Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Greatest Road on Earth


This is the greatest road on Earth in as far as spectacular views are concerned - the road from Torquay to Port Campbell and Warnambool through Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay in the Australian state of Victoria.

I do feel that the honour given to this road is more than justified, and to be honest, there are only two places on Earth that I would not mind retiring to due to its beauty. Actually one of these places is probably not a suitable as a retirement town due to its harsh winter, but the other one probably offers a mild winter.
In fact, during my second trip there in 1986, when I passed by this by during a full moon, it had crossed my mind that I would not want to return home as the view from this road looked so spectacular and so peacefully romantic during a moonlight night. But of course with the sight of Mak at the back of the car, that feeling disappeared as fast as the moon being covered by the clouds that night. (I could not tell her then I would want to stay on in Australia. She would be broken-hearted.)

Understandably, we were by the seaside with good breeze dominating the pleasant March sky in the Southern hemisphere.

We had taken this great road on the way back from Ballarat after a day's expedition at this famous mining town at Sovereign Hill. Obviously in the late 1800s, this was the town that triggered the great Victorian Gold rush, and we had our hands on it in 1986.

I guess, I would not be writing in this blog, had I made a fortune that year in Ballarat. I guess I was in the wrong century, and at least a century too late to participate in the richest alluvial gold rush in history.

I present to you - The Great Ocean Road.

Greatest Road on Earth
This stretch of road hugs the coastline, very tightly, I must tell you. It offers the most scenic ocean view and the surrounding area, and hence the name the Great Ocean Road.

According to the Wiki, The Great Ocean Road is a 243 km stretch of road along the south-eastern coast of Australia between theVictorian cities of Torquay and Warrnambool.[1] The road was constructed to provide work for returning soldiers and dedicated as a Memorial to those killed in the First World War.[2] It is one of Australia's great scenic coastline drives.

In my typical unexaggerated writing, I would claim it as the world's most scenic coastline drives. ;-)

In December 1985 - perhaps one of the better years of my life, for the simple reason that nothing untoward had happened that year, compared to the prior three consecutive years (1982, 1983, and 1984) and of course, it was the end of my student life after four toiling years at Monash, the four of us decided to reward ourselves with a drive alongside the south-eastern corridor of Victoria.
Kinda a victory jig, I guess, for four engineering students before our homecoming - from right, my housemates Rosli Abdul Hamid aka Sli (now VP at Malakoff), yours truly, Parid Sulaiman (now big shot at Intel), and Khairuddin aka Din Kecik. Another of our friend joined the journey to complete the group.

That's us before the start of the journey at our house at Hilltop Avenue in Clayton North. Three electrical engineering graduates in their jeans with their chemical engineering counterpart in his slack. One thing that we were proud of ourselves then was for the fact that all of us completed our undergraduate engineering course without having to repeat a single year, which was quite rare at Monash during those years.

Typically, a student would have to repeat at least a year during the four-year course. Sli obviously was the star in our group having graduated with with a second class upper. If I am not mistaken, all of us graduated with at least an Honours degree.
So we rented a Mitsubishi Magna - mind you that's not the Proton Saga ok, but it sure looks like one. (So now you know how Malaysian the Proton Saga was. May be as Malaysian as the Bangladeshi pendatang tanpa izin?) Unfortunately this writer did not possess a valid driving license by then (after failing four driving tests in Perth four years earlier), so he had to take a back seat.

We headed South-West towards Geelong, where most Malaysian students studying architecture would live and study (Deakin Uni) and then off to Torquay, where the journey on the greatest road on Earth would begin.

It was slow drive to Apollo Bay via Anglesea and Lorne and it was done on purpose. We were view hunting to be honest. Armed with an Olympus SLR that is still in working condition today, we would stop over at strategic location to take pictures. As we had started very early in the day, the early morning weather was not cooperating as it was cloudy, so the initial pics tend to be a bit dreary with the grey cloud. But as the day progressed, blue sky started to emerged from behind the clouds and presented with our picture taking opportunity like never before.
Of course, with us being students on a limited budget, we had brought food from home to supplement the crackers and tidbits that we bought from the grocery shop. I am sure nasik goreng with ayam goreng would be our menu that day.

Typical student menu I guess those days, may be with telur goreng or sausages thrown in. And, yes no Maggie Mee for us, for we were more sophisticated then than to drown ourselves in that non-nutritious meals.

To me, the towns along this scenic route are aptly named - I love the name Anglesea, and Lorne; they sound so female and hence romantic, while Apollo Bay sounds exotic to this part of the world. Warnambool on the other hand is as Australian as the kangaroo and the koala bear. As I have mentioned earlier, the road practically hugs the coastline, at times precariously. While I don't remember us hanging on to our dear lives inside the car, we were often left breathless admiring the view.
Caption: The Australian Boys' Band from the 80s, with the lead singer in the middle ;-)

It was non-stop to be honest. Every other minute, one would get a picture-postcard scenery. In the end, the adventure is in the journey itself, while the destination (Port Campbell) would be just a distant memory. We would remember the coastline outside this town better than the town itself.

It was a journey to nowhere to be honest, and nowhere is where the heart was.

Obviously it has all kind of corners that we Malaysians would love to give name to - selekoh korner baring, selekoh siku, or 90 degree turn etc. The only corner you would not find here is Hell's Corner. That's reserve for a turn at Mt Buller, but that's another story.

