It all started with an idea of walking a part of the Great Ocean Road. I had seen several write-ups in newspapers and such with photographs showcasing the amazing coastline of the Southern Ocean. So …… it was time for my next challenge and I decided this was going to be it. The hike was also intended to help answer a lot of questions I had within and about myself, as well as to help me decide on my current employment, which at the time was almost unbearable.
After a lot of research on the internet, I realised that I had the potential to complete it. I had already finished the ‘Overland Track’ in Tasmania, which consisted of a 70km hike through an extremely wet and muddy landscape. The great Ocean Walk involves walking 90kms along the southern coastline of Victoria, which I was aware was going to be rough and rugged. You only have to picture in your mind the world famous Twelve Apostles to get an understanding of what it would be like. Also, after the completion of the hike I was going to meet up with two very close friends in Melbourne to attend the 2007 Formula 1 race with them, and celebrate my 28th birthday. It was all perfect timing. All my plans were coming together nicely.
Wednesday March 7th 2007.
After I said my goodbye to my wonderful Mother who dropped me at Sydney Airport, I flew to Avalon Airport near Geelong. The gentleman who gave me a lift into Geelong showed me a great place to stay at for the night. It was the National Hotel. The publican was more than hospitable with me, and showed me to my room. I did a final check of all my gear that night, and had a small list of things that needed to be purchased the following morning. (I was not able to fly with my camping fuel, so it had to be purchased in Geelong). Later on that night I went downstairs into the bar and had a couple of drinks with the publican, who always seemed to be sitting in the same seat every time I went into the bar. He asked me what I was doing in Geelong, and I explained to him my intentions to complete the Great Ocean Walk. He said he had heard of it, but didn’t know too much about it. He asked me what made me want to do it. This question came across the same way other people had asked me previously – with an inquisitive look on their face of: ’why?’. My response to him was: “because I can”. Not in a cheeky kind of way, but in a way that left me feeling that it was something I had to do. I went to sleep that night with anticipation. It was a great opportunity to get a good sleep, and having had the few beverages from the bar helped that out.
Thursday March 8th 2007.
I woke early in the morning and did one final check of my gear. I was a little concerned with the total amount of weight I had in my back pack. The scales at Sydney Airport the previous morning displayed its weight at 26kgs. This was, in my mind, a little too much. I sifted through all my food and replanned all my rations for each day. Basically it all came down to removing all that was good inside my backpack. So I parted with ALL my sweets – no more dark chocolate, snakes, chocolate bars and some bags of oats. I still had enough in case of an emergency.
I put my pack on, left the Backpackers and walked to the nearest camping store. I purchased the fuel canister that was needed to run my stove, and also a pair of hiking poles to walk with, which turned out to be worth their weight in gold. I was set, ready as I would have ever been. I walked to Geelong train station and purchased a bus ticket to Apollo Bay which was going to be my starting point. I got myself a newspaper for the bus ride, and kindly donated all the coins in my pocket to the lady at the counter. She was amazed that I did that, but I just grinned at her and wished her well. The bus trip at first was a little boring, but my daily newspaper fixed that for me. As we got closer to the coastline, we passed the turn off for the world famous Bells Beach. This is where the bus ride got a little more interesting. Suddenly we had reached the coast, and what a sight it was. It was just as I had imagined, full of turquoise blues and rugged coastline. We slowed at one point and the bus driver explained that up ahead were koalas in the trees. I didn’t really get a look at them, but I wasn’t disappointed because I was almost sure I would see them along the hike.
The bus driver stopped at the visitor centre in Apollo Bay, which is a nice small seaside town. I walked into the visitor centre to check for any relevant information I may need regarding the hike. The lady at the desk seemed to not want to help me too much. When I approached her I had two questions in my mind.
I asked her: "can you tell me where the trail for the Great Ocean Hike starts?”
I asked this because I had no idea whatsoever. And her reply seemed to be short and abrupt. She pointed out the doorway and said: “just out there”. I was left feeling like she thought that I should have already known this.
I then asked my second question to her. "Can you tell me if there is water along the way?”
The reason I asked her this question is because it is impossible for a person travelling a great distance on foot to be self-sufficient without water for a long duration. This is the one and only necessity that is out of my control. You, simply put, cannot carry any more than one day’s supply of water.
