Australia: Sometimes You Just Gotta Hitch a Ride

Everyone wears floppy hats while sitting in the Australian sun.
Everyone wears floppy hats while sitting in the Australian sun.

When I was about 13, and attending my beloved sleep-away Camp Kokosing, we went up to the St. John River in Quebec for a canoe trip. We began paddling up that big river in the hot August sun and anticipated three more days of hard paddling and broiling. Then the counselors turned to us and said, ‘why don’t we hitch a ride?”

We soon flagged down a speeding motorboat piloted by a few cute Quebecois girls in bikinis. We hand gestured to them that we wanted to hitch a ride, and my counselor continued to try to talk to them in his fractured high school French.

We got our message across and traveled about ten miles up that river holding onto the side of their motorboat, and finally the cute girls admitted that they spoke perfect English and began chatting up our counselor who was much relieved that he no longer had to try and speak French.

Today I was reminded of this…of pursuing the fun and not worrying about the program and so, we blew off our planned day-long hike and instead headed out in my guide Greg’s 4×4 pickup. It was all my idea! We drove up a to the trailhead above Johanna Beach and we hiked through a forest of low grass trees.

These are funny looking spiky three-foot-high trees that look like our ornamental grasses. They’re Dr. Suess like trees, lime green, underneath a larger canopy of gum trees. The hike took us about a mile, and in many places over wooden boards and then out onto an incredible view of cliffs and the crashing sea far below.

Later on, we drove the 4×4 through hilly pastures, continuing to have to open and close cattle gates, up one of the roughest roads I’ve ever driven, let alone walked. That Mazda truck with fold-down sides just kept on chugging, despite huge ruts and hills that were quite daunting.

Then we stopped at a former potato shed that was offering coffee and meat pies and a wide selection of foods and stuff in one side, on the other side a museum that showed some of the history here of the old logging days and t

Grass trees on the Great Ocean Walk, near Johanna Beach, Victoria Australia.
Grass trees on the Great Ocean Walk, near Johanna Beach.

the giant saws they once used. A newspaper clipping reported that in 2003 some people unknown to anyone illegally went and cut down 70 huge trees right near the Great Ocean Road, and nobody has ever solved the mystery of who committed this crime against nature and against the local citizenry.

We had a flat white then we drove some more and Greg showed me his homestead and some of his 290 acres overlooking the Southern Ocean.

We drove across a field on a steep hill, chased some big old kangaroos down the hill and he showed me a plot of land overlooking this incredible ocean view where he has a solar panel and a windmill…and where he’s cleared some land for his eventual new home that he will build.

In this part of Australia, people in the country all use cisterns for water.  Few have piped water, instead, they pipe the pure rainwater from their gutters into 10,000-gallon tanks and use it for all of their needs. Some even have a system that diverts the first five minutes of water away from the tank then it automatically switches to fill the tank so none of the dirt from the roof gets in. Clever and so eco-friendly. Love that.

We chased the ‘roos around and then later in the afternoon, Greg told me that we’d been invited to a barbecue. Me, go to a party with a bunch of strangers? YES! of course!

So we proceeded to his pal David’s house who is a photographer and his wife Sandra who was celebrating her 50th and we enjoyed sausages some really nice Victorian Chardonnays and sat out on the deck all wearing our hats and sunglasses. The total of nine people all wearing funny floppy hats…that’s because this country leads the way in skin cancer so everyone slathers on the sunscreen and shares their hats.