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  #1  
Old 12-26-2012, 06:37 AM
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Default Great Ocean Road, Australia

You Americans have it all the wrong way around.

You have a holiday season at the end of December, when the flying weather is at its absolute worst. Slushy roads, closed airports, wind, rain, snow, blurgh. Who needs that?

Down here, we do things the other way around: Sunshine, barbeques on the beach, sunburn and hot weather. Much more satisfactory.

And as we all know, the best way to avoid holiday traffic is to fly over it, so a few months ago my partner and I started planning a holiday season getaway.

She wanted to go to Melbourne to try her luck at the post-Christmas sales that start on the 26th of December. I wanted to fly somewhere pretty spectacular. Put the two together and you end up with the Great Ocean Road. (wikipedia link)

---

Some coastlines are what you might call, "gradual," where the land gently slopes into the sea. Others, like the Sounds of western Canada or the Fjords of Norway, you could call "glacial."

For quite a lot of the south of Australia, the best way to describe the coast is, "abrupt." Thousands of kilometers of flat plain end suddenly with sheer limestone and sandstone cliffs topping the ocean hundreds of feet below.

The soft sandstone cliffs erode easily, with tangible changes occurring on human timescales. Coastal features I drove past during family holidays as a child don't exist anymore, or exist in different ways with new different names. You can almost feel the country getting smaller, etched away from the south, craggy geography being turned into sand.

---

The Great Ocean Road follows 150 miles of the raw, vertical, south eastern coastline of Australia between Warrnambool in the west and Torquay in the east. (Google Maps links)

Built in the early 20th century, the road was hand-cut into the sandstone as an employment project for veterans of the First World War.

When it isn't clogged up with campervans and holiday traffic, it's one of the world's best driving roads: Twists, turns, switchbacks and causeways following the line of the coast, cliffs on one side of the road and ocean on the other, with every bend hiding some of the most spectacular views imaginable. There's a very good reason it's used to film TV commercials for new cars.

But most drivers don't get to experience it from the air, do they?
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  #2  
Old 12-26-2012, 06:38 AM
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But enough of the introductions.

I preflighted the plane while the missus dropped the dogs off at the boarding kennel and met me at the airport. We got away later than planned, but we weren't exactly in a hurry so that was okay.

The plan was to fly from Parafield to Mount Gambier, top off the tanks, then proceed to Warrnambool, then follow the coast up to Melbourne, landing at Moorabbin. (Google Maps links - zoom and pan for context)

Departure was pretty straightforward. A bit turbulent over the Adelaide Hills, but it smoothed out pretty quickly and we cruised out with VFR flight following at 4000'.

I've written about the Coorong before. First photos off the starboard wing, with the Indian Ocean separated from the Coorong ecosystem by a line of sandhills.



Fuel for the plane and its crew in Mount Gambier - AVGAS and sandwiches.



The town of Mount Gambier, pop 35000, is built on the side of its namesake extinct volcano. The smaller crater has been landscaped with parklands and a lake fed by the rather copious winter rainfall in south eastern Australia. The larger one is deep enough to reach the artesian water table, and contains a very deep, very blue lake fed by underground freshwater springs, used as the town water supply.

It's easy to see which one is which in this photo:



Half an hour downrange, the first crags of the "abrupt" coastline become visible:



Secluded beaches. Occasionally 19th century shipwreck survivors would get washed into coves like these. One or two of them even managed to survive the ensuing walk through the bush to civilization.

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  #3  
Old 12-26-2012, 06:39 AM
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There is no strip of blacktop visible in this photo; so this is a segment of the coast that'd almost never be seen by terrestrial tourists. RV pilots get special privileges.



A couple of pictures which show the suddenness of the end of Australia.





The townshop of Peterborough, Victoria. CASA has a "Fly Neighborly" policy for this area, listed as FN9 in the ERSA. Summary is that you're supposed to remain offshore at 1500' eastbound, 1000' westbound and announce your presence on the local CTAF.



When I was a kid there was a blowhole here. The oncoming waves at the foot of the cliffs would force their way into a natural tunnel to the surface, bursting geyser-like into the air a bit short of the clifftop.

It has eroded enough that it doesn't work very well anymore. It's still called a blowhole, but either my childhood memories are deceiving me or it's a pale shadow of its former self.

