Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Rural Travelogue (Part XIII): Australia's Great Ocean Road

I try to keep up with this series, "My Rural Travelogue," which I started several years ago as a forum for writing about rural places I visit. Doing so, however, seems to take a lot of time, so I often fall behind. Indeed, my last post in the series was last July, a full two months after the trip to rural Arkansas that was the topic of the post. So after I traveled Australia's Great Ocean Road last November to give a key note address at the Rural and Regional Law and Justice Conference sponsored by Deakin University, I wrote about the conference here, but never got around to describing my rural journey to and from Warrnambool, the conference site in western Victoria.

Now, however, I have the perfect excuse to do this short post about that trip because today's New York Times travel feature is about the Great Ocean Road, which I traversed en route to the Warrnambool conference. Since travel writer Ethan Todras-Whitehill has provided the basics about this bucket list-type journey, I can simply add a few photos and additional reminiscences. Here's how Todras-Whitehill describes the route he took, which spans 600 miles between the nation's two closest cities, Adelaide and Melbourne. For the record, Todras-Whitehill points out, that's the same distance as between Washington, DC, and Boston:
The Great Ocean Road itself is merely a small portion of the coast, the 151 miles between Torquay and Warrnambool built between 1919 and 1932 by soldiers who had returned from World War I, and dedicated to those who did not make it back. But it has an older name, too: the Shipwreck Coast.
Here's how Todras-Whitehill describes Warrnambool's highlight, which pays homage to that Shipwreck Coast and the nation's maritime history:
Flagstaff Hill [Maritime Village] has a replica village from the 1870s that, during the summer tourist season, includes volunteers in period costumes à la Colonial Williamsburg.
The professional photos accompanying Todras-Whitehill's story are stunning, including images of the dramatic limestone coast. Our journey from Port Fairy onto Adelaide was via the quicker inland route and thus featured more agricultural scenes, like the farmstead shown at the top of the page. Indeed, the area just inland from Warrnambool is also highly agricultural. I noticed several veterinarian clinics in sparsely populated locales as we approached this small city. Plus, a visit to the posh food halls of Melbourne's Queen Victoria market had apprised us of Warrnambool butter's status as a premium product.

So, my photos are mostly related to the rural livelihoods in these parts of Victoria and South Australia, less the type you find in a coffee table photo book. At top right, a photo of my son and me in Lorne, along the Great Ocean Road (a windy, rainy, cool day in November); middle left, an Elders Office in Kingston, S.A.--Elders being a provider of "rural services," e.g., real estate, financial services, commodity pricing, throughout Australia; lower right, a road sign suggesting the great distances between Melbourne and Adelaide; and bottom, a school bus stop on the Great Ocean Road (a/k/a the B 100) that runs just yards from Loch Ard Gorge (pictured in the lead photo for the NYT travel story and on wikipedia). Yes, people live and go to school, too, along this dramatic coast. The nearest town to Loch Ard Gorge is Port Campbell, which bills itself as a surfer's paradise (indeed, the eastern part of the Great Ocean Road near Torquay lies in the local government unit of Surf Coast Shire--seriously). Not sure, though, if Port Campbell is large enough to have a school, but Peterborough a bit farther down the road might.


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