Australia Part 3 – Melbourne, The GOR and Mojo Take 2

This is the third and final post on Australia!!  Been a long time coming I know. It’s busy out here exploring the world!! Ha!

Arriving in Melbourne, we took an Uber to our apartment, which was in the University section. Our apartment definitely had a ‘university’ feel to it, which is to say it had a single/twin bed in each room and it was very basic. With a bit of an odour. HA. Oh well. It was clean enough and we had our own rooms which was nice. I spent some time with a nice bloke (ha) that we had met in Airlie beach, and I also met up with Andy, who was one of our assistant dive instructors in Thailand. I went to some nice restaurants. Had a walk around downtown, which has a river and some nice bars along the river near the botanical garden. Because of the river and bridges over it, I was reminded a bit of Chicago. Except much much warmer. For January anyway. Laney relaxed for the few days we were in Melbourne. I think she even got some school work done. Maybe.

We headed out to the Great Ocean Road on a Monday morning. Good coincidental timing since it’s busier on the weekends. We drove a few hours, stopped for lunch in Lorne And then continued to Apollo Bay where I had booked us a room at a hostel, per a recommendation from Polly at Mojo Surf. The place was really nice. 2 huge kitchens and nice upper and lower decks and a comfy and clean lounge/living room. The only downside, no en suite. Laney NOT happy. HA.

On the way we saw this cool house (room? Apartment?) on the cliff attached to the main house by an elevated walkway. It was tough to get a photo because we were moving on a two lane road.

Cooking chili! Happy Days as they say in Australia. I’ve got my wine and my music and I’m COOKING Ha. Really enjoyed it. And I felt good knowing that, after I left, they had a few sharp knives in the place. They were SO DULL I was really glad I had my sharpener. Still so glad I brought it.

That evening we went out to the brewery for dinner and the next morning headed out for the drive to the best sites of the GOR. 12 Apostles. The Arch. London Bridge. The Grotto. It was a lot of driving for a couple days. I would suggest one more day, and maybe stay closer to those sites – like maybe in in Port Campbell – one night. But overall, it was really amazing and I’m so glad we did it!

Above – the 12 Apostles. Only 8 or 9 left.

Alternate view – looking the other way from the 12 apostles. The one above is called The Arch

Above -London Bridge. There used to be two arches but one fell.

The Grotto

Hilarious that the sign says not to walk close to the cliff but that’s the only place you CAN walk – all the way down the steps.

Of course the pictures are amazing but it was so much better in person.

On the way back we saw a family taking photos with this guy – apparently they had spotted him in this tree by the road. So CUTE!!!

Back to Melbourne the next day for our flight to Sydney, and back to MOJO. Laney SO excited. Funny thing about Melbourne. There’s more than one airport. When looking at our flight, I noticed that the airport name was Avalon. I might not have paid much attention except that Avalon is a town near my home. “HUH” I thought ‘The Melbourne airport is called Avalon”. As we got closer, I saw a sign that said Avalon Airport 12km. But the car nav was taking me to the Avis car rental at Melbourne Airport, which was 65km away. “Houston, I think we have a problem”. I pulled over and checked my google maps about 4 times and called Avis the car rental company. Indeed, the car was due in one place and the flight was from another. Techcnially I probably had time to return the car and get an Uber to the appropriate airport. But I didn’t want to do that, from a time and expense and aggravation standpoint. SO, the Avis woman on the phone checked and confirmed. There would be no ‘one way’ fee if I returned the car to the Avalon airport instead of the main Melbourne airport. It happens sometimes if they need a car in one place more than another, I guess. WELL, we arrived at Avalon, returned the car and then I got a charge alert on my phone (the Capital one app literally alerts me for every charge. I walked back to the Avis counter (we were very nearby because we were too early to check in and get to the gate) and challenged the charge. The guy at the counter called me back about 10 minutes later, we were still in sight of the counter. HA. And told me the woman on the phone had made a mistake but they would not be charging me for the one way fee. WHOO HOO. It’s the little things. HA. Sometimes the travel gods smile on you. And you are grateful.

Off we flew to Sydney from this small (think AC airport) airport.

In Sydney, we picked up our rental car and headed to another Ibis for the night (it was late evening), and the next day we embarked on the 6 hour drive to MOJO. I really should have looked into flying into Coff’s Harbor – I just didn’t think of it. Oh well.

Driving around Australia I notice that there is genuine care and concern for wildlife. Of course there are signs indicating koala crossing or cossawary crossing. And kangaroo crossing. Once I saw a horse crossing. Not like someone riding a horse but WILD HORSES. I mean, I don’t want to hit a koala – they are so cute. And kangaroos, also cute but the damage to your car!! A HORSE? It’s like the worst of all worlds!! A beautiful creature AND MASSIVE DAMAGE to your car and likely yourself!!

