Michael Sullivan Online


Week 34: The Ocean, Victoria and South Australia During Christmas

Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road Winding Into Port Campbell

CANBERRA AUSTRALIA - 13 January 2001 - Mike's vacation started when he picked up Grant and headed for the coast. After a little over an hour of driving, they stopped in Cooma, a ski resort town, for lunch at McDonald's. While there, Grant asked for some ketchup to go with his fries. The woman behind the counter offered him one packet. He asked for a couple more, but to his amazement and hers (she seemed shocked that anyone would need more than one), she responded that they aren't allowed to give out more than one. We were astonished. Cooma will always be remembered by Grant and Mike.

After lunch, the boys headed over the Great Dividing Range and the beautiful mountains that go with them. By late afternoon, they were in the retirement and resort town of Merimbula. They found the hostel on a peninsula very close to some wonderful beaches. After inspecting the beach, Mike and Grant headed into town. After having Italian for dinner, they headed to a local pub and played a couple games of pool. From there, they headed to the beach for some star-gazing. Mike was stunned by the number of stars. It was amazing the number of stars that were in between the constellations; the waves lapping onto the beach added another aspect to the scene. They soaked in as many stars as they could and finally headed back. After an encounter with a spider in their room, they went to bed.

Early the next morning, a helicopter flew over Mike and Grant's hostel. Mike couldn't fall back asleep so he went for a walk along the beach. As he got around to the bay, he looked into the water and saw marine life. In addition to lots of small fish, he saw a ray elegantly moving across the sand. After Grant got up, the boys headed to for Lakes Entrance. The first stop of the day came pretty quickly as they stopped at the Whaling Museum in Eden. It's a bit of an outdated museum but does a good job of providing a lot of history about whaling and other development in the region. From there, the relatively narrow and winding road took them through rain forest. Once they'd reached Lakes Entrance, they took a look at the shops across from the protected harbor. The city's main income comes from commercial fishing. A lot of the seafood that lands on a plate in Melbourne comes from this town. After a bit of shopping, Mike and Grant walked over to the beach the protects the harbor. They spent a little time walking along the beach then headed back to town for dinner.

The next day, Grant and Mike headed for Melbourne. The drive was uneventful but hot. Once they got settled in their hostel, they contemplated their next move. The weather was a bit questionable but they decided to walk into the downtown area; Mike brought his umbrella just to make sure. On the way in, Grant saw a big gust of wind coming and directed Mike to open the umbrella. Just then, the gust hit and a downpour soon followed. A limb then broke right next to them. They quickly ran for a storefront with some shelter. They stayed there for a bit then decided to head for the pub just up the road. After a drink there, they caught a tram into town. Melbourne is well known for its shopping and so the boys spent most of the afternoon just wandering through the stores as well as the Chinatown. They had a good chance to get a feel for what Melbourne was like. Towards the end of the day, they went into a pub close to one of the universities for a night capper. While they sat there, they noticed a police officer talking with one of the patrons at table along the street. At first, it looked like they were having a friendly coversation but clearly the patron was rather inebriated. After a short while, the smile left the cops face and ten minutes later a paddy wagon showed up to take the man away. A quick conversation with the pub staff told them that patron had thrown a glass at a passing car. Once Mike and Grant had enough to drink, they headed back to the hostel and almost straight to bed. It was still really hot and the window didn't open very far so Mike didn't sleep too well that night.

