In Australia’s summer of 2014, I decided to forgo bicycle riding the Great Ocean Road. Instead I chose to amble the Great Ocean Walk.
Back then, I hired Pete to shuttle me from trailheads and accommodations for five days. He charged me A$450 in cash. Pete was meticulous about his timing. His pickups and drop offs were spot on. His didn’t charge extra for weather forecasts, gear storage or transfers, sound advice or entertainment.
On one particularly windy morning, he admonished me not to walk the beaches that day. “I won’t be able to pick you up in Antarctica if a rogue wave sweeps you away!”
Pete’s shuttle service was a steal.
This time I had the World’s smallest car rental. I wanted to do a few day hikes along the GOW. I emailed a shuttle service about a drop off at a trailhead. Cost for a nine mile hike back to my sedan? A$120. (If I spent that sort of money each time I hiked, I would be living full time in my van down by the river by now.) I said thanks, but no thanks.
I checked accommodations in the Great Ocean Road’s western entry town. Port Campbell motels were not only booked out for the whole month of February, the costs were Andromeda Galaxy sky high.
My WW J senses screamed out the answer, “The Tour Bus Crowd discovered the Great Ocean Road!”
With that thought in mind, I lit out from the affordable housing town of Warrnambool at first light. It was so early the only place open to catch a “flat white and hot cakes” was Maccas. ( Aussie speak for MacDonald’s. )
I caught a front row spot at the Twelve Apostles parking lot. (Upon my return, the lot was full. There were three attendants directing traffic too). I headed out with a delicious morning sun for photos. There were only a few humans around. With the help of a friendly couple, I scored my iconic selfie of the eight Apostles. (There never was twelve. ) I dawdled a bit, but then noticed an increase of humanity. It was time for me to walk east on the Great Ocean Walk.
Let me say this about the GOW. You don’t actually see the ocean all that much. Although even a deaf guy like me can hear the soothing white noise of the waves. Oftentimes, you walk through tunnels of bush land. Not very scenic, but high scores for solitude. I went east a respectable way and started back to my sedan.
Overhead helicopters were gouging passengers of their money, while horseflies were gorging on the walkers below. By this time there were plenty of meals available for the biting swarms. However these hikers weren’t carrying backpacks or water. They were clinging onto cell phones for upcoming selfies. They were well coiffed and recently showered. The women were making fashion statements. Some carried parasols to block the scorching no ozone Aussie sun. Many were wearing inappropriate footwear. They were the Nouveau Riche Chinese Nationals I had recently read about!
My tour bus assumption was correct. According to the article, many Chinese are willing to pay up to A$1000/night to be chauffeured, pampered, placed in better than average accommodations and fed non-pub grub meals. They probably were guaranteed high speed WiFi to upload their selfies on Facebook too. (Chinese visitors rank number two in Australia. They will quickly surpass the Kiwis if the trends continue).
To give my readers a frame of reference, I’m spending around A$200/day including the care and feeding of the world’s smallest rental car. I sleep in budget cabins in caravan parks where I have to deploy chemical warfare on thousands of unwanted squatters. (An ant infestation.) My lunches are PB & boysenberry sandwiches. My teas (Aussie speak for dinners) are takeaway Asian food, fish and chips or pub meals of chicken parmi. AKA parmigiana. I’m definitely not starving.
Now I’ll get to my point, (finally). Many of the World’s iconic places are now approachable by motor vehicles. IE: Twelve Apostles, Machu Picchu, Yosemite Valley, the Maroon Bells of Colorado, Crater Lake, Grand Canyon and the fiords of Milford Sound to name a few. With very little effort or discomfort people are scoring those show-the-world-I’ve-been-there pictures.
So the pretty places are getting more crowded. This has been a constant lament of my blog. Remember Genesis 1:28? That’s the “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth and subdue it” part of the Old Testament. Maybe humanity is doing too good a job of performing God’s well intentioned suggestions. Our mere presence is polluting the places we love.
Ahh, but if you are willing to do the sweat labor to get to scenic areas, there’s still heaps of beauty out there. You will probably have to wear appropriate footwear though.
On another theme. By now many of you are thinking, “Jeff! How’s your knee?”
So I’ll tell you. It’s no bueno. They say denial is more than a River in Egypt. I decided to finally go to the source of all knowledge. I Googled signs and symptoms of a torn meniscus. I checked off pain, swelling, snap, crackles and pops ETC.
I scored them all. Eventually, I will require a surgery to repair this problem.
On a positive note, recently I sold a paperback copy of my book to someone in Denmark. For this I was paid 89 cents. That should help defray the cost of the inevitable surgery.
Here’s the book link:
Better than donating to a GoFundMe. At least you’ll receive an IPPY Gold Medal Award Winning book. (Available on Kindle too).
Happy Chinese New Year.
It’s the year of the pig, which is appropriate for my coming months of sloth.
Cheers from stormy Apollo Bay, Victoria