Australia 11 May: Lorne, Vic - Port Campbell, Vic

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of Australia's most renowned tourist attractions – and justifiably so.

For 243 spectacular kilometres, this road traces an ever-changing, magical coastline, featuring sheltered beaches, breathtaking cliffs, isolated coves, open farmland and extensive tracts of native bushland in the adjoining Otway Ranges.

Starting from Lorne in the early morning, we were treated to perfect running conditions to appreciate Nature at her most sublime.

Meanwhile, our girls team were on lunch duty today so they also had an early start preparing delicious felafel wraps.

Where there is food, the kookaburra will never be far away...

Nelson usually prefers to run on the trails, but this is one road he would be happy to run along every day...

The Great Ocean Road was built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, and is the world's largest war memorial; dedicated to casualties of World War 1. Prior to the war, this rugged area was only accessible by ship, so the road opened up this entire area of tremendous natural beauty.

It wasn't long before our girls team were clocking up the kms...

Cr Lynn Russell, Mayor of Colac Otway Shire, is a 5th generation Apollo Bay girl – her great great great great grandfather was the first permanent resident of the area, back in the day when it was a whaling station and globe onions were grown on the flat. The Mayor met us at the Apollo Bay Visitor's Centre, along with the Visitor's Centre staff.

She was happy to receive our Certificate of Appreciation and a letter of greeting from the ACT Chief Minister which we are hand-delivering to every Mayor we meet along our route.

We are very grateful to Mayor Russell for giving so much of her time, driving all the way from Colac to meet with us on a Saturday, and share her intimate knowledge of the local area and its history.

After Apollo Bay, the Great Ocean Road leaves the ocean and passes through some beautiful countryside on the edge of the Otway Ranges, with its majestic rainforests.

The Twelve Apostles are one of the most photographed landmarks in Australia ...

... a row of enormous rock stacks carved away from the limestone cliffs by the relentless, awesome force of the ocean.

Nelson expresses his feelings ...

The Gibson Steps are 86 steps hewn into the limestone cliff-face, which lead down to the beach just to the east of the first of the 12 Apostles. Last time we ran all the way around Australia, in 2008, our Canadian photographer Prabhakar Street ventured down these steps to photograph runner Pranava Gigja from Iceland, running along the beach. This photo is featured as the lower half of the cover of our brochure for the 2013 Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run.

When we arrived at Gibson's Steps, we couldn't resist heading down to the beach to see if we could reproduce this scene, this time with New Zealand runner Asankita Bell being photographed by Steve Elliott. Here is Prabhakar's photo from our 2008 visit (you can read the whole day's report here) ...

... and here we are again today!

Viewed from ground level, these magnificent monoliths are truly awesome ...

From The Twelve Apostles Vistor's Centre, there is a short walk to several superb viewing platforms.

As we only had a further 12 km to cover for the day, there was plenty of time for both our teams to linger here to admire, absorb and wonder at Nature's endlessly marvellous magic.

Today we were tourists, just like so many others, many of whom were fascinated and thrilled to hear of our venture and only too happy to participate ...

There are only 8 remaining stacks, as remarkably, 5 have fallen since 13 were first sighted by Europeans. If such radical change has occured in such a relatively brief span of a few hundred years, one can only imagine there must have been thousands of 'apostles' over the past few millions years, in varying groups and configurations.

Just along the road from The Twelve Apostles is Loch Ard Gorge, named after a ship which was wrecked just off the point in the middle of this photo – one of many such wrecks which led to the naming of this area "The Shipwreck Coast."

There is a charming beach at the head of the gorge which can be reached by another steep staircase.

Steve may have recently sold his barber shop in Brisbane to come and run around Australia, but he hasn't lost his touch! With a little spare time this afternoon, several of our team lined up for his magical treatment.

Our whole team is being extremely well taken care of tonight at the fabulous Southern Ocean Villas in Port Campbell. Damien and his team have a really wonderful set-up here which we can highly recommend to anyone thinking of coming to explore this extraordinary area.