Back to our routes: a road trip through Victoria
After surviving our first London winter and being away for 15 months, we'd finally snuck home to Melbourne for a few weeks. Our days (and hearts) were overflowing as we raced from family to friends to a wedding to dinners to catch ups, and we couldn't wait for a little calm and to be on the chase of adventure once again.
In fact, all we could visualise was the sight of the open road, and all the epic scenery and good times an epic road trip affords.What better way to do this than to organise a road trip to our favourite places in our home state? Enter Jucy Rentals, and our new home for the week, a Jucy Crib. Part Toyota Tarago, part camper van, our Crib was equipped with all the essentials; a bed, stove, fridge, sink and most important of all, a sound system!
The keys are in our hands, the adventure has begun. We set off in the direction of freedom and open roads.
Here’s what we saw.
BACK TO OUR ROUTES - A ROAD TRIP THROUGH VICTORIA, AUSTRALIa
DAY ONE: THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
On our first afternoon, we chase bends and golden rays. To our left, the ocean plays hide and seek with the shoreline, frothing up in the rocks and sand before retreating back again into the endless rolling horizon. To our right, laid-back beachside towns roll past, replaced for stretches by thick green forest.
Not bound by the pressure of having to ‘check in’ to accommodation by a certain time, our only plan is not having a plan. A home on wheels affords us the freedom to pause wherever we please; and we spend the drive pulling over to explore coastlines, to photograph the stunning cliff edges ahead, to relive childhoods spent watching ‘Round the Twist’ by running around the Split Point Lighthouse. Arriving into Lorne hours later with rumbling bellies, there's just enough time to grab a few supplies for the Jucy's mini fridge from the shops before retiring to our campsite.
It’s the perfect end to our first day of van life; chatting over dinner as we relax in our camp chairs on a warm March evening, as fingers of vivid pink and yellow begin to stretch across the sky overhead.
DAY TWO: LORNE, THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
The next morning we stir with first light, snug and well-slept in our Crib, as the sound of the nearby ocean waking filters through the crack in our windows. Ten minutes later we’re on our way to Erskine Falls, our little home folded back into car-shape, ready to transport us to the day’s adventures.
Our aim is to photograph the Falls in the soft morning light, and before the crowds descend, and in the quiet calm we manage to do both.
For two nature-starved ‘Londoners', it’s heaven. We skip across stepping stones, dip our fingers in the cool water, shoot through ferns and mossy logs, and breathe in the smell of the Australian forest we’ve missed so much. Our efforts are rewarded back at the car with bowls of muesli enjoyed in the rainforest. That’s the beauty of van life; everything is right where you need it, and adventure is always possible.
We make the most of this new discovery, exploring every angle and bend of the coastline, until exhausted, we flop onto our beach towels to bathe in the sun and salt of the Lorne foreshore.
DAY THREE: THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
On Wednesday it’s Mark’s birthday, and what better way to spend it than exploring in the Crib. Fortunately, the weather has come to the party again, and we wave goodbye to gorgeous Lorne and head towards the Twelve Apostles via the Otways - but not before a quick breakfast at Lorne's the bottle of milk (an old fave for us both).
On the road, the hours are punctuated by singalongs, constant snacking on the road trip essentials, belly laughs and the beeped hellos from other passing Jucys, and before long we’re pulling into the carpark of the Otway Fly Treetop Adventures; the tallest treetop walk in the world.
Mark’s a nature boy at heart, and a birthday afternoon spent exploring the forest at canopy height is too good to pass up.
DAY FOUR: 12 APOSTLES, THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD
Camping by a picturesque little lake in Princetown seemed a wonderful idea last night, until a sticky heat and army of mosquitoes changed our minds. Still, the opportunity to catch sunrise at the Twelve Apostles - without the inevitable busloads of tourists - soon rubs the sleep from our eyes. Thankfully, being able to get changed and have breakfast in the same space makes life very easy and five minutes later, we’re already on our way.
