Day 3: NOT SO FINE DINING
Julie and I did another early checkout this morning from the roomy Comfort Inn as we left Apollo Bay for the waterfalls around the Lorne area. Today was her birthday and I made sure to remind her first thing in the morning.
Basically this would be the last of the waterfalls we would see on the Great Ocean Road. It had already been a successful mini-tour (at least in terms of waterfalling and in the overall scenery in general) and I expected some similar success in the rainforest of the Angahook-Lorne State Park.
After going along the winding Great Ocean Road, we eventually reached the Sheoak Falls Car Park at 7:35am. The walk to the falls from here involved a brief uphill climb affording views of the small bay near the road here before heading inland towards the falls.
We eventually got to the base of the falls under overcast skies so it made for great photographs with the even light. The falls itself was about 10-15m tall and gave off a similar impression that I got with Stevenson Falls yesterday – although Sheoak Falls might be a little more memorable.
We were back at the car at 8:22am and headed into the township of Lorne. While there, we picked up another meat pie brekkie before going into the town’s visitor center to learn more about the waterfalls in the area while picking up free literature.
After our brief visit, we proceeded to drive towards Erskine Falls. I knew prior to coming here that this was the major waterfall attraction in the area. So Julie and I were excited at having a chance to finally see this falls.
At 9:30am, we arrived at the car park for the falls. Once again there were two viewing spots for the falls. The upper overlook was interesting but all it did was motivate you to go down the stairs to the base of the falls, which we promptly did.
Down at the base, there were already a few people enjoying the scene. We could tell this was a really popular spot already. The falls itself was about 30m or so tall. Its column was a bit thinner than the falls we had seen in the Otways though. Still, it had satisfying flow and was certainly worth the fanfare it gets.
I was tempted to continue on to Straw Falls further downstream from Erskine Falls. There was a warning sign indicating “experienced bush walkers only.” Then they had a sign showing the hazards and among them was drop-offs and snakes. Julie didn’t want to do it and she managed to convince me not to go through the trouble to do it even though I had reckoned this falls wasn’t that far away. Still, I wasn’t sure what was after the stream crossing you’re immediately faced with.
After Erskine Falls, it was now time to do the longer hikes of the day – starting with the Upper and Lower Kalimna Falls from the Sheoak Picnic Area. At first it was a bit tricky to find the correct unsealed road to get there, but eventually we found it. When Julie learned it was a minimum 2-hour return track, she opted to have another nap in the car.
When I got out of the car to start the hike, I was greeted by some Triple J Radio blaring out from a park worker’s truck stereo. It was good motivation for me to get moving with some of their songs stuck in my head.
The slightly humid forest track was mostly flat and shaded. There were interpretive signs talking about the rainforest and its history. But of course I headed straight for the Lower Kalimna Falls first, the closer of the two to the trailhead.
This occurred nearly an hour into the hike, where a signed spur took me right to the base of the small but impressive waterfall. This 5m waterfall spilled over a huge shady alcove allowing you to walk behind the falls. I took plenty of photos here and it seemed like a pretty cool spot to hang out. I reckoned Julie missed out on this one.
But after a few minutes, I continued onwards towards the Upper Kalimna Falls. When I finally reached the overlook at the end of the track, the 20-25m waterfall might have been taller than the Lower Falls, but it seemed to lack its intrigue and character. Also the sun, which finally started to dominate the lighting made photography difficult as I was looking against it.
When I had my fill of this falls, I returned to the car park by 12:41pm.
I reckoned we still had one more waterfall excursion left in us before heading back into Melbourne. So we drove back to a large informal clearing area near the confluence of many roads (most of them closed).
From there, we took the Phantom Falls walk, which passed through someone’s private property before going up a very steep gravel road. Eventually, we would get to the spur track leading to the base of the satisfying 15m waterfall.
Julie and I momentarily had the falls to ourselves before we were joined by a Melbourne couple who stayed in one of the cottages nearby. After taking our photos and having a lovely chat with the Melbourne holiday makers, we returned to the car at 2:28pm.
Now we could finally return to Melbourne.
The drive was mostly uneventful as the Great Ocean Road followed coastal scenery that gradually became beaches and play areas as opposed to the rugged and wild beauty of the Twelve Apostles vicinity. The weather had also improved to a point where there was nary a cloud in sight.
Traffic was heavy already when we were near the Geelong area. It continued into the Melbourne CBD. From listening to the radio, we knew that the G20 convention was this weekend so hardly any of this was surprising. Still, we worried about road closure like that Christmas Parade last week.
Fortunately, there was no such thing this night. Once again, we parked in the familiar QV parking lot and lugged our luggage into the same hotel as last week – the Mercure Grand Hotel. It was 5:30pm.
When we got the key cards to our room, the first thing we noticed was that it wasn’t the nice room we stayed at before. Instead, it was one of the smaller ones with a view of just other neighboring buildings in the city district.
We had plenty of time to clean up and get settled as we had a dinner reservation for Grossi Florentino at 9pm.
So once again, we got dressed and made it to the restaurant on time.
Inside, we sat in a large dining area with murals on the walls. Julie was quite impressed by the ambience especially considering she had just gone to Italy as part of a whirlwind European tour with her mother in September.
Unfortunately, the service and food at Grossi Florentino was not nearly as good as Ezards. Things were also more overpriced here. Plus, we waited unnecessarily for our souffles for over an hour.
After going up to pay for our dinner (forget about them bringing us the bill because we were obviously overlooked consistently), we mercifully left the restaurant at almost midnight. After walking past some girls who fought over some guy at a night club, we made it back to our room – exhausted from this evening.
I apologized to Julie for this anticlimactic birthday dinner. At least we’ve got two more days in Melbourne with no real agenda so we could relax for a bit before the second half of the trip in South Australia and Tasmania. One of the days would be spent with my cousins along with a family friend who happen to be living in the city. We both looked forward to that…
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