Cape Otway Lightstation and Red Rock Lookout

 photo 20140917_064043_zps05wbxqcs.jpg
We wake to the sound of birds cheeping outside our window and on the balcony. My friend has left some seeds outside to attract them and it worked. As we step outside we are greeted by a variety of birds including some grey-green ones that jump around. The morning sun is golden over the ocean as a parrot commandeers one section of the balcony and doesn’t let any other birds eat from it.
 photo 20140917_084600_zpsdomcfh0i.jpg
The sun is shining as we drive west along the coast. Within minutes it is raining again. This is how things will be all day but that seems to be fairly normal down here along the Victorian coast. If you come here, bring wet weather gear so you can enjoy the sights without getting too wet. The lovely things about patchy rain showers are rainbows. They look amazing against the grey sky and moody seas. We drove straight through the land-side base of this one. Alas, there was no pot of gold.
 photo 20140917_094011_zps5xo7bdqk.jpg
The drive up the Otways is slow but beautiful. Dense greenery surrounds the road. Tall timbers rise high above us, their bark like brown spaghetti streaming off them creating a mosaic of white, grey, red and brown under their green leaves. Occasionally the trees to the north clear and we can see rolling farmland with its light green blanket covering the earth. As we turn down the Cape Otway Lightstation road a graffitied sign takes my attention and makes me laugh.
 photo 20140917_112748_zpsvguwdcf7.jpg
Bare gnarled trees form a tunnel over the road as we drive towards the lightstation. At every bend we are exclaiming at the beauty.
 photo 20140917_102728_zpsa5hj97zw.jpg
The Cape Otway Lightstation is pretty. It looks like it was pulled straight out of a picture book. It’s not tall but it doesn’t have to be because it stands on top of a 90m (295 foot) cliff.
 photo 20140917_103506_zpsrx7pulg8.jpg
We climb the 74 spiral steps to the top. I am amazed to learn the lighthouse walls have no water or cement holding them together yet the building has stood since 1848 in this wild and woolly place.
 photo 20140917_103128_zpsdque4uq1.jpg
 photo 20140917_103156_zps22cknrcr.jpg
The wind is howling today and I feel like I will be blown off the viewing platform. One side is protected but the other is so exposed that I dare not tread there. The wind and view compete to take my breath away. This vast coastline we have traveled the past few days is stunning and this bird’s eye view is a magnificent final impression.
 photo IMG_20140917_104838_zpsgpkiticx.jpg
 photo IMG_20140917_110031_zps7imqtx9g.jpg
That said, I am glad to walk into the warm dry lightstation cafe just as the first drops of rain start falling from the sky. We order hot chocolate and chocolate cake while I settle in to add my creativity to the collection of coloured in lighthouses that line the cafe wall. At first I thought the pictures were done by children but it turns out that most were coloured by adults of all ages (including at least one in her 50s). It’s a very cool idea and gives the cafe a very fun atmosphere (though I will not give up my day job to become an artist).
 photo 20140917_132914_zpsxpaurrfp.jpg
From the lighstation we drive out of the Otways and down into the farming country around Colac. The road twists and turns up and down steep switch backs through dense forest intermixed with green grazing land. As our descent out of ranges the farmland opens up and is more dominant. We drive to Red Rock Lookout, which is about 20km (12 miles) out of Colac, to see the volcanic craters. The weather has closed in so we can only just make out the massive salt and fresh water lakes to the east and west, which focuses our attention on the craters below as we stand on the volcanic rim. It seems crazy to think this volcano is merely dormant but hasn’t erupted in over 4,500 years; that’s a long time to be asleep. The wind is so brutally strong and cold that it makes us laugh as we have to push our ways through it just to walk from the car to the viewing platforms. I’ve been skydiving once before and the rush of wind here while standing still was stronger than the rush of wind I experienced after jumping out of a plane. It’s quite cool (no pun intended).

From the volcanic craters we drove back to Melbourne where my friend returned home. I now have a few more days in Melbourne to catch up on work, start my next university papers and prepare for my flight to Korea on Sunday morning. I intend to spend the time between my more mundane commitments checking out a few cafes and eateries.

Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles

 photo IMG_20140916_085244_zpsisjo8ecz.jpg
We started the day with the simple luxury of feeding the local birds on the deck of our cabin at the Kennett River Holiday Park. We’d bought some seeds from the park shop the previous afternoon and weren’t disappointed by the turnout. It started with the ducks who came looking for a free feed. Soon brightly coloured parrots swarmed onto our deck as large cockatoos jumped around on the ground and blackbirds looked on.
 photo 20140916_085538_zpsbzrss0sg.jpg
 photo 20140916_085757_zpszxraxct0.jpg
 photo 20140916_085954_zpsshpwjyw7.jpg
The parrots became bolder the longer we stayed and soon flocked to us personally, landing on our heads and arms to access the food they desired so much. It was my friend who bought the seeds. He’s brilliant like that.
 photo 20140916_105820_zps0hbsmrvl.jpg
 photo 20140916_105810_zps92pcdpj5.jpg
 photo 20140916_105623_zpsn6jtbgbv.jpg
After feeding the birds we set offf for full day exploring the rock formations on the western end of the Great Ocean Road. After a slow drive over Cape Otway in the driving rain we reached Gibson Steps; the first of the rock formations. The rain cleared long enough for us to walk down the steps and stand below the high and fragile cliffs. I felt so small down there under this wonder of nature. It really set the tone for the rest of the day’s exploration.
 photo 20140916_111517_zpsnvpqznq4.jpg
What remains of the Twelve Apostles was our next stop. There used to be twelve structures in the sea but some have collapsed over time. The waves crash against the lower sections of the pillars and eats away at them until the pillar topples over like a huge pile of Jenga blocks.
 photo 20140916_114853_1_zpsddqvmtk7.jpg
It was a relatively calm day on the sea but still waves crashed high up over the rocks.
 photo IMG_20140916_115813_zps54vmubvw.jpg
The cliffs here are riddled with caves that fill with sea water, which in turns digs them even deeper. Thunder Cave is a great example of this. Waves rumble down through a gorge before filling the cave. It then rushes out to meet the next waves taht are racing towards the cave. Looking around it was obvious that there are more caves being burrowed into the cliffs as water exited cracks in the rock.
 photo 20140916_121807_zpskx1lri3e.jpg
 photo 20140916_124541_zpsn8cc9zub.jpg
 photo 20140916_135510_zpsb6huwrsa.jpg
 photo 20140916_145711_zpsfz9mbwog.jpg
 photo 20140916_124111_zpsj5z7ph2p.jpg
We spent the entire day driving along the coast from one amazing vista to the next. I don’t think I could find enough superlatives to describe them all. So I will leave you with my favourite: The Grotto.
 photo IMG_20140916_141101_zpsfrixskeb.jpg

Werribee Mansion and the Great Ocean Road

With only four days available, my friend and I hired a car to check out the iconinc Great Ocean Road. I’ve ridden it twice before on a motorbike but both times I was in a hurry and saw nothing but the quick photo highlights. So this time we booked two nights accommodation along the road and a late flight home for my friend so that we had a full three days to explore this popular region.
 photo IMG_20140915_115804_zpswkrf2xyj.jpg
 photo IMG_20140915_115705_zpsgusblol7.jpg
We weren’t far out of Melbourne when we decided to make our first stop: the Werribee Mansion. This late nineteenth century building was constructed by a wealthy landowner who merely wanted to show off his wealth. The building was not used as a residence though it was fully decorated. The gardens were established in the style of the Royal Botanic Gardens in England. Much of the building has been restored to its former glory and it looks truly grand. Afterwards we stopped at Bruno’s Deli and Cafe in Werribee for more food adventures (I wish I’d taken some photos). The deli made sandwiches to order on fresh ciabatta using top quality ingredients at good prices (I had salami, cheese and salad) and their scoops of ice cream were so generous no child (small or big) could complain (I had lemon sorbet and chocolate gelato in a cone).
 photo IMG_20140915_152138_zpsagd7p6cj.jpg
A long hour later and we finally reached the start of the Great Ocean Road in Torquay. Here we looked out over famous Bells Beach but, unfortunately, there were no surfers out in the water yet. Some had driven up and were getting ready but with it being mid-afternoon already and over 1.5 hours left to drive, we didn’t wait to watch them in action.
 photo 20140915_171554_zpsbep4ltxs.jpg
We followed the Great Ocean Road along the coast until we reached our cabins at the Kennett River Holiday Park. The park is across the road from the beach and just down the road from a glow worm hangout. Large seaweed trees had washed up on the beach and we stood in awe of them. It was far too cold and windy to stay out for very long though so after a short walk we retreated to the warmth of our accommodation. After dark we drove 6km into the mountains where the glow worms were dazzling. It was like there were stars embedded into the hillside. It was a perfect end to a wonderful day.