The Great Ocean Walk is a trip that my brother Jason (pictured top right of photo) had mentioned to me (top left) probably 3 years ago. I had agreed at the time that it would be an interesting trip to do and we planned to do it the following year. In true, non follow through fashion, absolutely nothing happened. This was one trip, however, that was buried in my subconscious mind and was not going away until this walk had been achieved. Roughly 18 months after the initial idea had been sparked, Jase and I re-discussed our intentions and we actually booked this walk in for October.
Our walk was a catered walk with Raw Travel. By the way, using a travel company is not necessary and there are regular camping grounds along the way with water, toilets and sheltered eating areas (I will show you these on day 5 of the walk), however, the experience of being feed and well sheltered every night was extremely enjoyable. You only need take a small backpack and can put on fresh gear each day which is most unlike hiking I’ve done in the past. The only thing to be particularly careful of is ensuring you have sturdy boots, change for all seasons and sufficient water (as soon as the days were hot I was drinking my entire 3 litre bladder).
We thought that it would probably be a nice time of the year to walk as Summer in Victoria can be extremely hot and winter extremely cold (or visa versa, this is Victoria after all), plus I was interested in the wildflowers that would be growing at that time of year that wouldn’t be happening in Autumn.
The day did finally arrive and Jase and I drove down to Apollo Bay (Information Centre) to meet with our guide Lee who ran us through the days walk and gave us maps and a GPS device in case we got lost. I have to point out, you might want to consider a different pass time if you get lost on this trip. It is extremely well marked and the map is brilliant (although map is slightly awkward due to its size).
We started off this journey just after lunchtime. Our first days walk was from Apollo Bay to Shelly Beach (car park) a fairly easy 9km walk (elevations to around 50m) to initiate us into what lay ahead. The day was particularly warm around 30 degrees. The initial track runs along the side of the Great Ocean Rd, but only for about 2km where it via’s south towards Hayley Point (Cape Marengo) and your walking journey begins free from motorists. Marengo was named by a passing french explorer and is home to a colony of Australian fur seals that we, unfortunately, didn’t get to see on this day. The track winds close to the ocean and gradually suburbia makes way for dairy farming to coastal bushland. It appeared (observation only) that the initial walking track is gradually being re-vegetated to its natural state as it is quite a mixture of grass, heath and blackberry weeds. We also noticed numerous plantings.
House overlooking beach.
Looking back at Apollo Bay from Hayley Point.
From this point on, the track gradually returned to coastal bushand and we started to see more wildlife on and off the track. We had been warned about snakes and even spoke with a couple of local surfers who had just seen a Tiger snake on the track but we had minimal encounters over the seven days, I am not particularly scared of snakes but wore gaiters as a precaution. This section of track had two small and one larger beach section which were called ‘decision points’ as you can either walk along the beach or take the track along the headland, we chose the beach walks on most occasions but we had fair weather for the majority of the trip. Sometimes weather can make beach walking impossible or maybe you might just hate sand. The track enters into the Great Otway National Park where the the scenery changed to large eucalyptus forests and even ferny gullies. We ended our days walking at Shelly beach and proceeded by vehicle, via bottle-shop (don’t make this a habit), to our first port of call Bimbi Park where we were to spend the first and second night. On the drive into Bimbi Park we noticed a lot of dead Manna Gums, after talking with Lee (our guide and local) we found out that the Koala population (which appears to have been introduced into the area some years ago) were having quite an effect on the flora, in fact they were eating themselves out of house and home with up to 17 times more koalas than is sustainable. The Department of Environment, Land and Water is currently looking at ways to reduce the problem but it was just a bit of a shame for both koala and gum species alike.
The accommodation at Bimbi Park (hosts and owners Frank and Katrina) was way above expectations with separate bedrooms, kitchen, living area and Verandah. We proceeded to unpack, have showers and unwind on the verandah. Katrina advised that dinner would be ready in the main kitchen and dining area at around 6.30pm. Frank who doubled as a chef made us the most delicious meal which included fresh seafood, home baked bread and an awesome dessert. We chatted with other walkers while eating dinner and then retired for the evening. Lee would be picking us up at around 8.30am for the second day of our trip and breaky was at 7am.
I must mention also that the track (although can be walked in both directions) really starts at Apollo Bay and finishes at The Twelve Apostles. For this reason you don’t really encounter too many other walkers during the day so feel as if you have the whole place to yourself.
Stay tuned for day 2 of our walk, updated weekly.