Melbourne to Geelong
It was sad to leave the city so soon, but we knew that we would be returning to Melbourne for our flight to New Zealand in August. We cycled through South Wharf and admired the shiny metallic sky scrapers standing tall and proud that made this feel like an important place.
We wiggled our way towards the Federation Trail, which is a cycle path that would lead us out of the busy urban outskirts, past the smelly landfill sites and industrial blocks that kept a permanent umbrella of fog above them.
Before we knew it, we were back into countryside, with only a scattering of dwellings and not much evidence of life. We pedalled through places like Little River and Lara – where scenes of Mad Max were filmed – and reached the waterfront at Geelong.
We got the key and let ourselves in to the house where we were staying – as directed by our trusting hosts. There was noone in, but within a few minutes of arrival, there was a tapping at the door. It was quite peculiar to open the door to a house you don’t belong to, for the lady to say, ‘Hi, it’s me, my name’s Sandi…I live here.’ We realised we had taken her only key and we had locked her out!
We enjoyed a great evening, though never met Sandi’s partner, Saul, as he was at work until late. As we had only planned on staying 1 night, it was unlikely we would meet him at all.
Geelong to Kennett River
We woke early and were sent off with lots of snacks, sandwiches, fruit, cakes, biscuits…probably enough for Will for the whole day! Excitedly, we followed the signs for the ‘Great Ocean Road’ until we passed through the memorial arch to start our cycle along the beautiful south coast.
We didn’t spot Cadel Evans this time – apparently he’s often cycling along this route – but the Great Ocean Road lived up to it’s expectations, with breathtaking views of the coastline ahead. We were given lots of opportunities to dive off the road and into a viewing bay, where we could take a moment to absorb the magnificent ocean and it’s brutality on the jagged cliffs.
We also got to oggle at the ‘Pole house’ before finding a place to camp. At this point, we weighed up our chances of getting caught camping in a site where this isn’t permitted: this was a particularly busy tourist stretch, and finally agreed that it wasn’t worth the risk – Kennett River would be our home for the night.
Kennett River to Lavers Hill [Geelong]
During the night, the grunting of koalas wasn’t quite the soothing melodic tones that gently ease one into a sleepy state, but despite waking up a little tired, the scarlet sky sunrise was something worth getting up for.
We cycled through the beautiful coastal town of Apollo Bay, where it dawned on us that the sunrise may actually be a sign of things to come…Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning?
After following the coast line for most of the morning, the Great Ocean Road led us away from the sea and into the depths of the Otways rainforest. It was lush and green, and the canopy above us made it feel dark. Intermittently, the sound of the wind in the trees would howl and demand our attention. We looked at each other: it sounded angry.
Cycling up and out of the shelter of the canopy, we became quite exposed to the elements, and here the rain could reach us. We got as far as Laver’s Hill when we decided to take cover at a road-side stop. Just as well – as soon as we rested our bikes against the building, an almighty downpour erupted, and the wind grew fiercer. Cowardly, we backed away under the shelter and watched, laughing nervously…We were trapped. We couldn’t continue cycling if this wind didn’t ease.
We went through our options a few times, each of us looking the map and then at nearest camp spots, and then back out at the rain. It was relentless. Eventually, we decided that a short cycle to the Roadhouse, which offered camping behind the pub, would be endurable. Hoods up and waterproofs on, we rode a kilometer or so down the road. When we spotted a log burner in the pub, we knew we had made a good decision, and as quick as possible, we were inside warming ourselves by the fire.
It was only mid-afternoon, but we had already asked about camping: we knew it would be too dangerous to cycle, and too silly to leave this fire! The lady behind the bar approached us with a motherly level of concern on her face; she pointed at the weather radar image on her phone: “Look, you guys better find somewhere to hunker down for the next couple of days: it’s not looking good.”
Turns out, an unusual series of three “lows” were hitting the south coast, and this icey blast, uninterrupted from Antarctica, was bringing severely damaging winds and snow at 300 meters – completely unheard of in this coastal region. Uh oh. We weren’t going anywhere.
So we sat in the pub, by the fire, for the rest of the afternoon and considered our options. Our most tempting plan was to take advantage of the tail wind and head back towards Melbourne. We messaged our hosts in Geelong to ask whether we could make our way back to theirs. We received a message back: “Where are you exactly?”…
Will and I looked at each other, wondering what this meant. We shook away the idea that we were going to be rescued…we were 150km away. We both really wanted to be picked up…the thought of a shower and a warm bed and being cosied up away from this bitter wind and rain and…No! We had to stop teasing ourselves, no-one would embark on a 4-hour return journey to pick up a couple of strangers they’d never met.
No-one except Saul.
In an instant, we were elated! We were going to be rescued, and for the next couple of hours we waited by the fire, grinning in disbelief. In a moment of excitement and perhaps panic, we dashed back to the road-side stop at the top of Laver’s Hill, where we thought we were going to be picked up. And waited. Another hour went by…had we missed him? Had he got here, saw no-one, and drove off home without us? It was now getting late, and it was extremely dark, and we looked at each other. What was going on? Had our hopes ballooned to the point of bursting?
Just at the moment of deflation, a truck passed us. Slowly, it pulled in. Our hearts jumped! Could this be our saviour?
This white truck, however, had blue flashing lights. It was a policeman. Probably coming to tell us we wouldn’t be able to camp here for the night. He stepped slowly out of the vehicle, and asked: “So, are you two looking for a man from Geelong?”
Yes! Yes we are! Apparently, our departure from the pub had caused some confusion, meaning that a search party were called to look for us. Who knew this night would have brewed so much excitement. It wasn’t long before we were meeting our hero, repeating our thanks, and appreciating all of human kind, in other words: Saul.
Posted by Lindsay