great ocean road

November 17, 2016

It is November 17th and I have been living in Melbourne for one month exactly.

And I haven't really left town.

This is strange and unnatural and I feel it in my body. My schedule working at the hostel gives me plenty of time to travel, but I haven't gone anywhere. So when Shane, a friend from the hostel, asks if I'm keen for a day-trip along the Great Ocean Road, I'm an immediate yes.

There are five of us and an rental car that we were afraid would be too small. One Irish, one German/American, one South Korean, one Australian, and me—the Canadian. A lot of accents in one vehicle and all of us new to this road.

It's been a little over a month since I was roadtripping through New Zealand and I have missed driving. I feel like the highest version of myself when I am on the road—behind the wheel and experiencing new places. I really don't want to share the responsibility of driving with Shane but I do. I would rather spend the entire day focused on the road with John riding shotgun than sitting in the back with my camera.

Once outside of Melbourne, we stop at pretty beaches and walk in the ocean. Each beach dotted with small groups of people. There is plenty of sand and sea and sun to go around today and we soak it all up. My friends lather themselves with sunscreen; I'm paranoid of chemicals and have faith in my hardy skin. In New Zealand, hardly a day went by that I didn't see the ocean but now, since coming to Australia, it has been weeks. I stand in the blue shallows with water up to my knees and the push of the wind against my body and the heat of the uninterrupted sun warming my skin and I smile wide and big. "I want to live by the ocean," I say, turning to John. We're living in Melbourne's CBD right now and the beaches of St. Kilda and Brighton feel far away. He jokes about moving to Brisbane.

The Twelve Apostles are at the end of the map for us. We want to be there before sunset but still pause along the road to explore waterfalls and lookouts and rainforest walks. Despite my best efforts as driver, we fail to find our way to Cape Otway Lighthouse where koalas are supposedly easy to spot. There is some tension in the car, particularly between John and I after I refuse to admit that Taylor Hawkins looks like Dave Grohl (in retrospect, he kinda does).

I have no idea what the Twelve Apostles are. I don't research beforehand. I hate knowing the plots of movies I want to see and I hate knowing what I'm looking for.

We arrive at Gibson Steps and follow the path down the steep stairs that have been carved into the cliff wall. The rock is coloured in shades of orange and yellow and sienna with splashes of green from the plants sprouting from its softer bits. Water trickles down its side and pools in the soft sand at its feet. The whole scene is astounding. Footprints everywhere. Gulls riding the winds. The first two Apostles—giant masses of rock standing away from the cliffs—are impressive and humbling. You can see lines of sediment in their breaking forms like wrinkles in your hand.

Things happen. John and I fight. We don't see the last Apostles. So it goes.

The day begins to fade into blue dusk with pink in the clouds. Shane and I continue to share driving duties until I am too tired to do so. We stop by McDonald's so the others can eat. John dances in the lobby until I start laughing. I fall asleep in the backseat of the car, worn out from the sand and sea and sun.

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