The Twelve Apostles coastline is one of those landmarks that you never quite get used to seeing; the crumbling limestone stacks in their fine sea mist cloak, all rugged cliff edges, pastel coloured sands and skies, and inviting turquoise water. As the sun inches higher in the sky, we grin ear-to-ear as the wild, dramatic scene explodes to life before us, witnessed only by us and a few other keen photographers. Mission accomplished!
After a quick dash to Loch Ard Gorge, we’re back in our Crib again - this time en route to our favourite spot in Victoria: the Grampians. Windows down, tunes up, we’re in paradise.
DAY FIVE: THE GRAMPIANS
It feels good to be back amongst the sandstone karsts of the Grampians; drawing that clean mountain air into our lungs, exploring the sprawling Australian bush, admiring the various windswept lookouts, and deep-hazed valleys. At Reid’s lookout we stand in awe of the lush mountain panoramas, and balance carefully on the rocky outcrops of The Balconies (previously known the ‘the jaws of death’!).
We’re befriended by the cheeky grin of the resident fox, whose sneaky attempts at stealing the food, and on one occasion, the GoPro, of fellow backpackers don’t go unnoticed. Before long, the light begins to fade, so we go in search of supplies for dinner.
The temperature is cooler up here: warm days and icy nights. Perfect for an evening spent huddled around our camp stove as we cook our pasta in our kitchenette, before retiring to our cosy bed to read by the fairy lights we’ve strung up along the roof.
DAY SIX: THE GRAMPIANS
It’s another early start this morning, up before the warbling of the bush birds and before the frost has shaken itself from the air. In the dark, we’re headed in the direction of Boroka Lookout, a must-do for sunrise. Wrapped in our blanket, feet dangling over the rocky ledge, we watch in awe as the shadows of the trees below stretch longer on the plains, until finally, the whole valley bursts into brilliant gold as the sun crests the horizon.
It’s time to head for MacKenzie Falls, one of Victoria’s largest and most spectacular falls; a year-round cascade of water over cliffs. We take in the sights for a while, before deciding (read: Mark coaxing me into the idea) that just maybe, a great photo would be found in my swimming in the middle of the icy watering hole at 8 am.
A quick change in the Crib and I’m clambering in, and immediately regret everything: the cold of the water pinches my muscles and steals the air from my lungs. I last about a minute before thrashing my way back to the warm safety of the rocks. We also don’t get the shot, but the incredible scenery warms the heart.
A chance to warm up in the afternoon sun is exactly what’s needed, so we take on the challenge of the Wonderland walk to the Pinnacles. At the risk of cliche, this walk truly is a wonderland; a canyon path that snakes through towering sandstone boulders and bush scrub, it's quiet and beautiful. The perfect place to get lost in thought as you hike.
Just as our legs are starting to wobble with fatigue after the uphill effort, we find ourselves at the summit - the Pinnacle. It’s a windy, rocky spur that juts out over the town of Hall’s Gap far below, and the perfect place to enjoy our lunch and take in the folding valleys and mountain ranges all around.
After spending some time relaxing back at our Crib with a book in one hand and an ice-cream in the other, it’s time to search out another sunset, this time back at Reid’s Lookout. This time, we head up to the fire lookout and lay a blanket on the rocks to watch sunset illuminate the layers of mountains in deep orange and purple.
We’ve been the definition of #blessed on this adventure, witnessing so many incredible displays of nature! The day has well and truly morphed into dark before we stir again, not wanting to shake off the image of the sunset we’ve just seen. Now, we’re in search of the stars, finding vantage points for astrophotography, stringing fairy lights across our blanket-cape to help light the way across the rocks.
The other sunset-watchers are long gone by now, leaving us to enjoy the eerie stillness of the darkened forest.
DAY SEVEN: BACK TO MELBOURNE
Our eyes open to sad reality this morning - our only adventures will be the drive back to Melbourne to hand our little home back to the green and purple Jucy HQ. One last breakfast in our camp chairs and we point the van in the direction of home.
Taking the bends of these lush forest roads we agree: freedom is made of moments like these. Windows down, breeze dancing wild through our hair, the sun, fresh and balmy, soothing away months of London winter, our favourite songs turned up loud, each beat keeping time to the spin of the wheels. A home we can take with us wherever we go. One thing's for sure: our first taste of van life certainly won't be our last!