Australia is a major destination for Kiwi people (candidly, Kiwis). When I was a school going kid, I once got to see Australia tourism website and I was instantly in awe of the landscape especially the big endless land masses, brown deserts, not to forget the Twelve Apostles and many such things. That time I thought that I shall visit this country at least once.
Fast forward; after 14-15 years or so, I finally got a chance to visit this country. My friend Yogi's sister lives in Melbourne. They had organised a Sonu Nigam concert in Melbourne on the Easter weekend. That acted as a big motivation for us to plan a trip to Melbourne. I personally was not keen to see Sonu Nigam live, but I was more interested in seeing Australia.
The best part of the trip was we all 4 friends were going together. We booked our tickets in January and got our visas stamped in March. Finally, we were on board the plane to Melbourne on April 5 night. The jet star flight reminded me of the Indian low-cost carrier flight experience (my first flight experience) but was in complete sync with what we had expected from a low-cost carrier.
We reached Melbourne airport approximately three and a half hours after flying from Auckland. It was around 11 PM in the night there and we underwent the usual immigration checks. I thought that we would be having a tough time in that, but contrary to my acquired beliefs, we came out of the airport in just 15 minutes.
The first look at the Melbourne airport reminded me of New Delhi airport, the flyover and big hotel just in front of the airport. We were received by Yogi's Jija ji and his friends. Then we started the journey to home, which I later learned to be more than 70 km. We crossed the Melbourne CBD and saw the lit up buildings in the night.
On reaching home after an hour or so, we had dinner and chit chat sessions with everyone there. Reluctantly we started making a plan for the 4 days ahead. We figured out that the Great Ocean road which was a must watch on our lists had to be seen the next day as it required a complete day of driving and roaming around. So at 3 am in the morning we slept with the intention of getting out of the home before 7 am.
Obviously, without getting the adequate sleep out of excitement and exhaustion, we got up at around 7 and after having a quick breakfast we started for the Great Ocean Road. The weather was very good and clear skies welcomed us. While crossing the Melbourne city we had a good look at it and the surrounding suburbs, the Yarra river and also discussed some attractions which we could visit in next days.
The Australian surroundings are quite different in a way that they are browner in colour than the usual green ones found in New Zealand. Also, most of the land is plain and vast endless stretches of land can be seen easily, unlike NZ where everywhere there are small hills with sheep or cows grazing. I felt the difference as soon as we crossed Melbourne city and made our way to Geelong, a nearby town.
|The Great Ocean Road|
We did have some maps and GPS navigation to tell us about the attractions which were en-route. The first of them was Split Point Lighthouse reserve. There was a big white lighthouse on a cape where we stopped for a break. The weather was very good and clear blue skies greeted us. We went to the walking trails and spent about half an hour there getting ourselves clicked with the surroundings. It was nice to see the vast ocean for the first time in Australia.
|The Split Point Lighthouse|
|Information about the lighthouse.|
We continued ahead after that break and crossed small towns named Torquay, Aireys inlet and Anglesea. It was a long drive and we thought of taking another break at the Lorne beach. When we stopped there the sea tempted us to get into it and we went for a swim. The water was cold, especially after I had thought that it was warm weather overall. However, it didn't stop us from getting into the sea.
|The Great Ocean Road near Lorne|
We spent a good two hours there relaxing and chilling. After having some lunch (courtesy Didi's sandwiches) we continued ahead. The next major place which came was Apollo Bay but we didn't stop there as it was a long drive still needed to reach Twelve Apostles. The landscape also started changing after we crossed that place. We crossed Great Otway national park and it stunningly looked like we were back in NZ. Same green hills, pine trees, large farms made me think that we were actually in NZ countryside.
|Crossing The Great Otway National Park|
The roads continued to be very winding along with twists and turns which are characteristic of Indian mountain roads. I was trying to figure out which road in India looked like these and could remember of the hilly stretch from Kala Amb to Nahan (in rainy season) while going from Chandigarh to Paonta Sahib. The weather suddenly became overcast and it started raining heavily.
|The Twelve Apostles map|
I prayed that there would be no rain at Twelve Apostles otherwise, it would be disappointing. While we drove ahead, the rains weakened. At a point just before Twelve Apostles, we stopped for a 10 mins break and just to catch up with Yogi and others who were in another car driving behind us. We reached the Twelve Apostles marine national park and parked our car there, to find a lot of tourists flocking the area.
I was very excited to see one of the most clicked and famous natural attractions in Australia. We started the walk for the actual Twelve Apostles location. The rain had stopped and there was a hint of sunshine. We also saw helicopter tours being operated for the whole national park. We decided to ditch that after seeing the time we had got and also the cost too.
|Entering the twelve apostles.|
Finally, we reached the vantage points where we could see the Twelve Apostles. They were not twelve in number as anyone might think. We clicked numerous pics of them, ourselves with them, them with other people and what not. After all, I had waited for 14-15 years to see this. After numerous pics and shots, it started raining. I was happy that we at least saw them before the rain. We started running back to the cafe near the parking.
|The Twelve Apostles.|
|The Twelve Apostles.|
Saurabh, Sandeep and Poonam bhabhi got wet in the rains while coming back from there. The temperature also dropped down a bit after the rains. We took hot chocolate and coffee to warm up ourselves. Afterwards, we started back home. Suddenly Yogi remembered that there was another place nearby worth the visit. He couldn't recall the name of the place, but could remember the way to it.
We reached that place and its name was Loch Ard Gorge. This place was an interesting one because of its history and a beautiful beach. We climbed down the beach and spent some half an hour there admiring the beauty of that place. The sunshine came through a large vent in the clouds as a bonus, which made the place look even more stunning. After our usual photo sessions, we persuaded ourselves to start driving back to Melbourne.
|Loch Ard Gorge bathing in evening sun|
|Loch Ard Gorge Beach|
It was already 6 pm in the evening and our concern was that a major part of the road wasn't lighted. Although we have never treated this as a concern in India but here we had to because we had got used to street lights almost near every major area. Still, without bothering much we continued ahead. In moments the sun went down and night came upon us.
It was a day before a full moon and because of no urban areas nearby, the moon seemed so big and beautiful. We had a candid discussion about the difference in the moon face we get to see in India (because of being in the northern hemisphere) and what we were seeing there. Saurabh got quite poetic while driving on seeing the moon. The bright moon acted as major help for us to reach back to the major city motorways as all the surroundings were lit up in the moonlight.
We spent around 4-5 hours driving continuously and chatting in the car on the way back home. We had easily covered 600 km in a single day while driving when I saw the maps later. Finally, we reached home at around 11 pm in the night and had a delicious dinner prepared by Yogi's sister. Eventually, we didn't plan and thought that it'd be better to have an impromptu trip the next day. So we slept in an hour or so after that because of being so tired.
|Here's the route we travelled over the day|
It was certainly a journey to remember for a long time.