Anything called The Great Ocean Road has to be worth a good look. The start of it is about 100kms from home, and there's a good road most of the way. Our aim was to poke our noses down the road for a bit, and maybe capture some scenery on camera. Because of the distance involved, this meant an early start. I crawled out into the crepuscular cold to get some coffee. We don't keep coffee in the apartment. It's quicker and cheaper to get a take-out from one of the shops that is actually a greater distance vertically than laterally. The customary long black and flat white woke us up enough to leap into the Gas Guzzler and start on our epic voyage.
Docklands to Geelong
The Better Driver was at the controls for the first bit, from Docklands to Geelong. This entailed the ususal stress negotiating the approach to the Western Gate Bridge and on to the freeway.
Signage here is beyond incompetent. It's abusive. There is no possible way to get from our place to the freeway unless you already know the way. Once on the freeway, a visitor or more tentative driver might choose to stay in the left lane, particularly after observing all the 'keep left' signs. That doesn't work. As you approach a junction, the lane markings become solid 'Do Not Cross' marks up to a kilometer before you know which lane you are meant to be in. Too late! That left lane you chose has just become the country road to Nowhere Bay (23km - no U-Turns).
The freeway was busy, but quick. Australians don't speed much, so all the traffic thunders down the freeway at the same speed. As the road gets busier, the distances between vehicles becomes smaller, but the speed stays the same. Lane discipline doesn't happen here at all. If you are in the middle lane, and doing 1km/h less than the maximum speed, you will be passed by other vehicles, on both sides, at the same time. They will then swerve across lanes in front of you, narrowly missing a multi-car pileup starring you.
We turned off the freeway in Geelong to do some shopping. The cable we bought for or new TV doesn't fit the wall socket (we had a co-ax/co-ax cable, we needed an F-connector/co-ax cable), so we hoped to get one in Geelong. The Pilot Flying decided that managing The Vast Charabanc in aggressive Saturday shopping traffic was no fun, so I took over. She was right. When everyone is focussed on grabbing the last parking free parking space in the city, courtesy is sadly lacking. So I drove the barge to the roof of a multi-storey car park.
Twenty minutes later, we were back at the car and ready to leave, except for one slight problem. On the little-used, pristine concrete surface of the car park, there was a huge pool of liquid. Under our car. Yesterday, at Mount Dandenong, The Observant One had pointed out a bit of liquid where we had parked as well. I moved the car, let it stand for a bit, and had another look. No sign of a leak. Puzzling. The size of the pool we had seen was significant. Over 50ml. Worrying. Is there an oil seal failing? Coolant about to dump? Hydraulics letting go?
Cogitation and Thermodynamics
We need a bit more fuel, so we fire the motor up and start making the sort of decisions that can lead to catastrophe. "What's the worst that can happen?" (brake failure on a clifftop switchback). "If an oil seal blows, is it under warranty?"(No idea. Let's get going.)"Should we head back now?" (Yes. But that's no fun.)
We drive for less than a kilometer to a filling station. I have a look underneath. The car is pissing liquid from right under the engine. About 1ml every five seconds. If this is a vital fluid, the car is close to catastrophic failure. Engineering is called for. It's a big car. I end up lying underneath it, wearing one of my favourite t-shirts investigating the dripping fluid. It's not oil (relief). It's cold. Puzzling. It's odourless. It is, in fact, cold, clean, odourless water. Dripping from under the engine. Lots of it.
Having established that it's not anything I understand right now, I declare the problem irrelevant. My best guess is that it's coolant overflowing from the reservoir under back pressure. Dip stick has been checked, fluid levels checked. Lots of thinking done. Here is a vehicle, new to us, clearly leaking water of unknown origin, so we decide to take it on a scenic drive 100km from a garage. Smart. At least we were carrying a few litres of water, in case it was the coolant reservoir.
As we pottered down the road, two more hypotheses were raised. Coud it be fuel? (Nope. Tasted it. Petrol has more nutty, meaty tones.(KIDS! note - never taste petrol - it only gives you gas.))
The second hypothesis was far more interesting. Could the cold side of the air conditioning unit be pulling water from the air? I was so astonished at this brilliant insight from the Pilot Not Flying that I turned and stared at her in slack-jawed amazement. Until she started screaming about oncoming traffic and other trivia, anyway. We tested the hypothesis. If we turn the aircon off ten minutes before we arrive somewhere, no dripping. If we leave it on, then stop the car, vast torrents gush from beneath. I wish I'd thought of it.
The Great Ocean Road
We drove south from Geelong to Torquay. This is a rare example of a town in Australia that not only shares a name with a town in England, but could be swapped without a single inhabitant of either town noticing. From there, we went on the the Great Ocean Road.
In the early 1920s, the Australian Govenment was faced with the problem of a large number of young, unattached men returning from being abused as expendable cannon-fodder in WW1. The Great Ocean Road became the solution. There was no economic driver for it. There is still no need for it. If the purpose was to keep an army of trained, motivated young men who knew how to manage weapons away from the seats of Australian Government, then it worked well. Australia has the worlds longest, largest and most impressive war memorial. It joins two places of no note whatsoever, it's 260km long, and the scenery is stunning.
The one problem with driving the Great Ocean Road is people who want to go faster. It twists and turns, often there are views you want to appreciate, and it is mostly too narrow for safe overtaking. We were passed three times today. Once by an idiot in a hire car, and twice by the same bright yellow Ferrari. It didn't catch us the third time.
The first time it howled past us with that unmistakeable Ferrari tone, it turned off immediately into a side road. Pointless, but at least I got to hear the V12 howl.
We pressed on towards Apollo Bay, and I wasn't too surprised when I saw streaks of yellow in the rear-view mirror again. On the first safe straight, I made some room, and backed off a little as the howling V12 chortled past again.
Imagine our sorrow when we rounded a corner and saw the blue flashing lights. The Ferrari driver was being asked to fill in some forms for the local constabulary. This was in a 50kph zone. I wonder what speed was on the radar. Schadenfreude is not socially acceptable. Snicker.
We stopped in Apollo Bay. It's almost half way along the road, and is after the very twisty bits. It's a pleasant little town with a heavy surfing influence. A bit like Braunton. We had a potter round, ate a sandwich and had a look at the harbour.
The Photographer had a great time with the seabirds, particularly the cormorants, which seem to be almost deliberately photogenic. The highlight was a young penguin hunting in the harbour. Photos of all this are in the usual place.
The Journey Back
The Penguin Spotter piloted the Gas Guzzler back up the Great Ocean Road to Torquay. I then bimbled it back up the M1 to Melbourne. Apart from the usual psychotic lane discipline of the local drivers, and the Kafkaesque street signage, the last leg went smoothly.
Beer at Our New Local included the best fish batter ever, and free t-shirts all round. Bargain.
Do look at the pictures.Whenever I get more traffic, There Are Comments. Also, we have a couple of videos to post. Once we've got bandwidth issues sorted, we'll post some links.
I think I might need to rename The Gas Guzzler. In 280kms of city driving and mountain climbing, it gave us 10.5km/l, which is slightly over 30mpg. I think we did better on today's long trip. We did exactly 400km on (a smidgin more than) half a tank.