On Friday morning, Mike and Grant headed for the Great Ocean Road. An hour and a half later, they'd reached Torquay and the start of the Road. They continued on to Anglesea and stopped at a lookout above the ocean. They saw the rugged coastline and more nice beaches. It was very beautiful indeed. By about noon, they'd reached Lorne, an upscale resort town, and the rain was coming down in buckets. Mike and Grant took the opportunity to stop, eat and quickly peruse the shops. The rain finally let up and they continued along the ocean. They stopped off in the Otway's and took a walk through a rain forest gully that was equipped with a boardwalk. The vegetation was very dense which made it clear how there can be so many varieties of plants. In addition to the dense undergrowth, there were many big trees and fern trees. Along this section of coast, there isn't too much population but instead lots of agriculture. There were dairy farms, cattle farms, and some crops. In addition, the scenery is very impressive. Finally, later in the afternoon, they'd reached the Twelve Apostles. The Southern Ocean slowly ate away at the limestone cliffs leaving pillars of stronger rock out in the ocean. The coast here reminded Mike of the Grand Canyon but not nearly as deep. It was a VERY windy but still picturesque. From here, it was a short trip to the little town of Port Campbell. After making dinner in their country house hostel, Mike and Grant headed for the small beach at sunset. Sunset was beautiful but it was pretty cold so they headed back to the house for a few drinks. After talking with one of the Germans they were sharing the house with, they headed to the town's bar. They had to wait a long time to get on the pool table and by the time they did, they'd had quite bit to drink so their game wasn't too strong. It was fun anyway and after their game, they called it a night.

On the following morning, Mike went for a walk on the cliff that surrounded the beach in town. Once again, the water was very rough which made things very beautiful. Unfortunately, the flys were out in full force and particularly they annoyed Mike quite a bit. Once Mike turned around to head back, he could just see the Twelve Apostles. After the walk, Mike and Grant headed in the direction of Robe, another resort town on the South Australia (the state) coast. On the way, they stopped at the Arch and London Bridge. Both of these rock formations have holes hollowed out. London Bridge used to have two spans but one of the spans collapsed in the early '90's stranding a couple tourists who saw their way back to land fall into the ocean. Apparently, a helicopter came to rescue them. Once across the border into South Australia the landscape turned golden brown except for the evergreens. It was very different than the rain forest that they had seen a day earlier. This too was very beautiful but in a different way. The timber industry is huge around Mt. Gambier and it was easy to see all the logging activity. Once in Robe, they found their hostel (a cabin a bit outside of town), did laundry, and went into town for dinner. After dinner, they went to the town's two pubs and met some of the locals.

On Christmas eve, Mike and Grant left Robe for Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. The first stop was the Big Lobster in Kingston. Basically, it's just what it sounds like: a big lobster that is 17m (55ft) tall. Other than that, the town is pretty small. Mike and Grant were ready to head back to Canberra after seeing this; their trip was complete. Eventually they decided to continue on to Adelaide knowing that they'd compare everything to this Big Lobster. Along the way, there were lots of salt water lakes that are pastel colors. In addition, there were huge lagoons separated from the ocean by a long (100k, 60 miles) peninsula. In parts of this area, the smell of sulfur was very strong. Once in Adelaide, Mike and Grant had some trouble finding a place to stay but after calling a handful of hostels, they were able to find a bed. Once they settled in, they headed for the town center and lunch. The place was packed with people finishing up their Christmas shopping. There were people on their cellphones calling family telling them they were running late because of all the shoppers. On one end of the shopping district, the city was preparing for the Le Mans 24 Hour Race that was taking place the following weekend. After dinner at a noodle bar, they went to pub for a drink. Surprisingly, most places were open and moderately busy considering it was Christmas eve.

On Christmas Day, Mike opened the present from his parents after sleeping in. In it was a copy of his Ph.D. diploma, a picture of the University of Minnesota campus, a fleece vest, and a Minnesota Vikings T-shirt. After the excitement of Mike's Christmas wore off, Mike and Grant headed to the Adelaide Zoo. Mike particularly enjoyed the young giraffe, hippo and the meerkats. After a day at the zoo, Mike and Grant went to Mt. Lofty for a birdseye view of the city. From there, Mike and Grant decided to look for a grocery store that was open. While they didn't find one, they ended up at the sea and the town of Glenelg. They sat down outside for a little Christmas dinner. Grant ordered a seafood platter and Mike ordered pasta. Grant gave Mike a hard time for ordering such a non-Christmasy meal. Never the less, Mike was hungry for pasta and really enjoyed it. On the other hand, Grant hadn't expected to get fish that was all battered and deep fried. It seemed to Grant to be just glorified fish and chips. Afterwards, they checked out the local bar along the beach. Nothing too exciting was happening so they headed back to their hostel.

Here ends Mike's thirty fourth week in Australia.

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