constant vistas of grazing paddocks give way, one by one, to newly planted vines. These give way to slightly older vines which in turn give way to vines slightly older again – and so on and on and on as you get nearer to the areas of the original plantings which by now might be about 20 years old. Travelling south (or slightly east of south) there is a slight rise on the right and a long sweeping valley to the left. As you pass by, at almost every point, there is eye-catching regularity in the numerous angles at which the rows of posts or vines fall into straight lines of British Guardsmen-like ranks. A quick blink and the patterns repeat at a new place, again and again for as long as you dare look without becoming mesmerised. It’s like white line fever in green and brown. If I remember correctly these vines go on for just under or just over 20 kilometres, in most places for as far as you can see to both left and right.
By Naracoorte the sun had begun to warm up a bit, the road was good, the traffic was light but the bugs in the canola crops which began to intersperse the vineyards were a messy nuisance. It wasn’t long before the screen was covered and the visor of my helmet, just above eyelevel thank goodness, was a viscous but mobile mess.
The appearance of an occasional pine plantation made it clear that the real southeast was approaching. Just as you begin to think that a grazing paddock followed by a canola crop followed by a pine forest would be the standard scenery Coonawarra approaches with the posts of new vineyards followed by young vines followed by older vines etc etc, just like Padthaway.
By the time Penola is past you know that this is the southeast. The pine forests are almost unbroken, the only real relief is the regular area of clear felling. Log trucks dominate the road and it is a bit surprising to find that I need to rip up to 140kph to pass them, even fully loaded, in a reasonably short time.
By Nangwarry and Tarpeena, any change is a relief and the sight of the Mount Gambier airport is doubly welcome. The change in scenery also means that the second day’s goal is virtually achieved. My intention here is to revisit the town where number 1 daughter Emma was born and to see the old school (now Grant High) as well as the house we lived in and the places we used to go to. First of course is a ride around the Blue Lake and to my surprise if is – as blue as I ever remembered it. This was a sight that I hadn’t even thought about.
I spent about 2 hours just touring around. It’s strange how the sight of the school name board, posts and rails (in treated pine of course) held together with large brass bolts and nuts, that my Year 12 class made, gives me a little shiver. Is this part of growing older, getting an egotistical jolt from knowing that here and there around the countryside there are little bits of you that live on? I feel luckier than others I taught with whose little marks are invisibly located between the ears of willing and even recalcitrant students.
My other task here is to find another long lost old friend, Stan Yoanidis, otherwise known as “Farmer Yo”, in days gone by. Stan ran a chicken farm and cheese factory back then, since sold to bigger interests. Farmer Yo’s shop was still there and enquiries lead me back to the old office behind his house where he is still working on his new interests. It needed a few memory jabs to turn his memory back 30 years but he soon traded story with story as we reminisced. Stan’s son is now the most experienced First Officer flying with Ansett these days, after having worked all over the world it seems. I kid myself that I taught him how to fly with a control line model aeroplane in the paddock behind Stan’s home. In return Stan taught me to appreciate German white wines, back in the days when their price was in a range that I could afford. I still love them but rarely get the chance to.
I had intended to overnight in the Mount but it was still early afternoon so I decided to push on.
Oh, fateful decision!
I headed out to Nelson, with which most young people living in the Mount during the era of 6 o’clock closing, knew in a limited sort of way. Nelson was the first town over the border and it continued to serve booze after the local hotels had closed for the night. This time I ventured past the pub, down along the riverfront (the Glenelg River) and around the back streets. It really is a very pretty little town that deserves a better look than one limited to the hotel’s environs.
From Nelson to Portland – city on the bay – nemesis of this old rider.
A quick look round, find a caravan park, pay for the site (select one close to the toilet block so that nocturnal tours are as short as possible), put up the new dome tent (I won’t go into embarrassing details about this operation), blow up the air mattress, rest to allow giddiness to pass, unload the panniers from the bike and settle in.
