Still grey. Rich and I woke up this morning to find ourselves trapped in a layer of mist. It was surprisingly chilly so we shoved our Patagonia‘s on and headed across the street to enjoy a breakfast of pancakes and jaffles before heading out of town, almost ready for the 76.8 kilometers and over nine hundred meters of elevation gain waiting for us.
Heading out after breakfast, the initial part of the morning was quite fun. The road condition wasn’t always the greatest, but we had a solid fifteen kilometers of downhill to start the day. Had the roads been smooth this would have been really enjoyable, but there were plenty of cracks and bumps in the road, so we both had to remain vigilant – one eye on the road, the other straight ahead. Regardless, I was quite sad when we got to the bottom, and we still had about ten kilometers of flat to go before the next climb. I was not looking forward to what lay ahead.
The next ten kilometers of flat were not easy. We were now in the middle of a valley and surrounded by hills. The valley itself is extraordinarily beautiful – rolling green pastures, a few rivers running through the middle and plenty of curious cattle. The valley though messed with the wind, creating a whirlpool like effect, the wind blowing in a circular pattern round and round. We’d turn a corner around a cliff or part of the hill and think that now, now the wind was going to be behind us and find that it was still blowing into our sides or backs. It got to the point that I was absolutely praying that the flats would just end and we could start climbing, protected against the wind by trees.
When we did get past the flats, we found ourselves facing conditions much like we had the previous day – moderate gradients with long uphills, lots of twisting and turning, and heavy undulation.
You’d like to believe that undulations are a welcome change from steady climbing, but when you know that you need to reach a certain elevation level at the top of a massive hill before you’re released from its clutches and allowed to mostly glide down the other side, undulations are just evil. You climb and climb, thinking that you must have pretty minimal climbing left, only to be sent right back down the hill, and forced to tack on more elevation. It is a brutal mind game.
Eventually, though, we emerged at the top of the hill, victorious.
The skies had cleared by the time we reached the top, and from then on out we could enjoy the next few kilometers down into Apollo Bay. We didn’t see much for most of the descent, as we were surrounded by trees, but about five kilometers outside of town the trees disappeared, and from where we were on the hill, we could see town and a great expanse of ocean. Zipping down and into Apollo Bay, I mentally patted myself and Rich on the back several times. The worst was done and behind us. Finally it felt like we were near the end and going home.
It is not to say that the Great Ocean Road as a whole isn’t beautiful, but the forty-five kilometers between Apollo Bay and Lorne just takes the road to a whole new level of gorgeous. On one side of you there are beautiful rolling green hills and jagged cliff faces, on the other side there is vast blue ocean. The road itself is jagged and windy, following the shoreline as closely as possible. All you can see for miles ahead of you is the curvature of the shoreline and rolling waves crashing against it.
For once, pushing up and cruising downhill, Rich seemed to actually enjoy the road’s massive undulations, and we stopped frequently as we often wanted to get a better look at the scenery around us. We were both in a great mood by the time we rolled into Wye River.
Despite a couple of mating possums making noises comparable to a warthog in heat, we had a really good night, likely because we knew it was our last on the road.