Last few days with old friends…..

Tuesday 14th ….Local beaches

We spend a morning on Marengo beach, just along from Apollo Bay. This is effectively the start of the Great Ocean Walk and a lovely beach to start on. Like so many beaches we have seen this is a volcanic outcrop of hard rock that has been weathered into fascinating shapes, pools and colours. There is a reef just off shore that is home to a colony of seals as the waft of strong marine odours tells us. We spend a happy hour or so searching the rock pools and being mesmerized by swell and rhythm of the sea against rock.

The homes that are built on the shore have amazing views and I notice that most are empty at this time of week or year.

The afternoon is spent on Apollo Bay Beach where I get a brief body surf session in with Dav and Barb and we all enjoy a rare lie in the sun until the incoming tide eventually sends us packing.

Tonight I cook a king prawn curry with a vegetable side dish and a few of the Otway beers help to wash it all down.

Wednesday 15th….Aire River and a kayak..

The second valley along from Apollo Bay is cut by the Aire river. It has been tamed by farmers to accommodate their cattle and potato crop and its treeless hills undulate like valleys in Argyll do. At the head of the river the Great Ocean Walk crosses the river before ascending again into the forest and Ti tree shrub that hugs the shoreline. We walk to the beach along a sandy track in the sand dune. Dav spots a dead baby tiger snake along the way and can’t resist playing silly buggers with it.

Soon we are standing watching some hardy body surfers playing in the waves that crash on an otherwise deserted beach. Even Barb would think twice about entering this sea today.

The river, however is another matter. We have bought Dav and Barb’s two kayaks with us and it is a simple matter to launch them for them to have an initial explore of this lower reach of the river and upstream to a couple of small lakes. I wait for them to return and enjoy watching the birdlife – especially four Ibis that feed on a little island.

And when Dav and Barb return I take up the suggestion to squeeze into Barb’s kayak and join Dav in a brief paddle up to the first of the lakes and back through a reed passage into the main river stream. It is a lovely way to explore. The silence is profound and the river seems alive with fish. I am tempted to add a kayak to the little fleet that my neighbour Kev and I have accumulated back home in Cornwall.

With their bikes, kayaks and rucksacks Dav and Barb have a busy and fit retirement mapped out ahead of them. And they live in beautiful part of the world to enjoy their adventures.

Thursday 16th …..Leaving….

We drive to Geelong to collect the hire car. Barb takes us the quick way and we return along the Great Ocean Road so that we can enjoy the whole experience over the next few days.

Geelong seems a pretty place from what we see of the newly improved foreshore but we only have time for some coffee and a food shop.

We stop at the newly opened pub at Airey’s Inlet for lunch. The old pub burnt down and the locals have banded together to help rebuild and reopen the place. There are plans to make it a music venue with open mike nights and visiting bands. It is a tribute to the sense of community among the  folk that live in these small Ocean Road towns that such a project is a success. There are stories in most of these towns of disaster, often by fire, and then a rebuilding and regrowth.

We follow the road back to Apollo Bay enjoying the way it twists and turns and follows the contours cut into the hills  by the soldiers returning from the First World War who were given the task to build the road and open up the coastline to commerce and tourism. This section frequently comes close to the sea and Marilyn and I comment that it is another of the great coastal car rides that we are privileged to enjoy.

But too soon we are packing the car and getting ready to leave Apollo Bay. We have purloined a cool box and some de-luxe bed rolls from Dav to make our camping more comfortable and then we are saying our sad farewells to them and the dogs. We all wonder when we will do this again but are certain that our paths will cross at some time before we have to invest in Zimmer frames. It is a fantastic feeling that I always get with really good friends that  any meeting, even after a long gap, just seems to take up from where the last one ended.

Doing all this stuff with Dav and Barb in Australia and in New Zealand with our friends there, I forget my age and feel 18 or 28 again. And while the farewell is sad there is also a sense of joy and contentment in the knowledge that I know these people and can share their lives.

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