Really this takes little time and it’s still daylight, so off to explore some more. Around the bay and the boat harbour, up the main street, fill up the tank and note the cost, trip length and total mileage, accept the attendant’s recommendation about the best Chinese Restaurant in town and set off to find it.
Yet another fateful decision!
It’s only just twilight and I parked the bike opposite the restaurant because the side slope of the street is too much for the side stand to make a stable park.
Still one more fateful decision!
I sat in the window seat where I could keep a casual eye on it but a few minutes later a four-wheel drive patron parked right in front of the window blocking my view. I noticed a few kids in the street but they seemed fairly innocent and I enjoyed my dinner and glass of wine. I decided to have an early night so that I could get up early next morning and at least look over the maritime museum on the foreshore before leaving. Bill paid, onto the bike for the short ride back to the park – and we wobbled almost uncontrollably just across the road !!!! ????
A quick inspection revealed the obvious, the front tyre was absolutely flat. A closer inspection revealed that the front tyre valve was gone – totally – only a hole remained in the rim!
This is the sort of thing you just can’t believe and you regularly look again, searching around the rim for the missing valve, only to confirm that indeed it had disappeared! But how?
The proprietor of the restaurant kindly called the local RACV agent for me, getting thro’ on the fourth try. The agent, Les King eventually arrived to blow up this flat tyre and he too was somewhat taken aback when he couldn’t find a valve. It was obvious that repairs were not immediately possible because although it would have been possible to remove the tyre to replace the valve there was no valve available to put in, as bike valves and car valves are different sizes. Since he had not had anything to do with a bike rescue before he went off to get another, empty van, to load the bike into. This was a futile effort as the bike, with screen, rear vision mirrors and hi-riser bars was too tall to fit in the door. Off again to get the car rescue trailer, work out how to rope the bike on, with the rear wheel running on the road, and away – slowly – to his garage to secure the bike for the night to await the opening of the bike shop next morning.
Les drove me back to the park and along the way we found that we had a mutual interest in flying, and that a Grumman 4 seater that he owned was currently at Aldinga Airfield (SA) undergoing repairs following a heavy landing in the SA outback while on hire. Aldinga was where I had started flying training some time previously.
The next morning I was to walk down to his garage and borrow the empty van to collect my gear from the park while waiting for the bike shop to open. Then take the bike for repair, load up and be on my way.
Oh, had it been that simple!
At about 5 am the next morning I was woken by the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops on the tent fly.
As I listened and slowly regained a thinking state the pitter-patter turned quickly into heavy drumming as the shower turned into a full blown downpour.
After due contortions the body was clad to a respectable state, and morning ablutions undertaken in a considerably dampened state because the little cloth fold along the zip got caught in the slide in my haste to close the flap and get to the dryness of the verandah along the toilet block.
The park shop was then open and the good lady manager happily advised me that this most welcome downpour would probably last all week, and weren’t they lucky because they were actually in the grip of a drought and there were water restrictions in force!!!
Was this only the third day of the trip?
Is biking great on a day such as this?
Here endeth Part the Second – with the same provisos as before.
(And the same result - ;>)
Queenscliffe 3 – A Class Act Succumbs.
Remember, “Boy, biking is great!” . . . . . . . We tend to forget those odd occasions when it is less than so.
So what had happened to Fanny while my back was turned, so to speak, at dinner in the Chinese restaurant in Portland? Did Fu Man Choo strike?
How long did the disastrous (for our intrepid rider) downpour last? Were the local water restrictions lifted as a result of the torrent?
Was the ultimate goal achieved? What about the secondary aims? Did our intrepid traveller become a moving target?
One thing at a time. Let’s deal with the case of the missing air for a start.
I walked down to Les’s garage, where Fanny had spent the night on the pick-up trailer and arrived, damper than when I started, to find that he’d already been down to the bike shop but they weren’t open.
