Monday, June 14, 2010

The Great Ocean Road and Six of the Twelve Apostles

Nine o'clock. Nine o'clock is far too early to have to meet up. That would mean waking at eight thirty. Who gets up that early? Oh – people who work? Right. I keep forgetting about those.

I'm so far removed from the working world, and those who need to toil away for money – I've forgotten that eight thirty is actually somewhat of a lay in. Kim, who picked me up once again outside my hostel, had been working two hours already today. Still – how long does it really take to snap mice necks, and cut off baby rodent heads with scissors? I kid! I kid! She just had to feed them and clean the cages... today.

It's the Queen's birthday here in Australia. You'd think it would be the Queen's birthday everywhere, but no. Apparently there is no Queen the world over, through all of mystical history, that had today as a birthday. You'd think there'd been more than three hundred and sixty six queens, so somewhere there'd be one who was born today? Who can say. Still – it's a public holiday. The King's mom, I believe, was born today? It's a bit of a mystery. The Queen's birthday was celebrated last week in New Zealand. I don't question these things any more.

Kim took me back to pick up her sister Lisa, where I used the internet to write a couple of emails, saving myself a few bucks in the process. Free internet finds itself quite the rarity here, and that's only slightly annoying. This coffee shop down the street needs some serious investigation. But soon I'll be moving on from here, where the showers are awful, and food is terribly expensive.

Not. Soon. Enough.

Still – moving away from here also means leaving the people here behind. But that's something to dwell on when I board the Greyhound to take me far away. Today? Today was a day to be with friends, drive the Great Ocean Road, and head out to some place beautiful.

In this part of Australia the twelve apostles are a well known attraction, and people come from hours away to see them. We had hours to drive before we could see them. Leaving at nine thirty, we set out to the great ocean road.

Conversations about pop culture – reasons why Harry Potter is perhaps not as brilliant as many think it is, despite it being a wonderful story... my point was not accepted. But at least we could agree that Harry, himself, was a terrible human being. Lost found its way back into conversation, and I found myself once more annoyed by its terrible ending, which has not got better with time.

After an hour of delightfully unimportant to the world at large, yet wonderfully entertaining conversation, I couldn't help but point out that there was no Ocean along this theoretical Great Ocean Road. Soon, soon, I was told. Soon we would be there. Why I was in any hurry to rush this soon became beyond me. As we left the forested roads, or, “the bush,” as I was told, being in Australia and all, we hit the Ocean Road.

Let me tell you about the Great Ocean Road. Yes, yes, it's quite pretty. Lots of water to the left, hills to the right, and isn't it wonderful to look out and see such beauty? But there's the rub. So help you if you look anywhere but straight ahead. Every twist and turn brings you closer to throwing up whatever food you decided to have for breakfast. I had had nothing but a belly full of Coca-Cola. This did not make things better. In fact it was probably far worse. Beside me, Lisa cracked the window. I tried to convince myself the quick lefts and rights were affecting me not at all, but soon I too had to lower my window, and accept the gracious fresh air that for some reason helps in these matters.

No vomit was let loose on this day, but were I trapped in a bus, I'm not sure how I would have felt. Thankfully I was not trapped in such a thing, and off we went, with the option of stopping if need be.

We reached a small town, having passed the animal sanctuary. It was to be our first stop, but there was no going back – later, we said, later. Later never came, and so I will never be able to feed a Kangaroo. Still, I'm not sure I mind all that much, because good people, and good talk, makes for a perfect day regardless.

We made our way to a small diner. The only open building in the town we were passing through. To be fair though, the town only had ten buildings, and you could see them all from the centre of the cul de sac.

Inside we went, food calling. I wanted a burger, but as everyone else ordered the steak sandwich, I wasn't prepared to get something else, and have the worse meal. Better to go along with the herd and never know a thing about the food that may have been. You throw an egg, some bacon, cheese, and a juicy slice of pineapple on top of any sandwich, and I'll be a happy camper. There was just one rule in this mysterious shop which proudly displayed a sign indicating that unattended children would be sold into slavery. You could not eat your take out food in the store. If you wished to eat it inside, you needed to pay nearly twice the price. But that also allowed you the privilege of being able to use the bathroom. While I had no desire to use said toilets, discovering I wasn't allowed to seemed to do crazy things to my bladder.

Eating the delicious sandwich I found myself wishing for another. Or wishing for a barbecue all my own to customize the situation as I saw fit.

