Monday November 10 (continued) - Back on the mainland at busy Melbourne airport I have to do a bit of rapid mental readjustment after two weeks of Tasmania’s slower, gentler pace of life. I once again obstinately refuse to pay for the use of a baggage trolley and risk all manner of lower back strains and stresses in lugging my bags across the bridge and down the other side to the Avis office, where I encounter my first (and only) example of Aussie brusqueness. I’m told by a counter clerk with an annoyingly off-hand and couldn’t-care-less attitude that I can’t pick up my next rental car until 11.30 a.m. precisely, on pain of having to pay a completely different rate to that which I’ve already pre-paid - thank you, Virgin Blue, for bringing both my flights forward by an hour and giving me all sorts of logistical problems! More than a little mischuffed, I drag my bags outside and, there being nowhere else to sit, park myself on the pavement for an interminable 45 minutes, pestered by a particularly persistent fly. When 11.30 finally arrives I return to the desk where I’m immediately offered an upgrade - ‘Only $15 a day extra, Sir’. Does he think I was born yesterday? I’m allocated a Hyundai Getz, with a manual gearbox, which should prove interesting in the Melbourne city traffic… Only problem now is that the car is still being valeted. Eventually it’s brought to the parking bay, and then I find that I can’t start it. I’m told that you have to keep the clutch depressed as you turn the ignition key - I’ve never come across that little refinement before. This is a much smaller car than the two Toyotas I’ve had previously, and I have to do a bit of juggling to fit all my various bags and bits and pieces into the boot. I also feel it prudent to get the lady who’s checking out the cars as they leave the parking area to acknowledge a few bodywork scratches, lest they are later ascribed to me. Better safe than sorry…
Finally, much later than I had anticipated, I head out of the airport on to the freeway towards the city. My plan is to drive down the Mornington Peninsula and take the ferry across to Queenscliff, where I’m looking to stay tonight. A simpler but, by all accounts, much duller option would be to drive via Geelong and start my exploration of the Great Ocean Road a day earlier, but from what I’ve read about Queenscliff it sounds like a place worth spending a bit of time in. Once again I’m resorting to the slightly unwise practice of having my road atlas open on the passenger seat and sneaking quick glances at it to confirm that I’m heading in the right direction. I’m starting to realise from the various road signs that I can’t use the toll road cutting through the western side of the city unless I’ve previously bought a toll ticket - no cash payments accepted, on pain of a $100 fine - nice! I have to take the last exit before the toll road, which leads me due east through the suburb of Coburn on a busy road which I know I need to turn off at some point, but where? I’m cursing the lack of any decent advance signing, but eventually pick a fairly major road to turn right on to, and soon I’m back amongst the tramlines and apparently heading straight towards the city centre. Oh dear - this isn’t the easiest way to get acquainted with a new car and all its controls! I somehow manage to fiddle my way eastwards and, with some sense of relief, eventually pick up Hoddle Road/Punt Road - and, blow me, there’s the end of George Street! I really didn’t expect to be seeing that again. Well, at least I know where I am now; heading for St Kilda, in really heavy traffic. I make it on to the beachfront road and turn purposefully south towards Frankston, through an interminable series of traffic signals and seemingly endless suburbs and shopping centres.
Gradually the buildings start to thin out and I feel that I am at last escaping the clutches of Melbourne’s sprawling built-up area. The road becomes steadily more rural as I head down the Mornington Peninsula. It’s getting way past lunchtime, so, spotting a coffee shop on my side of the road, I pull in. By now it’s a very warm, sunny day and I feel I need a bit of a leg stretch after a none-too-relaxing drive from the airport. They don’t have much on offer by way of savoury snacks, so I settle for a sort of early-ish afternoon tea instead (I can’t kick this coffee habit though, so order a cake to go with it).
