Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Port Campbell to Airey's Inlet
The Port Campbell caravan park was full of tourists like ourselves, traversing the Great Ocean Road. It is the closest town to the Twelve Apostles, a set of limestone pillars surrounded by the sea. In recent years, a couple of these have collapsed, undermined by the constant waves, but according to the information I read, a few more have been carved off from the mainland as well. There are apparently 13 apostles at present, although not all are visible from the coastal viewpoints.
There were lots of happy tourists taking photos of each other, and one kind soul offered to take one of us.
The natural heath on the clifftops, although not as spectacular as the turquoise sea and the offshore rocks, has its own beauty, with many silver-leafed shrubs among the green.
Leucophylla brownii is particularly attractive.
Several of the rocky islets are breeding grounds for mutton birds, or shearwaters, which come all the way from the Aleutian Islands off Alaska to breed and raise their young. They spend the days at sea, returning to their nesting burrows at dusk so unfortunately we didn't see any.
The parents leave for the north before their chicks are completely fledged; hunger eventually drives these young ones to take to the air, and somehow they find their way along the air currents in the wake of their parents. Only 50 percent of them make it as far as Alaska.
The road jogs briefly inland to cross the Otway ranges, becoming narrower and winding. As we descended towards the coast again, we admired the tenacity of farmers working these steep green hills.
This far along, the coastline flattens out and becomes less dramatic. Yet it merits a closer look as we discovered when we stopped to walk out onto a beach with an exposed reef where the tidepools were rich with sea life.
Shortly afterwards we arrived in Aireys Inlet, our destination for the night. It was Friday and throughout the early evening people kept arriving, presumably from Melbourne, to occupy the on-site cabins for the weekend. We were apprehensive that parties would go on all evening, but it was surprisingly quiet after dark. Everyone must have had a strenuous day at the coalface before the drive out of the city.