For 20 years Anglesea, Aireys Inlet and Lorne weren’t on our radar. Too far. Apollo Bay wasn’t even mooted. Wye River – the place’s that? It was the entrance seashore, the surf seashore, Fisho’s or my mate’s yard for the infinite summer time Check match, all at Torquay.
My cause for dragging up this historical past is to defend my whole lack of native information of an space that may be seen as in my ’hood. I’m speaking in regards to the Otways, the big chunk of heaven that lies about 50 kilometres from Torquay.
In fact, since these youthful days, I’ve been down the Nice Ocean Highway many instances, I’ve holidayed at Lorne, overnighted at Wye River, wined and dined at Skene’s Creek, swum and run alongside many components of the shoreline. However I’d by no means been into the Otways … and no, seeing Erskine Falls doesn’t rely.
It was solely not too long ago that I lastly bought to see the Nice Otway Nationwide Park. Like a number of the greatest issues that occur in life, it was completely unplanned and unstructured.
It taught me a couple of pal I’d identified my entire life however who I by no means “knew”. It taught me about how easy it may be to get away from our screens or lethargy and add depth and knowledge to our lives. It taught me once more to get off my arse and never waste one other minute of my valuable time.
It began with a random telephone name, adopted with the basic “we should catch up!”. This time I actually meant it. He was in Lorne. I used to be in Melbourne. The decision had ended. Bugger it – no time like the current. I rang straight again and organized for a two-night sleepover a few weeks later. There was no additional planning wanted – that’s what blokes are like.
Let’s give this pal a reputation. Johnny will do. Johnny had been a Geelong/Lorne boy for so long as I’d been a Geelong/Torquay boy. Though we’d grown up dwelling in the identical road, the tyranny of distance in our schooling and education meant we knew little or no of one another. He excelled in sports activities however he wasn’t a footballer. Our paths hardly ever crossed, two males understanding ‘of’ however not fairly ‘understanding’ one another.
I assumed we’d simply hang around for the day at Lorne, however Johnny had different concepts. “Let’s go to the Otways for the day. We’ll drive off alongside the coast and switch into the Ranges at Kennett River. By the way in which, have you ever ever seen the Redwood Forest? We’ll purchase mineral water, a little bit of fruit, some sausages, and take a BBQ. We’ll put a bucket of water within the boot to place the hearth out. You’ll love the redwoods.”
Why am I telling you the nitty gritty stuff? As a result of we hardly get the chance to go off-script in our trendy lives. Johnny had determined that we needed to lose ourselves for the day in ‘his’ Otways, and see what we might uncover. Redwoods?, I assumed. I had seen the mighty sequoias in California … however within the Otways? Fairly far-fetched.
We lazily left Lorne and drove to Kennett. The worldwide tour bus brigade had crushed us there, with a king parrot and cockatoo bird-feeding frenzy in full swing. We drove off left by the small crowd and immediately we had been within the misty forest. There have been nonetheless loads of vacationer outriders, discovering koalas within the wild inside strolling distance.
I instructed Johnny my 30-year-old koala story. It had been lengthy buried in my reminiscence with no cause to rise once more. I had received second prize in an American Specific competitors the place, as a reward for utilizing your card, your identify would go into the “barrel” along with $1 in the direction of analysis to guard koalas from chlamydiosis, a rampant koala-killing illness that impacts their eyes and/or urogenital tracts.
Second prize was a business-class journey for 2 around the globe with Qantas, plus $5000 spending cash – not small bananas in 1987. Seeing the koalas at Kennett River made me consider that point once more, the significance of supporting these lovely animals, and the way simple it may be for us to overlook a number of the luck we now have alongside the way in which. It jogged my memory to remain open to the chances of life. Johnny appreciated the story.
We had been getting deeper into the Otways, reaching the moist, misty forests that cloak their south-facing slopes. That is the house of the mighty mountain ash and their smaller masters-at-arms, the blackwoods. At their ft, a variety of ferns, together with the ever-present tree ferns and the bat’s wing fern. From the motive force’s seat Johnny was a wealth of data, and I soaked it in.
Within the meantime, we found tales that most likely neither of us had been courageous sufficient to inform. Ego, delight, guilt, embarrassment or the entire package deal. It had taken this drive to flush all of it out. We had been cocooned by the forest. Maybe we had been humbled amongst nature’s historical giants. Our telephone connection was restricted and Googling was out of the query. We had been digging deep.
Coasting down the sinuous Turton’s Observe, it appeared we had been on the fringe of the world. I keep in mind studying someplace that this 12-kilometre stretch is numbered one of many 5 most unimaginable rainforest drives in Australia.
“In my childhood, my father cherished to take us on ‘adventures’,” Johnny instructed me. “One in all his particular locations was Turton’s Observe. He would flip off the engine, launch the handbrake, then roll ‘Jane’, our outdated 1951 Plymouth, silently down the lengthy, winding, mild and unmade slope. The scents of the forest would jostle with the impossibly tall, straight mountain ash and with the dripping inexperienced prehistory of the Dicksonia antarctica tree ferns nipping on the open home windows.”
Johnny stated how fantastic it was to sense and really feel the identical hush and awe from me as his father should have felt from him these a few years in the past.
He then launched into the Aboriginal historical past of the Otways. One other of his favorite subjects on this particular place is our First Peoples and he knew all in regards to the lyrically-named Gadubanud tribe and their 5 clans: the Bangura, the Guringid, the Ngalla, the Ngarowurd and the Yan Yan Gurt.
Regardless of their having referred to as these forests house for hundreds of years, they’ve been all however forgotten. Domestically the names now used are virtually completely these of our earlier settlers or early sailors. One identify that particularly galled John was that given to the Otways’ highest peak, Mount Cowley, named for an early space surveyor: “How might the identify of a syphilitic drunkard grace this necessary landmark? What about a number of the Aboriginal choices?”
Having handed the spectacular Hopetoun Falls, we had reached the Redwood Forest. Following my Californian expertise, it was thrilling to discover a small plantation deep in an Australian wilderness. I subsequently discovered that these Sequoia sempervirens had been initially planted in 1932 as a logging experiment however had been by no means reduce down.
Standing majestically at 60 metres they’re nonetheless solely half the peak of their fellow Californians, however with the wealthy soils and plentiful water of the Otways it’s doubtless that they could develop to be the tallest stand of timber on this planet. Sadly I received’t be right here to see that, however I believe many will. Stretching your neck as much as the sky or mendacity down in opposition to a tree within the gentle mulch of leaves is a particular and serene expertise. It’s a fairytale. It’s magic. But, it had taken me over threescore years and ten to seek out it.
Finishing the street right down to Apollo Bay after which taking the Nice Ocean Highway again to Lorne, Johnny had saved his promise. I had skilled a special, extra humbling and tranquil Otways. I had had a much more significant immersion than the cursory look most accord them from the Nice Ocean Highway.
To assume this has been at my again door all my life. All of us should dig a bit of deeper.
Gareth Andrews is a author, ex-footballer and the founder and government director of Life Once more Basis, delivering constructive psychological well being options to Australians.