It’s not much further to the ferry terminal at Sorrento, where I’m first in the queue (for the second time today!) for the 4 p.m. sailing. It’s a pleasant, uneventful crossing to Queenscliff, where I’m in time to call at the V.I.C., where I sort out a room for the night and buy a little walking trail booklet. As my hostess for tonight isn’t at home at the moment, I follow the short walking route around the town, which has a certain faded charm and a fine collection of Victorian era buildings. It’s as close as I imagine Australia comes to having an authentic English-type seaside resort; a place which has seen better days but which still has a quietly appealing feel to it. Helen, my guest house owner, has by now returned and shows me around her very pretty and traditional house. It will make a nice change tomorrow to have a bit of a lie-in and also to have breakfast made for me.
As the light is still good I retrace the walking route and take a few photos before looking for somewhere to eat. As is the norm, by 8 o’clock not many places remain open and I end up right at the bottom of the main street where there is a hotel with a typically unadorned dining room. I need a beer to slake my thirst; I then go for a Scotch fillet steak and a glass of Shiraz cabernet - all very enjoyable. Back to base after a very long day for the usual diary updating, a late shower, and the delicious anticipation of a proper night’s sleep…
[Melbourne airport to Queenscliff: 126 km.]
Tuesday November 11 - Yes, a jolly good night’s sleep in (it almost goes without saying by now) a big, comfortable bed. I’m a little early into the breakfast room, where Helen is still bringing out all the baskets of bread and jugs of juice. I’m pleased to see a big loaf of that more-ish raisin bread appear, and there’s also a bowl of poached plums, which is a nice addition. Of course, the inevitable bowl of tinned peach slices is also there - why is this always such a breakfast staple when you have so much wonderful fresh fruit to choose from? There’s a chatty couple at the next table, and I also recognise a couple who were eating in the Victoria Hotel last night. The ever-obliging Helen goes to fetch the morning papers, so I spend some time leafing through them (much gloomy analysis therein of Ricky Ponting’s perceived shortcomings as captain of the Australian side in the aftermath of their Test series defeat in India - funny how he couldn’t do a thing wrong when they were winning everything in sight…) Well, I’ve been very pleased with Seaview House B&B (it even has a rather English-sounding name!); it’s a welcoming and very comfortable place, and I particularly liked the traditional features of the house: the ‘proper’ breakfast room, the guest lounge (complete with balcony), and bathrooms not shoehorned into corners of bedrooms. All very civilised and pleasant.
So, what with one thing and another, I’m rather late in getting on the road this morning. It’s not critical, though, as I don’t plan to go too far today; I’m determined not to rush the Great Ocean Road, which I’m anticipating will be yet another highlight of the trip. In fact, before setting off I fancy another little stroll around Queenscliff. At the V.I.C. the internet facility is in use, but the chap there is quite happy to ‘reserve’ it for me if I pop back in twenty minutes or so. That gives me the opportunity to finish off my photographic walk around the town, during which I inevitably get side-tracked down at the old railway station, where there is some old rolling stock and steam locomotives. After checking my e-mails I’m finally ready to leave Queenscliff, but not before driving to the old fort, close by the two lighthouses, where I pick up the strains of the Last Post - of course, it’s 11 o’clock on the 11th of November; Armistice Day.
