Day 2: THE OTWAYS WATERFALL BONANZA
Julie and I woke up refreshed after yesterday’s pleasant change of pace and the comfortable bed we were sleeping in. It certainly was difficult to leave the warmth of the bed and into the waking cold of the morning.
We couldn’t tell from lookout out the window here whether there was going to be sun or not. Regardless, at 6:35am we got packed and did an early checkout (leaving the keys in the room) from the Great Ocean Road Motor Inn to go to the Twelve Apostles.
Sunrise had already occurred, but the scattered clouds made it hard to tell whether we would’ve experienced a sunrise.
At 6:46am, after driving slowly in anticipation of any roos or wallabies that like to hop in front of cars, we arrived once again at the large car park for the Twelve Apostles. We were just one of two cars there.
So as Julie and I put on multiple layers of jackets to help offset the bitter Antarctic cold, we walked towards the overlook once again and this time we had it all to ourselves. Naturally, we took advantage of this opportunity to take our own photos (with the help of the tripod).
Julie was the first to return to the car as she didn’t want to linger in the cold much longer. I, on the other hand, allowed my hands to get numb for a bit as I foresaw more photo opportunities.
Fortunately the squalls were in the distance and not about to pass over the overlook area. One of these squalls started to produce a rainbow! This was a tremendous photographic moment as I wondered how often people get to see the Twelve Apostles under a rainbow.
So I spent a few more minutes taking practically hundreds of photos (aren’t digital cameras great?) before the rainbow started disappearing. By 7:30am, I rejoined Julie and we continued our drive west along the Great Ocean Road.
At this point of the drive, the drama of the turbulent coastline bashed by the raging Southern Ocean gave way to forested hills further inland. The drive was mostly uneventful (though I was always wary of wildlife) until we reached the turnoff for Triplet Falls.
We had arrived early so the Otway Fly (basically another tree-top walk like the one we did in Walpole, WA six months ago) was still closed. We eventually continued driving along the unsealed road towards its end at the car park. By now, the time was 8:32am and we were getting some light showers.
Going into this walk, I had a feeling the waterfalls would be doing better than the ones we saw the last few days. We could tell by how green the Great Otways Forest appeared. I also recalled the Melbourne family we spoke to back at Katoomba Falls who told us the Otways waterfalls would be doing well.
So after walking along the well-developed boardwalk and steps, we eventually made it to the wooden platform looking right at the three columns of water tumbling alongside each other. As expected, the volume was about as good as it could get – probably helped by the recent winter storm. The first two columns to the left were partially hidden by the rainforest foliage. But the rightmost column was the most photographable. Still, I was glad I had a zoom lens capable of doing some wide angles so I could capture the whole scene in one shot.
As we headed east, we were greeted by a red sign saying that the road we were on was closed east of Beech Forest. I immediately thought about whether we’d be shut out of more waterfalls again.
But at least both Beauchamp Falls and Hopetoun Falls were accessible. It turned out that the closure happened just past their access road so I was glad we could press on with our waterfall hunt. The only problem was that our route changed due to the closure and it was less than optimal.
So originally I had planned on seeing a series of waterfalls in one giant loop ultimately landing in Apollo Bay from the northeast. But now, we’ll be arriving at Apollo Bay from the west and having to contend with much more unsealed roads to go around the closure.
At 10:03am, we were the only ones at the Beauchamp Falls car park. The sign at the car park indicated a 1-hour return walk. Julie thought this was a bit long, but we still had to see this falls.
The mostly downhill path appeared to have coincided with a logging road. The path continued downhill and continued down a steeper incline as we had to negotiate some muddy steps towards the base of the falls. There was a sign with some profound and memorable saying as it pertained to waterfalls. It said…
“There is something inexpressibly soothing about the sound of falling water. All ages have found it so and amid the restless activity of modern civilisation its beneficient effect is probably greater than ever.” – Souvenir of Colac, Date Unknown.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Beauchamp Falls was an impressive 15-20m waterfall that had a pretty satisfying rectangular shape. Like Triplet Falls, it had a very healthy flow and Julie and I spent some time here taking photos while I was experimenting with tripod-aided photographs.
Having our fill of this pretty falls, we made the uphill walk back to the car. We regained the car at 11:18am and quickly drove over to the nearby Hopetoun Falls pullout arriving at 11:34am.
This particular waterfall walk had a pair of overlooks – one on top and one from the base. The upper platform was practically a stones throw from the pullout. However, its view of the falls was limited to seeing through the dense foliage. It basically whetted your appetite to bite the bullet and go down the stairs towards the lower overlook.
At the lower overlook, it immediately became apparent how tall the falls was and how picturesque it was. It was like Beauchamp Falls except Hopetoun Falls was taller. I’d say it was probably between 25-30m tall.
