Up until this weekend, I haven’t had much time to go exploring. In fact, the bulk of my free time so far has been occupied with writing papers and watching Midsomer Murders. That makes this little trip I made particularly exciting.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend another morning tea, this one specifically for North American graduate students (US & Canada). This was pretty exciting because with the exception of the Boy From Portland, who I haven’t seen since the first week of classes, I haven’t met any other Americans currently studying at uni.
The bulk of the students there were Canadian, mostly from Toronto, but I did actually get to meet up with and chat with some American girls, which was actually pretty great. I know I came to Australia to meet Australians, but it was kind of a nice relief to be able to talk to some people who have Home in common with me.
In any case, we were able to chat about the important things: Halloween, Thanksgiving Dinner, and the Superbowl. These are all things Canadians just wouldn’t understand. Yes, I know that they have Thanksgiving too, but it’s lame Canadian Thanksgiving. If I’m going to Thanksgiving, I’m going to do it like a true ‘Murican.
The real reason I bring this up is because in speaking with the coordinator for the event, who works in the N. American operations office in D.C.. (originally from New Jersey, I might ad), mentioned the Graduate Student Association, which I decided to check out. Apparently they host relatively cheap day trips for graduate students to go and see fun Australian things. I decided to sign up for their trip to Otway Fly and the Great Ocean road – the subject of this and my next post.
The trip from Melbourne all the way down the Great Ocean Road (which if you haven’t already guessed, is a road that runs along the ocean) takes around 4 hours. In order to break this up, we made some stops along the way. The first of which was in a small, sleep town called Colac, which is right on the way to the Great Otway National Park. There isn’t a whole lot in Colac. It’s in the middle of nowhere and most of the people there make a living in dairy or timber production. We stopped mostly to use the restroom and to grab some coffee, but they also have a nice ANZAC Memorial there that I took some pictures.
For those of you who don’t know, ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and commemorates those individuals that served during World War I. They also celebrate ANZAC Day on April 25, just like in the States we have Memorial Day and Veterans Day. It was a neat memorial in the park. You may also notice the sky in this photo – significantly less sunny then when we left Melbourne. This will be important later.
After this we headed to the Otway Ranges, which are some mountains that make up the temperate rain forest of the Great Otway National Park. The drive up there was exciting because the road winds around a lot as you go up and we were on a charter bus. It was doubly exciting because there were no guard rails at all along most of the road. We got there safely and naturally it started to rain as soon as we got off the bus.
Now when I say ‘temperate rain forest’ I really want you to be thinking ‘prehistoric dinosaur jungle’ because that is exactly what you’ll find at the Otways. It was basically something out of Jurassic Park. They even had a giant plastic T-Rex eating another dinosaur out by the front entrance, which I sadly did not get a picture of. In addition to the crazy prehistoric trees, they’ve found a lot of dinosaur fossils in the Otways.
The real highlight of the park, aside from trudging around amongst said prehistoric trees, is the Otway Fly. This is the treetop walk that takes you up into the trees to look around.
Now, I didn’t know anyone else who went on the trip, but I was walking around with some of the other students. In particular, I spend the day with the Nice Guy from Sri Lanka, the Socially Awkward PhD Girl and the Pedantic Polish Law Student. What I found really interesting was that they really did not enjoy Otway Fly at all. They thought it was exceptionally stupid that we had come all this way to look at trees. My response to this was to say ‘But…prehistoric dinosaur jungle! Awesome!’ They were not impressed.
I guess my love for trees far exceeds the average graduate student. Oh well.
The best part was the spiral tower, which climbs up a tree 47 meters (154 ft) into the air, where some of my more scenic photos were taken. The best part was that, for engineering reasons I don’t entirely comprehend, the whole structure sways while you’re up there. Probably to keep the thing from snapping, I have no idea. Anyway, I was 154 ft in the air and I was definitely swaying. It was amazing.
And, of course, the very best part was the fact that while we were in the temperate rain forest, it was actually raining. The trees provided some excellent cover, so we didn’t get too wet. It was still hard to walk around though, because everything was muddy and the catwalks were a bit wet. Fortunately, we were spared the trudge back up to the visitor’s center (a very, very uphill climb) by the Friendly Park Guy with a Golf Cart, who gave us a lift. I love that guy.
The only thing that was sad about was the fact that because of the weather and the time we were there, I didn’t have an opportunity to do the zip line. It basically allows you to see all the stuff from the treetop walk, but you do it suspended 30 meters from the ground on the zip line. That would have been so great, so I’ll definitely have to see if I can get back on another day to do that.
After getting out of the rain, we headed inside and grabbed some lunch. I ate some overpriced and questionable schnitzel. Then we got back on the bus and continued on the Great Ocean Road…but that is for another post. Be sure to check out the rest of my photos!