Friday 17th……The Apostles
Our first plan this morning, once we have dodged the marauding mob of kangaroos and washed and brushed up, is to see a little of the Great Southern Walk out of Princetown. We make it up to the first lookout but the approaching rain means that we can hardly see the sea and it seems that we will also have a lot of bush bashing to do before we reach anywhere to find shelter. We reluctantly turn back and decide to head off on the Great Ocean Road as far as the Apostles, hoping that the weather improves.
As with much of our luck on this trip the weather gods are on our side and the sun breaks out for our walk to the Apostles and continues to improve all day.
Aussie signage often leaves little to the imagination and just in case the tourist may not appreciate the danger in these precipitous cliffs we are left with no doubt by the many warnings dotted around. They somehow add to the aesthetics of the place.
These iconic rocks have been photographed and talked about by folk much more skilled than I am. They certainly are breathtaking in their scale and the contrast in colour as the sun hits them is staggering. The wind is whipping up quite a mean sea that crashes all around them and it is easy to see how they have been carved and formed. Apparently the sea and wind is eating into 2 cms of coast a year. Quite recently some tourists watched as one of the huge stacks crumbled into the sea before them. That must have been quite a sight and a reminder that we can’t actually mess with some of these forces that nature throws at us.
We move on up this lovely road to stop at another of the sea’s natural carved sculptures at Loch Ard Gorge. Here a weakness in the rock has been exposed and eaten away by the sea to form a long, precipitous inlet ending in a fine semi-circular sand beach.
Later we descend another such gorge that is at a different stage of erosion to find a pretty grotto where the carved rock, sand, different coloured waters and vegetation combine to create a natural sculpture to marvel at.
The road takes us through Curdie’s Inlet where hundreds of pelicans are soaring around before making a spectacular landing in unison on the water.
And then, too soon, we are at Port Fairy at the end of this iconic stretch of road.
Saturday 18th…..To Meninge, Lake Albert.
We start today not knowing where we will end up but figuring that we don’t want to leave more than a few hours drive into Adelaide tomorrow so it is going to be a fairly long day in the saddle.
We have time to buy some of the loveliest peaches at the Port Fairy farmers’ market before heading off up the coast road and our first stop at Cape Bridgewater where a brief walk through scrub takes us to another stunning view along this coast. The cliff is covered in strange rock formations described as a ‘petrified forest’. Geologists will understand the formation of such rock and the chemistry between acids and rock and subsequent erosion. I can only marvel at the way these natural forces have created a changing sculpture that a ceramicist might only dream of being able to create.
The long drive after Nelson is remarkable in that it prepares us for the shock of seeing road kill in the form of large kangaroos. I am horrified to see a dead roo that is thrown in the back of a guy’s trailer as I stop to fill up with petrol. He explains that it has been killed on the bridge and was blocking traffic. I was close enough to touch the animal and its fur blew in the wind as though it was still alive. Very sad.
Another notable feature of this long road is the upfront Aussie signage designed to keep speed down on the long, straight stretches. In stopping to photograph them it could be argued that I was falling into the trap I was being advised to avoid!
We eventually find a place to pitch up on Lake Albert at a little town called Meningie. We have a lovely spot overlooking the lagoon and the many sea birds that make it their home.
Later I go into town to explore the town pub and end up in conversation with Derek who it transpires is one of the local indigenous people. He has worked as a ranger on the lakes and wants to tell me that he is worried that work to control the water flow in the lakes and lagoons is doomed to failure. The recent rains this year and last have filled the lakes and the rivers. He tells me that, this year, Lake Eyre is full and so most of the local bird life will have flown inland to the waters there. Two years ago the Lake Albert at Meningie was virtually empty and became a mud flat. ‘Meningie’ is the local aboriginal word for mud I am informed. There is a natural cycle to the waters and Derek feels that attempts to interfere will upset “Mother Earth” and she will one day turn and punish us for our bad behaviour towards her.
It is fascinating to hear his stories of personal family involvement in the lost generation of children. Some of the children from his people were taken to live with white families in Tasmania he believes. He has memories from his childhood of the pain inflicted on families as some of his young relatives were torn away from the community. He does not seem bitter or even angry and does not want to get involved in the politics of compensation. He simply wants everyone to acknowledge that these and other worse atrocities have happened and must not happen again. He tells me that until quite recently any aboriginal had to leave the town by dusk and there was quite open racism. He now feels confident that this is a thing of the past. He is a well respected member of the community, involved in the education of young people about their heritage. He has played Aussie Rules Football to quite a high standard by all accounts and is a life member of the town football club. He works to maintain and conserve the local ecology and his knowledge about he local flora and fauna is fascinating.
I could quite easily stay and listen to his stories all night but, concerned that Marilyn might have got hassle from the local pelicans, I take my leave and return under a bright, star lit sky to camp.
We have not been in a big city for a while and take the opportunity to visit the museum. My chat with Derek has spurred a fresh interest in the history of the people in this area and the museum has a fantastic interactive display around the life and culture of various peoples from all around Australia. There is too much to take in but I am left feeling just how clever they were in all aspects of their life. The delicacy of the intricate basket work, the hypnotic quality of the dreaming art works, the balance of rules and systems to manage their societies and their incredible depth of knowledge and respect for the natural world are all to be marveled at. And I am left with a certain sense of sadness and shame that (mostly white) man has managed to destroy much of this 50,000 years of history in a mere three centuries. I hope that modern Australia can find space for the legacy that still remains to grow and flourish again and not to simply remain as some lovely exhibits of a lost world displayed tastefully in a few air-conditioned rooms.
The Botanic Gardens seem a good place to ruminate on these thoughts and we spend a couple of hours exploring this little oasis. We can stand and watch a flock of boisterous lorikeets argue noisily over the best spot of water fountain in which to bathe. I have a long conversation with a magpie that seems to want to show off its extensive vocabulary of chortles, chirrups, and cheeps, along with its ability to mimic police sirens, dogs barking and wolf whistles. They are certainly more talkative in the city than the birds we have spoken to in the country. We spend some time at the duck pond as some small children feed the ducks, the huge carp and the menacing turtles that stretch out of the water to pinch bread from the hand.
For anyone wanting a good fish supper in Adelaide I would recommend Stanley’s on Gouger St. where the Barramundi was delicious.