31 March, 2012

Country Towns 5

Our accommodation at Top of the Otways for this four night holiday was in the hinterland of the Otway Ranges above Skenes Creek, which is a short distance from Apollo Bay on the Great Ocean Road.

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Our quaint and homely cottage was built in the 1970’s when it was originally a restaurant, and is located on a property established as a horse coach changing station in the 1820’s. The young owners in anticipation of a cool night created a warm welcome for us by pre-heating the lounge room with their wood-fire combustion heater. This heater also provided us with warmth on the last day when it was cold, windy and wet (the Otway Ranges experience the highest average rainfall in Victoria at over 2 metres per year).

We had a temporary sense of isolation as there was no television, radio, and newspapers. However, our transistor radios were able to tune into a few stations. Several entertaining videos helped us to pass-the-time on the four evenings.

On the first day we decided to have a relaxing morning until about 11.30 a.m, when we departed for a drive along the Great Ocean Road to Lorne. Our winding descent to Skenes Creek provided us with some magnificent views of the countryside and the coastline between Skenes Creek and Apollo Bay.

Lots of people rave about the Great Ocean Road (GOR) which follows the coastline, and provides for a scenic drive, albeit somewhat spoilt by the hillsides and coast line which are sporadically dotted with houses of all shapes and sizes. I have a contrary viewpoint. I find it unpleasant to drive along the GOR. It is nothing more than a grand-prix for amateurs who continually find the need to change speed and turn round what seems to be a series of never-ending bends, accompanied by a line of cars in which the drivers give the impression that they would like you to go faster. Thankfully, the return journey provides some relief for drivers as they can pull-over to rest and admire the views on what was a warm sunny day.

We had a substantial meal at a hotel in trendy Lorne and Patricia did some shopping for food.

Once again on the second day we had a restful morning, and after lunch we left for a most pleasant drive to the Otway Treetop Walk (OTW). We drove a short distance downhill along a winding road to Turtons Track which was a slow but rewarding 20 minute drive at 35 km per hour through a rainforest from which we emerged into the open area of a mountain ridge which then led to a drive along a short avenue of Birch trees prior to reaching the aptly named Beech Forrest.

To quote the OTW brochure – the treetop walk is a 600 metre long walkway, 25 metres above the forest floor, made from over 120 tonnes of steel. The walkway provides for a 1,500 metre walk through a beautiful warm temperate rainforest. We spent a good two hours enjoying this walk. Twenty strategically placed signs helped us to deepen our appreciation of the natural attributes of the rainforest.

To better view video go to You Tube where you have the option to view the video on a full screen

On two of the three mornings we observed from the bathroom window a White Naped Honeyeater as it went about the task of using its long beak to extract honey from the red and yellow bell-shaped flowers on a small correa tree.

As is our usual habit when on holidays we set aside the last day as our stay-in rest day. Patsy was content to write to her many friends, and I relaxed by reading a novel and to concluding my reading of the weekend’s newspapers. In contrast to the poor weather, the combustion wood-fire created a warm ambiance and some music complimented our relaxed mood. Biscuits and cheese, some wine, a hearty meal and a video topped off what had been a most relaxing day.

The drawers of a cabinet contained some old photos which depicted the timber industry in Otway Ranges timber industry around 1914. Another photo showed a horse driven jinker making its way along a very muddy coastal road. In fossiking through the drawers I  found a small historical brochure which in which a cyclist aged 24 years recorded his account  of a ride along the GOR from 14 – 25 September 1929. The GOR was completed in 1932, see history of GOR at:

In an indirect way I have met this cyclist, Theodore (Theo) Wohlfahrt. I knew of him as the father of a girl who was in my primary school class, and he had been, before my time, a member of the same walking club to which I used to belong. I even remember delivering newspapers to his house in 1949.

I have ridden a bike along the GOR on three occasions- twice on organized tours and once on a six day solo ride from Warnambool to Cheltenham, this ride was cut short after three days when a young driver caused me to fall from my bike in the main street of Lorne. By comparison with Theo’s adventure my rides were rather easy. The cover photo of Theo and his bike indicates that the bike had only one gear.

Here are some extracts from his diary:

“From Point Grey the road was very rough, with splendid views – the mountains rising right from the shore line and the road, just a narrow cutting along their sides…The same magnificent views continued until I reached Cumberland River…”

Soon after leaving Cumberland River he recorded that the narrow track was 3 or 4 feet wide. “I could ride most of the way except where falls of loose earth had to be clambered over.”

From Jamieson’s creek – “Travelling was difficult as I had to carry my bike and force my way along densely overgrown track. In places the track had been carved away with land slides, and there was just a precarious footing around the side. At others, seepage had made the track very slippery or boggy’’

Upon leaving Wye River – “The road was very bad - wet sticky clay, and I had to carry my bike the first couple of miles; one or other of my shoes getting stuck behind in the mud every few yards. The road was slowly improving until I reached Carisbook creek – could ride short intervals between boggy patches.”

Throughout his ride Theo met some interesting characters and he expressed appreciation of their hospitality and friendship .

He concluded his diary with the ironic comment that on the way home he found “…train travelling is awfully uninteresting, one doesn’t know what to do to fill in the time.”

All hail Theo-that was a magnificent effort.

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