In addition to signs , though, warning of crossings and suggesting you slow down (like for Tasmanian devils in Tassie) there are hotline numbers to call to report injured animals. This is for the animal hit and, even if the animal is dead, for the babies! Marsupials carry their babies in a pouch remember. And if mama dies, well, I guess the baby starves to death if help doesn’t come. It seems so nice that people try to help this situation.

Further, in koala crossing areas of high traffic, we would see these (below). It took me a few times but I realized it’s a narrow rope mesh path, over the highway, to allow the koalas a way over the highway. So they don’t cross the road and get hurt or killed.

SO here we are at MOJO. Laney is as happy as a clam. Surfing every morning with the Academy at 6am. Then usually again at 830 with the Surf and Stay lesson/people. Then many times again at 130 for ‘Expression Session’ which is just surfing, no lesson. Practice time. Laney and I are staying in a cabin on the beach, we move cabins about once a week based on availability. And Laney is eating meals with the Surf Academy. I’m cooking on my own. We have LOTS of time apart, which is actually a good thing after traveling 7 months together. HA

There are lots of really nice people in this area. There are locals who live in the few permanent or semi-permanent camping sites (with trailers, and add ons etc). There are locals in the ‘village’ which is the neighbourhood of houses just outside the camp (the campsites and cabins are on the beach, the houses are just ‘inland’ of that, but very easily walkable – and those folks tend to walk the beach at night, usually with dogs). There are the long-term Surf Academy folks. Some are Cadets which means they work at the Surf Camp/Hostel to cover some of their costs. There are a few management folks that are ‘permanent’. And then there are the ‘Surf and Stay’ kids who are here 3-7 days. Almost everyone at Mojo (the Surf hostel) are 18 to 25, a few up to 30. The locals in the camp and village are mostly retirees, so 60+. Its an interesting combination. I enjoy both ‘sets’ so to speak. Everyone is extremely friendly. The young people are generally travelling long-term. No one less than a few months that I have met. Some on a 2 year plus plan. Sure, they party, but they are here to surf so its not too crazy. And, as you might imagine, this is not your average group of young people.

Side note. I would love to kick start a trend of US youth doing this kind of international, long term travel. It is so rarely done and not remotely accepted in our culture. I think it’s an amazing experience and I so admire these young people. Mostly, they are not spending mom and dads money. They saved this money and are many times working their way around the globe while making friends and seeing the world before they get tied down to a job or house or family. They live cheap because they have to but they are all in the same boat and it fosters incredible camaraderie. This trend needs to come to the US. I see pitifully few Americans doing this. Ok rant over.

There were a few key people from Mojo that Laney and I were looking forward to seeing again, upon our return. One was Joe, an instructor-in-training, and Josh, also a Cadet. Both of them were guides which means they show you around when you first get here and help out in other ways. Like night duty, etc. One person told me that they overheard some of these guys saying “Our munchkin is back!” When they heard Laney had some back. HA. So sweet. Obviously, Laney is younger by far than everyone here and they treat her like a kid sister. So nice.

For our first week here we stayed in a small cabin, waterfront cabin 1. It’s about the size of a shipping container, slightly shorter. Then I decided to upgrade to the Villa, which is much bigger. We were there for a week. Then back to WF3, a bit further back from the beach, but all of them with a view from the porch. Its nice being close to the bridge. All the surfers walk in front of WF1 and the Villa on the way to the beach. And it’s a bit of a hangout spot, so I get to see Laney and her friends going to and from the beach all day.

At night, everyone hangs out by the cafeteria where they play music and do games and have a campfire every night. Its a fun vibe.there is some kind of entertainment every afternoon like kayaking the river or ocean rafting or a kangaroo walk. Also activities at night. After the bottle shop run. Like limbo. Pool. Or a trip to the local pub for trivia night. Transportation is provided since most people don’t have a car. Laney usually would hang out at the picnic tables in this area or go to the bus area where some academy and cadets stay. They are school buses converted to have 9 or 10 bunk beds each. Told you these kids are living cheap. Ha. Laney learned lots of new card games with her friends here. And a few quirky sayings in Swedish.

Unfortunately, Laney has had some slightly bad luck here. She got washed in a wave and had a suspected concussion, so I kept her out of the water for 48 hours. (That was painful. She was so upset ) Then a bonk in the eye with a surfboard, which resulted in a black eye. Then a big toe stubbed on a nail. (Insert eye roll here). She’s plugging along though, and none of it has slowed her down. Ha. Tough kid.

I’ve done some surfing myself while Im here this second time around. The conditions are great. It’s hardly ever crowded in the water. Not too much anyway. And lots of beginners so you don’t need to be embarrassed about not catching a wave or wiping out. Everyone is SUPER encouraging. I got into a routine of ‘wake up, have coffee, go surfing’. Then chill the rest of the day because I’m so tired. HA. It’s exhausting.