When she replied to my question she said: “yes sure there is, it’s at every camp site along the way in rain water tanks, but you will have to treat it”.
I was once again left feeling like a mushroom. I realised that I wasn’t getting anywhere with her and proceeded outside to see if I could find the start of the trail. I was right in the middle of Apollo Bay in a built-up area looking for a sign post indicating the start of the walk. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Well what to do? I decided that it couldn’t be all that hard. It’s a coastal walk. I will just follow the coast. So I set out with my back pack, my beloved camera, and a couple of small books for reading material of the night times. I found myself, after approximately one kilometre, still in no view of a sign post. I was already out of Apollo Bay walking along a street on the beach front guessing.
The map told me that I would, in the upcoming kilometres, pass along a beach and come to a decision point. Decision points are designed so that when you are walking and you experience rough seas and/or high tides you can take an inland route where it offers safety for walkers. So I picked up my pack, and set foot for the decision point. It sure was tough walking with 20 odd kilos on my back in soft sand. I passed a few decision points and was amazed to find points that were not even on my map, which was provided by Parks Victoria. My map explained to me there were 11 decision points from start to finish, and I was coming across decision point 6a. That in my mind made no sense. This, in fact, should make a total of 12 decision points, or a refined map that includes ALL decision points. But finally I reached the point I was after. I walked up to the sign, and to my amazement it seemed to be written by a lawyer. It was as though the sign posted there was a disclaimer by Parks Victoria explaining that they express all care and no responsibility. I found it very hard to understand what it was that they were actually trying to tell me. It gave no clear instruction as to what to do. I walked back down near the surf to see if I could look around the next headland, and I was greeted with an incoming wave. I ran as quick as anyone could with 20 kilos on their back. Just as I thought it was safe, my back foot was consumed by the wave. I was left with one soaked left foot, and the feeling that this was my sign to take the inland route. So I proceeded inland and was still feeling a little baffled by the all the events of the day. I re-entered the beach and kept making my way along. The trail took me inland again for some time to a place called Elliot’s Ridge. This campsite is a hike-in only site, and this was to be my campsite for the night. I set everything up, cooked dinner, and relaxed with a novel to read. I was reading ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. The amenities were great, and the water tank provided me with the liquid gold I so badly needed to replenish. The night’s sleep was fantastic, although it was windy on the ridge.
Friday March 9th 2007
I woke early, and ate breakfast. Cooked oats is definitely something that requires me to dress it up with some sugar to make it interesting enough to eat. I packed all my possessions and set foot. The plan for the day was an 11.6km hike through to Blanket Bay. It was a lovely walk in an old ‘tall’ forest. It sure felt great to be in there all alone with no one around. I saw a lot of cool parrots. The day’s walk offered occasional glimpses of the Southern Ocean, but I was content being in the forest. I eventually came down to the shore to find Blanket Bay. I was aware that the hike was going to take
seven days as described by Parks Victoria, but during the day I realised that the public transport system I had to use only departed from my destination on Wednesdays and Fridays. I had friends to meet in Melbourne on the Thursday. So I realised I had to fit two additional days hiking in somewhere, to catch up on my planned meeting in Melbourne. I decided that today wasn’t the day. I was only two days into a long hike and didn’t want to push it too hard.When I arrived in Blanket Bay it was 12 noon. I approached the camp site, and realised that the area was consumed by families spending the Labour Day long weekend by the sea. It was so busy there. It seemed as though there were hundreds of car campers. I found the designated campsites for Great Ocean Walk hikers, and laid my gear out. After setting everything up, I wanted to tackle my highest priority – water. I knew from the previous day what I was looking for – an elevated toilet block with PVC pipe work running into a rainwater tank. I started sifting through all the camp sites looking for the tank. I was walking around bare foot carrying my containers. I asked a couple people if they knew where I could find it. And most of the replies I got were: “it’s over there……..but it’s empty”. I was determined to find the tank and see this for myself. Everywhere I walked through the cluttered campsites I found myself crossing backwards and forwards. I kept on hearing from campers: “it’s empty”. Eventually I found not what I had imagined. It was a white wooden post coming out of the ground with a tap fixed to it. I pushed the button on the tap, and sure enough “it was empty”. Well what a difficult position I was in. The Lady at the visitor centre in Apollo Bay told me that every camp site had water, and here I was at a campsite with no water. I decided that if the tap was coming out of the ground, further uphill needed to have a tank somewhere.