If the muslim world has 25 Apostles that we have to know, Great Ocean Road has twelve, which would be the highlight of the journey. It was not originally named that way; the biblical name was chosen to attract tourists to this area, obviously the name refers to the twelve followers or disciples of the prophet Isa AS or Jesus. Even without the fancy name, I am sure we would have been attracted to come that day.
The two pics below were taken from the point as shown in the above pic. If you face the ocean, to the right is the multiple rock formations and to the left, there are two. I am not sure if one can walk right to the edge. May be not.
These two pics (above and below) were taken in 1985 from the same location, one to the left and one to the right if one were to face the sea. Of course the picture above is perhaps the most photographed of the limestone stacks.
At Port Campbell National Park however, the Twelve Apostles refer to the collection of limestone stack protruding out from the sea off the shore of Port Campbell. Don't start counting, ok! You would not be able to count to 12. Obviously it was the work of the ocean waves, winds and other forces of nature, eroding the cliff over thousand of years and to be honest, I am sure it goes on till today. I am not sure how long these limestones would last to be honest.
No, that's not Anwar Ibrahim. That's me in 1985 in front of the Twelve Apostles. As I have said, by this time, the sun had come out and it was quite a pretty day with blue sky. But obviously the chemical composition of the printed photo could not last long, and hence the yellowish tint in all the pictures taken in 1985.
A number of them has fallen over entirely as waves continually erode their bases. I was made to understand that a 50-metre Apostle collapsed in 2005, like in the picture below. The erosion is estimated to be at 2 cm per year, and I guess over 25 years since I was there, 50 cm or two inches of limestones would have been eroded away.

These two pictures (above and below) were not taken by me as you would notice the different tint in both pictures.
And this is me and Din Kecik. Din was not a housemate - unlike Parid and Rosli, but he frequented our house quite a bit. Apparently he married a gal from my Taman in Taiping as I last saw him during the Raya prayer there, but I have lost contact with him since then.
I think the rock formations add colours to the already scenic route. In fact, with them, this route not only becomes spectacular, but also majestic. I would recommend anyone to go and see it before all of them collapse into the sea.
Beyond the Apostles, you could find London Arch which you would never find in London and the Lock Ard Gorge. If I vaguely remember, there was even a London Bridge, no?
We are looking at the Bass Strait here I believe which forms part of the Indian Ocean. We were not quite at the Southern most part of continental Australia - almost though.
To be honest, I would love doing this all over again, this time around with the kids. It would be a lovely expedition for all of us. I just could not wait for Air Asia to fly to this city I used to call my second home.

To me, I had driven to many locations - and I am sure many of you had done so yourself, there are many drives that I love so much. The journey around the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada and the journey in Colorado up the Rockies would be high up there in my list.

But for the ocean view, the cliff and the gorges, you can't compare the drive along the Great Ocean Road.


  1. Nice pics Man thanks for sharing,wish i could conquer the Beach Ocean Road someday (berangankah?), the view is spectacular... tp yg paling tak tahan the pic with the caption The Australian Boys' Band from the 80s, with the lead singer in the middle. i think that was yr best pose ever!!


  2. You're welcome. I didn't know that you were reading it. I was not planning to show it, but what the heck, it was over 25 years ago anyway. So I have already declassified these pix and they are no longer under OSA.

    But you need not berangan what - Air Asia X I think is flying to Melbourne this year and if we are lucky, we can the RM9.99 seat and we can all go..hehehe.

    Seriously the night view during a full moon, facing the ocean and the sound of the waves in the background - you can't get it any better anywhere else. I was that close of not returning home. I am sure you would enjoy the Great Ocean Road too.

    TQ TQ, the pix reminds me of an Australian band video clip taken at a similar background. It was a lovely song called Total Eclipse by The Expression- one of my fav then and even today. On a good day, I will show you. Do you want me to sign your autograph? ;-)

  3. Rahman, a great narrative indeed. Those old photograph does brought back memories of those good old day.

    I was all over Australia in 1971 and did enjoy my stay there. The Wine and the B.B.Q was one of the many memorable events. Goood Die to Die as the Australian say.

    Have a nice day Mate!

  4. Thanks for dropping by Pak Idrus. I envy you for being able to travel since 1971. I think travel in the old days is so much more fun than today - nowadays it is perhaps too easy, so you miss the adventure.

    I don't remember the wine during my days - may be because it was replaced by the beer by then! But I agree, the BBQ is a way of life there.

    Cheers Mate.

  5. wonder if cycling along the route there? Should be interesting

  6. From whatever I can remember, I dont think the terrain was something not conquerable by the two wheeler. In fact, I think it is not extreme. But I think you will have too many stop overs along the way. ;-) During those days traffic is light, and I think it should still be that way as Australia is a vast country with small population. Or at least the populations are concentrated in major cities.

    And Great Ocean Road is kampung road.

    So I think it is a wonderful idea!

    Well, Air Asia is flying there twice daily and they are promoting it from 299, if you could get a seat. Winter may be a bit cold for cycling I think since it is a open-sea road.

    Good luck!

  7. Hello En Rahman! I'm currently in my final year chem eng degree at Uni of Adelaide. I actually was doing a lil research about postgraduate position at Malaysia when I came across to this blog. Frankly, I enjoy reading it. Anyway, I havent been to GOR yet, as I got no friends to accompany me with the road trip thingy. Most of them prefer to go to Gold Coast to play in the movieworlds, dreamworlds etc. Pity me:( But I will visit it one day, before I finish degree and return home. Thank you for this entry; it's a beautiful one.