Great Ocean Walk February 2014 by Yen
So here I am again tossing over what to pack. It should be so much easier walking GOW supported. I don’t have to pack my 6 days worth food, no stove, no gas and no sleeping bag. It almost seems politically incorrect to walk straight to the cupboard and the first thing I put in my bag is my hair straightener! I was determined to use all of my 15kg I paid for with Jetstar.
And that was how my day started. Armed with 3 hiking bottoms, endless supply of colourful tops, swim gear along with goggles and flippers (which I never used), 3 jars of face cream, my eyelash curler, a little dress and my faithful credit card, I am ready for Victoria’s famous coastal stretch The Great Ocean Walk, with the promise of almost 12 good looking Apostles await me faithfully at the end.
I rush to give myself a quick manicure & pedicure before rushing out the door to pick up my friend Katie for a sleep over as we were all getting a ride to the airport for the first flight of the day. Katie in her flowing maxi dress that actually made her look tall… or should I rephrase…. Taller. Fresh as a daisy Katie hopped into the car. For a girl that does not drive, she sure knows her way around directing me back to my home!
We yip yap the whole night as only girls can, talking a lot of nonsense, giggling, critiquing over our nonsenses like two very intelligent women, then we giggle some more until Katie Miss Sensible said… better go to sleep, we only got 4 hours before the alarm goes off. I really didn’t want to sleep as we were having so much fun. Lights off and buzz buzz buzz, the alarm bell rings. We had both fell into such deep sleep it felt like we only just blinked. Lucky I did not iron the sheets otherwise we would have slept through the alarm.
We had a quick breakfast of cereal; I added a huge amount of All Bran, (stay with me here, there is a moral to the All Bran throughout GOW) a quick coffee before Rudy arrived to take us to the airport. Marcia arrived just in time the 3 girls hugged Rudy and thank him for the ride, lucky boy!
After an uneventful flight with Jetstar we arrived at Avalon airport on a cloudy morning, the ladies were a little concerned about the possibility of walking in the rain so I quickly assured the ladies not to worry as Dave aka Mr. Sunshine is meeting us at Geelong and all would be fine. A big statement however, but has since been proven undoubtedly true.
Our transfer to Geelong was prompt, we arrived in time for another caffeine hit whilst we waited for Dave to arrive from Hobart after just finishing The Overland Track. Dave’s bus arrived just in time whilst Marcia distracts the driver into waiting for Mr. Sunshine. Well we can’t really do GOW without Mr Sunshine can we?
The drive to Apollo Bay was very scenic but winding roads the ocean seems to dance just for us unless it the bus driver’s driving? Remember the song “The bus goes round and round”. This is why we walk the walk and not drive the Great Ocean Road. Everyone mingles and got to know each other better on the bus, Dave & I shared stories of his adventure on The Overland Track and how Mr. Sunshine kept the bad weather at bay. The whole week was forecast with 90% rain and thunderstorms, not a drop of rain whilst walking until Sydney Explorers arrives at the last hut where the storm hits and a tree felled by the wind only metres away whilst they were warm and dry in Narcisus Hut. As Dave tells me about his wonderful trip, I was sure his head was growing bigger by the minute.
The coach stopped at Apollo Bay Information Centre as it did the last 2 years, this time I’m armed with my hair straightener and Dave by my side, nothing is going to go wrong. We quickly grabbed our bags to head off to the pub, our meeting point where Dave would run through what our plan was for the next 6 days. A big shop was done at the Supermarket, 6 breakfasts, 6 lunches & 6 dinners with a few treats thrown in all for 9 people. Two trollies later, boxed and loaded into the minibus trailer then on to our first accommodation at Bimbi Park.
The trees seem to be taller and the forest more dense this time, as we got closer to Bimbi Park, we were told by Abby our shuttle bus driver how the Koalas have over populated and eaten the forest almost to death, we arrive to skeletons of eucalyptus trees stripped bare of leaves leaving a ghost of whitish gray trunk, but still some Koalas were hugging onto the trees and as much as some were culled recently, plenty were around for the tourist to take photos off.
