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The Great Ocean Road

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This week I had an exciting opportunity to explore. With a break from university, four friends and I travelled down to Melbourne, and drove the Great Ocean Road. This coastal drive weaves around the bottom of Victoria, Australia. Closely hugging the shoreline, it passes only through small, local towns; most of which remain non-commercialised, despite their famous location.

Throughout the drive, the scenery was just as breath-taking as we’d heard; the yellow cliff faces carved out by the sea and little secret coves hidden in amongst the rocks, were truly beautiful. However, I think we enjoyed our trip most of all, because we travelled independently, over three days; rather than the common one-day, organised coach trip. Hiring a car definitely allowed us to go beyond the common tourist haunts, and gave us the time to ask for directions, and see places recommended by the residents, and others who had previously driven the road.

Suggested by students we met in Melbourne, who are currently studying at the University of Adelaide, we visited the Bay of Islands, which they described to be “far better than the Twelve Apostles” (the most popular cluster of rock faces rising up from the ocean), and similarly, the hostel owner in Port Campbell explained how to reach waterfalls hidden within the forestry, away from the common National Park trial.

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The final day of our trip probably exemplifies most, how valuable these pieces of advice were, as this day was completely unplanned and spontaneous. The night before, we’d visited the local pub in the city of Warrnambool (the final town officially part of the Ocean Road) and asked for ideas from the bartender, Andy.

To set the scene, this was the kind of pub that is recognisable, the world over, as ‘the local’. Here, we ate the Australian equivalent of pub grub; chicken schnitzel, with vegetables and salad served up at the buffet, while a darts tournament took place around the corner, and two gentlemen sat at the bar with a pint in hand, seemingly as much a part of the design, as the furniture the pub was made with. Speaking to Andy, he recommended that we go further inland and drive through the Grampians, the mountain ranges close to where he used to live, and grew up. About two hours away, he gave us a detailed map showing how to get there, and where to drive through.

Personally, this was the best day of the entire trip. The roads were almost completely empty; the sky, cloudless. Like the image of Australia most people have, the winding roads showed signs warning of wild kangaroos, and one actually did bounce alongside the car until it flitted back into the trees. It was incredible.

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Most unexpectedly, the landscape up there was incredibly diverse. From barren, eerie lakes to dense mountain forests, you could explore for days. It was honestly the highlight of the trip, and allowed us to experience ‘the Bush’, and rural Australia first hand. These towns, and particularly the mountains, were the complete antithesis to Sydney and Melbourne. It was a privilege to visit, and chatting to the locals heightened what was already a brilliant trip.

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