It's hard to sum up a trip like the one that's just happened. Over the course of the last eight days, eight amazing people joined me along 90 of the 100 km of the Great Ocean Walk from the 12 Apostles to Apollo Bay. This is Part 1 of that journey.
Last Monday I was joined by Eliza, Fraser and Jamie, whom I know from my time as a leader at Wollangarra Outdoor Education centre in 2016. Annabelle also joined us as a second leader for the trip from the 12 Apostles to Aire River campground, about 56 kilometres over four days and four nights.
Gemma, another leader with whom I lived at Wollangarra last year, dropped everybody off on Monday and after a happy reunion, a pack of my backpack and a lunch we set off on our first day of 16 km. We quickly realised we looked like a typical nuclear family and named ourselves the Meryls, hoping that if anyone inquired we would be able to make up our background story on the spot. But we met no one on the journey that day and having many things to catch up on, it seemed to fly by despite the afternoon heat. We arrived at Devil's Kitchen campground to not only find we had it all to ourselves, but also found ourselves with possibly the best camp toilet I've ever experienced, complete with a window overlooking the dynamic ocean reflecting the star-filled night sky.
A slow start to the morning on Tuesday meant that we would be walking into the heat of a 26 degree day, but luckily we found ourselves in a cooler gully for lunch, which is when we realised that Wollangarra had forgotten to provide us with the jam and chutney that we had all been anticipating! It didn't help that we had also forgotten the cheese and chutney in the fridge in Melbourne... Despite these lunch setbacks, the food set us all into a deep post-lunch lethargic nap that lasted at least an hour. This would be a theme that repeated itself over the next few days! We finally got ourselves moving as the heat receded in the late afternoon, walking into and out of wet rainforest-like gullies covered with ferns then into open mountainside with breathtaking views dominated by open ocean and dramatic cliffs. We reached our campsite at Ryan's Den as the light faded and sky turned dramatic hues of blue, purple, orange and yellow.
We had decided to wake up early Wednesday to beat the heat of what would be a 29 degree day. Leaving camp at 6 o'clock, we walked into a gorgeous sunrise, finding ourselves on the beach before 8 am, where we cooked porridge for breakfast, which was followed by a swim in the cool waters of the southern ocean; what a way to start the day! We continued on, reaching the summit of one of the larger hills for the whole trip and coming across a setup on the side of the road: an esky filled with cold water and home-made marmalade for a gold-coin donation! We couldn't believe our luck! We immediately dropped our packs and enjoyed a snack break featuring our newly-acquired marmalade. We eventually found ourselves at the holiday shack of Annabelle's friend, a mere 50 m off the Great Ocean Walk, which is also where Gemma had been staying in the meantime. We swam in the dam, had a feast for lunch (pickles featured today!) and enjoyed the views of the expansive ocean and forest. This, of course, was followed by a 4-hour nap, during which Gemma turned up! (She had been expecting us at the next campsite and walked back to meet us!) We followed her back down, Eliza getting a close meeting with a Tiger snake as she opened one of the gates along the way! Arriving at the incredible Joanna Beach campsite overlooking the ocean, we ate some dinner (it was a great day of eating) and went to bed. Eating and sleeping was becoming a strong theme of the journey.
Intending to wake up early to cross the 2 km of Joanna Beach before the tide came in and eat breakfast at the end of it, a steady rain that had been coming down most of the night persisted. We ate breakfast under the shelter of the campsite instead and luckily the rain stopped as we made our way across the beach. Gemma left us to continue the walk before a quick swim in some big surf and onwards we went!. It was a fairly easy final day of 14 km for the group and we quickly found ourselves in a mosquito-rich Aire River campsite. We were sharing with a group from Newstart, an organisation that takes school-aged kids on outdoor trips three days a week to give them the chance to take away as much as possible from being in a different environment. A great initiative no doubt! After hanging out with at least four resident koalas (one of which had a babe!) The Meryls ate our final supper of stir fry noodles.