4 March 2012

The ups and downs of travel (Port Campbell, Australia)

"You can get away with it in South Australia but not on my turf", the tall blue heeler said to me.  Never mind his cool Ray-Bans,  I'd just been pulled over by a booze bus for pushing 131km/h through an eucalyptus forest that seemed to go on forever.  Oi Len's face turned pale.  So did mine, I think.  Welcome to Victoria, Australia.

"Why didn't you pull over back there, sir?", he continued.

From my rear view mirror, how was I supposed to know what "ECILOP" meant?  There were no sirens; nothing.  I mean, the bloke merely flashed his high beams from behind my rented Camry.  "Sorry, sir".  I decided to quietly comply lest I get myself into more trouble - not a wise thing to do on foreign soil.  

I was asked to step out of the vehicle and produce my driver's licence.  That's when he handed me a breathalyser.  "But I wasn't drinking", I stuttered.

"Standard procedure.  Please cooperate, sir".  This was getting embarrassing.

Needless to say, the only violation he could get me for with that gadget would probably be DUI-Caffeine.  On handing me a ticket for speeding, he said, "The standard fine's $300, but because you're a visitor and this is your first offence, I've reduced it to $105.  It's your lucky day.  Enjoy your evenin'..... mate!".

To be honest, I had only myself to blame for having underestimated the driving time between Adelaide and Port Campbell (I'm usually very good at these kinda things).  Although the fine burnt an unwelcome hole in my pocket, I must confess I did push the car a wee bit as it was getting dark.  Lesson learnt and another travel tale to tell.

Inevitably, we arrived at Port Campbell long after sundown and, after a couple of dead ends and wrong turns, finally located the hostel we were booked in.

"Sorry, sir.  We're afraid we've let your room go as we reckoned you were a no-show".  I wasn't impressed.  There we were in this tiny town two and a half hours from midnight without a bed.  Things were going from bad to worse.

The number and choices of lodging here are limited.  Not many visit Port Campbell for Port Campbell's sake as it's considered a mere layover point for this region's top attraction - the Great Ocean Road (I was to be proven wrong in this regard).  Back then, the town had a population of only 372. There were probably more sheep than residents here.  We were getting desperate.

"However, if you like", the receptionist continued, "we could put you folks up at the rectory.  The vicar's away for a couple of days.  It's just down the street next to the chapel.  I'm sure he wouldn't mind".  Thank God!  Literally.

Knackered and hungry, we drove back down from where we came, entered the vicar's residence and... lo and behold, this is nice!  Basic, but very nice.  The place was small but cosy.  "I could live here", I recall telling Oi Len.  For the same amount of money, this was a bargain compared to the hostel up on the hill.  We were well-pleased.  For the first time that day, things were looking up.

The next morning, we decided to set off early in order to beat the madding mid-morning tourist buses on the Great Ocean Road, but not before spending an hour or so exploring Port Campbell.  It was during this time that I realised how very wrong my perception of this town had been because in all honesty, Port Campbell was in itself truly, truly picturesque.

The sunrise down at the jetty was breathtaking to say the least and despite the cold, we stood there awe-struck taking in the beauty of the place as much as our senses would allow.  In that one surreal moment, I felt at peace.  My mind and soul felt nourished.  There at that very spot, we were witnessing the glorious and dramatic start of a new day.

We then took a leisurely stroll around town and found it to be wonderfully quaint and charming.  The smell of fresh bread from the bakery and that of the sea breeze pleasantly hit us as we watched both residents as well as visitors start their day; shopowners opening their doors, the milkman making his rounds and people flocking to the beach.

By then, I had forgotten the frustrations and anxieties of the previous day - traffic ticket included.  I felt truly calm.  Relaxed.  For this gem of a coastal town down in south Oz is a place where time stands still - a welcome contrast to the madhouse world I'm used to.

I still carry vivid mental images of Port Campbell with me to this day.  And whilst I harbour some degree of regret for not having stayed longer, I nonetheless feel fortunate to have at least come by and am proud to say, "I was in Port Campbell, Australia".  Maybe the friendly copper was right after all.  Maybe it was my lucky day.

Have you visited Port Campbell before?  If so, what do you think of the place?  Do you agree with my description of the town?


  1. road rage in oz lol, you should take up writting vincent i enjoyed reading this :)

  2. Know the feeling all to well. Caught doing 60 in a 50 zone. No fine just a warning. Those Tassie police are so much kinder than in Victoria lol

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