12 October, 2011

Around the bend

View of the Otways from the Great Ocean Road
near Apollo Bay
And boy did we go round some bends! After saying goodbye to this part of the Barwon for now, we headed to Apollo Bay for the night, winding our way through the Otways down to sea level. In a post not too long ago, I looked at the effect of the Otways on local weather patterns along the river. As we made it to the top of the Otways the effects of the Otway rain shadow hit us head-on.
As I mentioned in my last post, the weather was mild and overcast with an occasional shower along both branches of the river. I was a little surprised then, as we topped the rise, to be confronted by a wall of fog so thick that I could barely see 20m in front of me. The rain shadow was was suddenly very real. All that moist sea air rolling in from the west was hitting the slopes of the Otways and condensing into a thick fog whilst the relatively warm, dry air moving over the top of the ranges was keeping things mild along the Barwon. And the fog really was only at these higher altitudes. By the time we completed our descent, we had left the fog behind and the weather was once again cool and mild.
Koala at Cape Otway
The following day we were headed back into the Otways, but not before we first skirted around them and headed down to have a look at the Cape Otway Light Station which is located at the tip of Cape Otway in the National Park.
It is probably worth noting that the Cape was named for Captain Albany Otway, a friend of the English naval officer who discovered it in 1801 in his vessel the Lady Nelson.
As we wound our way once again through towering eucalypt bushland towards the Cape, we rounded a bend to find a number of stationary cars pulled mostly onto the shoulders of the rather narrow road with their occupants wandering around and in some cases, standing on the roadway.
Coastline at Cape Otway
No, it was not the scene of some horrendous traffic accident, but rather, a koala colony. Having been given the word earlier by a helpful local, we drove a little ahead and pulled into a safer clearing before joining the throngs looking up. Every second tree had its own koala, so there were plenty to go round. As English-speaking tourists we found ourselves rather in the minority here and the same was true at the light station which was our next stop.
Cape Otway is the second most southerly point on mainland Australia and was the first land sighting for incoming immigrant ships during the 19th century. The coastline along this part of the country is rather dramatic and perhaps best described as rugged, so it is easy to see why so many ships came to grief here.
Cape Otway Lighthouse
In response to a public outcry at the number of these shipwrecks in Bass Straight, the government was forced to build lighthouses at various points along the coast. Between 1847 and 1848 therefore, a lighthouse was erected at Cape Otway and then, in 1859 a telegraph station was added to service a subterranian cable running between Tasmania and the mainland. However, the cable foundered after only 6 months and the telegraph station became a signalling station which passed shipping news to Melbourne.
Cape Otway Telegraph Station
Today, the restored building houses a museum whilst the lighthouse - which still serves its original purpose - is also open to visitors. We viewed the museum, climbed the 78 steps of the lighthouse, learnt a little of the indiginous heritage of the area and also took a look at 40 recently acquired paintings of ships significant to the history of Australia.
And then, having seen what there was to see, we departed, heading upwards once again into the mountains for a walk amongst the treetops.

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