Australia

The Great Ocean Road: Melbourne to Port Campbell

the_great_ocean_road-17I slept in. It was great. The bed of the hotel was super comfortable and I was out like a light. Today was actually going to be fairly short ride to get used to traveling in Australia and experience The Great Ocean Road. Whenever I’ve mentioned motorcycling here in Australia, The Great Ocean Road always comes up. I’m guessing it’s a lot like California’s Highway 1 as the coastal route that everyone flocks to.

Normally I book hotels the morning of as I’m not sure how much distance I’m going to make during the day. I looked last night and there was plenty of lodging around Port Campbell. When I checked this morning, everything was booked. I was stumped. Why would everything be booked on a Sunday night? I started calling hotels that didn’t have online bookings to see if there are rooms available. I think I got the last room in town: no windows or air-conditioning.

the_great_ocean_road-16Fortunately the bike was right where I left it last night. I tend to worry about things more than I should but there is a part of me that wondered how safe Melbourne as a city was in the overnight hours.  I’m surprised how much harder it is riding in a foreign country. I get being on the opposite side of the road. That’s not a big deal. It’s not having context of where I’m going. My mapping skills have gotten rusty since the advent of GPS. I have to pull over frequently, look at the map, and then get back on the road.

It was a slow grind getting out of Melbourne. Flinders Street was full of lights that all seem to turn red right as I pulled up. I was fortunate though. It was a straight shot from the hotel to the freeway with no hook turns. I was first in line at the light to get on the freeway. Fortunately, the signage indicating lane choice was good as my instincts saying right over left.

the_great_ocean_road-8Australia has these neat little devices that sit on the side of the road measuring speed for each car that passes by. You don’t know when you get a ticket. It just shows up in the mail days or weeks later. New South Wales by law has to warn motorists of an upcoming speed camera. Victoria does not have that law. Australian speed limits tend to be slightly lower than their American counterparts. The question was due the Australians give the 10% grace that somewhat common in the States,

The temperature today was nearing 30°C (86°F). It’s also extremely humid. I’m drinking tons of water and it’s all coming out as sweat. As a rider I know it’s important to use the restroom as it confirms you’re not dehydrated. It’s just hard to believe I can drink 2 quarts of water and have nothing to show for it.

the_great_ocean_road-7Interstate 80 fascinates me. It’s 3000 miles of concrete between San Francisco and Teaneck, NJ. It amazes me the amount of engineering, concrete, and work that goes into maintaining that single ribbon of concrete across the United States. Likewise, the same can be said for US–80 between San Diego and Savannah, Georgia.  Both Highway 80s were a part of my cross-country journey in 2008.

the_great_ocean_road-6When the idea of motorcycling in Australia came across my mind, I looked up to see were highway 80 was an wrote it off as a long way away from Sydney. Several weeks later knowing that I was starting in Melbourne it turned out it was on the journey. Labeled “M-80” which I think is National Motorway 80. I just thought it was an explosive.

About two hours out of Melbourne, the freeway turned into a two lane highway. It was nice to finally be on the country roads.  To my surprise, there was a motorcycle just a little ways ahead. We rode together and it was a glorious 10 miles until we hit massive traffic. Through a series of head nods we decided that we’d white line to get around the traffic. It was legal in California…

After about 10 miles we found the source of the traffic. It was a market in Anglesea. We were both tired and thirsty at this point so we stopped for gas, water, and a snack. It turns out the other rider was Jake. Jake recently got a Suzuki GS500 and was out on a Sunday joyriding in the good weather. He was a diesel mechanic by trade just barely out of high school. He was headed back to Melbourne as the day was getting away from us. I was a bit bummed as it was nice to have the company on the ride.

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I’d been warned that the sun was strong here. I often forget to wear sunscreen when riding the motorcycle as I’m all covered up except for a small patch on my face. I stopped at a local chemist to pick up a small bottle of sunscreen. The shelf clearly indicated 5.99 that the cashier insisted the price was 9.99. My accent clearly indicates I’m a tourist. I didn’t want to assume I was being taken advantage of, but I had that hunch. I thanked the man and proceeded to buy sunscreen at the general store down the road.

