Adventures on the Great Ocean Road – Part Two

The Anal Sandcastles episode of our Great Ocean Road adventure got me thinking about structures of other kinds and whether or not it is possible to compare the beauty of man-made structures with that of natural phenomena.  Aesthetically these things can be compared I suppose, but to which do we proffer most admiration – the men who persevere to create something astounding, or the raw power of nature and what that creates?

For example, as I discussed in part one of this blog, the Great Ocean Road is an amazing feat of planning, perseverance, dedication and damned hard work and in turn it offers amazing views of beaches, bays and forests.  In total, during the 13 years it took to build the road, 3000 returning World War One soldiers toiled day after day, sleeping in bush camps and enduring quite treacherous conditions. Although there were few deaths, there was a very high turnover of men, as even though they were paid well and treated well, the work was arduous.  Road building today involves trucks, diggers, huge mechanical beasts that do the majority of the backbreaking work. Look at the pictures of the road building of 1919 and you will see men equipped with pickaxes!

Then we have the Twelve Apostles – the next stop on our weekend adventure. The Twelve Apostles are situated in Port Campbell National Park, about a four hour drive down the Great Ocean Road.  They are made up of nine giant limestone monoliths, and their creation began 10 to 20 million years ago (a mind-boggling fact in itself) by erosion from the Southern Ocean.  Once, these mighty stacks were part of the cliff face; the sea wore away caves, the caves widened and became arches and the sides of the arches eventually collapsed from the side of the cliff leaving behind the rock ‘stacks’ we see today. All have continued to erode, some have been lost to the ocean forever, but it is a truly beautiful sight and I thoroughly recommend a trip there. So does the very fact that these awe-inspiring structures are there because of the climate, the sea and the harsh effects of nature make them any more beautiful or amazing than the road on which they are situated?  It took 20 million years for nature to create these structures, and 13 years for man to build a road that is 263 km long. Which is the most amazing?  And although nature created the panoramic views you can see from the road – without the toil of those men, you wouldn’t be able to see those views.  An interesting couple of points to consider.

Or not…

So, let us think about this instead. What about a place which is a crossover of both of these ideas, a man-made ‘structure’ which displays the best that nature has to offer so that it is accessible to all.  The wildlife reserve.  Surely, if there is aesthetic and assiduous beauty in both man-made and natural constructs then this should be the epitome of beauty?

Errrrr, no actually.

I shall not name the reserve I am about to describe for fear that it is the owners’ only income and without it they cannot afford their mortgage/ school fees/grandma’s bowel medicine, but I am going to describe it nevertheless.

I suppose kangaroo-shaped alarm bells should have rung when the entrance fee for the three of us only came to $24, and the coffee lounge consisted of a three bar gas fire, stained cafetiere and a plastic garden table, but try as we might, Australian wildlife had thus far alluded us  so we continued on.

The reserve itself was vast – acres upon acres of arid land; dusty, dirty and dead, much like some of the animals. The first enclosure held kangaroos and, oddly, a peacock.

‘Oooooh look, Colin, the kangaroos are so tame they don’t mind if you stroke them!’

I didn’t have the heart to tell Colin’s missus that the kangaroos were not tame, they were simply sick of life; one of them lying in a dust bath, swatting the flies off its thinning, flea-ridden coat, one was cowering in a corner looking for a hole in the fence like a hairy Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, and the third had simply lost the will to live and was sitting morosely behind a tree, staring into oblivion and waiting for the sweet release of death.  Of course none of this mattered to my two and half year old minx who was in her element stroking them and talking to them soothingly, whilst being chased around by mummy,  equipped with a bottle of disinfectant and a tetanus shot.

A stroll past the livid-looking emus (safely incarcerated behind bars) took you to the koala enclosure – and when I say enclosure I mean the three leafy branches that had been sellotaped to the side of a corrugated tin shed. I haven’t seen a koala yet although I’ve been in Oz for 3 months, and I wasn’t about to see one here. Cue the minx…

‘Mummy, the koala is tired. He’s hiding.’

Yes, either that or he’s snuffed, stuffed and stapled to the eucalyptus.

And what next on this magical mystery tour of mammals?  Donkeys. Two to be precise, two emaciated, sorry- looking asses which ate anything at all that you passed through the wire.  Dry hay, bread, your finger…

Next was the deer paddock, which was actually a really lovely space – rolling hills, trees, panoramic views.  The deer had it good, which was probably why they were kept away from the rest of the animals – jealousy.

We walked back towards the koala enclosure in the dumb hope that the animal had been successfully resuscitated, and back past the donkeys. Unfortunately for us, one of the donkeys chose that moment to ‘expose’ himself and we ushered the minx past hurriedly, covering her eyes and telling her we were playing a game of hide and seek.  I do not want to dwell on the point, and I do not know if you have ever seen a donkey’s, ahem, appendage, but my goodness. Female donkeys must suffer from a lot of ‘headaches’.

The whole day reminded me a little of Melbourne Aquarium. Don’t get me wrong, the fish looked perfectly healthy, and on the whole there were fewer erections, but I was disappointed with the penguins – they seemed a little sad, but so would I be if I spent all day under neon lights, skidding around in my own shit.

Maybe I expect too much of my wildlife parks, aquariums and zoos, I don’t know.  Ultimately these experiences are more for the minx than me, and she had a whale of a time.

Whales…maybe that’s the next adventure?

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