Why we, inadvertently, chose one of the hottest weeks in January to hike 50 kilometres along a bush track jutting over the great Southern Ocean, I am not sure! But nature is unpredictable, and I guess that is all part of the adventure.
So, in temperatures which soared in the mid to late 30 degrees Celsius, we set off on a four-day trek, which rewarded us with views of a magnificent coastline, edged with prehistoric limestone rocks emerging from a deep blue sea. We were with a group of 10 hikers, as part of the Twelve Apostles Lodge Walk, one of the Great Walks of Australia, which takes walkers from Johanna Beach about mid-way along the Great Ocean Road, to the Twelve Apostles in the western part of the state of Victoria.
The beauty of this hike is that, although you walk through bushland and along coastline mostly remote and untouched by the tourist crowds (although towards the end, the buses start rolling in!), you return to the creature comforts of your eco cabin at Johanna Beach each night, complete with foot spas, in-house massages, pre-dinner canapes and a three-course meal to rival any Michelin-starred restaurant. You also therefore only carry your day pack with your home-made lunch, healthy snacks, water and other essentials, which makes the hiking much more accessible to the average walker. It is mostly flat terrain, with a few steep hills and steps, but for us the greatest challenge was the heat and flies, which necessitated wearing fly-nets and ensuring frequent stops for hydration, rest and the ubiquitous photo opportunity!
There were a few highlights of the hike for me, which sets this walk apart from others I have undertaken. Firstly, the scenery is quite unique. The “apostles”, of which there are officially only eight, although many more along the coastline in total, are the result of the erosive activity of the mighty ocean, which has carved out a magnificent jagged cliff-face and accompanying lone rocks, which continue to erode and crash into the raging sea. The ocean itself is vast, and knowing that there is nothing between you and the Antarctic, makes it appear even more foreboding and mysterious. At the end of the hike, you are treated to a helicopter flight over the last section of coastline, to get a birds-eye view of the magnificence of nature in all its glory.
Hiking with a group of strangers is either something you love or loathe and personally I love it! Meeting new people, learning about their lives and sharing stories is all part of the fun. There is a huge range of gourmet walking holidays to choose from in Australia, all with their own unique scenery, walking difficulty, food experiences, accommodation options and encounters with flora, fauna and homo sapiens, and this one is no different.
The eco-cabins at Johanna Beach are more than comfortable, with king size beds and ensuite bathrooms. Returning each day for a shower and a soak in the foot-spa, while sipping a glass of bubbly is definitely my idea of relaxation! The food is nothing short of spectacular, and chef Lizzy Payne excels every day with spreads at breakfast and dinner which are both nourishing and delicious. Her home-made lunch boxes and snacks are also the best I have ever experienced on a walk of this type.
Overall, it was a memorable experience and one I would recommend to others, but be prepared for whatever mother nature decides to deliver on your journey!
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