My Upside-Down Road Trip: Down Under

Have you ever felt like you were a part of a family holiday movie?  The one where your well-planned itinerary falls apart and you end up on an unforgettable adventure?  Well, I have. Let me take you on this crazy road trip with me.

First off, let it be said that had it been up to me, this day would have been spent ensconced in the pampered luxury of our hotel, followed by shopping on Collins street.  This trip could have been taken on any other day.  Alas! I lost the vote 1 to 4 in my family of five.  All four of them had everything planned, from foot thumping chart-busters, to snacks, to the exact route we would take for our three-hour long drive from Melbourne to the `Twelve Apostles’.

We were so engrossed in matching our vocals with Bruno`s (Mars) that when the signs over-head read ‘Scenic Route: Twelve Apostles’, it seemed like the obvious exit to take.  The navigator’s warnings for staying on it’s suggested route were drowned out by our singing, and we soon hit the ocean.  This view was unparalleled.  Witnessing the skies and ocean, merging and mingling, we were tantalized by its beauty.  Driving along the ‘Great Ocean Road’, the singing and “oohs” and “aahs” grew louder, the mood grew so buoyant, that the forty minute increase on our ETA seemed like a blip on the screen.

“Look surfers,” pointed my middle child.

“Woah! Those waves are super high!” said my youngest.

“Let`s lay a bet on who can stay on longest?” challenged my eldest.



“Break time guys,” I decided.

We took a coffee break, enjoyed a local play-area`s swings and slides and got back on the road.

The signs were there.

The signs were literally there.  But packed on adrenaline and witnessing such a beautiful sight, in the best of company, we paid no heed whatsoever to all the orange ‘Detour Ahead’ signs.  So, it was only natural to turn right as the road diverted a little away from the ocean.  Five minutes into this uphill drive we entered a verdant, foggy, foresty area and sure enough, our GPS couldn’t recalculate.

“Check out the route on Google Maps,” said my husband, driving into the now dense mountains.

“Already on it, it says two more hours,” answered my son.

The stunning atmosphere kept us hooked on despite the obvious delay.  The road signs became infrequent and the GPS died down completely.

“Should we turn around?” was the general question.

“It will take the same time if we turn around now, so let’s just go with the flow,” my husband decided.

It now seemed that in a span of half-an-hour we had reached the most beautiful rain-forest, unlike any I had seen before.  The tree-tops were tall and dense, the flora exquisite and multi-dimensional.  The mumbling, munching and napping were now under way on the backseat. All of our feelings were back and forth between enjoying the surroundings and getting anxious about our whereabouts. We came upon a small clearing, and lo!


“Stop the car.”

“Seems like they are following us, yayy!”

“Aww, they’re too cute.”

“Look, look they’re smiling.”

We clicked a few pictures from the safety of our car and just like that we were back in the groove again.

“Take a right after 1.8 miles,” instructed ‘Tom-Tom’, our GPS, finally.

“Thank God! She’s alive again.”

Now, well into the mountains, we were resigned to the fact that we were going to take much, much longer than anticipated. As though the playlist could sense our somber mood, slow romantic songs started playing. Road signs just ahead showed ‘Restrooms’, ‘Zipline Centres’ and ‘Cape Otway Light Station’.  Guess which one we chose to take?

An hour into the next decision and we finally entered the ‘Cape Otway Light Station’.  Hungry, anxious, desperate to use the restrooms and nowhere close to the Twelve Apostles we got out of our car and stretched.  It was COLD.  And WINDY. And as if on cue it started to RAIN. Add to that, the area was to shut in half-an-hour.  But after a hundred meter walk inside, we were astounded.  Bellowing winds and the wild Pacific Ocean waves crushed the cliff on which the lighthouse stood.  We could barely hear each other over the high octane orchestra played by the elements and were too stunned by the unexpected and unforgettable sight. The light-house itself was mighty tall, battling the unobstructed high winds of the Pacific.

Either we were famished, or the fresh scones and jelly were too delicious, we gorged on them while watching this crazy sight from the warmth of the tiny in-house café post our visit.

“Quick, let’s leave. Its another hour from here,” said my husband enthusiastically.

“We won’t make it in daylight,” I lamented, resigned to our fate.

“We have come this far, let’s give it a try at least. Tell me truthfully, wasn’t this sight worth a stop?”

“It was amazing actually.” I agreed.

All of us now a little numb from the cold wind, the post-adrenaline rush and the long-long drive sat quietly as ‘Tom-Tom’ guided us towards the Apostles.  We were racing the sun. It seemed like we would make it and we took the road in to the town that would take us back onto the ‘Great Ocean Road’.  It was just our luck today that a local marathon was wrapping up and our path was hindered yet again.  We were resigned now and tired. However, too much commitment had been assigned here, so we slowly drove in the direction of the apostles.

A pink and golden sky greeted us at the parking spot. Covering ourselves in more layers, we hurried towards the Apostles. It was a surreal moment as we got our first glimpse of the huge limestone mountain-like formations standing proud in the Pacific Ocean. One behind the other, even their placements were perfectly set up. Wave after wave pelted these giants from all four sides. We had to lean in against the crushing winds to walk forward, such was their might. The lighting for our pictures was of professional quality, as if God had set it up himself. I couldn’t get enough of this energy. The wind, the ocean and the sky (now almost magenta in hue) were casting a magical spell on all my senses. All the fatigue of the day now forgotten, I stood there mesmerized, almost in a hypnotic state. Such was the power of these wonders and the aura surrounding them.

Well, did the trip go downhill as soon as we took the scenic route? Probably. Was it predestined that the roads would be diverted, and the marathon would take place today? Seems like it. Would it have been better if we had taken Tom-Tom’s original route? NO WAY! Seeing the yogic smiles on my family’s pink faces, I say that we took the correct route. How else would we have enjoyed the simpler joys that we faced along the way? After all, Simple Things Give Pure Joy.

picture credits: self