Cape Otway Lightstation and Red Rock Lookout

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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.
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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.
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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.
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Bare gnarled trees form a tunnel over the road as we drive towards the lightstation. At every bend we are exclaiming at the beauty.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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It was a relatively calm day on the sea but still waves crashed high up over the rocks.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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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.

Back in Melbourne

After a week at home I returned to Melbourne on a late night flight with a friend. We arrived at our hostel around 1am on Saturday night (or Sunday morning, depending how you look at it) and quickly called it a night. The trip had been booked before my flight home had been arranged and gave us a chance to catch up after a hectic week. We woke late on Sunday morning and took a leisurely walk to breakfast in a diner near the Queen Victoria Markets. We spent a few lazy hours exploring the markets focusing on the trinkets and crafts, rather than the food (though we did make a special visit to the Koko Black chocolate stall). I enjoyed our wanderings and certainly saw the markets differently than I had when I was there on my own.

After a rest at the hostel we hit the streets again for a long evening stroll to Docklands, South Bank and the CBD. It was fun to explore some of the shops at Docklands, especially after I haven’t done any normal mall-style shopping in a long time (outdoor shops do not count). The t-shirt and book shops were my favourite, though it was in the stationery shop that I came closest to parting with my money when I saw the journals (fortunately for my wallet, none had any lines in them and I can only journal if I have lines).
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And then there was another chapter in my friend and my food adventures. This time we ventured into unknown territory by dining at an African restaurant and eating the two-person set menu. The food was delicious and presented beautifully. The flavours were unlike anything I’ve tasted before especially the bread, which had a sour taste to it. It was certainly a wonderful way to end a lovely day.

Docklands, Southbank and Ghosts

After another day spent working on my ethics in education university paper, I was happy to stretch my legs and check out more of what Melbourne has to offer.
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I wander almost aimlessly in what I believe might be the direction of the Yarra River. I make this deduction from the lie of the land and soon find myself at Docklands. Being 5:30pm, the shops are already closing so there’s not much point exploring this retail precinct so I walk in what I now know is the direction of the river. I am soon greeted by a large dock with statues and other artistic references.
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I chuckle at the cow in the tree sculpture outside Etihad Stadium. I have no idea what it means but it sure is very Melbourne.
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I reach South Bank as commuters make their ways home and the first of the diners start to appear at the restaurants. Bicycle headlights are so bright they blind me as cycle commuters weave their way precariously through the walking throng. As a former cycle commuter I make a mental note to carry a spare low-lumen headlight to use when cycling through well-lit shared pathways like this one and to reduce my speed to 10-15kph through these areas because cyclists traveling quickly ringing their bells at pedestrians is actually unpleasant and unecesssary in the bigger scheme of things (ringing bells is fine but not when it’s done out of entitlement when the cyclist is traveling at 20-25kph or on the drops through a built up pedestrian space).
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The city lights reflect off the Yarra River’s waters. It’s a beautiful sight and makes for lovely walking. While I love the bush and natural areas, I am quite partial to city lights.
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I make my way to the Old Melbourne Gaol where I have booked a ghost tour. I don’t want to give too much away about the tour because surprise and mystery are definitely one of the best things about these experiences. Let’s just say it was a spooky experience in which we walked through the dark old prison listening to ghostly stories of prisoners, guards and more recent ghoulish encounters. There’s tiny dark cells, a gallows and the knowledge that Ned Kelly was among the 174 people hanged here.

The Comics Lounge (Melbourne)

After a long day sitting behind my laptop in the hostel common room I need to get out. The hostel has advertised free entry to a nearby comedy club, The Comics Lounge so I decide to check it out. I’ve never been to stand up comedy before so I can chalk this up to another new experience brought about by travel.

The laughter and frivolity begin the moment we step out of the hostel doors. There are six of us: two South Africans, three Irishfolk from Cork and me. I discover that Irish humour is similar to our Australian humour. The Irish girls are soon teasing me about some wonky directions I gave them earlier in the evening and that cheeky humour continues for the short walk to the venue. By the time I am there it won’t matter how good or bad the comedians are, I’ve already forgotten about the ethics in education paper I’ve been slaving over and am ready for a good time.

