16 April 2020

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

"You were pushing 131 km/h back there", said the tall patrolman.  He was so brawny I swear he could easily break me in half if he'd wanted to.  His cool Ray-Bans aside, I'd just been speed-trapped and pulled over by the Victorian Highway Patrol in the middle of some of the lushest eucalyptus forests in the world.

"You can get away with it in South 'Straya but not on my turf", he went on.  Not wanting to get into deeper trouble - certainly not on foreign soil - I offered a meek apology, explaining we'd been in a rush to get to our destination before nightfall.  My wife's face had by now turned markedly pale.  Mine must have as well, I think.

Welcome, all, to Australia's beautiful Garden State of Victoria.

Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention
I was told to step out of the vehicle and to produce my driver's licence.  I duly complied - and that's when he handed me the breathalyser.

"But I didn't drink", I stuttered despite well-knowing any resistance would be futile.

"It's standard procedure, sir; please cooperate".

By then, a few on-coming drivers had stopped at the cordon and were intently watching the embarrassment I was being dragged through.  In fact, I could swear some of them were probably amused by the episode.

"Consider this your lucky day", the officer quipped as he handed me my speeding ticket.  "The fine's $300 but because you're a visitor and this being your first offence, I've reduced it to $105.  You have a week to settle the fine.  You can do it when you get to Melbourne.  Enjoy your evening, mate!"How generous.

To be honest, I had only myself to blame for miserably underestimating the driving time between Adelaide and Port Campbell, our destination; I'm usually very good at such things.  Alas, a lesson learnt (and another travel tale to tell).

I still can't explain why our journey had taken 11 hours

Inevitably, we arrived in Port Campbell long after sundown and, after several wrong turns and dead ends, finally located the hostel we had pre-booked.  And then, this..... "We're terribly sorry.  We're afraid we've let your room go as we reckoned you were a no-show".

I wasn't impressed.  Here we were in this tiny town three hours from midnight and without a bed.  Definitely NOT my lucky day, the officer's words still weighing heavy on my mind.

Choices of lodging here are limited.  In truth, few visit Port Campbell for Port Campbell's sake.  The town is generally considered a pit stop of sorts for those coming to experience the region's real star attraction - the Great Ocean Road.

Luxury at the rectory
Back at the hostel, "If you like, there's a room available down at the rectory, but only for the night.  The vicar's away at the moment; he won't mind.  You'll find it at the bottom of this street, right next to the chapel".

Thank God!  Literally.  What were the chances of us (or anyone for that matter) securing a room at the abode of one of His servants on short notice?  There had to be divine intervention that evening, I am convinced to this day.

The rectory was quite nice; small but cosy, functional but comfortable"I could live here", I recall telling Oi Len, my wife.  For the same amount of money, this was a bargain compared to the hostel up on the hill.  We were well-pleased with the arrangement and, 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 foolishly mistaken my perception of this town had been because, in all honesty, Port Campbell is in itself a truly lovely and picturesque place.

The glorious sunrise at Port Campbell

The sunrise down at the jetty that morning was breathtaking and, despite the cold, we stood there in utter awe - soaking up the wonders of this magnificent natural environment as much as our combined senses allowed us to.  In that single surreal moment (and for the first time in my life), I felt genuine peace; my mind and soul nourished.

There at that very spot, we were witnessing the glorious and dramatic start of a new day.  The first golden rays of light, the soothing, cool air, the smell of the Bass Strait and the roar of her waves - the simple joys and the very essence of what our lives really ought to be about.  I didn't want to leave.

Port Campbell town centre - charming and quaint

As dawn turned to day, we strolled around the town and found it to be pleasantly quaint and charming.  The fragrance of cheese on stove and freshly-made bread from the bakery and the refreshing smell of sea breeze pleasantly hit us as we passively watched locals and visitors alike begin their day; shopowners opening their doors, the milkman - bottles clinking - making his rounds, a silver-haired lady walking her collie and people gradually making their way towards the promenade.

Port Campbell town centre

By then, I had all but forgotten the traumas of the previous day - speed traps and traffic ticket included.  I felt truly calm and relaxed, for this gem of a coastal town in the south of Australia is a place where time stands still - a welcome contrast to this mad, mad world we've all (sadly) become so accustomed to.

How unfair, I thought, that Port Campbell should be regarded as little more than a layover point on the Great Ocean Road.  This enchanting little town deserves so much better.  It is, to me, nothing short of a shining star in this region.  It deserves to - and should - be recognised as such.

To this day, I continue to carry with me fond and vivid memories of Port Campbell.  And whilst I harbour some degree of regret for not having stayed longer, I nonetheless feel fortunate - blessed even - to have at least swung by and experienced her charm first-hand.  I am proud to proclaim, "I was in Port Campbell, 'Straya." 

Looking back, maybe the generous patrolman was right;  maybe it was my lucky day after all.

Port Campbell's popular beachfront




Port Campbell, a gem on Australia's south coast








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

4 comments:

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

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  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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