the otways [australia #7]

the great otway national park, also called the otways, is a national park located in the region of victoria, along the great ocean road. the national park is known for its diverse range of landscapes and vegetation types.

the otways was one of the stop-overs on our great ocean road trip. initially we weren’t planning on stopping, but the scenery was too beautiful to be missed.

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following the small path, we arrived to the tip of the cape otway, where we visited the cape otway lighthouse – one of australia’s iconic lighthouses. while visiting the lighthouse, a tour guide told us it was the second lighthouse established on the australian mainland and the one with the longest continuous operation (from 1848 to 1994).

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during our tour we also learned that during winter and spring, the lighthouse can serve as a point for whale watching, as migrating whales swim very close to shores. since we were paying a visit to the lighthouse in december (it didn’t seem like summer, though!), we missed the whales. however, the view from the lighthouse was still pretty spectacular.

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the scenery, the lighthouse & the view were truly magnificent – but what really defined our visit to the otways is a close encounter with one of australia’s icons -> koalas!

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we spotted a group of people along the road we were taking and then, wondering why there were so many people there, looked towards eucalyptus trees.. and there they were.. sitting on the tree and proudly posing to the excited tourists!

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the great ocean road [australia #6]

after the first couple of days spent in melbourne, it was the time for a road trip – towards west. of course, i am talking about the famous great ocean road.

the great ocean road is a stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of australia and the essential part of the state of victoria. it was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during world war I and it is the world’s largest war memorial. this 243 kilometers long road hides several prominent landmarks of australia, such as the twelve apostles, loch ard gorge and london arch, but also passing through the great otway national park (which will be the subject of a separate post).

our trip lasted for three days, during which we saw a lot of stunning views, went camping, fought very strong wind and, of course, took a loot of pictures!

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several things stuck us immediately: the wild beauty of australia (which we would experience even further in tasmania), the shape of the southern coast of australia and the cleanliness of air and water which may only be encountered in wild and remote places (and in australia, there are plenty of such places).

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we encountered a lot of people during this road-trip and even more animals! unfortunately a lot of them were lying dead on the side of the road, even though the warning signs were quite everywhere. but it was quite interesting how free these animals were. the first night we were staying at the rather shady camp, somewhere close to apollo bay. that camp left a lot to be desired, but it gave us quite an experience.. in the morning, our first sight was this:

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the second day was completely dedicated to otway (my next post!), but on the third day & after a long drive, we have finally arrived to the twelve apostles.
even though there are only seven of them left now (the last “apostle” collapsed only in 2012.), they are quite a sight! only when seeing these formations, one understands the true power of the southern ocean. oh, it was very windy (and crowded!), but we were so happy to see the twelve apostles soaked in sunlight.

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only a few minutes drive from the twelve apostles is another important sight of the great ocean road – loch ard gorge, named after a shipwreck of a sailing ship called loch ard, which departed from london on 1 march 1878 and was about to arrive to melbourne after nearly three months. only two people survived..

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our last stop on the great ocean road was london arch, formerly known as london bridge, because of its similarity to the actual london bridge – until 15 january 1990, when the middle part of the “bridge” collapsed out of a sudden. two tourists were left on the part which remained (and is now knon as london arch) and were eventually rescued by helicopter. the failure of the second arch is foreseen in the near future, so i guess we were quite lucky to take this picture!

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on the third day we headed back to melbourne. it was quite a long drive, which gave us plenty of time to discuss what we saw on our trip. aside from the above-mentioned sights, we were both amazed by the ever changing weather and strong wind, which followed us since the beginning of our trip. we loved seeing all those friendly people (even if the great ocean road is much more touristy than we have imagined). but the most amazing feelings we got from this trip is the force of the mighty ocean, which changed the scenery of this region. and which keeps on changing it every day.

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i hope we’ll have the chance to visit the great ocean road once again. and i hope to find it altered. for the better, of course.

marvelous melbourne [australia #4]

on the second leg of our journey, we visited melbourne – the second largest city in australia and the capital of state of victoria. marvelous melbourne, as it is commonly referred to, is famed for its victorian architecture, breathtaking gardens & parks and lovely pedestrian lanes. it is often considered the culture capital of australia.

melbourne is also known to be the food & coffee capital of australia. all kinds of biological / gluten free / vegetarian & vegan meals may be found here. melbournians get their goods & fresh produce at queen victoria market, one of the city’s best hang around spots.

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we went to queen victoria market several times, since we were staying in the neighborhood. it felt great to stroll around while buying exotic fruits (and eating it right away!). also, dianne, our hostess in melbourne, informed us that during the summer months every wednesday there is a night market, where you may buy your dinner at the stalls offering street food from across the globe, while enjoying live music.. of course, we went there & had a great time!

unlike sydney (one simply has to compare these two cities), melbourne doesn’t have a splendid harbor. on the other hand, it’s got the yarra river, dividing the city in north & south melbourne. we took a walk down the southern bank of the yarra river on our first day in melbourne, arriving all the way to docklands. we got to admire the fantastic architecture & enjoy the company of dressed-up melbournians!

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while walking down the southern bank of the yarra river, we noticed a colorful building on the northern bank, which was definitely dating from the victorian era. that building is flinders street station, the central train station of melbourne, its most famous landmarks and one of the city’s favorite meeting points. generations of melburnians were meeting at the station’s steps or as it is more commonly known “under the clocks”.

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in the vicinity of flinders street station is the federation square, one of the newest open spaces, it opened only in 2002. it soon became one of the most frequented spots in melbourne, as it hosts more than 2000 events every year. when we were in melbourne, there were big screens showing the cricket match between austrlia and india (apparently, melbourne is also the cricket capital of australia) and a lot of people were watching the match (while sunbathing in comfy chairs). we even tried to understand the rules of the game, but when our friend told us that the match can last up to five days, we kind of lost interest.

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in the introduction of this post, i said that melbourne is known for its parks & gardens, the most famous being the royal botanic gardens. these internationally renowned botanical gardens were established in 1852, on the south bank of the yarra river, where once used to be a swam on the edge of the city. the gardens follow the english garden design and include a mixture of native and non-native vegetation, hosting over ten thousand floral species.

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a lot of people asked us which one did we like better, sydney or melbourne. when we first arrived to melbourne, we immediately said we liked it more than sydney, since there were a lot of coffee houses & all kinds of restaurants, the architecture was truly amazing and people were so relaxed. on the other hand, sydney’s got its splendid harbor, as well as several beaches close by. also, when we came back to sydney at the end of our travels, we discovered some areas, which were as relaxed as the ones we encountered in melbourne!

so what i say now is that we liked them both so much. they are both very beautiful cities and they got to us in a different way. in our view, one of them has to exist in order to keep reminding the other one that it can do better.