Once again Julie and I took photos of the falls and I experimented more with some long exposure photographs. Plus, we were the only ones on this track which made the experience even more special.
At 12:15pm, we were back at the car park. Now it was time to execute our change of plans and head straight over to Apollo Bay – site of our next accommodation. So we dutifully drove the unsealed road until we eventually rejoined the Great Ocean Road again. By then, we headed into the picturesque bayside town of Apollo Bay.
By now, the weather seemed to have mellowed out considerably and I could easily envision spending multiple days just relaxing here. It was yet another charming coastal town.
At 1:12pm, we arrived at the Comfort Inn International in Apollo Bay. Once again, Julie went to check in while I waited in the car. And I immediately knew something was going on when it took a while for her to get back to the car.
When she finally did, she was shaking her head.
“GoWay had us booked at Mt Gambier today,” she said. “I’m never using them again.”
“What?!? What about the voucher we had?” I asked.
“Well it’s resolved now. They took the voucher and got us a room. We were lucky they weren’t fully booked or we would’ve been screwed.”
“Did we have to pay out of pocket again?”
“No. Fortunately, the clerk saw the voucher we had indicated this place so she honored it and made a cancellation for the Mt Gambier accommodation,” she said.
And with that bit of drama, we checked into yet another roomy and comfortable motel room. This one had a loft and it was clearly a bit big for two people.
So after unloading our luggage, we headed back into town for some takeaway lunch (burgers and sandwiches) and a brief visit to the visitor center. We ended up having some delicious smoothies though both of them lacked bananas due to an apparent banana shortage. Still, they tasted good.
Finally at 2:10pm, we continued our sightseeing. First up was Carisbrook Falls, which was right off the Great Ocean Road. We arrived at its car park at 2:30pm. The uphill walk to its overlook was nice and there were a few bird watchers sharing the trail with us.
At the overlook, we could see the falls were a bit distant on the other side of the canyon. The main part of the falls was but a small piece of its overall drop and it was hard to capture the scene without a wide angle. Fortunately, I had one, but I could tell Julie had to do with the forced cropping on her Sony camera.
Next, we drove quite a ways towards Stevenson Falls. This was supposed to be the waterfall after Hopetoun Falls were it not for the road closure. Anyways, we finally made it to the turnoff for the falls. From there, we drove several more minutes on a narrow unsealed road. When we got to the camp site, which was occupied by a group of youngsters obviously having a good time here, we had a choice of going left or right.
The left way was shorter so we naturally took it. The park literature said this way was a dry-weather-only road. I wasn’t quite sure what they meant by that, but all that became abundantly clear when the road headed right into a flowing muddy river.
“There’s no way in hell I’m taking the rental car through that,” I said to Julie.
And I immediately used the nearby pullout to make the three-point turn and go the other way. It ultimately led to a large picnic area. From here, the walk to the falls was one-hour return.
Julie didn’t seem particularly interested in this walk so she opted to nap in the car. I immediately got ready and left the car at 3:43pm with the intention of hiking very fast.
The walk was actually pleasant with colorful birds probably mating or courting each other above trees, which towered over flowing meadows. The track followed the brown stream so I figured the falls was probably going to look brownish.
It wasn’t long before I got to the other side of the water-crossing obstacle that I dared not take the car through. Not much longer than that, the trail paralleled the unsealed road and reached another picnic area. From there, a short 10-minute walk eventually took me to the viewpoint for the Stevenson Falls.
By 4:30pm, I was back at the car with Julie. We then proceeded to drive back to Apollo Bay. We still had one more waterfall left to do – Marriners Falls.
The road to this waterfall started from the back side of the Apollo Bay township. It eventually became narrow and unsealed with a few potholes so we had to watch out for traffic going the other way.
We would eventually make it to the car park for the falls at 5:32pm. The moment we stepped outside the car, we could hear the nearby house blasting some hip hop music.
A warning sign at the trailhead mentioned several boulder-assisted river crossings that were slippery. That was fine we thought. We have hiking sticks for balance.
And so we headed off. The water crossings were not bad at all except for the second one, which appeared to have had one of its stepping boulders moved perhaps by the recent winter storm runoff. That got Julie’s foot wet since she wasn’t wearing Gore-tex hiking boots for this.
Eventually, we got to the end of the track where the intriguing 5m waterfall stood in its shadowy grotto. Once again, we took plenty of photos as we had the falls to ourselves. It paled in comparison to the falls we had seen earlier in the day, but it was nice nonetheless.
Finally at 6:53pm, we returned to our accommodation to leave the car and proceeded to walk into town looking for a dinner. But today, we weren’t in the mood to spend lots of money on another expensive cafe so we opted to just get some takeaway pizza for something cheap this evening.
The pizza wasn’t all that great, but at least we didn’t go hungry the rest of the night.