When we ditched the boat and took off in a jalopy van from Bundaberg in early December, we hadn’t a clue what we were getting ourselves into. We’d done almost no research into the subject of road tripping around Oz, and weren’t even sure if we should head north, south, or west (east being obviously out of the question). As often is the case when you head into something without any expectations, chances are high that you’ll have a surprising experience…. the bar isn’t just low, it doesn’t exist. So we headed southbound for reasons difficult even to recall now, and have been blown away by each new destination. “Epic” is the word we keep using because we’ve found no others that seem up to the task.
But like every epic experience, it’s twin-edged sword, and this of course brings up a broader problem with traveling generally. Each time you discover something amazing, your standards go up bit by bit, and to be impressed in the future you’ll have to find something even more epic than what you’ve just done. It’s not one of mankind’s most serious problems – few people are lucky enough to ever ponder the issue – but it’s an inescapable feature of a traveling lifestyle.
So as we’ve worked our way down Australia’s east coast, and around Tasmania off the mainland’s southern shore, we’ve been routinely surprised that we continue to find these epic moments day after day. It’s because each leg of the journey has offered up something new and unique, a quick look through our Australia photo albums reminds us of this. When we left Tasmania by ferry a few days ago, completely spoiled by our time there, we asked ourselves, how can road tripping in Tassie ever be topped? The answer, we soon discovered, was this: the Great Ocean Road.
For those new to Australia, the Great Ocean Road is a 150 mile stretch of southern coastal highway that begins a few hours west of Melbourne. You’ll need at least a couple days to explore it, and much more if you want to hit every stop because there are so many. The major attraction, aside from the huge beaches and turquoise water (boring!) are the scenic cliff overlooks, which have turned this stretch of road into a photographer’s mecca. It’s been on our list since we first heard about it, and by the time we finished last night we’d again found successfully found epicness.
So we now find ourselves at the finish line of the Great Ocean Road, and also the U-turn point for our Australian journey, where we’ve stumbled across some sailing friends, Tony and Jess, who we met back in the Galapagos and who’ve just finished up their first around the world voyage. As we cut open their last carton of “Chateau Papier” red wine last night (aka “two buck chuck”), Tony had a suggestion for how we might make our return trip to Tamarisk in Bundy a bit more exciting. Instead of being wimps, he said, why not take the “long way” back? And with that he took out his Australia map and as our jaws went slack, he drew a massive dog-legged line through the center of the Australian continent: The Outback. We pondered his psychotic idea for at least a few minutes: 3500 scorching miles through one of the harshest and remote deserts on Earth in a $1200 jalopy with a leaking radiator. And that’s exactly the moment we realized “psychotic” probably is not the word.