The Great Ocean Road

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Mount Gambier to Dartmoor

During the night, we listened to the howl of the wind and drumming of the rain. When we woke, we peeked out between the blinds to see grey clouds. Despite this, we felt determined to cycle, and got ready, ignoring the shaking branches of the trees outside.

We were returning to Dartmoor, to collect our rucksacks that we had intentionally left behind to save some weight for the cycle loop around South Australia. It had been great to cycle with just 4 panniers – the bike looks cleaner and more organised, like a well-loaded donkey – but we were clinging on to the rucksacks for New Zealand, where tramping would interject the cycling.

From Mount Gambier, we headed to Heywood, where we could get a lift back to Dartmoor with our host, and watch his son play in the local Aussie rules match; this would also make it a decent 100km stint. On arrival, we cycled in to the sports oval and got comfy in our camping chairs. While brewing a cuppa, we wondered why there weren’t many spectators, compared to the number of players on the pitch. It was only when one of the teams scored that we realised there were many spectators…they were just all sitting and watching in their cars. Inside their weather-proof vehicles, the cheers of the crowd were substituted by beeps of the horn.

Aussie rules footy

Later that evening, we watched the penultimate Tour de France stage, taking part in some “armchair cycling”, and didn’t get to sleep until 2am after a back-to-back dose of entertainment: James Bond and the Dressmaker – two very different, but equally entertaining movies. We really enjoyed our time in Dartmoor: our host and his family truly understood that cycle tourists sometimes need some creature comforts!

Mount Gambier to Dartmoor
Mount Gambier to Dartmoor – 104.3km

Dartmoor to Portland

Dirt roads through pine forests led us through Drik Drik and out of the national park, where we saw a field of emus. With a much appreciated tail wind, we were back at the coast in Portland before the afternoon rain, and just in time to spot a Southern Right Whale in the harbour – named so because they were the ‘right’ whales to hunt due to their blubber.

Whale watching

A night in front of the fire provided the warmth we needed.

Dartmoor to Portland
Dartmoor to Portland – 96.9km

Portland to Port Fairy

We cycled out of Portland along the coast in order to do some early morning whale spotting. As the sea was calm and still, we cycled along barely looking at the road, but rather looking out for any dark shapes slicing out of the water. Sure enough, Will spotted the gleaming backs of two whales, and we skidded to a halt, threw the bikes to one side (not really, we carefully balanced our treasured Surlys on some rocks), and climbed up onto the sea wall: there we stood in the rain, still wearing our helmets, watching.

The rest of the day featured lakes, rivers, woodland and sheep country; we sailed along, singing with the birds and chatting to the lambs – most of which bounced away from us in terror as we cycled by. Quite an ordinary day until we came across the extraordinary fence of shoes – this fence was the graveyard of the old, redundant, retired shoe. The old boot, the tatty thong, and the worn-out trainer were laid here to rest. Oh to think what stories each could tell, the miles they’ve travelled and the routes they’ve trodden.

Shoes on gate

I contemplated hanging my walking boots up – it would certainly lighten my load. Before the idea got too tempting, we moved on and found a lovely spot in Apex Park to sit by the sea and eat sarnies.

The ocean was set against a backdrop of clear blue sky; however, over our shoulder was a darkness looming. We packed up quickly and made our way to our hosts. The side wind was fierce and pushed pellets of rain that hit us side-on. When we finally made it, we sheltered in the garage and were welcomed by a cat, a cow and a very excited Kelpie.

A family of keen cyclists hosted us, and we enjoyed learning about Port Fairy’s history, about the man who mowed a patch of grass for a certain length of time and then claimed ownership over the land, and proved that you can’t out-run a dog. During our rest-day run, the host’s dog, an adorable but extremely enthusiastic Kelpie who lives outdoors, refused to let us leave without him. Attempt #1: when he wasn’t looking, we ran away from the house and up the track as fast as we could…but he saw this burst of energy as a cue to race excitedly along with us. We ran back to the house with the dog and strategically placed a wheelie bin to block the gap in the fence. Attempt #2: we started our run again, got near to the end of the track, looked behind and from around the other side of the house came the dog, bolting towards us. Back we go. At the end of the track, we noticed, was a cattle grid, which may be enough to prevent the dog from going any further. Attempt #3: slowly and calmly, we made our way to the end of the track alone…as we weren’t running, the dog didn’t seem too interested. We made it! We could finally start our run. Just as we set off however, we watched as he darted towards us, jumped effortlessly, and sailed straight over the cattle grid.

With the Kelpie safe behind a gate, we were able to get a jog on. I don’t know what it was about us and dogs, but we didn’t get as far as 5 km down the road when a little terrier chased us barking and scurrying around our feet. We carried on running, assuming it would stop and go home when we were out of ‘it’s territory’, but this little thing carried on running with us for the next kilometre or two. When we stopped, it stopped and looked at us confused and lost. We knew we couldn’t let this dog wander off hopelessly back onto the road, so, knowing that it would probably follow our lead, we ran it home.

Portland to Port Fairy
Portland to Port Fairy – 78.5km

Port Fairy to Port Campbell

From Port Fairy, our first stop was Warnambool, a popular place to spot whales and their calves. We sat in the tiered seating at the Whale Viewing Platform and looked out to sea, waiting for the show to start. Today, however, must have been their day off – we didn’t spot any and nor did the man with binoculars.

Some gravel roads took us on a short-cut back to Great Ocean Road. When we saw the Bay of Islands and London Bridge, we were really pleased to have come back this way to finish what we started before we got rescued by Saul.

London Bridge, Great Ocean Road

As we admired what coastal erosion had sculptured along this south coast, a man saw our touring bikes, bowed in admiration at us, and praised ‘fantastique’ as we cycled away.

Bay of Islands, great ocean road

We arrived at Port Campbell camp ground at 4pm, and read a sign to notify us that the ranger arrives at 4pm to collect fees. Quick! We made a dash for it and hid at the local park where Will played on the swings until it got dark.

Swing

We later returned to a completely empty campsite where we settled for the night; we doubted whether the ranger even bothered.

Port Fairy to Port Campbell
Port Fairy to Port Campbell – 104.9km

Port Campbell to Lake Colac

We counted 7 of the Twelve Apostles and were thrilled to have finally made it here, even if we did have to push our bikes 1km to the viewing platform.

Twelve apostles

To avoid returning to Laver’s Hill, we headed to Lake Colac and found a surprisingly busy, but beautiful, camping spot by the water’s edge. 1-match-wonder Will showed off his mad skills making fires using only 1 match, and we eventually fell asleep despite the sound of the gum tree above us creaking in the wind.

Port Campbell to Lake Colac
Port Campbell to Lake Colac – 101.5km

Lake Colac to Geelong

With our fondness for Geelong, we were pleased to be cycling ‘home’ for good company and home comforts. The green, rolling hills and the tail wind made the route speedy and fun.

Will on wall

Lake Colac to Geelong
Lake Colac to Geelong – 86.4km

Geelong to Melbourne

The bicycle rail trail out of Geelong got us out of the city but dumped us onto some busy highways before we dived back onto country roads and the safety of the Federation rail trail. We even got caught up in an 80km road race, where sleek carbon frames hummed past us.

cycle road race victoria australia

Though envious of their speed, the sun was shining and we were excited about the final stage of our Australian adventure: Tasmania!

Geelong to Melbourne
Geelong to Melbourne – 85.8km

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