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  #4  
Old 12-26-2012, 06:40 AM
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The town of Port Campbell. While you're buzzing up and down the coast at between 1000' and 1500', a plethora of tourist helicopters are flying offshore scenics at between 500' and 750'. So blasting through at 150 knots in an RV isn't advisable, best to take the Fly Neighborly policy seriously eh?



More eroded crags. The "beach" near the centre of the shot was the scene of a shipwreck survival in the 1860's, where a gallant young sailor helped a British Lady ashore and managed to find civilization.

He proposed to her afterwards, motivated by the fact that since he'd seen her in her underwear it was obvious that he'd need to do the decent thing to protect her by marrying her. She turned him down -- Perhaps British sensibilities mutated on their way to Australia



The "curly" question-mark shaped feature in this picture used to be called London Bridge. It was a sandstone headland with a pair of arches eroded into it by the force of the crashing waves. You could actually walk out to the tip of it from the nearby car park and take photos of the coastline from out at sea.

Then in 2009 the arch closest to the carpark collapsed, isolating the rest of it from the mainland. The remains of what used to be London Bridge are now called London Arch, and I guess the only way to get to the tip of it now is by helicopter.

There were some hikers on the tip when the arch collapsed, so I guess the only way to get off the tip is by helicopter too



When a sea arch collapses, the seaward arch support is left behind as a sandstone column.

This section of coast a little bit east of Port Campbell hosts "The Twelve Apostles," a collection of these sandstone stacks. (wikipedia link)

Despite the name, there were only ever nine of them. There are fewer now, because they occasionally collapse into a pile of sub-sea rubble -- most recently in 2005.

They're quite a tourist attraction, as shown by the extent of the carpark next to the Great Ocean Road in the photo below.



Another shot, looking back over my shoulder.

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  #5  
Old 12-26-2012, 06:41 AM
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And another, showing all of them and a bit more besides.

London Arch is in the far distance. Eventually it'll collapse, and the footings at each end will add to the ranks of the apostles. The tourist maps will still claim there are twelve of them though.



Make a "departing the area" CTAF call, climb to 4000, track coastal Eastbound towards Apollo Bay then up the coast to Barwon Heads, not far from the usual stomping grounds of a certain bright-orange RV-7 seen frequenting these forums.

Then down to 2000' to track coastal up the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay to the Moorabbin class-D, followed by a somewhat energetically gusty crosswind landing. Any you can walk away from, right?



How gusty? Ask my partner



She managed to hold on 'til about 4 minutes before touchdown. Top effort, so near yet so far.

We'll hang around Melbourne for a few days then head back via Ballarat or Bendigo. Haven't quite worked out the exit plan yet, only that we'll be trying to make it back to Adelaide by Saturday afternoon.

- mark
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  #6  
Old 12-26-2012, 06:48 AM
dealfair dealfair is offline
 
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Default Oh WOW!!!

Beautiful post Mark!!!

Now THAT, is how I want to see your beautiful country.

Thank you
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  #7  
Old 12-26-2012, 07:11 AM
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Default Beautiful

A great write up Mark. I can't l wait for my 8 to be finished to do that same trip. A beautiful day looking at a beautiful piece of coast.

Jim
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  #8  
Old 12-26-2012, 08:48 AM
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Default

Wonderful story and photos.

Thanks very much....wonderful to be able to show the world to our RV brethren.

Best,
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  #9  
Old 12-26-2012, 03:14 PM
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Jamie Aust Jamie Aust is offline
 
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Neat Photos Mark.
One thing I did notice while flying around that part of the coast was that a lot of radio masts near the coast didnt show up on my Jepp database, so please keep a look out.
Looking forward to the return trip photos.
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  #10  
Old 12-26-2012, 09:28 PM
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Default Good on ya......

In some cases the terrestrial route is preferable. In 2005 we rode this route and then some on a BMW GS1200. The only jams were due to tourists checking out the Koala. Further west, no crowds and game on twisties and fun. Circling to the north through the Grampians the game was truly on....dodging the roos on the BMW! Kinda like flying into a geese field everywhere you look.....

I would have much rather flown back to Melbourne as a bit of traffic and disorientation led to a near miss with a street car and a sidewalk escape plan, I am guessing ATC works better.

Cheers,
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