So I started walking uphill. I came across an elderly couple camping next to their 4WD, not far from the tap, and through and beyond their campsite I could see a fixed building. I could only just see it as it was fenced off and covered with dense bush. So I approached them (carrying all my empty water supplies). At their campsite on closer inspection, I found the couple to be making what looked like a cup of tea. The man was setting the cups and tea bags on their table, and the woman was filling a billy with water from a 20 litre container (which was full with water).
I asked them: "hi, could you tell me what that building up over there is?”
And the man replied quickly: “it’s just a shed!”
I went on to explain: “I am trying to find where the water is".
And he replied: “yeah, its empty".
I was feeling slightly desperate.
So I said: “I have a problem………..”
And the lady quickly cut me off and said “Sorry mate, can’t help you.”
I then realised that I was standing there with no shoes on, wearing some pretty daggy clothing, and carrying empty water containers.
I responded in a baffled way by saying: “how do you know what I was going to ask?"
Her reply was once again short: “we’ve got no water to spare!”
I went on to explain myself a little further. “You see, I am trying to complete a 7 day, 90km hike, and I have just hiked in here, and there isn’t any water here for me”.
She replied again and said: “sorry mate, you will just have to find it somewhere else”.
The first thing I thought was: ‘how un-Australian?’. She was standing there with a full 20 litre container and couldn’t spare anything.
I wasn’t going to let this bring me down. I left their campsite and decided to ask other campers if they could help me.
At the next campsite not far away, I approached a young family and simply asked: "I was wondering if you have any water you can spare?”
The man quickly came over and said: “yes, of course we do.”
He disappeared, and soon after returned with a bottle of water. He filled it into my container and I told him about my recent encounter with the previous campers. He wished me well on my travels, and went back to his family.
I was now safe. I had my original 1 litre of emergency water, as well as a top up of water from the kind family. I made the decision to not cook with water for the evening’s meal.
It was still early in the afternoon. So I got my book out and made my way down close to the beach to read. I sat in the sun and read for what seemed like half an hour. I was startled all of a sudden with movement in the trees close by. It was, to my amazement, a koala in the tree. He was eating and happy just sitting there, with me close by. What an experience, to be sitting by the sea, reading a book in the sun, and a koala in the tree next to me.
It started to get dark, so I left the koala that gave me so much joy, and went and ate a cold and dry dinner. It was nothing special, yet I had my health, and some much needed water to get me by until the next campsite.
Saturday March 10th 2007.
I woke just before sunrise. It was a cool morning. I made my way down to the beach to take some sunrise photographs. On my way down to the beach, just as I reached the sand, a lady passed me and said in a chirpy way: “good morning”. I had a feeling she looked familiar, yet she didn’t recognise me. Just as she walked past me, I realised that she was the lady who had denied me the water from the previous morning. I bit my tongue and carried on.
The sand was oh so cold on my feet. I stayed at the beach for a while, and watched a glorious sunrise. I returned to my camp site and packed my belongings. I knew I had only a short 2 hour walk to get to the next drive-in camp site to replenish all my water containers. The walk was nice. I passed through some really nice forest. I came to Parker River Inlet. It was deserted. Parker Inlet also happened to be a decision point. I could have either gone along the coastline, provided the swell and tide was right. or go to Parker Hill campsite and inland from there. I had no choice. I needed water, so inland was the only way. After a long hard slog up Parker Hill, I got to the camp site and found more of what I had seen at the previous camp site – families tightly packed into campsites on holiday for the long weekend.
