Continuing our road trip through Victoria, we had spent the night in Sassafras in the Mount Dandenong area outside Melbourne and the following morning, after continental breakfast in our room, we set off to Apollo Bay, a distance of about 250 kms from our overnight stop. Ordinarily, this distance would be a comfortable half-day drive for us, but in this instance it meant finding our way through Melbourne’s inner city suburbs, then taking the M1 highway around the south of the city and further eastwards. I had to avoid the more direct tolled highways which required an electronic tag or special account, neither of which were available to us
Closer to our destination we turned off the highway and found ourselves on narrow country roads with pleasing scenery, whereafter the road became seriously twisty as it wound its way through forested hills, so much so that the constant turning had me feeling somewhat light-headed. Thankfully, we eventually crested the last hill and saw the sea far below and we were soon enjoying the last stretch of the trip along rugged coastline up to Apollo Bay. 250 kms has never felt so long!
I stopped at the first opportunity to stretch and take in the coastal views, which included the first of many surfers we were to see on the Great Ocean Road and a pair of Maned Ducks at a small pond in the sand
After checking in to our comfortable accommodation at the Stay Inn, we followed the advice of the B&B owner and enjoyed a memorable dinner that evening of freshly grilled salmon, chips and coleslaw at the Fishermen’s Co-op at the small harbour. Seating was at a “rough and ready” table outside in less than comfortable weather but the superb food made us forget everything else.
We got chatting to the guys at the next table – just another example of how friendly we found the majority of Aussies to be – one was from Melbourne, the other his cousin visiting from Israel and they demolished 3 platters of seafood between them while our jaws dropped at the sight of whole crayfish being so casually eaten.
Next morning we awoke to cold, overcast weather which brought squalls of rain at regular intervals. We took our time enjoying the continental breakfast provided in the room, hoping the weather would improve. Our room overlooked the front garden which provided a lively source of entertainment as numerous birds visited the bird-friendly plants.
New Holland Honeyeaters, which I had come across in Sale, were true to their name and reveled in the nectar-producing plants while Eurasian Tree Sparrows searched the grass and pathways for seed.
I was fascinated by the cutely named Willie Wagtail which popped up briefly, a perky bird elegantly coloured black and white and with a broad tail that he wagged vigorously, but from side to side rather than the up and down of other wagtails.
After breakfast, with the rain letting up, we drove through the village – I soon spotted a sign pointing the way to “Scenic Route” and headed along the indicated road into attractive countryside with green fields, plenty of picturesque cattle and the odd river – all adding up to a totally idyllic scene – whoever had decided to call it a scenic route knew what they were about (in fact that’s something we noticed frequently – Aussies do seem to know what they’re doing)
Apart from the many Cattle Egrets amongst the cattle, there were Maned Ducks at the river and a lifer in the form of a Grey Shrikethrush sat briefly on the fence – too briefly for a kodak moment. There was also a Little Pied Cormorant perched on a tree stump in the river
It happened to be our wedding anniversary and the rest of the day was taken up with a drive to the famous Twelve Apostles, which did not turn out quite as we had imagined – but that’s another story……..