I have tried to get away about once each year to do a walking trip with my old friend Rob. We set aside some time last week to go down to the coastal town of Apollo Bay where there are many short walks and spectacular rainforests. It is one of the wettest areas in the state.
We both have some connection with this town as it is the start of the Great Ocean Walk – a six day walk along the Great Ocean Road region to Port Campbell. Just before the walk opened in 2010 we completed a few sections of the track without fully understanding the difficulties that we would face. The route is designed to be walked from west to east but we did not know that and we began our walk towards the east from Johanna Beach back to the Cape Shank Lighthouse over a couple of days. All the directional signs then were pointed in the way from which we had come and we had to guess which was the right way to go at every track junction. When we first checked in with the National Parks Service, before we started, we found that the track infrastructure was not yet completed and there was no reliable source of water along the way. We dropped off a container of water at each of our camping spots so that we could have water to drink and cook where we camped.
We also found out that a local Aboriginal group had burnt down the bridge across the Aire River in a dispute over land rights. We had to find some other way of crossing it. So, we carried a little blow-up boat in which we could float our packs across the river (about 80 metres). When we reached the bridge on our second day, we found that one single log span of the bridge still existed. We weren’t very confident about walking across it and not losing our balance, so we blew up the boat, attached it to a piece of cord and crawled across the single beam pulling the boat behind us. The bridge is now rebuilt and is a very sturdy structure indeed.
We are a little older now, so on this visit we planned to do some short walks instead of a long multi-day walk. As much as I love the bush, I’m very sorry that my back no longer allows me to carry a heavy pack.
Rob and I met up on Monday afternoon in Apollo Bay and we spent the last hours of the day visiting some of the local sites. First, we drove out to the little picnic area of Paradise on the Barham River. I’ve been there a number of times in the past and it is still is beautiful and peaceful as ever.
We also drove up to Marriner’s Lookout which gave us a fine view across the town.
On Tuesday, we first drove to the little town of Beech Forest. There’s really nothing there but a pub but the narrow and winding forest trade has some superb rainforest scenery. We walked down to Beuachamp Falls (2.5 km return) and spent some time photographing it from a large boulder in the middle of the creek.
The walk back to our car was along a continuously climbing track which really tested our stamina. We went around to another waterfall, and from there to a plantation of Californian Redwoods on the Aire River. These trees were planted as a forestry experiment in the 1930’s. The trees are not yet fully mature and are a fascinating sight. They’re now about 120 feet high and nothing grows underneath them, so you can get a good view all the way through the plantation.
We spent there rest of the day at the Otway Fly – a treetop walk through the rainforest canopy. All up, we walked about 8 or 9 kilometres during the day.
We stayed in a cabin in the the Apollo Bay Holiday Caravan Park which was a very tidy and neat place to stay. It was not far for the main street in town so we visited the pub for dinner each night so as to not have to cook our own meals. We are certainly getting lazy in our old age.
On Wednesday morning, we drive though the Otway Forest (past Cape Otway) to Moonlight Head. From there we climbed down 372 steps to the beach and walked along a kilometre, our so, to see the anchor from the wreck of the Marie Gabrielle. This ship was wrecked in 1870 after the captain bought the ship close to the shore for protection from strong northerly winds. However, the winds turned back from the south and ship was driven onto the rocks along the shoreline. The anchor is only visible at low time and it was fortunate that this occurred right at a the time we arrived at the Beach. We didn’t want to dilly-dally for too long as the tide was beginning to turn and we didn’t want to be trapped on the beach without any way out.
On the way back to Apollo Bay, we revisited the bridge at the mouth of the Aire River and then stopped for a short walk at a little forest reserve known as Mait’s Rest. This is where one of the early rangers used to spell his horse while patrolling this area. The forest provides some stunning views of ferns and Myrtle Beech trees – some of which we could believe were occupied by hobbits and goblins.
I really enjoyed these few days and I hope that Rob and I can repeat them in the future.