He showed me where the van was parked and gave me a refresher course on starting diesels with glow plugs. I found it much easier these days than when I first learnt on a Mercedes school bus in Tumby Bay. I went back to the park to shake the gear off as much as possible and stow it in the van, and returned to the garage damper still. Into the other van with Fanny on the back and off to the bike shop again. Still deserted! Well, off with the bike and put her under the veranda where she might dry out a bit while I waited for human life to appear, this not without difficulty as the flat tyre made manoeuvring difficult. Tim, the young proprietor, soon arrived and gave me the first good news. He could fix Fanny up straight away. It would take no more than ½ an hour and I was welcome to wait while it was done, but he couldn’t do anything about the rain, which was really very welcome as there were water restrictions in force because of the drought you know.
He was quite blasé about the whole thing, as though missing valves were an everyday part of life. The front wheel came off, the tyre was broken off the bead on one side, and . . . . . . . . . . .out fell the inside part of the valve stem!
As I stared in some sort of disbelief he explained that if you park your bike with the valve at the bottom of the wheel, a quick and unobtrusive tread down on it with a shoe will snap it clean off!
And I can vouch for the absolute accuracy of his observation.
The original valve stem was made out of machined brass that is fairly brittle, but the replacement is now stainless steel. It might bend, he explained, but it won’t break, and I have a spare in the tool bag now too, just in case – but, as Len later assured me, if you’re prepared for a problem you can be assured that it will never happen.
Cost? $25 in money terms. The inner spirit however was so low that it was in danger of drowning if this damn rain continued.
On the way back to Les’s garage I went past the restaurant and sure enough, there was the other part of the valve, on the road right where the bike was parked the night before.
Len was a ball of joy. After we discussed the mysteriously (?) broken valve he told me that he had listened to the forecast for me. The rain was expected to continue for the next 24 hours, moderating to showers and becoming lighter towards the end of the week!
Much as I hated it I had to come to the conclusion that the great biking tour was over. I am a born, devout and practising coward about fear and pain. There was no way I would contemplate 500 km of unknown, wet and winding road with a top heavy, fully loaded bike.
Len agreed when I told him what I thought, perhaps wishing that he was going to tell me of a secret road that he knew of which had miraculously escaped the rain.
That wish was not to be fulfilled, obviously, but he did offer me the use of the old van to see the (wet) sights of Portland while the rain continued.
I think it took me about 30 seconds to plan another option.
How much did he want to hire the van to me so that I could continue to Queenscliffe while it rained? I would leave the bike in his shop while I was away and return to collect it when the wet ended.
He was quite happy to have me use the van but could not charge me anything for using it!
Remember that I was a stranger whom he had only met, on the side of the road in the dark, the night before.
It took me a while to realise that he was serious about the offer – and then I accepted as quickly as I decently could and before he changed his mind.
Within the hour he had checked the van mechanically, topped up the oil, huffed in the tyres, watered the battery, and so on, and I was on my way.
As I left Portland I was in two minds (at least) about what I should do in the next few days until the drought resumed. I could either go straight to Queenscliffe, checking the road as I went with the intention of returning on the bike when the weather cleared, or continue with the original biking plan and tour the scenic spots along the Great Ocean Road on the way to Queenscliffe.
The former was probably a half-day trip and the latter could be 1 or 2 or 3 or however many days I chose.
From Portland the first town was Port Fairy which I really wanted to see again as I remembered the long rows of moorings among the old historic river port and the fishermen’s homes along the riverfront. I resolved to defer to decision about which plan (and which route) for a while.
Although I recently had a few weeks driving a Volvo 254 station wagon when the White Knight was at the doctors; (Sorry, I should explain that the White Knight is the big old Ford V8 Fairmont coupe that I normally leave under the carport while I ride the bike around. I had to get a few repairs done to the front as a result of a “coming together” with a wayward vehicle, hence the visit to the “doctors”, or the crash repairer.) even the Volvo did not prepare me for driving the van! Not that driving the van was an unpleasant experience below 90 kph, but it is different.
