I feel like I know this place, like I’ve been here before. But I never have.
Maybe it’s Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, an apt name for a place that’s almost as far south as you can get on the Australian mainland, though those stories were set in America. There are many stories here.
The Cape Otway lighthouse overlooks the deep blue of the Southern Ocean, the rocky cliffs and reefs that have claimed many ships and lives. The telegraph house connecting the mainland to Tasmania for a scant two years before the tides and reefs cut the cables. The lighthouse keepers’ buildings, home to large families and even a school teacher. The concrete bunker where radar scanned the waters for the enemy in World War 2.
I never knew that a Japanese submarine launched sea plane surveyed the Victorian coast or that a German raider laid mines.
I never planned on visiting the lighthouse today, It is a detour off our route, the Great Ocean Road. It truly deserves that description, winding its way up and down along the turquoise coast. I quite enjoy driving the winding roads, reminders to foreign visitors to stick to the left.
We stop for lunch at busy Apollo Bay, lobster rolls and fish and chips. There are huge carnival rides waiting for the night to come alive.
Then we continue onwards. Towards Cape Otway the road moves inland, beneath the canopy of the temperate rainforest. B encourages me to turn towards the lighthouse, a long, narrow, winding road without much indication of when it will end.
End it does, and the destination is worth it. Afterwards, we return to the Great Ocean Road and continue towards Port Campbell.
Just prior to the town is the most famous sight of the Great Ocean Road, the Twelve (eight) Apostles, eroded pinnacles of rock emerging from the ocean.
We join the crowds and take the photos, then continue on to Loch Ard Gorge, where the only two survivors of that shipwreck washed up. Access to the beach is closed, but the views are still magnificent, as are those of the adjacent Razorback walk.
It’s now late, the sun is low and the sky overcast. I stop to put petrol in the tank and buy a snack and afterwards the proprietor comes running after us. His wife only charged me for the snack.
We drive the inland route back to Werribee, passing through Colac and Winchelsea. It is easier, but it is late, raining sporadically and we are hungry.
We arrive in Werribee at dusk. Many eateries are already closed. Alex insists on McDonald’s.
It has been a very beautiful, but very exhausting, day.