Aire River to Johanna Beach, Great Ocean Walk

I haven’t posted for over a week, but don’t start thinking I’ve gone and got big and fat resting on my laurels. I can get fat without the laurels, thank you. No, the reason for my low profile is I’ve been out hiking. Yes, somehow I’m fitting in walking, working, writing and another word starting with ‘w’ which I can’t mention.

Smuffin and I have just returned from the northern circuit of Wilsons Promontory. Considering I’ve attempted this walk four (yes, count them, four) times, a final successful tilt is worthy of a celebration. Okay, let’s not get too carried away. Only two nights ago I was lying in my tent convincing myself I’ll never, ever hike again. Remember Bomber Harris? He was so traumatised by walking in his army days, he wrote,

“…to this day I never walk a step if I can get any sort of vehicle to carry me…”.

Well, I contemplated being called Bomber Fiasco from now on.

Yes, the northern circuit dished up so much drama, it’ll take a while (plus some extended time lying on a chesterfield couch surrounded by men in white coats) before I can write it up. This photo kinda summed up what the walk was like.


Smuffin gets acquainted with Wilsons Promontory.

Until then, I’ll continue to detail a far more casual affair. The Great Ocean Walk. It makes sense to finish writing about this hike before going nuts with another.

Before I do. Have you noticed something to the left of the blog? Have a look now and if you’re not sure where to look, just follow my finger.


Actually, sorry about the gnarly looking hand. If you’re wondering where all the skin has gone in the multitude of scratches, well, you’ll find those pieces of flesh on the northern circuit of Wilsons Prom. Anyway, there’s a little badge from the Australian Writers’ Centre informing you I’ve been shortlisted as one of the best Australian Blogs for 2014. This is also worthy of a celebration and as a reward, I’m getting an electric oven, so I no longer have to contemplate putting my head in it.

I could crap on, but best I keep to the aim of this post. On the fourth day of this week long walk, the leg from Aire River to Johanna Beach, Great Ocean Walk can be classed as one of the best of the entire walk. Cliff top walking, wild beaches and more toilet paper on the side of the track than you could ever imagine are just some of the highlights. On reflection though, compared to the previous occasions I’ve walked this section, this was the by far the best. The reason for this? The weather. I can’t say I’ve had a more dramatic day of coastal sky. It’s one of the occasions where a matter of luck gets what’s dished up. I had a fair bit of trouble selecting the greatest hits from dozens of dramatic photos. Hopefully I haven’t let the side down.

Remember the previous post? My drug overdose wasn’t ideal, so I made a pact to limit the Valium intake before walking. As in taking none. Leaving Aire River, I found it quite easy to put one foot in front of the other. This was definitely an improvement on the previous morning where I stumbled out of Cape Otway dribbling from the mouth. Being chemical free has its advantages.

What was to come? Not a lot in regard to action, but the sky was threatening from the start. Initially the track snakes through a wall of coastal vegetation, so it was a bit hard to read the weather. Although the sun was shining, dark clouds were looming.


Until the landscape opened up, I entertained myself by trying to nail the best native grass photo ever taken in the history of mankind. My motto is to keep ideas lofty, but don’t forget to get plenty of sleep in between. Even I don’t know what that means, but anyway, here’s the greatest grass photo you’ll ever see in your lifetime. Maybe.


It was pleasant walking, along a nice meandering track, which leads me to the next question. Why would anyone want to throw rubbish on the ground? I can cop it if it’s next to a road, but along a track, which can only be reached by a bit of walking? I’ll never understand why someone out hiking would want to ditch their crap as they go. Then again, as Smuffin did the dirty work by picking up this discarded can…


…I noted it was a vodka UDL. Really, if you’ve reached the level where you drink this stuff, then maybe you’ll get some use from my soon to be discarded gas oven. There’s really no other option, but to put yourself out of your misery now.

Thankfully there were other things to take our minds off picking up other peoples crap, The path opened out and I noted the sky had slipped into ‘ridiculous mode’. Swirling dark clouds across the ocean were as good as any I’ve ever seen.


There’s only one spot where the Great Ocean Walk meets the Great Ocean Road and that’s at Castle Cove. This location is always a hotbed of tourism traffic and I vividly remember my last visit. Whilst lumbering under my full pack a Japanese bloke dove to the ground in front of me and took multiple photos as I passed by. I’m not sure if he was trying to frame me, ‘Godzilla style’ against the sky or trying to ‘upshort’ me, but either way it was a little weird.

The coastline to come was now visible…


…but a soaking seemed inevitable.


I did notice some funky new track-work. In 2010, I seem to remember some dodgy timber slats being held together by chains. I guess it’s a fine line between over-engineering a track. I’ll let you decide.


Before Castle Cove, there are some interesting cliff formations. I took a few photos, but they’re all pretty average. Take my word for it. They’re interesting.