Luckily for me this time, it wasn’t too hard to find the toilet block. I was happy to have found it so quickly. I dropped my back pack off and headed straight for it. As I was walking toward it, I was looking at its roof and noticing the gutter on it. I followed the gutter to the PVC pipe work. All the pipes were connected together. As I followed the pipe work further down I was ready to see the water storage tank that goes part and parcel with it. But, to my dismay, it was not. The tank was nowhere to be found. This was a real kick in the guts. This was the second campsite on the second day in a row that I had not been able to find water. I thought back to the words that were spoken to me by the lady at the visitor centre in Apollo Bay. I was starting to feel a little unsafe. The last two days of hiking had shown me that the land was bone dry, and that streams were non-existent. But on the positive side, I knew that I could try my luck with the families camping for water. I started to look around the campsites and found a father with his daughter walking back from the ‘partial’ amenities. I approached and greeted him. I explained my situation with him and he was more than happy to help. I walked to the campsite with him and his daughter, and met his wife. The man quickly explained to his wife my situation, and she immediately took my containers and filled them for me. Wow. My faith in human kind was restored again. The mother was upset over my misfortune the previous day and offered to cook me some breakfast. What a lovely family to have been so accommodating, and I felt immense gratitude to them for that reason. I thanked them dearly for their help and care and was off. I was happy once again to be on the track, with enough water to last another 24 hours. I kept on recalling a passage from the book I was reading the night before. It was a quote from ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’.
“As long as I am happy, healthy and not too cheeky, everything will be all right.”
I thought a lot about this statement that Anne made. Anne Frank was a teenage girl who lived in the era of the Nazi holocaust. She lived in cramped office building with a secret loft. Her conditions were severe and harsh, yet in her book she always had a positive attitude. I kept on repeating that one sentence in my head as I walked along, and it helped me remain positive about the past 24 hours.
The track made its way towards a rocky coastline which was beautiful. I noted how many families were out enjoying the fantastic sunny warm day, playing near the sea. As I continued on from Parker Hill, about 1 kilometre out I came across more car campers. I knew I was getting close to Cape Otway Lighthouse and, as I passed these campers, I noticed I had turned a corner of the coastline. I had followed all the markers from Parker Hill campsite to the campsites I was at. I started to walk along a huge grass patch where all the campers were. I seemed to have walked for around 5 minutes without seeing any signposts. As I found myself at the far side of the campsites, I noticed that the trail led down toward the coast.
I finally came across a trench that ran at 90 degrees to the Southern Ocean. I stopped here because I noted that the waves and swell of the ocean were pushing through this trench and I could watch these waves go right past me in towards a bay. I looked all around me to assess the surroundings, and came to the conclusion that, in order to move on in the hike, I had two options.
1. I could walk back for approximately 20 minutes around the bay, and make it safely; or
2. Take a long step across the trench.
The first option was out of the question. Today was the day I was going to try to pick up on the possibility of fitting two days of hiking into one. I made my decision to walk over the trench. It wasn’t a huge step across, just a long one. I walked up and down the trench to see if I could find the closest section. I found it. It was perfect. The far side of the trench had a large rock that protruded from the wall, which looked like a stepping stone. I stood there for some time and watched the waves come in through the trench and timed my step. I took my step, and as soon as my foot made contact with the rock on the other side, I found myself bobbing up and down in water that was definitely deeper than my six foot frame. I was so startled. I realised that the rock I had placed my foot on had sheared off the trench. I found myself floating in the water, as all my possessions in my backpack were sealed in zip lock bags to prevent such a problem. I realised that the water I was in was surging more than I realised. I grabbed on to the side of the trench, and gathered myself somewhat. This time was spent quickly remembering that I had my camera strapped to the chest strap of my backpack for ease of access. I immediately removed it, and threw it up on the rocks. I looked for a place I could exit the trench. I wasn’t far away. I made my way for it, by means of swimming, and proceeded to climb out. The moment I got my body out of the water I got an indication of the weight of my backpack. I believe that it doubled in weight with the additional sea water. It took me several attempts to get out. When I did get out, I was so startled that all I could think to do was to get to somewhere safe, as being near the waves left me feeling more than a little uncomfortable.
