Karma down under: Surf, sun, and some really big rocks

Karma down under:  Surf, sun, and some really big rocks

Things you see on Australian menus


by Karma Dickerson


Posted on January 29, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 1:04 AM

I don't know why I thought I'd be good at this. Wait yes I do. Because in every intro to snowboarding lesson I've ever taken they always say "have you ever surfed? It's kind of like surfing".

Well I guess you can compare snowboarding to surfing...on moving snow you can drown in.  So while I am a decent snowboarder, my first surfing attempt was pretty awful.  Sounds pretty backwards for someone from Southern California right?

I must note that my failure to "hang ten" wasn't for lack of instruction. The staff at "Go Ride a Wave" was awesome. They run surf schools up and down the country's east coast.  My sister and I stopped into their Torquay Beach location, about an hour and a half south of Melbourne. My teacher "Ant" has taught all over the world so I wasn't the worst he has ever seen (or maybe he was just being nice). The way it's supposed to work is you lie belly down on your board facing forward and when you feel yourself "catching a wave" you push up into a kneeling position and then quickly to your feet and "ride the wave" to shore. In my two hour lesson I accomplished this all of one time. And of course no one caught it on camera. My wipeouts however were well documented. Thanks mom. My sister did a little better and despite spending more time in the water than on it, we had a blast.  I'd definitely do it again...maybe a private lesson next time.

Having sufficiently shamed our So Cal roots, we got back on the road.  Melbourne, like Sydney and Brisbane (the nation’s biggest cities), is right on the coast but because it’s so urban, you don't really get that beachy feel.  But just miles, or kilometers I should say, southwest of the city are a sprinkling of charming little beach towns linked by the aptly named, Great Ocean Road. It's about a 270 mile stretch of highway running alongside rainforest pockets, seaside cities, and the beach...at times taking you just steps from the water.

As advertised, the drive was stunning. Almost every inch was absolutely breathtaking. Totally worth the insanity of trying to drive by Australian rules. At this point I was actually doing a mostly sort of almost decent job of driving on the other side of the road (the reminder signs along the way didn't hurt) and navigating the "backwards" layout of Australian cars. But more often than not I was still turning on my windshield wipers instead of turn signal (switched), and when I did get my turn signal on I almost always signaled the wrong direction (also switched).  But I didn't hit anyone or anything.  Winning.

While normally road kill disturbs me to my core, the Australian variety is incredibly diverse (gross yes, insensitive certainly, but also true). You'll see anything from wallabies to rabbits on the roadside. And though as an American I find kangaroos exotic, exciting, and adorable, apparently they are the deer of Australia. Over populated, and a road hazard outside of cities hence, the kangaroo warning signs along the roads.

The most famous stretch of the Great Ocean Road is the "Twelve Apostles" rock formation in Port Campbell National Park.  They are enormous rocky stacks sitting on Gibson Beach.  There aren't really twelve...actually you can only clearly see seven.  It's uncertain if there ever were twelve or if it was just too catchy a name to pass up, but they are spectacular.  At about 230 feet tall, the limestone formations are constantly being shaped and eroded by the waves You can see them from the beach, view them from the cliff lookouts, or ride a helicopter overhead.

While most people take at least one leisurely day for the Great Ocean Road, we had to be back in Melbourne for tennis that night. So we took the non-scenic way back and made it in time to see Andy Murray defeat Roger Federer in the men's semi finals (a good, long, but uneventful match...I was waiting for Murray to start screaming at his coach...maybe he's growing out of it?). And so ends our last day in Melbourne and the state of Victoria. LOVED IT, LOVED IT, LOVED IT. Now on to Tropical North Queensland home to the rainforest, white sand beaches, and the Great Barrier Reef!!!