Along the Great Ocean Road in Australia

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

The trip to see the Twelve Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, near Melbourne, Australia started at Federation Square (across from St. Paul’s Cathedral) where I got to see the possible tour options at the tourism office located there.

Melbourne, Flinders, train station, Australia, photo, travel

Flinders Train Station, across from Federation Square

I returned there to take the bus on the day of the tour and a long but rewarding day began.  Along the way we stopped to see some of the flora and the wildlife (koalas, kangaroos and birds).  It was amazing to see koalas and kangaroos just freely roaming around, not in a zoo or animal park.

fern, Australia, flora, vegetation, photo, green, travel

Close-up of a fern in the park where we stopped to see the koalas

Kangaroo, Australia, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, tour,

Kangaroos roaming (or hopping) free along the Great Ocean Road

bird, Australia, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, tour,

Colorful bird!

koala, Australia, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, tour,

Koala doing what they do best: sleep. Tons of sleep.

The Twelve Apostles (who knows if there are really 12 at any given point, one of the more famous ones had collapsed not long before my visit) are fascinating as they “show” the process of water and wind shaping our landscapes.

Twelve Apostles, Melbourne, Australia, Great Ocean Road, park

A nice park has been set up to help see the Twelve Apostles

As the water washes away softer terrain, these “islands” of stone become separated from the mainland.  Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

You can tell where new ones will appear:  any of those fingers or peninsulas are apostles-in-the-making.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

At some point, the underside of a finger begins to hollow until an arch forms.  The arch eventually collapses separating part of the former peninsula from the mainland (see next photo).  In turn, an arch may form on the newly-formed “island” and, when the arch collapses, it will just leave just a column which over time will also collapse leaving nothing behind.  The cycle of life!

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Here is a finger where a part collapsed creating an “island” arch

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

By now, this “island” has become quite isolated and is developing an arch that will further weaken it

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Columns in the water: former arches, former fingers, former mainland!

Now, the park has very easy trails to walk and get good vantage points, and the tour goes to other interesting spots such as Loch and Gorge.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Loch and Gorge

But what really captivated me was the brief helicopter ride to see the apostles from above.  I had never ridden a helicopter before so there was a double thrill aspect to the experience for me.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Viewing them from high was a real treat

Finally, if you decide to drive the Great Ocean Road and you are not from Australia or the U.K. (or some other places like them), please mind what this sign says as you explore this beautiful road!road sign, great ocean road, australia, driving, photo

Along the Great Ocean Road and within Melbourne

Distances in Australia are enormous and, perhaps, they feel more so because there are a lot of vast empty lands in the middle (as opposed to us in the US where we have Kansas in the middle!).  Yet my trip to Melbourne from Sydney felt short indeed as it does not require traversing the country.  I wanted to get a good feel for Melbourne and no better way than visiting people who actually live there.

My friends in Melbourne lived in a penthouse pretty much in the central business district of town, enjoying a view of the Yarra river and the Crown casino.  I think my friend Matt chose this apartment for a reason…

Melbourne, Australia, CBD, Crown casino, Yarra river, travel, photography

The view from the pad!

The next morning after my arrival I made my first stop the information center in Federation Square, a relatively new and modern square next to the Flinders train station by the river.  There I found way more information than I needed but that would have been very helpful had I decided to spend 2 months in Victoria, the state where Melbourne is… I wish I had had all that time!

Melbourne, Flinders, train station, Australia, photo, travel

Flinders Train Station

The information office was very well organized and the folks there were extremely helpful.  My first objective was to see the Great Ocean Road that heads out west from outside Melbourne by the ocean so I scheduled it for the following day.

The Great Ocean Road and my first helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles

The tour on the Great Ocean Road ends at the Twelve Apostles which are remnants from the mainland that water has eroded over time so they look like massive columns of rock coming out of the water, no longer connected to land.  The number 12 is just used ’cause it sounds cool but now there are <>12 (I don’t even remember how many they said).  In fact, 2 days before I went, one collapsed so I missed ever seeing it – well, I saw it in a pile of rocks.  Hence, it is safer to say <> 12 since the number could change any day!

Twelve Apostles, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Australia, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

The Twelve Apostles (well, some of them)

I decided that a neat way to see the apostles was to get in a helicopter for a 15 minutes and fly around.  I had NEVER been in a helicopter so the exhilaration went beyond seeing the Twelve Apostles.  I soon found out how hard it was to admire the view and take pictures at the same time while trying to look around fellow passengers and also not blocking their own view!

Great Ocean Road, Twelve Apostles, Melbourne, Australia, helicopter, travel, photo

An apostle as seen from the helicopter! Great vantage point!

Wildlife along the Great Ocean Road

An unexpected surprise in the drive along the Great Ocean Road was seeing kangaroos, koalas and birds.

Koala, Australia, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, Canon EOS Rebel

Koala in the wild – asleep!

Australia, wildlife, bird, colorful, Great Ocean Road, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

One colorful Australian bird along the Great Ocean Road

Using the free city bus is a great idea

After booking the Great Ocean Road tour, I took advantage of the free bus the city has for tourists to hop on and hop off at the various important sights in the city. Taking a bus is a great way to orient oneself in a new city, to see some places that one may have decided “check, don’t need to come here”, and to actually get off and visit places that seem interesting or make a note to come back another time.  With this, I discovered the Victoria Market which sold just about everything but, unfortunately, as closing right as I got there.  I did manage to get a couple of souvenirs and fruits and made my way back to the city center proper.

I did not get to visit the art gallery in Federation Square which I was hoping to see but got to see the Immigration Museum where I gained a good understanding of the Australian immigrants’ story.  What a long-ass and possibly horrible journey to make it to Oz through the roaring 40s!!

Some food was enjoyed too

Other things I did was enjoy chocolate at the chocolate stores in the Arcades (the city center has this beautiful arcades from early last century with shops and that’s where this chocolate shops are).  I also, based on my friends’ recommendations, enjoyed great soup from a little chain store called Blue Bag – the red lentil soup was excellent.

Witnessing a sports match – with all that it entails…

On my final night in Melbourne (and Australia), I got to go to a football/soccer match at the MCG between Australia and Japan.  It was great to be able to watch such a match with the local crowd though that required being careful on leaving as we had to walk through a minefield of a kind…  Let’s just say, there seems to have been over-drinking during the match 🙂  I got to try one of the famous meat pies during the match which was good but by the time we were done with the match, I was hungry again – should have had 2!   That’s when I tried vegemite – on the salty side but the butter made it better.

I can help but compare…

Anyway, I have struggled in my mind to compare the cities of Sydney and Melbourne but can’t find a way to properly explain how they felt.  Sydney has the harbor right there which was more in your face than Melbourne‘s proximity to the ocean.  Sydney felt fast-paced, Melbourne more laidback.  I enjoyed them both and feel like I need to go back to keep studying what makes them different – how conveneeeeenient!  🙂

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