Monday, February 6, 2012
I’m not sure we’re going to be in the state of Victoria in southeastern Australia long enough to solve it’s obvious identity crisis. The conflict is apparent on the license plates we’ve seen on the cars from Victoria in our first week here. One set of plates says: Victoria-On The Move
The other says: Victoria-The Place To Be.
Okay, which is it? Those seem to be a bit contradictory. If Victoria is The Place To Be, why would you be On The Move? If Victoria is On The Move, then clearly, it’s not The Place to Be. Back in the States, Ohio issues license plates that say, Ohio-the Heart of It All. What if Ohio started issuing another, separate set of license plates? Ones that bore the phrase: Ohio-the Small Intestine of It All. That wouldn’t make much sense and neither do these conflicting plates. Hopefully we won’t have such license plate turmoil in New South Wales or Queensland as we head toward Brisbane for our flight to Singapore on the 27th of February.
We saw license plates from several Australian states as we loaded up from Lorne and continued south along Great Ocean Road. The primary lure for the portion of the proceedings: the 12 Apostles, or what used to be called the Sow and Piglets. They are rock formations along the Australian Coast that have been eroded away by wind and water over millions of years. The photos we had seen of them looked other worldly and spectacular and they did not disappoint. It’s one of the most beautiful sights in nature that I’ve ever seen. Perfect weather of temperatures in the upper 70s with a light breeze added to the experience.
Some locals told us the sight was even more spectacular in the winter, when the seas come up from Antarctica and slam into the shore with massive force. The forces that created this beauty are also destroying it. In the past twenty years, two arches that connected two of the rock spires have collapsed into the ocean. It’s an unstoppable process that speaks to the powerful forces of nature that constantly shape our planet.
Just to the south of the 12 Apostles is Loch Ard Gorge. At several spots along this part of Australia coastline, those powerful forces have carved a series of gorges inland. Loch Ard gets its name from a ship that smashed into the coastline there in June of 1878. The 37 passengers and 17 crew members were spending their final night on board the ship after 92 days at sea, having departed from London in March. A celebration had been held the evening before, as they expected to arrive in Melbourne the following day. A powerful storm had other plans for the ship, and despite the best efforts of the captain and crew, the ship was thrown against the rocks that lead into the gorge.
Only two people survived: a member of the crew, Tom Pearce and a 19-year old passenger, Eva Carmichael. Their survival can be attributed to the fact that of the several gorges along this part of the coastline, only this one had a sandy beach at its end. The others were just box canyons, leaving no way out.
After both Tom and Eva made it to shore, he found shelter for them and made a place for her to sleep. He eventually managed to find a way out of the gorge, (which to our disappointment was not pointed out in any of the many historical markers around the gorge) and find help. He would go on to live for another 22 years, continuing his career at sea, including some time as a ship’s captain where he survived two other shipwrecks. She would live for another 56 years, and despite their connection of being the only survivors of a terrible tragedy, their lives never intertwined. That certainly wouldn’t be the case these days. You’d see those two dragged out onto every morning TV news program on the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, etc etc anniversary of the crash of the Loch Ard.
Our hopes were high that we would not be part of any anniversary of a nautical disaster on any level as we got in line to get on the ferry to Sorrento from Queenscliffe. We caught the 2pm ferry, hoping to get over to the Mornington Peninsula and find a place to stay before everything got booked up on a Saturday night.
Arriving in Sorrento, we were taken by the charm of the bayside village and hoped to find a place somewhere within walking distance of the shops and restaurants there. One of the shops was a beach house rental office and they had a villa available for $500 a night. That tidbit of information sent us across the street to the Sorrento information hut. The woman there explained that coming in after 3pm on a Saturday didn’t enhance our chances of finding anything in town. After a couple of calls, she put us in touch with the owner of a two-bedroom cottage in an area of the peninsula called St. Andrews Beach, about fifteen minutes from Sorrento. It was much more in our price range and even had a tennis court. The cottage, unbeknownst to me when we booked it, was within five to ten minutes driving of several quality looking golf courses.
Once we checked in to the cottage, I saw a book called Golf Courses of the Mornington Peninsula. I was stunned to leaf through the pages and see photo after photo of linksland golf courses that was reminiscent of courses found on Long Island. Everyone of them looked beautiful. The one closest to the cottage is Gunnamatta at St. Andrews Beach and is designed by Tom Doak, who just happens to be my favorite modern golf course architect. He designed Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand near Napier, where we stayed for a few days last month. It is situated on one of the most beautiful pieces of land I’ve ever seen for a golf course. The landscape is as dramatic as you will find anywhere, with fingers of land jutting out over the ocean, and fairway positioned as though they will melt into the sea below. Not a house in sight. I hoped to play there when we were staying in Napier, but the greens fee for a non-New Zealand native was over $400. I sent Cape Kidnappers an email right before we got to Napier, telling them all about the trip, the golf blog I was doing, and my man-crush on Tom Doak. I heard nothing from them while we were in Napier, and when we were at the Napier waterfront, I would look longingly to the south, and see the bluff of Cape Kidnappers and realize I would leave the area without playing there. A few days later, after we had made the ferry crossing from the North Island to the South Island in New Zealand, I got an email from Cape Kidnappers. They would be happy to have me play there at a reduced “media” rate of about half of what the regular foreign rate would be. I was crushed, knowing there was no way I could make it back to Napier to realize my dream of playing that course. However, as has happened more than once on this trip, good karma is appearing and I can’t wait to play the Tom Doak course here. Did I mention I like Tom Doak?