Doug Chappell warms the crowd. He’s hilarious, playing off the audience members who he has decided to talk with. His comedy is not for the feint hearted as the f*** word makes frequent appearances and he either mentions or alludes to sex many times. But in the context of a local comedy club it’s hilarious. Unfortunately, the first act didn’t quite measure up to Doug’s introduction and his timing was slightly off for me. I can’t remember the comedian’s name but he seemed relatively young and it was probably just a matter of experience rather than lack of skill. I still had a few chuckles but was grateful for a short set. Dave Ivkovic, by comparison has me belly laughing and wanting more. His joke about Collinwood football supporters has me cheering because, as a Brisbane local, I support two teams: Brisbane and anyone who is playing against Collingwood. The night finishes with Doug taking the Ice Bucket Challenge and making a couple of prank phone calls to people who were nominated by audience members.

If you are in Melbourne and want a laugh, get yourself along to The Comics Lounge. It’s quite a good night out. If you are staying in a hostel, you might find that free ticket are available because there were groups from other hostels at the venue too.

Churches of Melbourne

It’s Sunday morning and the sun is shining. There are two beautiful churches across the road from the hostel I am staying at and yesterday I saw some impressive church spires poking up in the distance when I was in Melbourne. So this morning I use the internet to locate some churches of various denominations around the CBD area, mark up a map and set off.
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St Mary’s Anglican Church is quiet and relaxed. Like other Anglican Churches I have seen during my travels, St Mary’s reminds me of someone relaxing in a garden. It was squat and sprawled comfortably under the shade of a tree.
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The nearby St Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church is almost medieval in style. Yesterday a wedding was taking place here. This morning, a few of the faithful are gathering for Sunday Mass. When I say a few, I mean that a quarter hour before the mass there are still less than twenty people at the church. Inside, the church is beautiful. I stay for a few moments to take in the atmosphere but leave before the mass starts to continue my wanderings.
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My next stop is the Romanian Orthodox Church where a few elderly women with walking canes are making their way through the gates. They are well-dressed in dark-coloured dresses. The mosaics on the front of the church are a beautiful touch.
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After a walk up Lygon Street, which is quiet this early in the day, I circle the Corpus Christie Seminary a few times before I find St George’s Church hidden behind locked gates. I could see the spire but couldn’t find my way there until I saw a driveway. There was an 11:30am mass advertised outside the church but at 11:05am the gates were still locked and no access is possible. It’s a shame because this church looks absolutely beautiful and must be a lovely place to sit and contemplate.
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The Sacred Heart Church is a bonus on my walk. This church seems to be part of a school and didn’t come up on the map that I checked this morning. The round tower makes me think of fantasy films and novels.
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The low key exterior of the Greek Orthodox Church belies it’s popularity. There is a crowd of men, women and children outside the church where some sort of cakes are being given away or sold. The dress code is conservative and the older people wear dark colours. Greek language hums through the air and it is almost odd when I hear a couple speaking English in this setting.
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Around the corner I come to St Patrick’s Cathedral. These are the spires I could see from the city yesterday. I feel like I might be somewhere in Europe. Mass started half an hour ago so I don’t want to go inside lest I disturb the faithful. But even from outside I can tell the cathedral must be incredibly grand.
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Across the road the German Lutheran Trinity Church is tiny by comparison and I can’t help but wonder what parishiners of the two churches thought of the other’s buildings. The German Lutheran Church still has all its signage in German, indicating that mass might even still be conducted in that language.
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Down on Collins Street St Michael’s Uniting and the Scotts Presbytarian Churches stand opposite each other. Both are beautiful examples of structure and calm amidst the bustle of the busy city streets.
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And finally I come to the unobtrusive little grey Welsh Church nestled between modern buildings. It seems modest in comparison to the other churches I have seen and is a pleasant end to my explorations.