Monday, May 5, 2008

It was Great and near the Ocean and on the Road

After three weeks of work, I'm happy to report I finally got a day off. Anzac day, the 25th of April, conveniently occurred on a Friday, making it a 3-day weekend for the whole country. Unlike in the states, the day, which memorializes the thousands of Australian and New Zealand troops that lost their lives in the battle of Gallipoli, is always the 25th, even when it is stubborn enough to arrive on a Tuesday. So, rather than celebrate the somber day on the Monday closest to the 25th of April, the three-day weekend is a rare occurrence that happens only twice every seven years (well, plus the whole leap year thing but I can't do the math!) Even worse, next year, when it falls on a Saturday, the Aussie's don't get a day off at all! Another contrast to the US' memorial and veterans' days is that at least the first half of the day is really dedicated to remembering those soldiers, with dawn services around the country.

The afternoon, however, is the most famous regular season footy match, with my Bombers against their biggest rivals, the Collingwood Magpies. This year, the Bombers were duly patriotic, getting decimated by their enemy much like the Anzac soldiers did in Turkey all those years ago.

While we stayed in town to watch the game- happily not going to witness the routing firsthand-and celebrated a Passover Shabbat dinner with two other couples, we did get out of Melbourne on Saturday. Toby's cousin from Israel is in town and was the impetus for a bunch of us to take a road trip down the Great Ocean Road.

Considered the most beautiful drive in all of Victoria, the Great Ocean Road (or GOR as I call it, appreciating the poetry of such a beautiful environmental place sounding like the former VP) is akin to California's highway 1, with twists and turns opening into quaint and/or tacky touristy beach towns with overpriced real estate.

We had a lovely morning and stopped for a (unfortunately Kosher for passover) breakfast with the sea to our side, but as the afternoon wore on, foreboding clouds made their appearance. By the time we reached the penultimate site on the drive, the misnamed 12 apostles, we were chilled and prepared to get wet. Nevertheless, we parked at the carpark and crossed the highway, skipping the visitor center to go see the famed apostles themselves.

The 12 apostles are considered Australia's most famous rock formations. How Uluru escapes this glory, I don't know but I believe it is a semantic issue as the large rock in the center of the country is a monolith and not a rock formation. In any case, the apostles stand sentry in the Southern Ocean, their former connection to the cliff side the distant past.

The 12 apostles were never 12; there were 9 of them when first named as such. Now, due to the wear and tear of the elements on the remaining apostles, there are only 6. The tourist council decided that 12 apostles was more likely to be an attraction than just 9. I'm assuming the nearby steps down to the beach, named Gibson's steps, were not named after the Mad Max actor. However, I did enjoy the vision of Mel standing on the shore, cursing the Jews who were responsible for the continuing collapse of the remaining apostles.

Just as we finished shooting our photos the heavens opened and i began to rain sideways. We rushed back to the car and completed our Ocean Road journey, ending up at the only motel we'd found with openings on the holiday weekend. We soon found out why, but luckily, never actually ran into Javier Bardem with his oxygen tank and creepy haircut!

I ended passover with a mediocre pasta at a pub (next blog will examine Aussie pubs) and had a fun night playing backgammon and taboo. We drove through the bush- aka the country- on the way home the next day after a few more stops along the shore. A fun first road trip in Oz!

Here are some shots from the road:

Given the sharp, dangerous curves on the road, this sign strikes me as too little, too late:

Here is a shot of the steep cliffs along the Southern Ocean's coast:

Just a shot of me and Adi...another hemisphere, another coast:

Here are the 12, i mean 9 I mean 6 apostles:
If you look closely, you can see the apple-shaped cutout in the rock. Adi called this the I-postle:
The view from the beach by our creepy little motel in Petersborough, VIC:
Another rock formation we saw on Sunday's return trip:

And here's the whole gang (Sarit, Nat, Toby, Dor, Adi and Alon)

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