Finally, the cove was in sight. It’s quite a nice looking beach, but it seems strange after so many visits I’ve never actually gone down to the waters edge. Yet again, I just checked it out from above.


Castle Cove

Intersecting the road was no different than the previous occasions. It was tourism madness, as punters sprinted from their cars, into the gnarly weather, took a photo and then legged it back to the vehicle. There were no schlong spotting photographers this time, which was a bit of a bummer, but I did notice something a lot more frightening.

About five feet from the lookout, there appeared to be toilet paper behind ever goddamn bush. It seemed this was the designated ‘piss out in the open’ area for the Great Ocean Road. Is it too much to ask that the owners take their crappy paper with them? It was a bit unsavoury having to dodge a wall of urine soaked tissues, so I legged it out of there pronto. It only took me 30 seconds amongst humanity and I wanted to escape again.

Luckily the track heads off into the surrounding cliffs and it was back to situation normal. Dark clouds…


…continued to rain heavily out to sea.


You may have written me off as a glassy-eyed, wild weather wondering chump, but I was busy checking out things other than the sky. This grass tree was a beauty, with its flowering spike more contorted than any I’d ever seen.


Oh, then it was back to staring out to sea again. An important aspect to all of this ocean ogling is I wasn’t getting wet. The rain continued to sweep by the coast…


…leaving me dry as a nuns hat.


There was bit of inland strolling inland business, as the track rose and fell, before the main target of the day was in sight. Johanna Beach.


Oh yeah, there’s no hiding up on the cliff-tops any more, as the soft sand has to be walked. Descending down to the beach…


…I hit the sand like a sloth with chronic fatigue syndrome. The beach is only a couple of kilometres in length, but I found it slow going. At least the insanely dark sky above the sunny beach was keeping me amused.


I spent quite some time, frequently stopping, as I knew I’d probably never see a sky like this again. The contrast of sun and dark sky was perfect and even better for me, I was the one in the sun, so the camera stayed dry.

A decent-sized surf continually thumped onto the beach…


…whilst I tried to keep my feet dry from the foamy water.


Surely rain would fall on me at some point? I can’t say it bothered me, as rain in March is never that cold anyway.


Near the end of the beach a couple of hardy fishermen stood. I contemplated talking to one to see whether they were in luck, but I declined. Unless you’re standing right next to someone, you’ll never hear what they’re saying, as the constant surf is deafening. In the end, I passed one and as he looked at me, I looked back and offered the traditional non-verbal hello. A thumbs up, to which he replied with a vigorous one in return.


‘Got to keep running/Stormbringer coming’. Unless you’re a fisherman.

Trudging on, I left them behind…


…and had one last look before climbing off the beach.


The Johanna Beach campsite sits high on a cliff overlooking the coast. After a long day of walking, this was the first time rain actually fell on me and fall it did. I ended up taking shelter under a handy sized pine tree as the downpour continued.


After a while, it moved on and I slogged my way up the surrounding hillside to reach camp. Guess what? That’s another day done. How easy is this? I bet you can’t wait until I finish this hike, now I’ve whetted your appetite with the upcoming Wilsons Prom fiasco? Oh well, like all in things in life. You’ve got to wait.

The Johanna campsite is easily one of the GOW’s best. Looking down across the beach, I was able to watch the continual heavy showers roll by, whilst I remained comfortably dry under the shelter.


Rain and sun over Johanna Beach.

What’s next? I guess it’s that time again?

Big Greg’s GOW Tip of the Day.

There’s not a lot this time, so I’m sorry I can’t bore you some more. Maybe, don’t throw your crap all over the place? If you carried it in, take the stinking stuff out.

How about the camp? When you leave the beach, you’ll see a set of stairs immediately as you leave the sand. Don’t do what I did a few years ago and what Smuffin did this time. I thought they led to the campsite, but instead, after a short vertical climb where supplemental oxygen is needed, you’ll find yourself at a lookout and absolutely nowhere near the camp. This is followed by profane language, which was repeated by Smuffin on this occasion.

The campsite can be a bit tricky to find, as it’s the first on the entire trip where the group camping area is not with the rest of the hiking sites. The group area is at the bottom of the cliff and the main spot you need is up an old track behind a gate. It’s not really signposted too well, but after a bit of dicking around you’ll work out where to go. Whatever you do, don’t stop at the group site, as that’s no fun at all.

What else? I haven’t included any Garmin GPS data, which I normally add at the end of a walk. That’s because Garmin changed to a new site and everything I’d previously uploaded was corrupted. I do have back-ups, but it’s a pain to upload them all again, so I’m giving it a miss for the time being. If I was getting paid to write this crap, then I might do things differently.

That’s it! The best way to finish this post is a nice shot of what James Joyce described as…


‘The sea, the snotgreen sea, scrotumtightening sea’

…and you reckon I come up with some wacky stuff.