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Thread: G'day sun, surf and sheer drops. A Trip along the Australian Ocean Road.

  1. #1
    R.I.P. 2015-05-13 minir's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
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    Cool G'day sun, surf and sheer drops. A Trip along the Australian Ocean Road.

    Happy 4th. of July to All

    Saw and read this in the morning Times. Thought you might enjoy it as well?

    Nicholas Rufford of The Sunday Times takes a Nissan 350Z Roadster to travel the Great Ocean Road, passing through rainforest and the birthplace of Australian surf culture

    Hitting the bends: Rufford takes the Nissan 350Z through a winding climb on the Great Ocean Road

    Like all spectacular engineering projects the Great Ocean Road is a story of sweat, toil and pain. What is today one of the world’s greatest drives was started in 1919 as a make-work scheme for soldiers returning from the first world war.

    Some of them must have looked at the dense forest and limestone rock through which they were expected to lay a two-lane strip of asphalt and wondered whether digging trenches on the front line was so bad after all. Several survived artillery barrages in Flanders only to die in construction accidents on their home soil.

    It took 13 years to complete the 187 miles of sweeping curves, hairpins and switchbacks that stretch from the surfing mecca of Torquay in Victoria to Allansford near the South Australia state border.

    On a fine day, out of season (ie, around now) when the seaside towns are not packed nose to tail with daytrippers, you can have just about the most fun possible on two or four wheels.

    I flew to Melbourne and picked up a Nissan 350Z Roadster. If you want to get the full grandeur of the views of ocean and cliff, a convertible is a must. While Nissan has yet to confirm that the 350Z Roadster will ever be sold in Britain, it’s already on sale in Australia. However, it’s rumoured that the car is likely to make it here sometime in 2005.

    It certainly deserves to — the nimble yet powerful and undeniably handsome Roadster turned out to be the ideal car for the Great Ocean Road. The hood is canvas rather than the hard top that has become all the rage in Britain, but it is fully motorised. Moreover, removing the roof to reveal the acres of beautiful scenery hardly appears to have harmed the coupé’s handling at all.

    It was sitting waiting for me in the Qantas valet parking area at the airport — silver and sleek. You drive on the left in Australia and road signs and white line markings are similar to those in Britain. Trucks are considerably larger, though, and meeting an articulated “road train” coming round a bend across both lanes is a heart-stopping experience.

    Graphic: The Great Ocean Road
    But even on sunny days in late autumn or winter (our summer) the road is almost empty. Occasionally you pass a tie-dyed VW Kombi van — complete with hardy winter surfers dressed in woollies and afghans. The road is often dubbed the Amalfi coast of the southern hemisphere but there are plenty of reminders you are not in Italy. It winds through lush rainforest and bushland. Giant overhanging myrtle beeches and redwoods dwarf European trees. Along the way, road signs warn of koalas and kangaroos. It’s not just for the benefit of the animals either — collision with a roo at night can be fatal for both parties.

    Some parts look instantly familiar — commercials for BMW, Jaguar, Ford, Toyota and Harley Davidson have been filmed against the impressive coastal backdrop.

    The Great Ocean Road proper starts under a commemorative wooden arch just west of Torquay. Almost immediately you pass through a piece of living history. The big waves that come ashore on this stretch of coast made it the birthplace of Australian surf culture.

    The story is told at the Surfworld museum in Torquay where you can learn the difference between a Mal and a Thruster (the Thruster is a short board with fins, the Mal — short for Malibu — is a traditional long board). On the same site, called Surf City Plaza, are warehouse-sized Rip Curl and Quiksilver outlets. It was here that the surf companies were started in garage workshops before growing into global corporations.

    A few miles down the road is Bells Beach — one of the southern hemisphere’s most famous surf beaches. Annual Rip Curl surf competitions began here and are still held at Easter.

    The most spectacular and fun-to-drive section of the road starts at Lorne — a town with the feel of an English West Country resort. The 27 miles to Apollo Bay is a rollercoaster of loops, twists and hills — and an ideal place to put the Roadster through its paces.

    The 3.5 litre V6 engine produces 287bhp through the rear wheels. With the Traction Control System (TCS) turned on, it is exuberant but controlled. With the TCS off, the car corners like a Scalextric racer with a nervy 14-year-old on the throttle. Nissan boasts that the car’s weight has been distributed with a small deficit at the front that is cancelled precisely by the braking effect going into a tight turn.

    Maybe so. But the rear end twitched alarmingly when I accelerated through a 90-degree clifftop curve, though the front stayed on the correct side of the white line.