A short drive brings me to Point Lonsdale; the best vantage point for ‘The Rip’; the notoriously hazardous entrance to Port Phillip Bay, with its racing tidal surges. There’s a big container ship negotiating its way into the bay, presumably heading for Melbourne - odd that access to Australia’s busiest port still requires the navigation of this tricky entrance. I’m now heading for the start of the Great Ocean Road, at Torquay, which of course I soon discover is Surf City, Australia. I park up on the beachfront road and walk into the town centre where I buy my regulation pie, apple juice and cake lunch from a bakery, but as they don’t have any ‘eat in’ facilities, I walk back to a picnic table shaded by a big tree near to where I’ve parked the car and enjoy a leisurely lunch with the sound of the surf washing on to the sandy beach just below. By now it’s very warm; bordering on hot, but I’ve seen an off-beat photo opportunity on the drive in, so head back on foot to a shopping centre which consists entirely of surfing-related outlets. To a water-wary Pom this is definitely ‘exotic’, so I proceed to baffle the local cool surfing dudes by getting some shots of the frontages of some of the flashiest stores - now I can throw the brand names ‘Rip Curl’ and ‘Billabong’ into any conversation I might have back home about surfing. Ermmmm…
Just along the coast is a mecca for all these surfing types - Bells Beach, so I just have to stop off there and spend some time gazing down on to the beach from a couple of the beach overlooks. You wouldn’t get me into that sea, I can tell you, but there are plenty of groups of wetsuited madmen paddling their way halfway to Tasmania, then waiting patiently for that ever-elusive ‘perfect wave’. Good luck chaps, but no thanks! Another brief stop, at Point Addis, for more vast coastal panoramas, and then I’m on the Great Ocean Road proper. Through Anglesea, and on to Aireys Inlet, where the Split Point lighthouse is a major landmark on this stretch of coast. There are various short walks fanning out from the lighthouse itself, leading to individual viewpoints, but the flies have suddenly come out in force, as they did at Point Lonsdale; the first day they have proved to be a serious nuisance. There’s a nice little café on the way back to the car, so I treat myself to a pot of Earl Grey and a scone with jam and cream (well, I had to have one ‘Devonshire tea’, didn’t I?)
Nicely refreshed, I press on towards Lorne, before which there is one more essential photo stop; at the memorial arch spanning the road itself. I hadn’t appreciated that the road’s construction was originally conceived as a mass employment scheme for returning First World War servicemen and as such, it’s claimed to be the ‘world’s largest war memorial’. Soon afterwards I’m driving into Lorne and, as has become my habit, calling into the V.I.C. to suss out the accommodation options. I pick a place out and, as it’s close by, walk there to have a look-see. Neville, a genuine ‘ocker’, greets me and shows me to a fairly basic, but perfectly okay room, with a bathroom across a passageway. I get a cooked breakfast included here for my $90, so I reckon that’s not too bad, price-wise (I’ve already guessed that the G.O.R. may not be one of the cheaper parts of the trip).
I feel like I need a fly-free walk, so as it’s 6 o’clock-ish and cooling down a little, decide to walk out of town to the west along the road as far as the new pier, and back along the shoreline path. The pier is being well used by the local anglers, which is good to see. When I get back to the town I enjoy a nice barefoot stroll along the beach and get my feet washed by the refreshingly cool waters of the Bass Strait. The lady at the V.I.C. told me that a good place to eat would be the local country/golf club, which evidently operates a ‘guest’ policy on the lines of the RSC clubs where I’ve eaten very well earlier in the trip. Apparently I can get a very reasonably priced meal there. Not, unfortunately, on a Tuesday evening though - the place is totally deserted and locked up. As by now it’s nearing the fateful hour of 8 p.m., I need to find an alternative pretty sharpish. I drive back down into Lorne and settle, with no great enthusiasm, for the Lorne Hotel, from which noisy music is emanating. Their sausages and mash are very cheap, though, so I order them, and have a couple of VB beers to wash it all down. Not bad at all, as it turns out. Back to base for the usual pre-retiring rituals of diary-writing and showering.
[Queenscliff to Lorne: 118 km.]
Wednesday November 12 - I was slightly apprehensive that my usually undisturbed sleep might not have been quite as sound as normal, as my room was directly below Neville and Maureen’s, and there had been a good deal of ‘walking about’-type noises coming from above; however, I don’t recall waking up at all during the night, so another triumph for Aussie beds! Breakfast is offered in the little courtyard outside, and as it’s another lovely sunny morning I’m happy to accept. Maureen serves up a good fry-up, which makes a nice change from my usual breakfast fare.
