Monday 13th – Milanesia Beach
Today we drive a stretch of the Great Ocean Road through Marengo and the Barham and Aire River Valleys rising and descending through the tall trees that make up the regrown forest of the Otway National Park. Many of the mountain ash gums are only thirty years old but already they tower above the road rising pencil straight a hundred feet. The monsters that were targeted by the early loggers were enormous with girths of 60-70 feet and rising well over 100 metres but trees of this dimension are long gone in the logging fest that took place in the early pioneering days. Now protected, these forests are managed and are replenishing themselves. We pass through the cool temperate rainforest at Maits Rest where there is a protected 300 year old Myrtle Beech tree and where glow worms can be found at night.
We pass the turning to Cape Otway and the lighthouse that we visited at the weekend and on through Lavers Hill, a small township that sits on a crossroads at the highest ridge on the Otway Ranges at 1510 feet. Soon after this we pass through Melba Gully. This little stretch has been in private hands and therefore protected from the ravages of de-forestation. This patch of rainforest is home to many dinosaur finds and is also noted for its glow worms.
Passing on, we eventually turn off the main road on an unobtrusive shingle path that will lead us to the Old Coach Road that is part of the Great Ocean Walk. We park up, pass through a gate and make the half hour descent through gum forest where we are given tantalizing views of a deep blue sea and a long strip of gold sand lying at the foot of the bright green hills.
As we approach the beach itself we see that a young couple have set up a tent on a grassy outcrop. They are protected by a low hedge of Ti Tree but have an amazing spot over the beach.
There is a steep sided valley that disgorges its stream into the sea and at the head of this valley, as it it widens and flattens out, a small stone fisherman’s house nestles beneath the hillside of scrub. It is hard to imagine how hard life must have been before the opening of roads but this space with an adjacent fresh water stream, constant supply of fish and sea food and game in the form of kangaroo, wallaby and birds, might have been quite bearable for someone who liked their own company. It is a private home now and an idyllic holiday spot.
The beach is empty except for a young woman who reads on the sand and might be upset that her solitude has been invaded by four day trippers out for a picnic. We settle under the rocks to enjoy the remains of a Dav pizza before heading off to explore the sands. The cliffs are volcanic, a mixture of hard and softer rock. Where the wind and water have eroded the stone there are strange rounded protuberances that are the remnants of the harder rock and which stick out all over the face of the rock. They have earned the nickname ‘cannonballs’ which is pretty self explanatory.
Because of its remoteness this beach is pretty unspoilt. Walkers on the Great Ocean Walk will pass over it on their way from Johanna campsite to Ryan’s Den but it would take a fairly determined daytripper to make the jaunt down here and back up to their transport. As we leave the beach Barb and I think we spot a seal playing in the surf. On the way back up the hill, wildlife spotter Dav notices dark shapes in the water and after much deliberation we reckon we are watching a shoal of large rays making their way up the coast as their movement is too slow for seals, dolphins, shark or whales as they seem to fly just under the surface of the water.
I am grateful for the fact that Dav and Barb have this intrepid and determined mindset that has brought us to this magic place today.
Marilyn and I have the added joy of walking both dogs on Apollo beach this evening and getting Indie to run like a mad thing between us as we walk in opposite directions. Memories of Marley, our old collie, come to mind. She used to love this game.