    At a pull-in a few miles out of Lorne I re-engaged the TCS and lowered the hood. At relaxed pace you can drive and soak up the view. With a Springsteen ballad on the CD player and the autumn sun winking on the glass, you suddenly remember what motoring can be like after all those hours spent in commuter traffic back home.

    There are electric seat warmers for driver and passenger — handy to take the chill off an autumn evening.

    The highway clings precariously to the edge of sheer drops and dips to the water’s edge, almost touching the lines of white-crested breakers rolling ashore. Behind the road, the hills are cloaked with dark green rainforest.

    You can spot red-and-green king parrots or crimson rosellas or the occasional koala in the Grey River Reserve. If you have a wetsuit (the water temperature drops to a chilly 10C in winter) you can swim in the Wye River and Kennett River.

    Apollo Bay describes itself as Paradise by the Sea. It’s a traditional seaside town with a pretty promenade of shops, cafes and seafood restaurants: the Great Ocean Road Trading Post; Apollo Bay Hardware & Timber store; the Craypot bistro and the Bluebird takeaway.

    It’s a good place to refuel at the seafront “servo” (short for service station — almost every Australian contraction ends with an “o”) and stop for a bite to eat. Seafood is scaled up to cartoon proportions — prawns the size of crayfish and crayfish the size of lobsters. If you ask for a tuna salad you get a fresh slab of fish that flops off the side of the plate.

    Just after Apollo Bay it’s worth a detour to the lighthouse at Cape Otway — one of a string along the coast — and a stop at a forest trail where you can marvel at the size of the mountain ash (the world’s tallest flowering plant) and the messmate and blackwood trees.

    The 60-mile section between Apollo Bay and Port Campbell takes you past more spectacular coastal scenery and through grasslands of the Calder and Aire estuaries. The road skirts the edge of the world’s third largest volcanic plain where cattle graze in a bucolic landscape. The local radio station carries parochial news of packs of wild dogs scaring livestock and local farm prices.

    Then abruptly the road barrels along clifftops from where you get your first glimpse of some of the world’s most spectacular geological features. The coast is laid out like a school geography tutorial showing every stage in the erosion process. Headlands have been worn through by the sea to form caves, then arches, then stacks, stumps and finally wave-cut platforms. The famous Twelve Apostles are stacks and stumps standing in line, the tallest rising almost 150ft out of the surf.

    The rocky and reef-strewn section of coast near Port Campbell is known as “the Shipwreck Coast”. At scenic pull-ins you can peer over the cliffs at the boiling surf and can read the tragic story of the Loch Ard, a British vessel that sank in 1878 with the loss of 51 of the 53 souls on board.

    Finally on to Port Fairy, an old whaling station west of Warrnambool beyond the official end of the Great Ocean Road that used to be Australia’s second largest port but is now a quiet town of 2,300. The fishing tradition is kept alive with a daily catch of abalone, squid and crayfish, but gone are the days when thousands of whales were harpooned and brought ashore to be boiled up on the beach. After being driven to the edge of extinction, the numbers have rebounded. In winter you can take a scenic flight near the Apostles and spot whales from overhead. And there is a whale-watching platform at Logan’s Beach near Warrnambool.

    The Great Ocean Road — the B100 — meets the A1 main east-west highway at Allansford, east of Warrnambool. Suddenly you are thrown back into the real world of advertising hoardings, service stations and drive-through bottle shops — a peculiarly Aussie invention for stashing your car full of booze. A huge mall is lit with signs for a rash of pile ’em high shops such as Go-Lo, Bi-Lo, and Best & Less. There is even an enormous Cheese World complete with cheese store, wine cellar and cheese restaurant.

    Back among the road trains on the four-lane highway, the Roadster suddenly feels very small.


    Location: Less glamorously also known as the B100, it runs from Torquay to Allansford, Victoria.

    Length: 187 miles.

    Best time of year: Spring or summer (ie, Australia’s autumn or winter) when the road is quiet.

    Highlights: The sandy beaches, rainforests, quaint seaside towns, and the dramatic Twelve Apostles.




  2. #2
    R.I.P. 2016-11-23 Croc's Avatar
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    Jan 2001
    Up top East side Downunder
    And what a grand drive it is too. Only done it once but worth the time it took.

    What an accurate description of it as well.

    Thanks Minir.

    For those interested, a site with pics.

    Last edited by Croc; 07-04-04 at 06:23 AM. Reason: Add link
    It will be long, it will be hard and there will be no withdrawal.
    Winston Churchill
    Remember: Wherever you go in life, you take yourself with you.

  3. #3
    R.I.P. 2015-05-13 minir's Avatar
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    Aug 2000
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    Hi ya Croc

    Hope all's well with You & Yours.

    I found it an interesting read and enjoyed Your Link as well...Thanks

    Have a Lovely Night Croc




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