I walked to the shore dazed, trying to keep my eye on the rocks, but at the same time inspect my beloved camera. As I inspected my camera, it didn’t appear to be too wet in the bag. It had some sea water on the housing of the camera. I blew it off as I walked. I made my way to the shore and was trying to find a dry place to sit and gather myself. I found in the distance, a rock that was large enough to remove all the contents of my back pack and sit down. I knew that my camera was going to take priority here so, with the two hands I had, I proceeded to pull my camera apart into as many pieces as I possibly could. I had nothing to clean the sea water off with, so I blew on every piece, and at times licked the salt water off to try to prevent the camera from corroding in the near future. When I was satisfied with my camera, I opened my back pack. I was so fortunate to have put everything into zip lock bags. I removed everything, and realised that it wasn’t (apart from my camera) all that bad. My clothes were dry, as well as my food. But then I realised my mobile phone had sprung a leak in its zip lock bag. I immediately pulled it out and did what I knew best. I pulled it into as many pieces as possible and licked, blew and sucked on it for as long as possible. I started to feel unsafe again. I could afford to (unwillingly) lose the use of my camera, but not my phone. I was on a 90km hike in solitude; I needed my mobile phone for emergency purposes. I put my phone back together and turned it on. Nothing happened. I pulled it apart again, and cleaned it, but I had already done my utmost to cure the problem. I tried again, nothing. I remembered back to the passage I read in the novel the night before, and realised that I was ‘happy and healthy’! That was all that I needed. It still didn’t change the amusing fact that I was standing naked on a rock, with all my gear laid across it. I put my camera back together and was amazed that it was working. I put my dry clothes on and repacked everything.
After all of this, I looked around the rock I was sitting on. I was blown away by what was right next to the rock. It was a large chunk of sea weed, which had the same volume as a large car. It was sea weed like I had never seen before in my life. The sea weed looked scary. It was all ravelled up in a ball. This sea weed could be described as flat-strapped-looking. Each strand was about 30cm wide and about 3cm thick. Looking at the sea weed changed my opinion of the Southern Ocean. I felt the power and strength of the Southern Ocean just by looking at this sea weed. I was left feeling slightly dubous about the rock I had picked to sit on.
As I got up and walked away, I decided that I wanted to take a photograph of my surroundings, as I saw a nice shot of a fishing boat near the lighthouse, which I wanted to try and capture. I turned my camera on, but nothing happened. ‘Oh well‘, I was happy and healthy.
I continued hiking on the shore line, using my back pack as a clothesline so I could make an attempt at drying my clothes. As I walked on, the landscape started to change a little. The sand dunes were replaced by rocky hills and small escarpments. Every cove I walked around gave me a glimpse at the next, which would let me assess whether or not to continue or turn back. I was noticing how the landscape was on a gentle rise in the same direction I was walking. Suddenly, I realised that I had two choices. I could continue on the way I was travelling, or turn back and make my way to where I last saw a sign post. I didn’t want to turn back as I knew that it would take too much time to do. I also realised how close I was to the Cape Otway Lighthouse. It seemed as though the rocky water front was accessible to the base of the lighthouse, but I could not see around the headland from there on, so I continued.
As I walked I seemed to be doing more climbing than walking, passing places that I now realise I should not have. They were places that I would never attempt to pass with 25 (wet) kilograms on my back ever again. I passed places that got me so close to the turn of the headland, it gave me hope. I could look up and see people at the top of the lighthouse, and I now remember how high up it was. The people looked so small. The rocks I passed were so large-the size of buses! By now I knew I was right in line with the lighthouse. The rocks I had passed seemed impossible now I think about it. Some parts of the headland below the lighthouse were eroded away by the sea, and had left huge holes on the headland. I felt frightened looking into these, as it gave me the feeling again of the strength of the Southern Ocean. I thought I might see seals in them as it looked like, from my experiences as a scuba diver, the perfect environment for them.
As I turned the corner of the headland, I was almost knocked off my feet byt the termoil I saw. It was just getting worse and worse. I didn’t know what to do. I was feeling frightened and at risk. I didn’t know whether the tide was rising quickly, or whether it was just my imagination. I felt as though something was pushing me to make the call and get out of there. I didn’t know what to do. I looked out at the ocean and saw the fishing boat I had seen previously. It was only about 200 metres from shore and seemed to be pulling crab pots in. I was wondering if they knew I was there. I was wearing my standard hiking attire which consisted of a bright orange hunter’s hat, white t-shirt, light coloured shorts, and a bright orange rain cover for my back pack. I was wearing the perfect clothing if someone had tried to find me. But I thought that the only person who would potentially know I was here was the fisherman. I felt so close to losing my life in this moment. It had been an experience I had never felt before. Not soon after this feeling, deeper panic set in. I had to get out of there. My life was at risk and, as far as I was aware, no one knew where I was. I looked west of the headland, and it seemed impassable. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to risk turning back to pass what I had already considered to be ’silly territory’. I looked up the headland towards the lighthouse. I could see people at the top of the lighthouse, and they appeared to be looking in my direction. I didn’t know if this was a good or bad thing. On one hand, they might have been alerted to my danger and watching to see if I was ok or, on the other hand, they still may have been oblivious to my position.