In due course the turn off to Port Fairy arrived and the van and I swung into a street that was probably much the same on the day that I was born. At the end of this street is the river with its long wharves down each bank. The wharves are full of fishing, day tripping and pleasure boats, including a beautiful new or restored example of an old ‘Couta Boat, common to the waters of Port Phillip Bay and undergoing a resurgence as pleasure and racing yachts at present. On the banks behind the wharves are many old houses and port buildings, interspersed with some nice (and some awful) examples of newer structures built, no doubt, at great expense.
Seeing all this, would you believe, left me soaked again.
Now I might be a slow learner but eventually the facts do sink in. Plainly, sight-seeing and staying dry did not go together so a quick phone call to Chris to tell him I was on my way and - Queenscliffe, here I come, by the most direct route with the efficient heater in the van up full.
Through Warnambool, veer left to Colac and thro’ Winchelsea to Geelong. After a while the van is great to drive. Very relaxing at 90 Ks and the high seat, up in the cab, makes it easy to stick very close to the left edge of the road so that other traffic can pass as easily as possible on the frequently narrow Victorian roads. Yes, this is a major highway and generally it’s very good but in places, no matter how close I keep to the left, faster vehicles get held up behind me.
Well into Geelong it’s still raining of course, and the Queenscliffe sign points right.
Off down a divided highway towards Marcus Hill where Chris has his nursery.
When I arrive he stuck his head out of what I realise later is his almost most beloved hothouse. Recognisable anywhere even without getting out of the van and looking up into a face I haven’t seen for so long. The very act of looking up so far would be a dead giveaway even if he had a bag over his head.
Eventually I got to see what I think is certainly the most beloved part of the operation – the laboratory. Here, the small growing tips of selected parent plants are cut off under the microscope while being bathed in a flush of sterile air that eliminates any bacteria or fungus cells. These growing cells are put into test tubes with a sterile growing gel and these are then put into a rack that constantly rotates the tubes and their cells around a light. These cells keep on growing in the rich nutrients of the gel but, because of the rotation, can not get a fix on up or down, so they don’t begin to develop into shoots or roots – just more and more masses of undifferentiated growth cells. The mass of cells that develops is divided again and again until sufficient are produced to be minutely dissected and placed into the same gel in larger glass flasks. The flasks are not rotated and, under the influence of a now steady gravitational force, small shoots rise and small roots go down. Eventually these plants are large enough to be planted out as individuals, all carrying exactly the same gene profile as the selected parent, with exactly the same colour, flower shape, leaf quality and so on. Innumerable and immaculate clones. So much more predictable and marketable than the techniques of cross pollination and germination of seeds, which he also does for both himself and for other growers.
I found it fascinating, and I’m not a flower person.
If you’re going past that way I can recommend a visit to see the colours and intricate flowers on the many varieties of Orchids and Begonias which he mainly grows. You probably won’t be invited into the secret realm of the laboratory but the rest is worth seeing up close.
It was a wander around the hothouse with a camera that inspired me to buy a large yellow orchid to take back to Les for his wife. Perhaps as a result she would give him something in return that would put a smile on his face and be a thank you token for his generosity. Chris trimmed it all up for me, staked the 13 spikes of luxuriant blooms and attached the little “How to look after me” card. It just fitted into the van when I came to leave, with all sorts of gear packed around the pot to keep it in place. It evoked many comments when I stopped here and there on the way back to Portland, the most humorous being from a Taswegian at the Loch Ard Gorge car park as I opened the back to get a drink. “I thought you were going to take them for a walk in the rain!” Well, it seemed funny at the time.
On one afternoon that it didn’t rain Chris took me around Queenscliffe. There is a fascinating Maritime Museum there, with a wooden boat building program too! They have just finished the hull of a new ‘Couta boat which were so much a part of the history of the area.
We also toured around the coast past Point Lonsdale and Ocean Grove where much money is being spent in what I fear will be a fruitless exercise designed to halt their coastal erosion which is far worse than we have here in SA.
