The Otway Ranges formed around 150 million years ago, when the great landmass of Gondwana began to separate from other continents. It has a long history and fossils of dinosaurs have been found in this region.
The Wathaurung, Gulidjan, Gadubanud, and Kirrae Whurrong Aboriginal people inhabited this area for thousands of years, before white settlement. Steep slopes restricted early settler movement into the region, but the lure of timber saw exploitation begin in the 1850s. The Otway coastal range are one of the wettest regions of Victoria This climate gives rise to a proliferation of Beech and Blackwood trees along with dense fern forests in the gullies.
Our plan to drive along the popular Turtons Track to the town of Beech Forest was thwarted because the road was closed after the violent storms that have occurred along Victoria’s south coastal region over the last couple of months.
There are many areas around here in which tress have been uprooted, large branches broken off and where landslides have occurred. We saw a large number of workers who were stabilising slopes and removing trees from the roadside.
Through a longer detour than we planned, we ended up in the town of Beech Forest for lunch. The town was named after the Myrtle Beech trees which abound in the local area,, Beech Forrest quickly became a major centre for the local timber industry and was serviced by the Crowes railway line (2 ft 6 inch or 762 mm) narrow gauge railway that ran from the main line at Colac to Beech Forest and later to Crowes. It was the last of four narrow gauge railway lines operated by the government owned Victorian Railways to close in June 1962.
Beech Forrest is the home of Cliff (Cliffy) Young. He was a potato farmer and accidental athlete who won the inaugural Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon in 1983 at 61 years of age – a distance of 875 kilometres. Whilst other competitors stopped to sleep overnight for six hours, Cliffy kept running. He ran continuously for five days in his famous shuffling running style and won the race by 10 hours. Before starting the race, he told the press that he had previously run for two to three days straight rounding up sheep while wearing gumboots. Cliff died in 2003.
We had a picnic lunch at the site of the old railway station in Beech Forest but the only train to be seen there now is this one in the children’s playground.
The grassy area of the picnic ground hadn’t been mown recently and was covered in a carpet of English Daisies (and one single buttercup)..
The foothills of the Otways are very picturesque although much of the area has been cleared for cattle and sheep grazing. This is a significant area for dairying. At one time, we were driving slowly while searching for the correct road that we wanted after making a wrong turn. We found that we had a very large semi-trailer milk tanker driving quickly, right top our clacker. I slowed to a stop at a farm driveway to ket him pass, only to find that it was the exact farm where he was making his next pick-up. We recovered by speeding up along the road until we came to an intersection where we could stop and get our bearings.
During the afternoon, we stopped at a number off rainforest locations. In the depths of the rainforest there were many spectacular views that are unique to this very wet and rugged environment.
Back along the Great Ocean Road, we came to the famous view along the coast at Castle Craig, near the hamlet of Hordern Vale. On a sunny afternoon, this view of the waves pounding onto the inaccessible beach below is stunning. Many years ago, I undertook a three-day bush walk along part of the coastal trail that passes through this place. It is now a popular walking trail.