Lunch was at Airey’s Inlet. Airey’s Inlet as a town was so small if you blinked you’d be through it. It also appeared to be the beginning of The Great Ocean Road in earnest. I was excited about spending the late afternoon on a twisty ribbon of concrete but decided that lunch was to be had. I stopped in a small café called Mr T and Me. The menu was a bit strange, but I settled on the Vietnamese pork salad. I’m continually surprised how expensive food is here in Australia. A Coke and a small salad with three small pieces of pork was $17. I will say though, the quality of food tends to be much better here.

the_great_ocean_road-1At about 2 o’clock, I hit The Great Ocean Road in earnest.

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Topographically, it felt a lot like Highway 1 in California. The terms were tight, the beautiful ocean was below, and a motorcyclist would have a hard time not being happy. It was significantly different though. It was extremely warm, humid, and the flora was tropical. Rather than having evergreen trees dot the mountainous landscape, thick vegetation was the lay of the land. Instead of layering up for fog and cold, I was fully sweating as the sun poured down.

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Split Point was the first scenic stop on The Great Ocean Road. I’m always a sucker for lighthouses and this one stuck out on the landscape. I wandered down the paved road to get to the parking lot. The road turned to dirt has got closer to the lighthouse. I kept going a little unsure of myself on a fully loaded bike I didn’t know how the bike would react in the dirt.  A slow but steady climb up the hill revealed a parking lot filled with no parking signs. Back down the hill I went to walk up it again on foot.

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My bike back home is about twice the size of the one I’m renting. The friction zone on the BMW requires a lot more RPM than the V-Strom. I’ve stalled it a few times when engaging the gas as I’ve not given it enough power on takeoff.

Functionally, riding on the left side of the road generally doesn’t bother me. What takes getting used to is that setting up for turns is completely mirrored.  Hazards in right-hand turns and now appear in left-hand turns.  The Great Ocean Road often has potholes in the outsides of turns which make cornering all the more fun.

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It was getting late in the day, but I saw a sign for Port Otway National Park which had a lighthouse at the end of the road. It was an unknown amount of distance out of the way but I figured it would be worth it. About 20 minutes in I stopped near a cluster of cars that had found a koala bear munching on eucalyptus.

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It was only another 3 miles down to the lighthouse so I kept on going. Unfortunately, the park closed access to the lighthouse about an hour ago. I’m not sure why they felt the need to close the walkway to a lighthouse, but to each his own.

The day was getting away from me. In general I do pretty well converting metric back to standard units. When traveling around Canada, kilometers always seem to go much faster than miles. I had about 100 km to go and only 75 minutes of daylight remaining. Hopefully I don’t see anything interesting along the way. 🙂

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The 12 apostles was a landmark many people referred to along The Great Ocean Road. From pictures, they looked like large outcroppings in the sea. I somehow missed the overlook for the 12 apostles but was equally enchanted at Loch Ard Gorge. The sun was just about to set and a very light dusting of fog was sneaking in between the rock formations.

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I got to the hotel and was truly exhausted. I had only ridden about 200 miles which isn’t much for me in the States. I’m sure part of it was the heat, part of it was being in a foreign country, and part of it was being on a different bike. I stumbled into town and found a pizza place that was closing up shop that was willing to feed this weary traveler.

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I got a blip on my phone from Brett who is in town from Melbourne with a bunch of his friends for a guys weekend. It was awesome running into them and having some company for the evening. Many times on these trips it’s easy to spend the night alone. When it’s just a day or two the loneliness can be freeing. When you’re on the road many nights it can become, well, lonely. Brett and his buddies all rode motorcycles so there is no shortage of conversation between bikes and boys.

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A few beers later brought us to 11 o’clock when the bar was closing and we all called it a night.

Route:

4 replies »

    • Seriously! It’s amazing how much more expensive food is here in Australia. Food is much harder to grow here plus I get the sense there’s a lot less engineering in the food here as well.

      Like

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