Cape Otway Lighthouse
When I looked at the headland right in front of me, I soon realised that, if I was going to survive this mess that I put myself in, I would have to climb a small cliff that was in front of me. It was somewhat sheer. I looked at it for a while and picked my path up the cliff. I looked around to see what the fisherman was doing, and he seemed to still have no concern for me. So I started to climb. I took as much time as needed to make a safe exit from the shore. It took about 10 minutes to climb what I remember as being approximately a 5-10 metre cliff face. I was amazed to have gotten to the top. I couldn’t believe, when I looked down at where I had been standing, how high I was. I was exhausted. I rested and looked back across at the lighthouse. The lighthouse seemed to contain what I thought to be spectators. If I was to get myself out of here, I would be a lucky man. But the worst was not over. I still had to climb a steep sandhill (in full view of my newly acquired “audience”). Here goes. I started and immediately noticed how unstable the sand was. I remember telling myself that this was the stupidest thing I had ever done. I was still fearful for my life. If I slipped on the sand I would have fallen straight down the cliff I had just climbed, and I had to do all of this with my backpack on.
As I climbed the sandhill, I remembered back to when I was young. My family would always go on holidays to a place called Sussex Inlet on the south coast of New South Wales, near Jervis Bay. There, at the mouth of the inlet, was a sandhill which looked very similar to the one I now faced – long and steep. Well, luckily this experience as a child had given me the skills required to climb what I faced. So, I set off to get to the top. As I climbed, I grasped on to whatever I could. I remember thinking of what a disaster it would have been if the grass or bushes snapped in my hands. This was hard work. I stopped several times to rest, but also to try to remain calm. Yet every time I looked towards the lighthouse, the audience was watching with anticipation. I remember looking down again at the base of where I once looked up. It was far away, and was still looking to be dangerous to me. The fishing boat was now circling where I had made my escape up the cliff. I had some water and continued.
Eventually I made it to the top of the sandhill. I felt I was safe from the danger of the cliff now. I also lost sight of the boat and lighthouse. As it started to level out a little, the bushes got thicker. I soon had lost sight of everything but myself and the bush. Every step forward was more difficult than the last. The bush was now dense. I took my pack off to put my clothesline away, as I knew that the bush would snag them. I was exhausted. I climbed to the top of the bush, which was now about 7 feet high. I got my sight once again with the lighthouse, and the audience was still looking in my direction. I looked at my map and made the decision that, if I continued straight inland, it should lead to a pathway. So I proceeded. It got so dense in there that I removed my pack because it kept on getting caught and snagged. I had to place my body on the ground and crawl through gaps in the bush, and then drag my pack behind me. I was worried that the people who could see me at the lighthouse were alarmed, so I continued as quickly as possible. It had been a lengthy amount of time since I made my way from the bottom of the cliff face, made about 2 hours, and the distance I had travelled was about 400 metres. As I moved slowly through the bush I got frustrated with how long it was taking. I tried to reach the top of the shrubs which were now about 10 feet tall, to work out how far I had gone, but the bushes crumbled with my weight. So I continued with my body lying on the ground, and dragging my pack behind me.
Eventually I came to an old galvanised ladder, which was the first manmade object I had seen in some time. It brought instant relief, and lifted my spirits. Not long after that, I suddenly came upon a walking track. I got to my feet and put my pack on. It was perfect because it led in the direction of the lighthouse. As I walked, I thought of how lucky I was to still be alive after all I had endured. I walked to the first building that came in sight. It was a restaurant. But I wasn’t interested in it. I could now see the lighthouse. I walked down to it mainly because I wanted the gentleman on top to see me, and that I was alright. As I approached the base of the lighthouse, there were no more spectators, just a ranger who carries out the tours of the light house. I was standing at the base of the lighthouse now, and I looked up and met eyes with the ranger. He looked back down at me and said nothing. I was expecting to hear some form of question from him about my safety, but nothing at all. I then realised that he was oblivious to my drama. I let my eyes fall back to the ground at my feet but, in doing that, I got a look at myself. I was probably the filthiest I had ever been in my life. My white t-shirt was black, and my legs were full of bloody scratches from the bush I had crawled through. I turned from the lighthouse and left, not wanting to go to the top of it to have a look around.