The nearest washrooms? The twelve apostles. That was convenient. Off we headed, and before running under the road to see the sight we all headed into our gender corespondent facilities. Girls wear skirts. Much to all of our surprise, squat toilets waited inside. That is how much Australia loves their Asian tourists. Squat toilets. I'm told further north the signs are in both English and Japanese.

Finally, one forty, we had reached our destination. Thoughts of near vomit on Great roads, and delicious steak sandwiches of moments past, were pushed from my mind as I headed to see these apostles. These legendary tourist worthy creations. These... rocks. These rocks in the water.

Yes, yes, in Australia a couple of rocks sticking up from the water count as something amazing. It should also be said that there are only six such rocks sticking up. I was told there were eight... I counted six, that's all I'm saying. Even still, the name seemed to promise twelve, did it not?

But – while this went on much longer while there – I can only harass these things so long, before I admit that they are quite wonderful looking, becoming only more so when I discovered they were created as the entire cliff face eroded away, these projections somehow being spared the fate of all else. This is, of course, what happened to the other (six or eight, depending) rocks. They crumbled into the sea, lost to sight.

Far too many people were here taking pictures, but the orange of the limestone did contrast beautifully with the water's blue. If only the sky was more than grey. I suspect such a thing never happens in this part of the world. If experience has taught me anything, it has been that.

After the twelve, we made our way down to the blowhole. Were the tide high, the crashing waves would have forced water through an arch causing it to spurt forth. As it was low tide, it was some more rocks. I'd like to say I didn't take pictures. But that would be a lie. Rocks here? Like ice in Antarctica. There's just no way around it.

Then there was the Thunder Cave. This was doomed from the start. Nothing called the Thunder Cave could ever live up to such a name, lest it was a place of Final Fantasy-esque battle, or adorned with a black feline silhouette on a red circular field. This was a cave which echoed the sound of crashing waves. Not terrible – but not as awesome as Thunder Cave should be.

And then it was down some steps to where Tom and Eva were ship wrecked. Who were Tom and Eva? I forget – there were signs. All I know is that Tom rescued Eva from the water, gave her brandy, 'rejuvenated her,' and then they both fell asleep exhausted. Read between the lines here people, read between the lines.

There was a cave where they sheltered themselves, fenced off. Apparently rocks and stalactites (are those the ones from above?) might fall and kill you. But it was a low fence, so off I dragged Lisa for some 'standing in cave' shots. Who could resist a good cave? It was like Agrabah. Except not really. But a boy can dream.

And don't think we were done with rocks just yet. Oh no. There was the arch, which was – an arch of rock. Not all that unlike the blowhole. And then there was London Bridge. It should be noted that these rocks are miles away, but never mind that, after coming so far, you have to see everything they'd deemed to name.

London bridge, in 1990, fell down. Only half of it, today, exists. When it fell people were out on the far side, trapped on a rock in the middle of the ocean. A few hours later they were rescued by helicopter. How cool would that have been? I've not ridden in a helicopter! I think I would like to. How can I make rock bridges collapse in ways that don't make it seem my fault? And where would these things be found?

With this – our last sight – seen we began the drive back, shaving a few hours by avoiding the terrible road of beautiful nausea. The conversation dwindled as eyes closed, and waking naps were undertaken. Not by the driver. That would be terrible. No more swerving into oncoming traffic for us!

Ice cream was stopped for.

and then I was let off back at my hostel. Running up to my room, I grabbed the two capsule toys I'd been dragging around since Japan for the girls, and then thanked them for the experiences they granted me here in their city. Hugging them goodbye I was overcome with that feeling you get, when you know it might very well be the last time you'll ever see someone in your life. It's hit me a few times this year, some rougher than others. It's an annoying thing, if nothing else. And yes the world is a small place, growing smaller everyday. But there are people who live a town away from me back home that I rarely see. An ocean is a great distance to cross, or so I'm told.

I was not granted long to contemplate this, however, as back in my room an American girl had ripped through her pack. I tried as best I could to sort it with duct tape (which required unpacking and repacking my entire pack (pack! pack! pack!) to get to. Still – it was getting that time anyway. Now that I'm done reading Spot of Bother, and have started to finally read China Lover, removing a few finished texts, and those I accept will never be read, has done wonders to free up space. That I grabbed a Sherlock Holmes novel today from the hostel's shelf, does not do wonders.

I did re-discover that I bought a Plush Venom though, and that was neat.

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