It was a very chill time for a few weeks. Although it was hectic at the same time. I felt like I was constantly in a social situation. People stopping by, inviting me to happy hour at their house, I even hosted a casual dinner party for some locals. It was great fun. I met some really great people. Bruce and Maria especially made me feel welcome. It felt good to give Maria my hat when I left. Though I warned her that Mojo people might think she was me at first. I had gotten to be ‘known’ for the hat after the first week or so. Bear, the manager of the whole operation, said “I love your hat, wish I could pull that off!” Ha. High praise! I also spent a lot of time with my friend George – also a local. Even though when I first met him I could only understand about 60% of what he was saying. It got better over time .. ha. I also spent some time with Neil, an Australian doctor (radiologist actually) who surf’s on a waveski like Laney’s dad. He was camping with some mates one weekend and came back a couple weeks later.

above- these two pictures are same spot about an hour apart. The change of the colors is amazing.

Below – the first night I met Bruce and Maria. I met Bruce by the bridge and he invited me up for a drink with he and his wife and their fur baby honey. I ended up staying for dinner. Oysters and crabs. Bruce even showed me how to shuck a few!!

Below -the seaweed. Or kelp. So huge. Below – another kind of seaweed. This one you pinch at the skinny part and it shoots off. If you are good, or lucky, into the face of a fellow surfer. Helps pass the time between sets. Ha. Below. Mini Uno. As my friend Leslie knows well. Passing the time while Laney was on concussion watch. Ha.

George took me ‘worming’ – we only went once, and I only saw their mouths in the sand, not their whole bodies. But their mouth coming up through the sand made me think of the old Kevin Bacon movie Tremors. Ha. George says Sometimes they are very large and I might have to help him pull it out of the sand! 5 feet long is not unusual for these. And some as big around as your finger. UNDER THE SAND AT THE WATERS EDGE! You would never know they were there. Kind of creepy.

There are also lots of small crabs. And some big ones like blue claws at home. But the small crabs pick up sand, or dig it out of the ground to create their homes -holes in the sand. They then roll the sand around and eat any and all organic material from the soil, then leave behind a round ball of sand. It creates crazy patterns on the sand. Up the river a bit, of the water hasn’t come high in a while, the sand is COMPLETELY these balls.

Above – all the sand has been balled up by crabs. Wow.

Miscellaneous Australian things

Australians don’t waste a lot of energy with their speech. Lots of things get abbreviated. It seems sometimes like they are talking to a toddler. But these things are seen in writing too. Fast food places encourage you to ‘stop in for Brekkie’. At the bar, you watch ‘footie on the Telly while eating chicken parmie”. Ha. Send your 5 year old to Kindey. In Tassie ( Tasmania).

Also chickens are chooks. Sounds like a derogatory word but it’s not. It’s sometimes used in good natured joking when someone does something stupid. You call them a chook. Ha.

Also, I saw lots of interesting mailboxes while in Australia. Most I couldn’t get pictures of because I was DRIVING. ha. I saw a bigger than life COW made from metal, painted black and white, standing on two legs. I saw a 9 foot long shark. Also made from metal. Lots of old fashioned milk jugs, converted. A surfboard. A 6 foot tall minion. Welded together and fully painted. An outboard boat motor. And a barbecue grill. Very creative!!

I also saw lots of signs about my safety on the road. Particularly about falling asleep.

Rest or RIP

Take a break. Free coffee at rest areas. That’s nice

My favorite? “Don’t sleep and drive.” Wow thanks for the life tip. Ha!!!!!!

Also lots of signs for the Cane Train. Lots of sugarcane is raised in Australia. Along with other produce like mangoes. And raspberries. Many young people I met had worked on a farm. It’s a requirement for a long term visa, to work several weeks on a farm. Usually it’s produce but I met one poor guy who worked a sheep and cattle ranch. With no experience. Interesting. I guess it gives you perspective. I learned a lot about what I did, and did not want to do, while working summer jobs in an ice cream parlor and convenience store etc. imagine your perspective after 8 weeks of picking mangoes in the Australian summer heat. Or herding sheep??

Well with a very sad Laney in tow it was time to say good bye. Good byes are mixed at Mojo. Some people slip away quietly. Not so in this case. We had a crowd of 30+ waiting for us at checkout. Lots of hugs and even some tears from these young men and women that Laney had gotten so close to over the (almost) month we were there. Laney is still in touch with a few and wishes she had contact info on some others. I hope we see some of them again. Maybe in Ocean City.

Goodbye Australia, time to go back to Thailand for scuba diving – to see manta rays!!!!!!!!