I’m not really an organized tour kind of person. I’d much rather do it myself, come and go on a whim, get lost, and bribe border patrol officials when required, if for no other reason than an exciting story to tell over a few beers. (but that’s a story for another blog)
But in Australia, customs officials can’t be bought for a few riel, places are really far apart, and independent travel is expensive. In the case of my recent trip to the Great Ocean Road, it worked out much cheaper to try an organized guided trip than to hire a car, book accommodation, admission fees, gas, etc. So, I thought I’d give it a go.
The Great Ocean Road, for the unaware, is a major tourist site in the state of Victoria. It is a long coastal road, a la the Pacific Coast Highway of California. Along the road one can find some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, surf spots, scenic outlooks (like the 12 Apostles sandstone rock formations, seen above), temperate rainforest, with some wild koala thrown in for good measure.
Being that it was the off season (it’s winter here, and Victoria, being further south than Sydney is cold. Very cold. Especially when it rains, which it did frequently this particular weekend. But, due to the cold, I got the tour at a discounted rate.
The tour was geared to the backpacker crowd, and did not disappoint in that regard. On board our group included some ultra hung-over French backpackers, who slept most of the 2 day trip, some equally hung-over Dutch girls, a pair of American exchange students who had never left Utah, let alone the US, until now, one very uninterested girl from Tanzania (who had no interest in the tour and had her head phones on the whole weekend), a group of very quiet girls from Singapore, and one very enthusiastic tour guide.
However, overall it was an interesting mix of people, well, when they stayed awake long enough for conversation.
I could tell you all about the things we saw, but that’s boring and has been done before, so instead lets look at the evening’s accommodation.
After a full day of sightseeing, we spent the night in a guesthouse/hostel in the coastal town of Lorne. Being that it was a budget tour, all the girls (there were about 8 of us) stayed in one room, while the boys had another.
(The American boys had specifically requested to be in a male-only accommodation, clearly influenced by overbearing mothers thousands of miles away)
Outside that night was particularly cold and frigid, but inside the dorms were heated nicely. Unfortunately, the bathrooms were located outside, and were not heated. Tucked in bed, trying to fall asleep, I regretted not going out to use the bathroom earlier. But it was so so cold. The rest of the dorm had fallen asleep, the Tanzanian girl had given up complaining about the heat, and I had to pee. (Every time she turned off the heater, someone else turned it back on, making for a lot of strange mechanical sounds and constant blanket adjustments)
I put off getting up for as long as I could, knowing the arctic blast which awaited me on the other side of the door, not to mention not wanting to disturb or flash freeze the others in my room. There is an art of moving silently when staying in a dorm, especially when one is on a top bunk. When my bladder could wait no longer, I begrudgingly took the plunge. I edged off the duvet, moved with stealth towards the bunk ladder in the darkness when I heard it- a thud to end all thuds.
How a tiny paperback could make such a loud sound, I have no idea, but I had failed in my stealth-fullness. Having knocked my book off my bed along with the covers, it managed to land exactly on the head of the poor girl from Singapore beneath me, who, up to that moment, had been sleeping peacefully. She wakes up, scared that nuclear war had finally began in rural Australia, which wakes up the Dutch girls, who turn the heater off, and when the last domino has fallen I hang my head in embarrassment.
The paperback that launched the midnight kerfuffle was Bill Bryson’s guide to the history of the English language. The irony being, the English language has yet to invent the perfect word for “sorry for waking up a dorm full of tired people just because I lack the sense to not have a cup of tea before bed while doing some leisure reading”.