Page 121: Further east along the great ocean road.

On the morning we left Port Campbell the wind had dropped and there wasn't a cloud in the big, blue sky. Two solid weeks of rotten, cold, windy, wet weather then the day we leave . . .

Well, that's life and anyway we were on our way to Apollo Bay which came most highly recommended. It was only a drive of a hundred kilometres, mostly on a narrow winding road which took us inland with lots of climbs and descents before returning to the coast and the beautiful little town of Apollo Bay. The Pisces Holiday Park was equally pleasing, situated on a hillside and terraced so that every level has a view over the ocean.

  The view over Apollo Bay from our caravan on Site 27 in the Pisces Holiday Park.  

Once again we were greeted in a warm, friendly manner and given a concrete pad on which to park our mud-spattered caravan. From the caravan we could see whales frolicking in the bay so we set up the caravan quickly, had lunch and went down for a closer look.

  It was impossible to tell how many whales there were in each of two groups we could see which were only just off the beach.
In the picture a whale is blowing. Further left is a tail fin then further left again something else.
Does the tail belong to the bit on its right or left or a different creature altogether? Who knows?

There were lots of people on the shore watching the whales. On that first afternoon, after watching the whales for a while, we went in search of the Tourist Information Office which we found right on the beach side of the esplanade. Around the car parking area were many wood carvings with a marine or wildlife theme.

  Left: That creature designed by a committee, the duck billed platypus.
Right: I'm no fisherman, you decide what these are.
        The ladies in the Information Centre were knowledgeable and helpful. We came away with lots of brochures and many ideas, the first of which was to visit the Cape Otway Lighthouse which we did the next day.

The road to the lighthouse took us through a forest in which there are reputed to be koalas. In all our travels we've seldom seen these shy, nocturnal creatures in the wild so our eyes were constantly scanning the trees which grew tall around us, their branches sometimes meeting above the road.

Pam was the first to spot one so we pulled over and retrieved our cameras from the back seat. We'd been clicking away for several minutes before we realised there was a second koala in the same tree. After that we saw lots of them as we drove slowly through the forest. We counted eighteen but had we wanted to we could probably have gone into three figures.

  “Oh, go away. I’m shy and I won’t look at you.”                              “ I don’t mind looking ’cos I’m cute and I know it.”  

Having seen our fill of koalas we proceeded to the Cape Otway Lighthouse. The fee to enter the grounds was a bit steep but it was worth it. There was more than just the lighthouse, there was a signalling station close by and a WWII radar station on the same site. Oh, and a café!

The signalling station, built in 1859, was the northern terminal for the first undersea cable connecting Tasmania to mainland Australia. The cable, also completed in 1859, was the longest submarine cable in the world in its day. It was in two sections, crossing King Island (in the middle of Bass Strait) overland. The Cape Otway station was also connected via a telegraph line to Geelong and then Melbourne. Signals to and from Tasmania were relayed on by the duty telegraphist at Cape Otway.

Unfortunately the undersea cable chafed on a rocky reef at the Tasmanian end and failed after six months. Attempts to repair it were unsuccessful and that was that. The signal station, however, continued in service and collected details, via flag signalling, of ships passing through the Bass Strait. That information was relayed to Melbourne via the telegraph.

  The Cape Otway Telegraph Station is being restored to its original condition.  

The Cape Otway Lighthouse is claimed to have been the most significant lighthouse on mainland Australia. It entered service in 1848 and operated constantly until 1994, first burning whale oil, then kerosene and later electricity from a generator. Finally it was connected to mains electricity with a diesel generator as a backup. A fixed red light had been added in 1881 and the power of the main light was increased in 1891, in 1905 and again in 1939.

  The function of the beautiful Cape Otway Lighthouse has now been replaced by the small, solar powered lamp next to it.  

The lighthouse was open to the public and they even allowed me in. They drew the line at Pam, however. From the top I was able to look down and watch her, shivering down below. Having just climbed the seventy eight steps I was lovely and warm.

Pam shivering at the base of the Otway Lighthouse.

The light had the usual arrangement, the heavy lamp assembly floating in mercury to reduce friction when it rotated. Apparently, during its working life, the lighthouse had been shaken by an earth tremor and 70 lbs. of mercury sloshed out. That's about 32 kgs. for those that went to school after decimalisation was introduced. And believe me, you are s-o-o-o-o lucky!

Strangely (to me) the powerful light was replaced in 1994 by a solar powered light of considerably reduced intensity. The new light tower is only a fraction of the height of the old lighthouse, though most of the elevation of both is provided by the height of the cliff on which they stand.

Clearly the importance of a light has diminished with modern technology, such as GPS and shipboard radar.

  As pretty as a brick, Number 13 RAAF Radar Station was a purely functional building.
Today is is well screened by trees to prevent it spoiling the landscape.

Why, you might wonder, place a radar station on Australia's south coast? What would it detect? According to a plaque on the wall it was to track Japanese submarine movement between 1942 and 1945. To avoid having to circumvent Tasmania, all east or west bound shipping passes between King Island in the middle of Bass Strait and the mainland, a channel 90 kilometres wide.

During the second world war the Germans are said to have laid mines in Bass Strait, one of which sank an American ship. Another reason for a radar station covering Bass Strait.

  A view through the door of the radar bunker.                                                    Outside was this strange, legless chappie.
               This is all that remains today.                                                               He's about to lose an eye too, if he's not careful.

Having seen so many koalas and the excellent light station our day was very fulfilling.

The next morning dawned fine so we set off to Lorne, east along the Great Ocean Road. Frequently the narrow road was cut out of cliffs with a frightening drop to the ocean on the south side and a steep rock face on the north. There were look-out parking areas provided on the south side of the road but we found that it was often too risky to do a right turn into them, the view of oncoming traffic being severely restricted by bends. No wonder many signs warned us that we were on a high accident stretch of road.

We decided to stop at the look-outs on the return journey when we wouldn't have to cut across a lane of traffic. However, that all changed when the sky clouded over and before long we were driving through heavy rain. Arriving in Lorne we found a parking spot and sprinted (waddled quickly) into a convenient café where we had lunch.

I hadn't really enjoyed the drive out as that stretch of road demands a high degree of concentration so sight-seeing is limited to fast glances when my co-driver exclaims, “There’s another whale”. Or similar. I’m really not looking forward to dragging the caravan along that road when we leave Apollo Bay but there’s no practical alternative.

We decided to use an inland route for the return trip to the caravan. Perhaps I was hoping to find a more suitable route to tow the 'van. If so I was disappointed as the roads we travelled were also narrow and winding but with steep climbs and descents thrown in. And the rain kept on pouring down.

One of the problems encountered by drivers along the Great Ocean Road was illustrated by the number of times we came across this road sign:-


I don't think we have encountered this sign elsewhere. From our recent experience at the Twelve Apostles we know that a great many foreign tourists are in the area now, in winter, let alone during the holiday season.

The following day we called the weather's bluff and were not taken in by the early blue sky and sunshine. And we got it right! By afternoon the sky was dark grey and precipitating on the caravan roof with a vengeance.

  Occasionally Mother Nature compensated us for the miserable weather.