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The Goodheart and Whitecorn Adventures "I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it." Rosalia de Castro

The Great Ocean Walk

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 20 January 2015 | Views [1044]

Apollo Bay-Elliot Ridge

Day 1 is full of nerves, excitement and an anxious need to start. We arrived around 1pm and, after collecting a map, bus schedule, and a quick phone recharge sat down to eat our first hiker/camper meal- tuna & beans. Not nearly as terrible as expected!! Lunch finished we began the walk…and got lost 10 minutes in. No seriously. We are that talented. Luckily it was a simple mistake that put us off maybe 5 minutes so, spirits still high, we continued. The beginning of the walk follows The Great Ocean Road out of Apollo Bay before branching off at a tiny town called Marengo. Here we cut through a “holiday park” (this is the official path mind you) and exit near the opportunity for our first beach walk. As we have started late in the day and won’t be able to take a later beach walk because of the tide schedule we take this trail and are rewarded with wonderful ocean and rocky beach. Near the end of the beach trail we are faced with our first real challenge-a gap in the rocks just large and wet enough for us to be wary about jumping across. We settle for a slightly easier scotch around that involves clinging to the side of a rock face before stepping onto potentially unstable rocks and scrambling up the other side. Whitecorn goes first, backpackless so Goodheart can toss everything across before joining up on the other side. We’re pretty sure the dented can of food came from this little adventure. The walk continues through a bit of forest and we cross a barely flowing river. Somehow exhausted and energized at the same time we arrive at Elliot Ridge campground, our first stop. And what better way to settle into the first night than to spot a koala! Cute and cuddly as they may be, those buggers are LOUD and woke us up a couple times. All part of the adventure I suppose!


Elliot Ridge-Blanket Bay

Day 2 starts out miserable and almost doesn’t get much better. We awake to a downpour, which shows no signs of letting up. We eat and pack hurriedly and set off for Blanket Bay. The entire walk of Day 2 is through eucalypt forest that should be great for koala spotting but we are so wet and cold we don’t look up from the trail except to make sure we take the proper turns. We race across the 100m o beach at the end of the path to the welcome sight of a shelter, completing the 12 km walk in less than the suggested time. Cold and annoyed we sit shivering as 3 more sets of campers arrive from Elliot as well. The rain is a true bonding experience and we become friends with Tal and Maria- the couple from Germany, and Alex from Barcelona. No one wants to be far from the shelter with the rain turning on and off and so we take over the group camping area for the night. It is a true shame the day is not nicer as tonight’s camp site is mere feet from the ocean and a beautiful place. More koalas hang out eating and sleeping, seemingly oblivious to the noise of the campers below.


Blanket Bay-Cape Otway

Day 3 has a much more pleasant start. Despite the misty rain, we have made friends and are happy to start the hike together. Passing through forest we take turns moving in front of each other while water breaks are taken and backpacks adjusted. Because of the rain and wet air Goodheart’s shoes become a problem that isn’t fully revealed until the river crossing. His shoes have been rubbing painfully causing blisters and an open cut. T and M offer a German version of Bacitracin and band-aids. This helps a little but between the 100 or so stone steps and hilly cliff top, Goodheart’s feet are in bad shape by the time we hit the lighthouse and it’s still another 15 minutes to the campsite. Goodheart manages though, true champ that he is and hobbles/limps his way into camp where he is greeted by Alex who is setting up a clothesline for everyone. Our little group of 5 is joined tonight by Smith from South Korea. We love our campmates and the community feel they bring. Unfortunately they all will leave us tomorrow- T, M, and A to return to Apollo Bay by bus and S to skip the next campsite in order to complete the full walk in a shorter period of time. Again, we camp in close proximity to each other. The night turns out to be very cold and everyone wakes up a bit worse for the wear. Slowly we say our good-byes. We are the last to leave as Whitecorn patches up Goodheart’s feet for the journey and the others cant wait around.


Cape Otway-Aire River

Day 4 begins misty and gray. We woke up on the early side to say goodbye but we don’t feel sleepy. The walk is supposed to be relatively short today but since the tides should be in our favor we are taking a slightly longer route in favor of a beach walk and waterfalls. The falls are small but pleasant, however, the beach walk almost proves to be Whitecorn’s undoing. Trudging through sand in the sun with a 30 (?) lb backpack is not nearly as pleasant as our minds made it out to be. Still, the view is unbeatable and the lesson learned.

Upon leaving the beach we are once again taken through new forest and our eyes are peeled for the ever elusive echidna. We reach the summit of a hill and look down onto the beautiful Aire River and green valley. The sight is lovely but the bridge we must cross seems too far away. We trudge along, somewhat grudgingly before finally stumbling onto the bridge. We cross, excited to set up camp only to be greeted by a very steep climb that becomes evident will have to be traversed should we need a toilet. We spy the shelter and Goodheart greets the spirits of our friends we have just left in a way that makes us laugh and sad at the same time. Tonight’s tent site is sweet and feels very woodsy- set back in a cozy tree cave of sorts surrounded on three sides with a “front yard” area and perfectly spaced trees to set up a laundry line. If we must leave our new found friends this is the place to be. Tonight’s company is disappointing and off-putting. We turn in early to read and write. This is the official halfway point! 4 days left.