It’s another rather late start, but again, it’s no distance at all to tonight’s stop, at Apollo Bay, so ‘no worries’, as they would almost certainly say in these parts. After a quick e-mail check at the V.I.C. the first excursion of the day is to Erskine Falls, reached via a narrow, twisty, hilly road. The falls themselves are accessed by a path which drops down over 300 steps, whereupon you arrive at the base of the falls, with a fine view of the impressive cascade. Then a stiff climb back up to the parking area before the drive back to Lorne and another short drive on a gravel road to the Sheoka picnic ground, which I was encouraged to visit both by Maureen and the lady at the V.I.C. Sure enough, it’s a lovely spot; a big clearing in amongst the gum trees, with picnic tables and barbecue tables provided. It’s too early for lunch, so I use it as an ‘elevenses’ stop and have a couple of Anzac biscuits and a swig of water. My final stop in and around Lorne is Teddy’s Lookout, from where there’s a tremendous elevated view west over a section of coast with the Great Ocean Road threading its way around the contours.
Time now to leave Lorne, a most agreeable little town, and head west along what Neville considered to be the finest section of the G.O.R., where it hugs the very cliff edge. There are numerous stopping places, for which I’m very grateful, as this coast is just stunning - once again, the ocean has that brilliant deep turquoise colour. I eventually reach Kennet River, where it seems koalas are to be seen. I buy myself a pie, a cappuccino and a caramel slice for lunch (what, me, predictable…?) and eat them sitting outside the little café, trying to keep those pesky flies at bay. I then set off on foot up the gravel road opposite, where the koalas are said to congregate. It’s a bit of a long uphill trudge, and I realise that I could have driven the car up; still, it’s a bit of exercise, which can’t be a bad thing. Those so-and-so flies are out in force, though. After about half a mile I come across a small group of people gazing and pointing cameras up into a gum tree - I think I have found myself a koala. Yes indeed, there he (or she) is; quite high up actually and not being particularly obliging, photo-wise. I walk a little further up the road and spot a second one; a bit closer this time. As I just knew would happen, on the walk back I spot a third one, much lower down in another gum tree. Even closer is a gaggle of rosellas and big green parrots pecking away in the roadside grass, so I snap away at my colourful subjects. The sheer exoticness of Australian bird life continues to intrigue and delight, and it seems that some of the commonest species are amongst the most colourful - wonderful!
And so on to Apollo Bay, but there’s one more spectacular viewpoint to take in; Mariners Lookout, which involves a short walk up on to the top of one of a range of green hills running parallel to the coast, and which I fancy bears a certain resemblance to parts of the South Downs in Sussex. The views, again, are terrific, both over Apollo Bay, and back towards the east. As I’m relatively early arriving in Apollo Bay, I drive right through the town and back again, making mental notes on one or two of the many motels and B&Bs. I’m informed by the lady in the V.I.C. that the ones I’ve earmarked are towards the top end of my usual price range (always knew I had good taste…), but she gives me some other possibilities. I walk around the back streets of the town and back down the main street before settling on the Coastal Motel, which costs $95, and provides a spacious, absolutely standard room, with all the usual facilities.
I fancy another paddle in the sea (how quaintly British, I hear you say), so walk across the road on to the beach and have a pleasant foot-refreshing stroll towards the town jetty, where a whole clutch of junior surfers are practising their moves in the modest waves. Wandering along the jetty I’m startled to catch sight of a huge ray gliding through the deep water, requiring some unseemly fumbling for the camera in an attempt to capture this unusual sighting. More anglers are trying their luck from the end of the jetty and a group of kids are flinging themselves into the deep water - everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, in a laid-back kind of way, which is always nice to see. I like Apollo Bay, with its well-used harbour, complete with piles of lobster pots, and especially at this time of the day, when everything seems to be gently winding down as the light begins to fade.