Dave had booked us 2 luxury 3 bedroom cabins for the ladies and a double for us. Everyone had his or her own bed and no one had to share bunks. Cups of tea and coffee were made, everyone unpacked and like all good holidays, we were faced with a grim decision… What’s for dinner? Something healthy everyone said, stir fry it is. “Many hands make light tasks,” someone had said and true to its word, dinner was served in an hour with everyone chipping in with all the vegetable preparation.
One more sleep before we head off to hike our first day of GOW over six days we will cover to 109kms. Breakfast was Dave’s famous creamy oatmeal porridge filled with raisins and sweetened with raw sugar. Yum. We quickly make our lunch and wait for Abby to drive us to the start of the walk back at Apollo Bay.
The weather was perfect walking weather; our first days destination was Blanket Bay, then Elliot Ridge, Johanna Beach, Moonlight Head & Aire River. For me, walking GOW for the third time is like travelling back in time. Each footstep reminded me of the first or second walk; each campsite visited brought back so many wonderful memories. I was walking in my own time machine.
Without my 15kg back pack, I had so much energy and was free to “yip yap” the whole journey oi everyone, this is where we saw a tiger snake, and the last time we were here this path was full of mud, this was where Katie & Melinda got stuck in the mud and could not stop laughing!
When we reached the first campsite at Elliot Ridge, the ladies came into the campsite to see how we would have spent the night cooking inside the shelter, I quickly point out where Paula & I pitched our tent, how Paula swept the campsite and sprayed Bushmans all over our camping area to keep the creepy crawlys away. Oh… over there is where Katie & Melinda slept and they were late in getting their bags packed the next morning with Dave growling at them to hurry up… and so the story goes on
Hey everyone, this is where that snake slither between Paula & I we screamed so loud I think the snake had a heart attack. We talked about Alex’s blisters and how we got in trouble with Dave for not keeping together in a group, how we slept under the stars and how Katey and Melinda thought the sound of Koalas mating was dangerous wild boars that might attack us in the night, thankfully Dave knew they were Koala!
I am sure at some point on this trip the ladies might have thought, shut up Yen, where is that remote control. Well Ladies, it got left at home along with my 15kg backpack.
After two nights at Bimbi Park, we moved to Johanna Seaside Cottages staying in the farm house, we were welcomed with a humble looking farmhouse set in the middle of a large country field, surrounded by a welcoming garden, sun shining brightly, chooks were clucking making me sound quiet, whilst we unload our bags.
Dave came back from Reception with 2 dozen fresh eggs straight from the chooks this morning. Our host Joy was so hospitable, she gave us the go ahead to help ourselves to the garden and I screamed for joy as thought I was Jamie Oliver on a cooking set with my own instant garden.
Everyone on arrival was a little taken back with the farmhouse. It’s not like the picture you posted Dave! Hmm. Poor Dave, in his attempt to make everyone comfortable by trying not to overcrowd the group of 9, Dave booked another hut separately so ensured none of the ladies had to share the bunkroom. Katey had the queen room and Marcia the king room all to themselves, Anita & Shirley had the twin room and Sandra had the bunk room, Lynn and Deborah moved up with us to the cottage on the hill, Joy seeing it would be a bit of a task for us to walk up and back each day gave us the keys to her car! Customer service well beyond the call of duty… We will be back for sure.
Everything was soon forgotten by dinner, fresh eggs and vegetables with my cooking hat on can fix almost anything especially when you have roasted beetroot that is so sweet, you could never eat the tinned stuff again. Even Dave who does not like beetroot was impressed.
Needless to say the next day we had a few ladies decide to enjoy the comfort of the farmhouse over a quite book, a swim in their crystal clear heated indoor pool a wander down to Johanna Beach and a day off from walking.
