Going Dutch down the GOR

by Monday, March 18, 2019

Thelma and Louise, aka Dutchies Femmie and Oobie, marked a milestone birthday with a road trip that took in Victorian gems, like the Great Ocean Road, through fresh eyes. Let’s hit the road and see what they saw… 

Femmie and Ernestine on tour.

What do you do when an old friend invites you for a Victorian road trip in celebration of her milestone birthday? And what if she throws in a free return ticket from your rainy Amsterdam to her sunny Melbourne? Being a travel addict (and Dutch) I couldn’t resist this more than generous offer and hopped on the next plane to Australia.

Looking toward Southbank, by the Yarra River, Melbourne.

Ernestine, the Inner Sanctum yoga-teacher locally known as Oobie, moved from our dreary home town in Holland to the bright, green and booming coastal city of Melbourne some forty odd years ago. Needless to say we had a lot of catching up to do and I was dying to see all the gems she had left Holland for. And what would be nicer than to experience that with her as my local guide. Besides, just chatting over coffee had never been our cup of tea.

Sculpture at the William Ricketts Sanctuary in the Dandenongs, east of Melbourne.

So, off we went like a makeshift Thelma and Louise in her sturdy four wheel drive. First, a day up to William Ricketts Sanctuary, enjoying the breathtaking views and sculptures of Aboriginal people at the Mt. Dandenong National Park. With some nice antique shopping at Olinda along the way.

Shopping for Antiques in Olinda.

After that we followed the coastal road to the Mornington Peninsula, stopped for a great lunch at the newly renovated Portsea Pub, and took the ferry to picturesque Queenscliff.

A view of Portsea, from the Queenscliff-Portsea ferry.

Coastal Barwon Heads our first night’s stop. We stayed at a sweet, cosy and colourful holiday cottage that belonged to a friend of Oobie’s. It felt heavenly to be lulled to sleep by the sound of the ocean after indulging in local fish & chips and a lovely local wine. The next morning, we of course had a beach breakfast at the very well known Diver Dan’s Boatshed.

Walking through the Otways.

Hiking through the cool rainforest of the Great Otway National Park was being sent back to the beginning of time. Surrounded by huge tree ferns, hearing birdsong and seeing the spectacular Beauchamp Hopetoun falls was a highlight. Bimbi Caravan park on Cape Otway was the next stop.  We were lucky enough to rent a brand new, totally ‘off the grid’, solar cabin – surprisingly luxurious, especially since we were in the middle of nowhere. Listening to the grunts of the koalas, hopping wallabies at night and the sound of the indigenous birds in the morning made for a beautiful meditation. We were the first visitors to the nearby lighthouse that morning, which added a feeling of being sole explorers in the area.

The Twelve Apostles.

Hitting the graciously winding Great Ocean Road and finally meeting the Twelve Apostles in person, was another experience I will never forget. After a nice swim at Port Campbell and practising yoga poses on the beach, it was time to hit the road again.  We stopped seemingly in the middle of nowhere, for home-made fudge at one of the local, out-of-the-way dairy farms, and did a little shopping in the regional town of Colac – finding a very fashionable summer dress to boot.

The Grand Hotel, Lorne.

Lorne was our last stop before going back to Melbourne. I was super glad to have been introduced to riding a surf mat, known locally as a ‘boogie board’, for the first time on the friendly but powerful waves at Lorne. In contrast to our previous night’s stay, we were now treated to the atmosphere of the historic Grand Pacific Hotel with a room looking out over Louttit Bay. We spend the evening watching a thunderstorm approaching and a seal playing tirelessly under the famous pier which stretched out in front of the hotel.

The St Georges River Walk.

Cafe Kaos, so I was told, was the place for breakfast. We were not disappointed, but we certainly needed another walk to work off the calories, so we headed to Qudos art gallery and did the stunning St Georges River walk.  On our way back to Melbourne we saw a group of kangaroos mischievously hopping over the parking lot of Lorne’s golf course.

Hit the brakes! It’s a ‘roo!

Needless to say, we savoured all the best of Melbourne as well. From the top of the Eureka Tower, the bustling city life with its historical buildings, museums and colourful laneways, as well as walking along the upside down river, the Yarra, to the quiet, majestic realm of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Ernestine, at the top of the Eureka Tower, Melbourne.

Two weeks didn’t give us enough time to leave no stone unturned so I would truly love to come back to Melbourne one day. But for next year Thelma (or Louise) and I are planning a road trip through Holland. Presumably by bike.