One of the things the PLANNER in me arranged long before I even packed my bags was a 3-day trip from Melbourne to Adelaide with Adventure Tours (through their partner Oz Experience). After one week in Sydney and two in Melbourne, I was up at 5:15am on a Saturday to get ready for the bus that would shuttle me and to-be-determined others between the two capital cities.
Our fearless leader John, hailing from Adelaide, was a friendly face and a perfect guide for our 3-day adventure. After a few stops to pick up 8 fellow travelers (originally from the USA, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Canada, and Germany), we were on our way out of the city!
First up was a stop in Torquay, home of the Rip Curl Pro and Surfing Museum! The founders of Rip Curl and Quicksilver live in Torquay and decided to make the town the international headquarters. At nearby Bells Beach, every surfer’s dream is to ring a bell signaling they’ve just won the Rip Curl Pro. And perhaps it should come as no surprise, but surfing in schools is compulsory!
Soon we were on the Great Ocean Road, one of the most scenic drives in Australia. The coastal road was built in 13 years by WWI vets. Unless you own or opt to rent a car for the drive, many people pay to take a tour like we did. The best thing about our tour is that in 3-days we saw the Great Ocean Road, plus so many other sites.
My favorite town along the Road was Apollo Bay — comes complete with a view of both the ocean and the mountains! Sadly I didn’t take a photo, but this one was taken from the Road before we arrived in town. Rain/mist was coming in from the ocean
At some point along the drive we learned about William Buckley, an escaped convict who survived against all odds on his own and then with Aboriginal tribes for 32 years. John taught us that when someone asks you a question and the answer would be “slim to none”, they have a saying here that’s “Buckley’s chance” — or impossible. I haven’t heard anyone say it yet but hope to at some point — I’ll actually understand what they mean!
We ended the day with a tree-top walk at Otway Fly before heading to Princetown for our overnight stop. John introduced the town as having a population of 9 and gave us the grand-tour (circling the cul-de-sac that was home to the “local pub” and our hostel). It was slightly bigger than that, but not by much
We kicked off our morning with a trip to the “Shipwreck Coast”, as the area has witnessed over 200 shipwrecks due to conditions between the Antarctic, Tasmania, King Island, and the mainland. Ship captains had to be quite experienced to navigate the waters, as making it through successfully was likened to “threading the eye of a needle.”
The Loch Ard was one ship that wasn’t so lucky, and it’s wreck produced just two survivors — Tom Pierce being one of them. He was only 18 at the time and became somewhat of a hero and then a ship captain himself. Tom ended up having three wrecks in his career, the third of which killed him at 49. Pretty tragic life!
Next was a visit to the famous 12 Apostles — only 8 still stand. A few folks in the group decided to take a helicopter tour of the area!
London Bridge — as you can see, it actually is falling down! The gap between the 2 rocks was created by a collapse in 1990 and left two people stranded on the outer part waiting for rescue.
After lunch, we drove through “volcano country” before arriving in the Grampians, where we first saw kangaroos in the wild on the side of the road!
Before heading to our overnight stop, we fit in a hike in the Grampians prior to the sunset. As on hikes on previous tours, the pace is very quick to make sure we stick to our schedule. While I’m reasonably fit and wouldn’t have minded if I was in workout attire and actually wanting a full-on workout, the quick pace meant you had to keep your eyes on the ground to avoid stumbling over rocks, all the while largely ignoring the beautiful views around you. I only stopped to enjoy when the group paused for a brief break to catch our breath. I should have enjoyed the hike, but instead it was an hour plus of “rushing” just to get through it on time. Bummer.
We camped (well, not literally) for the night at a home in Halls Gap owned by Adventure Tours. The 10 of us had the place to ourselves, and we settled in to cook dinner, share a meal, wash up, and chat and relax. Really nice not to be in a hostel for a night!
Day 3 (or, “Trust Your Instincts”)
This morning we returned to the Grampians for another hike. Like the day before, the pace was fast and there was no time to stop and enjoy the surroundings except for the brief stops to catch our breath. John warned us before this particular hike that we wouldn’t be able to bring anything in our hands (e.g., a water bottle) as we’d need them both for certain parts of the climb. Sure enough, about halfway through we came to a spot where it looked like scaling this massive boulder would be difficult and using both hands would be an absolute must. I realized I would be able to get up, but getting back down would be a different story. It’s usually harder to get back down…your legs are tired from the hike and it’s easier to slip on leaves or rocks going down than it is going up. In the interest of not re-injuring my back — more so than it was already bothering me — I opted to skip the rest of the hike and wait for the others to return.
This was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made in the last month. You almost never want to turn down an experience on the road. There’s this need to push yourself to try new things and overcome obstacles. And when you have 9 shining faces encouraging you to give it a go, saying that they’ll even help you back down, how can you refuse? But I did. I’ve lived with chronic pain and injuries to my lower back and neck for 7 years, and I know when to push through and when to stay no. It was the first time in Australia that my instincts told me “absolutely not, Heather” and I had to listen, even if it made me seem like a total wuss to everyone else. Somehow feeling like I was letting everyone down, I shed a few tears and then headed back down the mountain (at my pace!) to wait for the others. It was a long wait but provided an opportunity for me to collect myself and realize I’d made the right choice.
After lunch we had a long drive to Adelaide! We stopped at the border of Victoria and South Australia and changed our clocks — SA is 30 minutes behind Victoria. Not an hour — 30 minutes!
By the time we arrived in Adelaide, all of the stores were closed, so I checked into my hostel with one other girl from the tour and bid a farewell to the others.
Overall I’m really glad I did the tour! I learned and saw things I wouldn’t have on my own and met some really fun, nice people. My biggest issue with tours has always been timing…inevitably I want to stay longer in the places we visit briefly and vice versa. But there’s always some type of trade off I suppose!
Tomorrow morning I’m up at 5:15 again to meet Adventure Tours for a 6-day trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs (aka, simply “Alice”). I probably won’t have internet for the duration, so I’ll be back in a week! Enjoy your reprieve from my ramblings