Great Ocean

“Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to present to itself a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.”
                    Elizabeth Berg, The Year of Pleasures

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Towards the end of my house sit in Jan Juc, I took the opportunity for a short drive along the Great Ocean Road. I first visited the area three years ago and was struck by both its beauty and the magnificent feat of construction that is the famous road which twists and turns on the edge of the Victorian coastline from Torquay to Warnambool.  On this visit I came to a new appreciation; it’s the ocean which is great, as much or more so than the road.  The wild weather made me a cautious driver who set her destination for the tourist town of Lorne, a moderate and achievable distance .

Every journey is singular and this one reinforced that the greatness in the title belongs to the natural world of the wild seas of the Southern ocean of  Bass strait and not the concrete construction which transports us along the coast. What is it with we humans? We tend to celebrate the things we fabricate rather than those of the natural world which surround and sustain us in such beauty. A road, no matter how great, is  still just a means to get somewhere isn’t it?.

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The weather was different on this trip, with at least five seasons from morning to afternoon. My mind wandered as I reflected on the amazing scenery of high cliffs, white foam and barrelling waves. The ocean is great in its capacity for change, it never endures untouched, a quality which we humans so admire and try without success to emulate. On  this morning the wind displayed its full transparent power. Like a master of marionettes, it stirred up the versatile moods of the ocean. I turned a corner and experienced a sylph like whisper in a shaded spot.

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Moving on, I saw the waves line up like an army in chaos, erratic in their advances towards shore. By the time I arrived at Aireys Inlet, a tiny town with a few shops and a famous lighthouse, the air had stilled, the rain stopped and the sun reclaimed his throne in the sky. The heavenly blue was reflected in the puddles on the road giving a bright entrance to the Lighthouse which used to guide errant ships in stormy weather. I took advantage of the pleasant break, to do some exploring. Beneath the  cliff of the commanding structure known colloquially as ‘The White Lady’  stands a chunk of land prosaically called Spilt Rock. It lies adjacent to the coast in a messy formation like the last piece of a Christmas day plum pudding surrounded by drizzled and creamy foam.  Looking at the stilled landscape, it was hard to believe it held any relationship to the argy-bargy of wind, rain and surf just around the corner. Foolishly hoping that the weather was improving,  I continued driving and stopped at the next little town called Fairhaven. With a few houses dotting the high cliffs, I could imagine it being a haven from the increasingly fast tempo of the city of Melbourne. A place to disconnect and watch the infinite variety of ocean moods. For me landscape is not just a linear concept, a horizon but also a vertical one. I looked up from the ragged sand dunes which had been created as a buffer to the ocean in her more land grabbing moods, and saw a square house perched on a pillar high on the hill on the other side of the road. Amazing though it was to look at from the ground, I couldn’t imagine visiting, let alone living there. A perfect eagle’s eyrie, but what would become of it in those powerful winds? Perhaps it doubles as a ship as well.

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The beach at Fairhaven is a treacherous one, full of rips and currents so powerful even the most adept surfer would find challenging. I returned to my car and continued the drive to Lorne, the road  becoming increasingly curvaceous offering snatches  of lacy wave formations covering  then exposing blonde sands. Just before turning the last corner to Lorne, the traffic was stopped by council workers whose fearless colleagues were engaged in the high risk tasks of tending to the steel nets covering the cliffs. Like adept abseilers, they dangled from high cranes, swinging back and forth to ensure the vital job of preventing rock falls. The pause  gave me another opportunity to reflect on the everyday courage of people who help make our journeys in life safe and smooth. In a modern society we insist on such work but do we fully appreciate the skills and qualities of these workers? Serendipity had provided me with an understanding of why the creation of the road was a great achievement.
Built between 1919 and 1932 in various stages, it was principally considered as a tribute to the Anzacs of the Great War,  a memorial to those who didn’t make it home by those who did. The creators’ vision of affording accessible and safe travel to and through an area of wild beauty to rival any in the world, has been achieved.

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After lunch, the wild weather accompanied me on the return journey from Lorne, as did a new appreciation of  the harmonious partnership between human ingenuity, earth sea and wind.

21 thoughts on “Great Ocean

  1. Hi Kate! Wow, Wouldn’t it be a great life house sitting so you could experience settings such as these! Love driving along the Great Ocean Road. Been a few years now! There used to be 12 Apostles once, but now I believe some have collapsed into the ocean. I want to live in that ‘square house perched on a pillar high on the hill.’ I can just imagine experiencing Victoria’s wild weather and tossing to and fro in my hilltop eyrie. At one with the elements/setting.

    Thank you for your captivating photo essay. I’m sure many readers will enjoy a vicarious trip to Australia seeing most can’t face 24 hours on a plane to see it for themselves, lol!

    For your entry to WEP, we thank you and hope the experience is well worthwhile to you and that you will return again for Halloween. (Yeah, I know we don’t really do Halloween in Australia, but I do love a creepy horror story!)

    Lovely to meet you!

    Denise 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely description, and pictures. The square house perched on the pillar seems straight out of a fairy tale. We do need to celebrate the beautiful nature around us. Moreoften, the road we hurry through is far more beautiful than the destination we crave.

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  3. Fantastic photos and post. I can’t imagine living in that square house on the hill, I’d be so nervous every time the wind blew. It is great to read a bit of history about the road. The sea views are stunning. Travelling through various different weather conditions, wild and windy has only added to the atmosphere.

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  4. Kate:
    I love that quote! “. . . a cure for a disease it had not, until now, known it had.” Oh the wonders of a great vacation. Or for that matter simply a vacation. Our road trips always leave us feeling such relief as the city grows smaller behind us and the horizon expands before us. Lovely!

    You pictures, wow, that carved bench, such remarkable craftsmanship.
    The words describing your journey that caught my attention are below, not all of them but a few. I wondered at the poetry these scenes could encourage.

    “high cliffs, white foam and barreling waves
    sylph like whisper
    waves line up like an army in chaos, erratic in their advances towards shore.
    messy formation like the last piece of a Christmas day plum pudding surrounded by drizzled and creamy foam.”
    Inspiring!

    That eagles eyrie platform house was breathtaking. I have to wonder if it’s the one that been on TV and has the ability to lower and raise depending on the winds? I’d love to see the views from there.

    I love that you questioned the celebration of The Great Ocean Road at the beginning of your trek but found reason at the end to honor what it gives the traveler. Wonderful!

    This is an exceptional post for the WEP Spectacular Settings Challenge. Thank you for sharing your journey and impressions. Please join us again in October for the Halloween challenge, Childhood Frights vs. Adult Fears..

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  5. Hi,
    Your pictures are beautiful. I especially like the ocean pictures. They are truly wonderful. I lived near the Pacific for a short time a while ago and your pictures brought back treasured memories.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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  6. That square house on the hill captured my imagination. 🙂

    I loved the voice of your piece, which is enhanced by beautiful diction such as:
    ” wind… like a master of marionettes, it stirred up the versatile moods of the ocean…”
    “ragged sand dunes… created as a buffer to the ocean in her more land grabbing moods…”
    “…council workers… like adept abseilers, they dangled from high cranes, swinging back and forth…”

    I also love your pictures.
    A wonderful reflection.
    Nice to connect via the WEPFF Challenge.

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