Night after night, dinner around the big table in the Farmhouse was an event to look forward to. Having everyone around helping, the sound of the chopping board, oil on the frying pan with meat sizzling, potatoes in the oven with rosemary whiffing through the house reminded me of wonderful memories when family are not too busy to cook.
After crossing Milenesia Beach we started the climb but soon found out passing the blackberries was impossible, we stopped gorged ourselves and all pitched in picking 2kg worth… Dave made his famous made with love pastry and a gorgeous apple & blackberry pie was dessert.
“Where’s Marcia?” Dave asked as we stopped to wait for her again, Hey Marcia hurry up Dave yelled out…! Katie quickly adds “You can’t rush someone on their bush toilet break”. “It was the All Bran,” I said. Katie said “she took the All Brand out of the Muesli already”. Dave mumbles underneath his breath… “Would someone tell her not to eat the bloody muesli”? Men! Simple thoughts, but so true. That All Bran I ate before the flight gave me wind all day.
On the last night at the Farmhouse, I organised for two masseuses to come to our room and treat us with a full hour massage, it was so relaxing that at the end of Dave’s massage, as soon as the masseuse left the room, Dave could not hold it in anymore and let out the longest bottom burp I ever heard. It made me laugh so much that I almost turned blue. Mr Sunshine said it was all the vegies. Lucky the masseuse left in time otherwise Dave would have blown her to the moon never to see her again.
The Great Ocean Walk track has changed a lot since my first encounter. The path has been widened, more boardwalk has been put in Johannah Beach I have seen the sunset, watched the sunrise in my sleeping bag, slept under the stars whilst pigging out on Christmas Pudding & Birds Custard.
Aire River this time we walked along the timber track & bridge up to the township, through reeds & up to the local corner store where you can quench your thirst with a fantastic latte or a coke spider from childhood years. Walking along this boardwalk I could not help but think what a great setting for a Hollywood action movie where James Bond is hiding from the enemy under the reeds breathing through a hollowed out reed and any moment now will appear to sign an autograph and make my day!
Melbourne is renown to have four seasons in one day, unless you were hiking with Mr. Sunshine. But in my view the best time to do GOW is late February to middle of March where the berries are thriving and you can just reach out at arms length for a berry berry good time.
Weather you GOW it hardcore, semi supported or fully supported, GOW should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is a walk that can cater for those that want a challenge or a scenic change. What ever your goal is, do try to make time to experience GOW, as it is certain to be a walk to be remembered.
Need to know:
Great Ocean Walk can be done in day walks, shorter stages or the full 109km in one go 5 to 7 days. Campsites require a permit for use through Parks Victoria, each campsite is purpose built for walkers along the Great Ocean Walk, they have a 3 sided shelter with table and seating, eco long drop toilet, water tank and dedicated tent spaces. You can arrange shuttle transfers between stages, food drops or at the start & end of the walk with Great Ocean Road Shuttles contact Abby on Phone: 03 5237 9278 or Mobile: 0428 379 278
For more information visit here: http://www.visitvictoria.com/greatoceanwalk
Day 1 arrive Apollo Bay by public bus from Geelong have lunch & transfer to Bimbi Park Otway National Park
Day 2 walk first segment Apollo Bay to Blanket Bay 20.9km GOR pickup Blanket Bay to Bimbi Park
Day 3 GOR transfer to Blanket Bay walk Blanket Bay to Castle Cove 25.1km GOR pick up to Johanna Seaside Cottages
Day 4 GOR transfer to Castle Cove walk into Johanna Beach Cottages
Day 5 Walk out of Johanna Beach Seaside Cottages GOR pick up Moonlight Head 20.2km
Day 6 GOR transfer to Moonlight head walk to Princetown 14km
Day 7 GOR transfer to Princetown walk to 12 Apostles 6km pick up by GOR and drop off Apollo Bay overnight YHA ecolodge
If you would like to know more about Sydney Explorers visit here: www.meetup.com/sydney-explorers membership is free…