Thursday 9th …. Wye River circular walk.
The day looks grumbly grey but we are not going to let the threat of a little rain stop plans for today’s foray along the Great Ocean Road to Wye River and a neat circular walk along the beach and then up and over the surrounding hill, returning for a picnic on the beach and a coffee in the cafe.
We have driven some lovely roads on this trip and this is up with any of them as it hugs the sea and folds its way along the contours of the hills for 250 kms starting at Torquay in the east and ending at Port Fairy in the west. Some stretches weave inland through forest and hills. We have the whole drive to look forward to when we leave by car next week and today this little stretch whets the appetite.
At Wye River we set off along the beach at low tide. The rocks are fascinating volcanic formations that look like pumice. The holes are apparently caused by high pressure gasses passing through the rock before cooling.
Some stretches seem to have been eroded to leave strange messages in an alien language looking a little like Sanskrit. A sculptor could never find the creative energy to produce anything as sensational as these rocks.
Eventually we have to leave the beach to climb through a tea-tree path, over the road and upwards along Bird’s Track into the gum forest that has survived the heavy logging for which this place has been famous. We notice sixteen koalas perched high before we stop counting and start to look in vain for ground mammals or marsupials amongst the ground cover.
The track eventually descends back into Wye River where we can enjoy a picnic while watching some brave souls surfing and swimming. We are kept company by a masked plover that seems oblivious to our presence. The threatening rain is just about holding off and we make the return to Apollo Bay while we are still dry.
There is still time to take the two dogs, Betty and Indie for their walk along Apollo Beach so that they can chase each other and let off some steam but all the while clouds are growing ominously from the South West. We are not home long before the onset of a storm, accompanied by dramatic sheet lightening and thunder. It is to last all night and into the early morning as it gets caught up by the mountains behind and goes round in circles above Apollo Bay.
This is not the customary Oz summer we are told, but I am happy to see the area in this ferocious mood. The Otways are green for a reason – they are used to more rain than a lot of Australia usually witnesses.
Friday 10th…..Lake Elizabeth and poisonous snakes.
We don’t let a stormy residue prevent us from heading off to explore inland today at Lake Elizabeth.
This lake was formed as late as 1952 when a rock fall of huge proportions damned the river at Forrest. It was only discovered when a few intrepid souls decided to brave the hinterland to find out why the river had suddenly stopped flowing. It was then named after the young woman who was about to become Queen of the Empire.
The drive is through some wet forest and so it is fitting that there is rain in the air. These are perhaps the ideal conditions for exploring such a place. Lake Elizabeth is still pretty remote and reached only after a longish drive down a dirt path and then a half hour walk up through dense forest. Almost immediately Barb spots a Wallaby on the track. Startled, it disappears a few feet into the brush and freezes watching us intently from its hiding place.
The weather is wet and cold and Barb tells us that we need not worry about snakes today as they only become active if there is a bit of heat so we confidently set off with Barb leading the way. Half way to the lake Dav, who is second of the four of us, stops in his tracks and warns us to stop and be quiet for there, at the side of the road, resting on a hump of grass is a deadly tiger snake. It is alert to our presence and has raised its head and is licking the air. It is said that it is not the first person in a walking party who gets struck by a snake – they startle and wake the snake. It is the second or third person who will be the victim if the snake is to strike. Thankfully, by spotting the snake, Dav has managed to stay a good distance from it. As with most snakes this one is as frightened of us as we are of it and it decides to take off into the undergrowth. It is nearly a metre long and beautifully marked with a flash of yellow on the underbelly. They can be aggressive if disturbed and we learn later that there are quite a few around this year.
Delighted by the sight of our first snake we head down to the lake confident that we will get to see the duck-billed platypus that are to be found in these parts. We know that they are nocturnal and shy but hey…snakes only come out in the sun don’t they?
The lake is strangely beautiful with the drowned remnants of large trees pointing out of the green water. Today the atmosphere is heavy with the residue of the storm and there is a stillness to experience, especially as we are the only people around. There is also a distinct lack of platypus and we decide to return after completing only half a circuit as the weather is still threatening. We have a lingering hope that the snake may have returned as they seem to have favourite spots to rest up in to try to get warm. And, sure enough, as we approach the grassy mound quietly, we see that it has returned. Again it is instantly alert to our approach and the click of the camera lens sends it rapidly into the scrub so we manage only a glimpse again as it makes its getaway.
One of the rangers tells us later that there are venomous brown snakes and lots of these tiger snakes around this year. I think that of the world’s top twelve venomous snakes, ten live in Australia and I am surprised at the blase approach that these Ossies have to all the various creatures, large and small, that have the ability to fell a man with a lick or a bite or a sting.
But then they have been bought up on Crocodile Dundee movies from birth haven’t they?