Aire River- Johanna Beach

Day 5 starts with…is that sun?! We wake up early to patches of blue with sun peeking through- an exciting and welcome sight. All our wet clothes have FINALLY dried overnight and we pack fast to get and earlyish start. The morning is breezy and cool- perfect for hiking. Today’s hike alternates between incredible cliff views of the ocean and forest full of the coolest wavy looking trees and green plants that resemble yucca. There are a number of hills to climb but the going isn’t too bad thanks to the great temperature. In fact, everything is fine until the final 3 of the 14 km. We exit the forest to a mandatory beach walk that proves worse than the day before as strong winds blow us backward and shower sand into our faces, hair, and bags. Those 3 km easily take an hour but we push through only to realize once again, that our campsite is uphill. The climb is well worth it though as we are camped on a cliff over looking the ocean. It is still early afternoon when we arrive so I take a nap while Goodheart ventures back out for a quick dip in the ocean. He comes back full of sand and…and echidna sitting. Ugh. Jealousy. Dinner is wonderful- easily the best view we’ve ever had! Tomorrow’s trek is a bit worrisome but we’ve decided to wake up early enough to catch the sunrise in hope of giving ourselves a little extra push/jumpstart. Ryan’s Den here we come!


Johanna Beach-Ryan’s Den

Day 6’s route looks suspiciously like it’s giving us the middle finger (no, seriously) and the uphill start only seems to emphasize this. The weather is cool which helps and the views are fantastic. To our left- cliff views of the ocean. To our right- rolling, grassy farmland complete with river and cows. We get a little surprise as we ascend a hill and spot a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch. She hops around the bend on the same path as us. When we arrive she’s gone but we can spot at least 15 more dotting the hillside. Slowly the grassy land fades and we reach a partially paved road. This part is still pretty hilly but we are relatively distracted by the even road, peek-a-boo sun and continued hunt for the echidna. Whitecorn’s hopes rise when we spot a traffic sign that cautions drivers of the potential presence of kangaroos and echidnas, but alas, still no luck. Eventually we wind our way down to Milanesia Beach which is the perfect stop for a rest and snack. We opt for the extra kilometer of beach track as the sand is harder and not blowing in our faces. Apparently we are two of a very small number of people who choose this path as the stairs away from the beach are overgrown and hard to follow. We survive these only to be greeted by 4-5 kilometers of steep hills and staircases. The going is rough and we are mentally and physically drained as we stumble into camp. We set up the tent quickly and treat ourselves to a slightly larger lunch than usual. We are pleased to discover today’s journey has only taken 5 hours. This is the approximated time given by Parks Victoria for this section of the walk. Go us! Tomorrow is supposed to be the hardest day, but we actually feel ready and capable. We’ll see how long this feeling actually lasts. I will say, we have been (and will continue to) dreaming about what I will have for real dinner upon our return to Melbourne.


Ryan’s Den-Devil’s Kitchen

Day 7’s sunrise is once again thwarted by clouds, but we still see a sliver of orange and yellow which is pretty, just not the spectacular we were hoping for. We pack and get ready slowly as today’s low tide is later in the day than what we have been experiencing and there is no need to rush. Today’s hike is said to be the hardest of all the days and that could definitely be why Whitecorn is dragging her feet more than Goodheart. We’ve decided to take the optional beach walk and that will add another kilometer or so to the 13 we will already be doing. The first 5 minutes of the walk is relatively easy which helps because what follows is not. We were prepped for lots of elevation changes but it’s the steepness of the climb that nearly breaks Whitecorn. There is rolling hillside to begin. We pass cows and a field of kangaroos. Then there are 7-8 cliffs that jut out into the ocean that must be traversed. We hit our milestone markers but the distance between is further than expected. To top it off there is still no sign of the echidna and Whitecorn desperately needs the little guy to make an appearance today. We do get a black wallaby in our path which lets us get fairly close before scampering off. Hot, tired, and in desperate need of a break we finally get to the 366 steps that lead down to Wreck Beach. While we’re still early for low tide we can see places to sit on the beach and we make our way down. The sun comes out and our lunch is peaceful and much needed. This beach trail proves to be the best one yet with hard sand and rock, two shipwrecks from the 1800’s and a tricky but fun rock scramble. The major downside to this is the hike back up the cliff to our campsite. This feels never ending and by the time we arrive we are both cranky. It’s a peaceful site though and for the 2nd night in a row we are alone which gives us a chance to breathe and decompress. It is only 2:15pm when we arrive so we set out keeping ourselves busy setting up the tent, washing underwear, redoing Whitecorn’s hair, etc. We feel the most relaxed we have felt on this journey and with the sun out we are soon in excellent moods. To top it off the bathroom has the most amazing view ever. No joke. It is crazy to look back at how far we’ve come and we still can’t believe we only have one hiking day left! Dinner is going to be piecemeal tonight but with the promise of amazing Italian food on the horizon we have no problems with this. Bed time will be early tonight as we want to get an early start for the long day tomorrow.


Devil’s Kitchen- Twelve Apostles

Day 8’s incredibly early start is a huge asset today. Sleepy but motivated we continue our hike along the cliff but our views on either side are blocked by extremely dense vegetation. The morning is cool though and the path easy and fairly even. We catch sight of several wallabys including one who stares hard but doesn’t move as we pass within 10 ft of it. About half way through today’s 16 km walk the landscape starts changing and we can see more around us. We begin to not only see roads and civilization, but a glimpse of our end point as well. The ocean is truly a beautiful sight to both of us and the ground passes faster and faster beneath our feet. We reach a lookout and receive our first real look- 3 of the twelve apostles! We break for a quick snack before pushing hard to the end. Our arrival at the visitor center is exciting and underwhelming at the same time. There is nothing provided by Parks Victoria to indicate the end of the walk- no signs, etc and the visitor center itself is boring. But we have made it, accomplishing something neither of us have before and proving to ourselves that we are stronger mentally and physically than we give ourselves credit for. We are exhausted but proud and will remember this adventure for the rest of our lives. 

Tags: australia, great ocean walk, trekking



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