Wednesday 8th….Lighthouse and Koalas
By the time I am tucking into my breakfast porridge at eight o’clock Dav and Barb have already done a morning swim in the local open pool ( 6a.m) and dog walk ( 7a.m). They forego their daily jog around the bay today and arrive home as I down my first mouthful. It makes me tired to think too much about it so I concentrate on watching the approaching clouds and trying to assess if they will spoil our planned foray into the Great Ocean Walk later in the day.
The Great Ocean Walk has been open for a few years only and meanders just under 100kms from Apollo Bay to Princetown. D&B have already walked it shortly after it was opened and are keen to share some little sections with us over the next week, interspersed with some bits of the Otway National Park.
We drive the short section of Ocean Road as far Blanket Bay to start the first section through to Parkers Inlet. On a section of the road into the forest I notice a koala ambling along the side of the road and cannot contain my excitement. We soon see several more in their usual daytime position, asleep with a part of their broad bottom stuck in the branches of a tall gum tree. Time to stop later on in the day I am informed.
The first section of walk takes us from the beach up through forest and fern until we descend into a delightful inland bay at Parker’s Inlet. This spot was used to land supplies to the lighthouse that is perched at the top of the next cliff. Twice a year a boat would anchor off shore and the six month supplies would be rowed through the narrow passage into the relative safety of this sheltered cove. The entrance looks choppy enough on a calm day. This must have been a very dangerous task when a gale was blowing. There are stories of wrecks and lost lives in this bay.
We then walk out and up the steep hillside that would have been negotiated with bullock and cart or pack animals back in the old days.
Eventually we reach the light station on Cape Otway and do the tour. It includes a climb up the lighthouse itself and then a visit to the heritage centre where we are enthralled by tales from Brad, a local indigenous guide.
I feel a lot better informed about some of the local history as we head off to the little cemetery, hidden away at some distance in the bush. There are the sad tales of some of the sailors who gave their lives supplying the place and, more poignant still, the many babies and young children who didn’t make it through what must have been harsh living conditions. One of early lighthouse keepers had ten surviving children who lived in a tiny house on this piece of blasted heath. I guess he found something to do on his down time!
Another got the sack within a few weeks for having a foul mouth, a penchant for the rum and an ability to break the delicate instruments that made up the light.
It is on our drive back that we get the opportunity to see Koalas close up as they come to life ( at least as much as a koala can). One in particular scampers up a nearly vertical tree, grace of its huge claws, bellowing and grunting and making a heck of a noise. Others might occasionally have a little scratch or open a beady eye to check out the tourists. They really are sweet animals and it is sad to hear that they are threatened by disease, fire and de-forestation.
The weather has been kind enough for us to enjoy a BBQ on the terrace. Lamb and a delicious salad washed down with some fine local red wine courtesy of Barb’s retirement cellar.