Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Great Ocean Road-- Sun., Dec. 2

AKA Chance Encounters with Glow Worms.

We had a nice night in The Lakes Entrance. Bob was up early and did a walk along the Cunningham Arm Inlet from the Tasman Sea. He saw the staging area for a triathlon to be conducted little later in the morning, and dolphins swimming and spinning in the inlet.

From The Lakes Entrance we headed west on The Great Ocean Road and stopped in Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia for brekky (breakfast). The Court House is historic with beautiful architecture. Breakfast was unremarkable.

Court House in Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia
We continued to the town of Sale to see The Swing Bridge. The Sale Swing Bridge is the only swing bridge left in the world that can swing 360 degrees. This site was very picturesque, not only for the bridge, but also for the Sale Common River Heritage and Wetlands Trail. This was a good stop to stretch our legs and learn history of the area.

The Swing Bridge
Bob's happy face. He liked this stop!


Mechanism that swings bridge 360 degrees.
Sale Common State Game Refuge.
Both of us enjoyed this stop. The day was pleasant and this spot was a welcome relief in a long road day.

Our goal today was to get past Melbourne in light Sunday traffic, spend the night in Lorne, and drive The Great Ocean Road on Monday. I got one photo of Melbourne traffic as we were driving through. And, yes, that freeway decor is supposed to be askew. More on Melbourne when we spend the night there in a couple of days.

Today a lot of time was spent driving through the plains of Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Yes, it was flat and, as the lady in the Info Centre said, "You can only see so many gum trees." She recommended we make a fast trip of it.

After finding our way through Melbourne freeways, we took the edge off with a fish and chips lunch. We took lunch to Point Danger in Torquay and ate a picnic table in a howling, chilly wind while we watched surfers and a kiteboarder.

Torquay, Victoria, Australia.
We then made our way to Bells Beach where the Rip Curl Pro surfing tournament is held each Easter.

Surfers at Bells Beach.
Always a good reminder.
The above signs are posted frequently along the Great Ocean Road.

Torquay is the eastern starting point of The Great Ocean Road. We headed west and passed by the Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. The road was hand built by returned World War I soldiers in honor of their fallen comrades and officially opened in 1932, it is also the world's biggest war memorial.

The first part of our day was lots of driving, but from 4:00 p.m. on, we had a jam-packed afternoon and evening. At Aireys Inlet we stopped for a short walk to see Split Point Lighthouse and some viewpoints of the coastline.

Split Point Lighthouse

Our stop for the night was Lorne, Victoria, Australia. We arrived with enough daylight left that we had time to drive up to Erskine Falls and hike a short trail to the upper falls. (The lower falls trail was closed for repairs.)

Erskine Falls outside Lorne, Victoria, Australia
We also drove up to Teddy's Lookout on the recommendation of the clerk at the Best Western where we stayed.

Teddy's Lookout
The setting sun was dramatic!

With daylight keeping us company until almost 8:30 p.m., we drove around Lorne. Here's a photo of the historic Grand Pacific Hotel.
Grand Pacific Hotel, Lorne, Victoria, Australia
Upon our return to our hotel, I noticed two laughing kookaburras sitting on the railing of the hotel balcony. They were not the least bit afraid of me and I got to within three feet of them.

The best things in life are free. Tonight we had a chance encounter with glow-worms. When we planned our trip to Australia, glow-worms were not on my bucket list of things to see. However, two of our tourist maps made passing reference to going up Gray River Rd to the picnic area to see the glow worms after dark. Okay, I'll bite.

We drove about 15 minutes west to the little village of Kennett River, then up Grey River Road approximately 6 km. Along Grey River Rd., we saw a wallaby standing by the side of the road and a kangaroo bounded across the road a little way ahead of us. When we arrived at the Grey River Picnic Area, a van was there. Bob went up to the car and talked to the couple. They are visiting from Bavaria in Germany and are on a three-week caravan (rented camping van) trip. They, too, were there to see the glow-worms. It was about 9:00 p.m. and there was light left in the sky.

We stood chatting outside until it got dark at 9:30 p.m. (and we're talking REALLY dark--no streetlights or moon about). One of the interesting tidbits we learned from our new German friends was that koalas live in the campground where they're staying in Kennett River. They said koalas are all around and come down from the trees and roam around the campground. We'll be checking that out tomorrow on our way west.

Time to set off in search of the glow-worms! The directions Bob read said to head back down the road we came in on and cross the bridge. That's where Bob and I headed. The other couple went the other way on the road.

I found the glow-worms. What an eerie sight! It's like a bunch of eyes looking at you from a completely dark forest.

The other couple hadn't found any and were getting in their van to leave. Bob ran over to tell them we had found them so they came over. We all oohed and aahed and marveled at what a wonderful sight they were. Bob thought they looked like stars in the night sky.

Apparently glow-worms are usually seen in caves, so these glow-worms in this part of Australia are unusual. We feel so fortunate to have seen them.

Interesting facts about glow-worms: Glow-worms are not worms but rather the larvae of fly-like insects called fungus gnats. Larvae produce threads of sticky silk, their glow attracts prey which are ensnared by the sticky threads. Where does the light come from? The end of the abdomen is luminous. The light is actually emitted from tiny tubes (malpighian tubules) which open into the gut of the larvae and are visible through transparent skin at the end of its body.

Wow, what an end to the day. I'm worn out.

Travel Bug with lights out!