As I walked, I decided that enough was enough. I had escaped with my life, and was more than happy not to continue any further along the trail. I was, simply put, EXHAUSTED.
I made my way to the visitor centre and walked inside. It was a gift shop that was gated. Meaning, within the gift shop you could purchase drinks and such but also pass through a door for a fee to get to the lighthouse. As I walked through the shop, I couldn’t pass through to get out. A lady was standing in front of me looking at a postcard rack. She stood there and seemed to be oblivious to the fact I was behind her. Suddenly, she turned and looked at me. Her eyes almost jumped out at me, as she glanced at me with my pack on. She quickly moved, and I passed without a word spoken. I made my way outside to the car park, and dropped with exhaustion near the front door. I was safe.
After my first rest in hours, I reached into my pack to find any cash I had. When I found it, I went into the shop, and got a cold drink and a chocolate bar. I walked to the counter and payed for it. The lady asked if I was alright. I gave her a brief one minute story of the day’s events, and asked my one main question of her: “how do I get out of here?”. She told me that the only way to get out of there was by private vehicle. She explained that she would call the bus company and asked me to wait outside as she had customers to serve. Once again I was slumped over the ground outside the shop, but luckily with a cold drink and some food. I wasn’t sitting for more than a minute when a lady walked up to me. She started picking all my gear up that was scattered on the ground and said: “come on, let’s go, get your stuff, we can give you a lift. We were inside the shop and heard what happened to you, come on let’s go”.
I walked with her to her car, and she introduced me to her husband and daughter. They placed all my belongings in the boot of their car, and we got inside. She asked: “where do you want to go, we will take you anywhere you want?”. I was blown away by this kind family. I quickly came to the decision that Apollo Bay was my best bet. She said it wasn’t a problem to do that. She did want to make sure I wasn’t going to do them any harm, so I remained in the car the whole time with my arms folded. They probably didn’t trust me because of how filthy I was, as well as being in the back seat with their daughter. I didn’t move one bit for the hour drive to Apollo Bay.
At Apollo Bay, they dropped me off, and I almost got down on my knees to thank them. My faith in humans was well and truly restored. I decided to try to get a bus back to Geelong. I went to the visitor centre (not that I wanted to set foot into it ever again), as this is where I needed to purchase my bus ticket. It was amazing that the lady who gave me the information on my previous visit was the one who served me. She gave me a look of: ‘I know you?’. I kept a tight lip, purchased my ticket, went outside, and sat at the bus stop. I was lucky; the timetable said that the next bus was due in 10 minutes. Ahhhh, relief at last. It then hit me. I didn’t have any clean or dry clothes. I was sitting across from a surf shop. I asked the lady I was sitting with at the bus stop to look after my pack. I made my way to the shop knowing I had 10 minutes. I walked in the door and got yet again another strange look about my appearance. I mumbled to the shop assistant: “I need some clothes quickly, size 9 shoes, medium shirt, 32×32 jeans, socks, jumper, and a belt. I was asked to try them on to see if they fit, but didn’t care. I was out of there within the time I allowed myself, and went and sat at the bus stop again. When the bus arrived I got on and, as soon as he took off, I fell asleep.
On arrival to Geelong, I decided to stay at the National Hotel again. It was a painful 20 minute walk to the hotel, but I made it. As I walked in the door, I looked towards where I knew the publican would be sitting, and he took one look at me and got up and asked what happened. I told him for now I just needed a room and a shower. He obliged. I went and cleaned myself up, and got changed into my brand new attire. The shoes never fit, the shirt was too small, the belt broke on its first use, and the jeans were too big. Oh well. I was happy and healthy, and alive.
I went downstairs, devoured a pub counter meal, and told my story to the publican. I called my family to let them know I was alright, and slept that night like I had never slept before, knowing that I was happy and healthy.
Thank you to Anne Frank for teaching me that simple lesson in life, and to Linda for asking, and pushing me, to write this story.
I am alive, and still to this day, I still have not seen the Twelve Apostles. I guess the moral of my story is a simple one.
What does not kill you- Will only make you stronger