Listening to the weather forecasts was a demoralising experience. Rain followed by showers with more rain coming.
The drought was broken but the water restrictions remained for the time being.
Eventually the possibility of a fine day on Saturday was suggested and the decision to call it quits was made. On Friday morning I packed up, loaded the van, promised to return again when the rain stopped and headed out.
A brief stop at Torquay, and the Ocean Road began.
It was amazingly calm along the Road, probably due to the rain. The emerald and turquoise colours of the sea over the sand patches, the weed beds and the reefs just glowed in the overcast. The views from the high cliffs were as spectacular as I remembered, the forests as thick, as tall and not surprisingly, as wet. From Aireys Inlet to south of Lorne is the most awe inspiring I think. Although a lot of rain had obviously fallen the creeks and rivers that run out of the highlands, under the road and across the beaches or the rocks were only just flowing. A testament to the dry earth caused by the drought I suppose.
After Apollo Bay the road turns inland for a bit, through Lavers Hill, before coming back close to the coast at Princetown. The rain forests up to and through Lavers Hill are almost silent when you stop and turn off the engine. The only movement in the valleys is in the ends of enormous fern fronds as they dip and wave slowly up and down as water runs off them.
Princetown marks the start of the well known section of eroding cliffs with landmarks like Gibson’s Steps, the 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, Bay of Islands, the Arch and London Bridge, the bridge part of which recently collapsed into the sea.
The township of Port Campbell is on a very pretty little inlet where the surge of the Southern Ocean curls around a point and into the cove, ending with a hiss on the fairly steep slope of the coarse sand beach. The town is obviously very much into tourism, with an abundance of units for rent. The only signs of its history, however, is a disintegrating lifeboat on the front lawns of the motel and a dark, dirty and dilapidated shed containing old rescue gear, including line throwing rockets and cliff ladders. The lifeboat has had steel pipes bolted into its frames and floors to hold up a pair of pretend masts, one of which has a pretend boom fitted into two more tubes welded across the supporting pipe. The boat is not covered and is being badly weathered. There is not even a sign to say if the boat is from the town or from somewhere else. The very appearance of the shed does not encourage you to get too close to the grotty glass window and try to read the old and faded signs within. A disappointing contrast to Queenscliffe, even given the differences in size and therefore finance I suppose.
Through Warnambool and into Port Fairy for another quick look before heading off to Portland to set up camp in the back of the van for the night.
Tomorrow morning, Saturday, I would be up early. Pack, go round to Les’s, present the present which had spent the night under the shrubs at the back of the van so that I could fit in to sleep, load the bike and be off. If I started as soon as possible I could make the 550 odd k’s back to Adelaide before the sun got down so low that it would be difficult if not impossible to see thro’ the visor and the screen coming down the bends of the hills.
Saturday dawned – would you believe – FINE!
Off to Les’s.
Wait some more.
What was local time really?
Calculations – wait.
What was going on?
Then it dawned. It was Saturday wasn’t it!
Somewhere I had his card with a home phone number on it.
Somewhere. . . . . . .
Unpack. Find it. Pack. Off to a phone box – “G’day Les, Bill here . . . .”
Les arrives and I think he is really pleased and impressed with the pot of orchids. Load the bike. Les goes off home to get the piece of sheepskin that I use as a saddle cloth from his other van. The bike falls over as I’m loading it and the new helmet rolls across the bitumen. No damage to the bike but the helmet has ugly chips in the shiny Candyapple red paint job and the visor is a mess of scratches right across the line of vision.
Les comes back with his new van to take the orchids home in style. We undertake the thanks which are due and the goodbyes. With some regret I must confess.
From here there is really nothing to add. The ride home is uneventful, and very fast at times, along the beautiful road up through Heywood and the forests across to Mount Gambier. Penola, Naracoorte, Keith, Tailem Bend and home about 3.30 pm.
What can I say?
An anticlimax really.