I restock my breakfast and lunch supplies at a small supermarket on the main street before heading back for an early shower. There are quite a few eating place options in town; in the end I settle in at one of the hotels, where I get a seat at one of the outside tables and, realising that it’s several days since I’ve ordered fish, go for the battered fillets of flake, with a lubricating pint of VB draught, naturally. A nice slow wander back to base afterwards, with a full moon casting a lovely soft light on the ocean’s surface - what a glorious part of the world this truly is.
[Lorne to Apollo Bay: 84 km.]
Thursday November 13 - I’m woken up at 5 a.m. by the bathroom blind flapping and banging against the window and threatening to knock my shampoo bottle on to the floor (though in my bleary, sleep-fuddled state it takes me a while to work all that out). Stumble out of bed; close the window and go back to bed, muttering grumpily to myself. Where did that wind come from, then? Thankfully, I must have managed to go back to sleep pretty much straight away. A respectable number of hours later I wake again and put together my usual ‘motel room breakfast’ in between catching up with the day’s news. Is breakfast television cringe-makingly awful all over the world? I’ve developed a quite disproportionate dislike of the relentlessly cheerful couple who front the ‘Sunrise’ programme on whatever channel it’s on - the pair of them think they’re the smartest cookies ever to appear in front of the cameras. Off goes the TV and I set to making a vaguely multi-cultural sandwich for lunch; Hungarian salami and Australian camembert - sophisticated, or what?
As I head off to the V.I.C. for more e-mail checking, it’s certainly a much cloudier day, with a blustery wind blowing, though still feeling quite warm. Then it’s back on to the Great Ocean Road, en route to Port Campbell tonight, but with plenty to fit into the day. My first stop is at Maits Rest, a few miles out of Apollo Bay, where there’s yet another temperate rain forest walk, in amongst the tree ferns and the moss-smothered trees. I never tire of these walks in amongst the tall trees, the soft green light, and the sense of peacefulness and calm. Next I follow the 12 km. detour to the Cape Otway Light Station, where there’s a lot to see (and a heck of a lot of flies, too). The spiral staircase walk up inside the lighthouse itself is, of course, a must-do; the chap ‘minding’ the light is very informative and puts me right about something that had puzzled me, having read about it on one of the information boards. I really couldn’t see that a 90 km. ‘gap’ between the Cape and King Island, out in the Bass Strait, could be considered ‘dangerously narrow’, but he tells me that, so far as the old sailing ships were concerned, it was always looked upon as a highly dangerous passage; proof, I suppose, is there in the sheer number of ships that came to grief along this coastline. Just for a minute or two I have the odd satisfaction of being the southernmost person on the Australian mainland - something to bore the grandchildren with, eh? Several of the ancillary buildings on the site are open to the public, and have interesting displays and artefacts to view. As well as the undersea telegraphic cable linking the Cape to Tasmania, I learn that a sub-Pacific cable was completed in 1902 - how amazing is that?
I have a coffee and biscuit in the little café before moving on to Melba Gully, where another short rain forest walk takes in a truly enormous tree (27m around its base!) I have my picnic lunch there, relatively untroubled by flies, but with a cacophonous background chorus of kookaburras - it must have been a really good joke, clearly. The road then rejoins the coast and I soon arrive at one of the landscape (or seascape) highlights of the entire Great Ocean Road; the Twelve Apostles, where visitors are required to leave their vehicles in an enormous car park and walk through an underpass below the road in order to access the clifftop path. This place inevitably draws very large visitor numbers, but the spectacular sea stacks are well worth braving the crowds for. In common with everyone else, I can’t resist firing off shot after shot of these iconic landmarks. Only a couple of miles further on is Loch Ard Gorge, named after the ill-fated vessel which foundered on the rocks here, with just two young survivors from the wreck. It’s another impressive feature, but again thronged with visitors.
