It’s 4 March and a beautiful 26oC day for our final hike. Today we start at the Gellibrand River camping ground at Princetown and finish at the 12 Apostles visitor centre (with the crazy expensive water).
We’re off by 07:45 (an all time record!) to do the usual time-consuming shuffle of cars to the finish and start points. For example, the drive from Bimbi Park to the visitor centre is 75 minutes.
Gellibrand River is very pretty and I can see a wetland boardwalk which would be a must-see if we weren’t hiking. There’s plenty of bird life today – yellow tailed black cockatoos, a few murders of crows (they’re a bit creepy), blue wrens, butterflies and other assorted critters.
ALONG THE PATH
We hike along cliff tops through coastal scrubland and low heath, before stopping at 11:00 for a cuppa at a lookout with spectacular views all the way up to the 12 Apostles. We take time to ponder life, death and other imponderables for a long while before tramping onwards.
There’s been a lot of effort expended into making the path … it crosses the tops of dunes, cuts down into the back of them, then into 6-10 foot high scrub, or across rocky areas with shrubbery that’s only centimetres high. There’s board walk, sunken boards, sand, gravel, dirt. It’s beautifully made (as is much of the GOW) and a pleasure to walk on.
In the distance we can see the rock stacks of the 12 Apostles – rather special seeing them inch closer and closer. Down there we knew there’s 13.2 million tourists milling about, but we’re walking this bit completely on our own. Delicious.
Near the end there’s a plaque set into the ground commemorating the Great Ocean Walk. Most tourists wouldn’t see this because it’s still a fair hike to the visitor centre. We take a bunch of photos to celebrate that we made it, even though we couldn’t hike the whole distance due to extreme heat.
As we leave, a young German guy bounces into the commemoration area and I take a photo of him leaping into the air. Later, at the Gibson steps, Daryle stays with the packs at a lookout while the other four walk down the steps to the beach (with some of the 13.2 million tourists). The German guy bounces into the lookout and Daryle offers to look after his pack so he can enjoy the beach unencumbered. That was great except he lingered down there forever, oblivious to the fact he was keeping five people waiting while he endeavoured to have a swim in the very dangerous surf. He was, in Australia vernacular, a selfish idiot.
At the 12 Apostles visitor centre, we bump into James and Aoife (what was the chance of that)! They’ve been stuck in Lavers Hill and Princetown for two (weekend) nights where there was nowhere to buy food, and no buses running. The bus was finally arriving today so they were madly scoffing edibles and waiting for it to turn up. Lovely to see them before they head off on their next great adventure in South Australia. Both looking well, kisses goodbye!
FINAL APOSTLES PEEK
We take another quick look at the massive 45 metre limestone structures that make up the 12 Apostles. The light and clarity are not as good as the other day, so chuffed we saw it in a truly stunning weather.
The sight of them really leaves you awe-struck in wonder – they’re enormous and stunningly beautiful. There’s only eight stacks left as five have fallen down since they were discovered. The surrounding cliffs are some 70 metres high.
The sea and weather have gradually eroded the softer limestone, and caves and arches have formed in the cliffs, and rock islands up to 45 metres high were left isolated from the shore. Fabulous stuff.
Into the car and off to Port Campbell for lunch. For the first time, it’s cool in the shade so jumpers and coats on at our picnic table. The rest of the day is spent looking at London Bridge, the Grotto and the Arch – all stunning formations in their own right.
At the Grotto we meet a delightful honeymooning Chinese couple and a pair of young American lasses, and we take photos for each other. It’s an internationally flavoured afternoon.
We spend our last evening trying to finish the mountain of food (ergh, I’ve put on weight), a mad pack, then sitting back for a relaxed chat. One thing we note are the huge numbers of dead gum trees as you drive along the road to the lighthouse. Turns out the koalas have eaten them to death. That’s what you get when you destroy habitat (farmers take note) and push native creatures into an ever-decreasing space. The poor souls eat themselves out of house and home.
The next day we head back to our respective homes, another great hike under our belts and keen as mustard for the next one. Watch this space!