I had to fit in one last road trip before I left Australasia. Everyone said to go see the Great Ocean Road (GOR) if I had time (advice I will echo to future travelers). Not only did I have time, but I was lucky enough to have a friend with a car and a free Monday who was willing to take me on a day trip. Josi and I were going out on the road again.
As per usual with our road trip history in NZ, the weather was pretty bad. But we went for it anyway; this was the one day we had together for the trip so we were going rain or shine. I’m happy we did.
The drive is beautiful, although I’m sure more so in sunny weather. About halfway down we took a turn off onto the road where we were most likely to see koalas. Luckily there were no cars behind us as we crept down the road scanning the treetops. Then Josi hit the breaks: “koala!” We jumped out of the car and sure enough she had spotted one way up high. As I took pictures it clearly looked down at us. I jumped for joy – I finally saw an Aussie animal in the wild! And a koala, which are notoriously hard to spot.
When we could tear ourselves away we continued at our snails pace and this time it was my turn to yell out “koala!” This one was not happy we were making noises in its direction and it openly complained about t. Koalas make the strangest sound! It’s rare to hear it as a tourist so I felt really lucky. We were also lucky because this one wasn’t alone; another was up in the same tree and a mom and baby were across the street.
We moved on again, already happy with our 5 koalas, when we saw a few cars pulled over up ahead – 2 more koalas, another mom and baby. And this time there were kangaroos too! About half a dozen in a field just hanging out. More animals! I was skipping around like a giddy child. Another couple hundred meters and we had to stop again – 4 more koalas, and active ones. We saw one jump and climb up a tree (and stop for a pee break as I was filming him), and a couple had some lunch. They were all so close to the road. People were all around taking tons of pictures; I was right there with them. The next koala we saw we didn’t even stop for. We were up to 12 now. Even Josi was shocked, she’d never seen so many in a day. Later Gus, her fiancee, told us it was mating season, which explained why they were around and awake.
On our way back out the same road I saw a black kangaroo jumping around. At this point I was happy with the drive just for the animals; I finally saw them and not in a zoo. Seeing animals in the wild is always better.
We drove on, stopping for a quick fish and chips lunch (had to get one of those before I left), and made it to the first of the 12 Apostles just as the weather hit peak shittiness. We still got out and climbed down to the road. The tan cliff face and lone Apostle were imposing sites. This was my favorite vista of the drive. We were alone on the beach surrounded by the sheer awesomeness of Australia’s coastline. It was stunning even in the overcast misty rain.
It wasn’t much further to the main 12 Apostles visitor center, our final destination, which we shared with hoards of tourists. This was supposed to be the peak moment of the GOR but the strong wind, cold rain, and masses of people really took away from the experience. It was still impressive, I get why everyone goes here and still recommend stopping by, but we didn’t linger. We were also very disappointed with the visitor center: it was just a kiosk, no information on the Apostles at all. I googled them on our way out for at least a little history.
We turned around and drove back up to Josi’s. As we reached the end of the GOR we saw a huge rainbow; we were actually able to see where it ended in the ocean. To our chagrin it was too far out into the water to look for the gold, but to me it signaled a happy end to a great day trip.
It was so fun being back on the road with Josi for a day, a throwback to how we got to know each other in NZ. And beyond that, Josi and Gus welcomed me into their home, and I am so thankful to them both for their hospitality and their friendship. The night before the GOR drive I took the train out to Geelong to stay at their house so we could get up early the next day. Josi picked me up at the train station and we greeted each other with a huge hug. When we got to the house I was so excited to meet her fiancee Gus, who I’d heard so much about, and of course he was fantastic too. We all had dinner together and Josi and I finished off a bottle of wine catching up. It felt like I was staying with old friends who I just hadn’t seen in a while. On our way home the next night we picked up kangaroo burgers and made dinner together. Gus is an excellent gardener so I was treated to fresh veggies and salad picked right from the backyard to go with the burgers. It was a delicious meal.
I was sad to say bye to Josi and Gus that night; I really felt so welcome in their home. It’s a testament to how great they are and I’ll always remember them as some of the most kind-hearted friends I met on this trip. I would say I’m sad I don’t know if or when I’ll see them again but I don’t have to worry about that. Josi and Gus I haven’t forgotten – Burning Man 2016. See you there.