Melbourne, AU – Monday, Feb 17th, 2014

Finally, I have internet in Cairns, AU that I can start posting some updates.  Hopefully over the next 10 days I can get close to being caught up.

It’s a beautiful day for The Great Ocean Road.  I get pick up in a mini bus by Jason, the owner, of Melbourne Coastal Tours at 7:20am.  There are 7 people on the bus.  This was the best bus I’ve been on so far during my travels.  The group consists of couples Dave and Melissa, Juan and Nina, and friends Martha and Debra plus me.  We start off in the city of Torquay, the home of surfing and surf giant Rip Curl.  At Torquay Surf beach there is a very big hill I need pushed up to get to the top over looking the beach.  I just ask a random walking down the hill for help.  The view is amazing and the day will only get better.  We have morning tea and coffee at a covered site near Torquay Beach.  There are bathrooms but they are about halfway up the hill.

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We stop at South Side Beach on our way to The Great Ocean Road.  South Side Beach has an accessible walkway with packed gravel and a slight up hill slope.  Next is the start of a great trip down The Great Ocean Road.  The total length of the road is 290 miles and took 21 years to complete, we’ll only be traveling a portion of that.  We start at The Memorial Arch which commemorates Australian soldiers and sailors from WWI.  3,000 returning soldiers and sailors built The Great Ocean Road.  During WWI Australia sent 330,000 to war with 60,000 killed and 160,000 being wounded.  A more than 64% casualty rate higher than any other nation and Australia’s highest in any war.

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We drive through Lorne to Teddy’s Lookout with the views getting better.  To get to the look out it’s hard parked gravel until up get to the look out.  A very steep ramp down to the look out.  I can make it down myself but need help getting back up from Melissa.

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Next is a stop at Kennett River to see wild Koalas.

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After the Koalas we have lunch overlooking Apollo Bay.  There is a ramp with a slight grade that goes down to the beach.  Most of the area around Apollo Beach is flat.  After lunch we go for a bush walk at Maist Rest in Great Otway National Park.  No where close to being accessible.  With the great help from Jason, Dave and Juan I was able to make through the entire bush walk.  Very steep up and down slopes on dirt.  I’m very happy each helped out because I know it was not easy but it was well worth it.

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Our next stop is Gibson Steps.  I can make it to the first look out with no problems.  I head down the hill as far as I can to where the steps start and will need help back up the hill.  I’m trying to see and do as much as I can.  I don’t like asking for help but I’m learning to ask for help in certain situations.

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The next several stops are the highlights of The Great Ocean Road.  The first is The Twelve Apostles.  Several rock formations formed over thousands of years by the wind and the sea.  It’s pretty easy to get under the bridge to the top look outs but I have to push it o see how far I can go.  I obviously haven’t learned my lesson from the Wellington Gardens tumble.  I head out the the point down a very steep hill up a steeper hill.  I make down the first hill ok but it was close.  No chance to make it up to the top without help.  Dave and Melissa are at the bottom of the first hill and they ask “you want to go up”, my response “yes”, Dave says “let’s go”.  I don’t think anyone in a wheelchair could do this hill alone.  I was worth the trouble getting to see the views, I hope Dave this so.  Dave has to hold the back of my chair going down and it’s Juan’s turn to push up the next hill.  Martha helps me a smaller hill just because my arms are pretty much dead from wheeling and getting on and off the bus.

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At our next stop there are 3 different viewing areas Loch Ard Gorge two viewing areas, Salt and Pepper and Razorback.  I can make it to the top of the steps over looking Loch Ard Gorge.  There are steps that you can take to the beach and swim in the gorge.  The second pathway to view Loch Ard Gorge has a couple steep sections but I can make it myself.  This area looks back at the beach.  The last pathway takes you to Salt and Pepper and Razorback.  This is a very easy uphill wheel with just a slight grade.  These three areas had hard packed gravel to wheel on.

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Our last stop on The Great Ocean Road is London Bridge.  There use to be a arch connecting these two rock formations but it collapsed back in 2009.  Two tourists were trapped and had to be rescued by a news helicopter.  This also is hard packed gravel and flat.

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On the way back to Melbourne we stop in Colac for a quick dinner at Noodle Canteen.  It’s not accessible with a 5″ step to get to the restaurant, Martha helps me up the step.  They do not have an accessible bathroom in the restaurant.  I’m dropped off at Nomads at 10pm and head to the bar for a beer the go to bed.

My tour with Melbourne Coastal Tours was exceptional.  Not just the sites but the information and help from Jason.  Without his help and help from others on the tour there would have been several sites I would have missed.  This tour will not be suited for wheelchair users unless you are very fit.  I needed a lot of help through the bush walk and would not have been able to do to it without help from the guys.  Everyone went beyond what they had to do to help me and I thank them very much.

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