All images © Natasha von Geldern
The echidna scuffled in the undergrowth, digging its claws into the soil in alarm at our approach, spines bristling. We stood still for a minute and it eventually relaxed and carried on its way.
In so many countries I visit the best way to see the real landscape, the most beautiful wild places, is to get out of your car and walk. Not just a few hours but days, to get away from human habitation and interference with the environment. That is the best way to experience a great eco travel destination such as Australia.
You may have heard of the Great Ocean Road in Australia? Well this is the walk. Having now both driven and hiked along this coastline I have to say the walk wins hands down.
Australia’s Great Ocean Walk is a newbie in the ‘great hikes of the world’ stakes but it has every appearance of bursting through the rankings soon. A seven-day meander along the stunning “Shipwreck” coast of Victoria, it is an opportunity to experience natural Australia.
Less of the trail is on the actual coastline than you may expect but the walk is all the more varied for that. It is not just about gazing at the endless horizon of the Southern Ocean. It is also about walking through light-filled Stringybark woodland with an understory of whispering Grass Trees.
Or through lush rainforest; or under clouds of white flowering Tea Tree. There are tiny hyacinth orchids, bridal bouquets of mountain clematis, and other wildflowers with wonderful names like the “Running Postman”.
With no more than 12 hikers at a time staying at the Bothfeet Walking Lodge and hikers generally encouraged to walk only in the westerly direction, we never saw another soul on the Great Ocean Walk.
This was my first experience of a guided hike and I was impressed with the knowledge of our guide, Jane, and also with her ability to manage the group so as to allow people of different fitness levels to walk at their own pace.
At the end of each day a blissful foot spa awaited at the eco lodge, followed by a gourmet three-course meal and the smooth sheets of a comfortable bed. I’m not sure which was most welcome.
On the final day the Great Ocean Walk culminates at the incredible Twelve Apostles, one of Australia’s big-hitting tourist attractions. After a couple of hours walking through woodland we crested a hill and there was an audible gasp of excitement from the group as we sighted the Apostles for the first time.
Now we walked above the coast through low heath and fragrant coastal rosemary. Those famous rock stacks – eight of them, or is it nine – got slowly closer and closer as we reached the top of each rise. It was an overcast day, making for perfect walking conditions, but as we approached the final lookout the sun suddenly burst through the clouds.
I literally ran up the hill towards the viewing platform, all thoughts of tired legs gone. The sun bathed the Apostles and I collapsed onto a seat to take it all in with my eyes and my camera lens. This is truly an opportunity to see one of Australia’s most iconic landscapes from a different perspective and without being surrounded by hordes of tourists, or by anyone at all if you wish.
Bothfeet runs a full seven-day Great Ocean Walk itinerary as well as a shorter four day Twelve Apostles Walk. Hikers can opt to walk guided or self-guided – both are able to stay at the luxurious Bothfeet Walking Lodge, make use of the transport services and enjoy the delicious meals prepared by the in-house chef. The guided walk package includes a thrilling 10-minute helicopter flight over the Twelve Apostles. Bothfeet is a member of the Great Walks of Australia.
Disclosure: Natasha’s tour and lodge stay with Bothfeet were complimentary. All views, images, and blisters are her own.