With lightning flashing not far to the west, I arrive in Port Campbell, where the ever-reliable V.I.C. provides a list of accommodation. I’m looking for a cheaper room tonight, and find a little guest house where Mark, the laid-back guy who runs the place, immediately cracks open a couple of cans of beer as we sit under the awning at the front of his place. Now that’s a proper welcome! He invites me to join him and Andrew, who’s also staying at the house, for dinner at the local pub. This will at least be a somewhat different evening than I’ve become used to, and it will be nice to have some company. Over several beers we get chatting about this and that; Andrew is here on a work assignment involving water and soil sampling, and as for Mark, well I never did work out what he does for a living; nor could I get to grips with his domestic arrangements (much later in the evening he drives off in his pick-up, so clearly doesn’t live in). I enjoy my enormous lamb shank and the pleasantly alcoholic evening, rounded off with a bottle or two of wine back at the house which we all agree would be a good way to end the day. Andrew and I watch a bit of TV; by now feeling a bit fuddled, before hitting the sack. A slightly strange evening, all in all, but pleasantly sociable.
[Apollo Bay to Port Campbell: 124 km.]
Friday November 14 - The surroundings were on the spartan side, but once again, I slept very well. Mark must be extremely trusting, leaving two complete strangers in his house overnight! As I head for the bathroom Andrew is already getting stuck into breakfast, which really is a ‘help yourself’ affair from the fridge. Like well-brought up lads we wash up our breakfast things; then Andrew heads off back to Melbourne while I start packing all my things up. Mark arrives back at the house just before I leave; I know hardly any more about his circumstances than when I arrived - he’s a chap of few words, but clearly a generous soul, and I wish him well.
Overnight it has rained and it’s still a cool, grey and blustery morning as I leave. Having not had a chance to look around Port Campbell yesterday, I make a brief tour, which doesn’t take very long (for some reason I was expecting the place to be much bigger than it is; certainly bigger than Apollo Bay, but I was quite wrong on both counts). Back on to the Great Ocean Road then, where I soon come upon the first of a series of ‘brown signs’, indicating various scenic coastal overlooks. First, there’s a fine viewpoint looking back over Port Campbell; then the next stop is at ‘The Arch’; followed by ‘London Bridge’; and then ‘The Grotto’ - magnificent sights one and all. I keep encountering an elderly couple at each of these places - maybe they think I’m stalking them… Finally, I get a bit of a brown sign-free run through Peterborough until the next one lures me seductively off the road; this time it’s yet another stunning panorama over the ‘Bay of Islands’. I think, though, I am starting to suffer from sensory overload - just how many more amazing, fantastic natural spectacles can I take in and commit to the old memory bank?
Eventually, the G.O.R. takes pity on my overflowing brain and turns inland through much more nondescript countryside. On the road to Warrnambool I spot a filling station selling unleaded petrol for $1.29 a litre; just about the cheapest I’ve come across so far (memorably, it’s opposite a cheese and butter factory, and next door to the cheese museum - I kid you not). I discover that this car also takes forever to fill up - what am I doing wrong? From here it’s not far to the sizeable town of Warrnambool, though I manage to get a bit lost on the drive in, looking for the ‘foreshore promenade’, and end up driving round in a circle. In the end I find the V.I.C., which is right next to Flagstaff Hill, which is a Victorian maritime version of a Sovereign Hill-type historic village re-creation. From what I can see it all looks a bit crowded together, with a real jumble of buildings, and for better or worse, I’m going to give it a miss. I consult the large map outside the V.I.C. and walk off towards the town centre, a few blocks away. Warrnambool isn’t immediately grabbing me, I must say, and I do turn this into quite a lengthy walk all around the grid of streets making up the town centre. Looking for an internet café, I end up at the local library, where on-line access is free, but terribly slow.
By now it’s time for lunch, so I pick a place on the main street which gets steadily busier and busier - surely a good indicator of decent food. In fact, my roast pork roll with gravy (!) is rather ordinary - maybe it was just a bad choice. Anyway, I buy a hedgehog slice (now knowing what I’m getting, after my introduction in Tasmania to this weirdly-named confection) for later. I decide there’s nothing further in Warrnambool to detain me any longer, so walk back to the car and drive on to the Tower Hill Reserve, a few miles out of town on the way to Port Fairy. By now the rain showers have cleared away and it’s looking much brighter, so hopefully I will be in for a dry walk or two here. I’ve spotted emus on the way in, but I don’t encounter any once on foot, though there are plenty of evil-looking droppings. I complete a couple of pleasant walks, but on the third the path becomes almost completely overgrown, so I backtrack and follow another trail which leads me up on to the crater rim of the ancient volcano around which the reserve is spread. I finally catch a glimpse of a pair of emus off in the distance as I’m returning to the visitor centre. According to the advice given, if they start to run towards you, you should raise one arm above your head, which apparently convinces them that you’re one very big emu, which will deter any closer approach. I don’t get the chance to try out this ruse, which is perhaps just as well.
I now press on towards Port Fairy, my chosen overnight stop, and have a bit of a drive around before calling in at the Caledonian Hotel, a reassuringly traditional-looking place, very centrally located. They have a fairly basic, slightly frayed-around-the-edges motel-type room in an annexe for $70, the same as I paid last night, which will be perfectly adequate for one night. I park up; unload all my stuff, then set off to have a good look around Port Fairy, which strikes me straight away as much more appealing than Warrnambool. Both in the town centre and in the streets surrounding it there are a lot of Victorian buildings; however, the focal point of most of the activity hereabouts is the Wharf, which is actually a riverfront, where both fishing boats and pleasure craft are moored, against a backcloth of Norfolk Pine trees and some rather desirable waterfront properties. The walk downriver is a pleasant one, especially as it’s turned out to be a lovely clear, sunny end to the day. A causeway leads across to Griffiths Island, where a circular walking trail meanders to the ocean beach and then on to the old lighthouse, before turning back along the estuary. A lovely, tranquil walk, this; and the flies seem to have turned in early, fortunately. I do, though, notice a very large number of muttonbird corpses strewn around, in amongst the undergrowth. I wonder what has caused such a large-scale demise? I complete my gentle circumnavigation of the island and, happy to stay out longer on such a beautiful evening, extend my walk by retracing my route back along the Wharf, before crossing the river for a different perspective on this very agreeable waterside scene.
Well, I really enjoyed that walk, and it’s given me a good appetite for dinner. Back through the town centre to the Caledonian for a quick shower and change before getting settled in the hotel’s very busy and clearly popular dining lounge - I suspect Port Fairy is a favourite weekend spot. I order ‘chicken in a pot’ (which could be almost anything, I suppose, but every now and again I like to take pot luck (hah!) with a menu). I’m happily working my way through a Carlton draught when my impressive plateful arrives; at least half a chicken, very nicely cooked, on a bed of mash, with a bacon, mushroom and onion sauce over the top. The vegetables are a ‘help yourself’ affair, from a hot table in the corner of the room, and they’re also very good: sliced potatoes cooked in a creamy sauce with bits of bacon; cauliflower cheese; carrots; and roasted butternut squash. This is definitely my kind of food; unpretentious, gutsy, and very tasty. (In fact, recalling this meal is making me feel quite hungry right now…) I just have to have another beer - well, it is a seriously big plate of food. After this memorable meal I need another walk, so do a bit more late-evening exploration of Port Fairy, which I’ve taken a real liking to. I am, however, keeping a watchful eye on a bank of heavy grey cloud rolling in from the west, just in case there’s rain in the offing. The rain holds off, so I arrive back at my room nicely dry and not feeling quite so full as I was an hour or so ago. Another very full day to write up, plus a bit of other paperwork to sort out - by now, I’m pretty confident that I’m in for another good night’s sleep.
[Port Campbell to Port Fairy: 114 km.]