Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cape Otway Lightstation: Beacon of Light

While driving towards Kennett River on the Great Ocean Road, I thought it was a good time to check my Facebook wall. My friend Richard, who has a soft spot for lighthouses suggested we visit one at Cape Otway. As soon as I mentioned this to Mr H, the signboard for Cape Otway Lightstation appeared. Despite it not being part of our itinerary, Mr H seem more keen to visit here than the koalas at Kennett River. So bye bye it was to the koalas.

It was a quiet drive to the lighthouse. With no network coverage to activate Google maps, we continued along looking for signs that we were on the right track. Leaf-less trees continued to line both sides of the road and being 2 hours away from sunset, an eerie feeling slowly set in. A herd of cows grazing grass unexpectedly appeared, creating a ripple of excitement on my part. Hahaha.

Certainly not what we expected, cows grazing by the roadside.
Well mannered cows - all in a row.
A few kilometres on, we arrived at the entrance of Cape Otway Lighthouse. There is an entry fee of $19.50 (adult). If you plan your visit in advance, discounted tickets could be purchased at the Visitor Information Centre in Lorne and Apollo Bay and also Otway Fly. It was already 4:00pm by the time we arrived. Since we had an hour to explore (doors close at 5:00pm), we bought our tickets.

My initial thought was $19.50 is expensive just to see a lighthouse. I later found out there are at least 15 areas of interest within the grounds, making it less expensive if you average the cost. For an idea of what you could expect, view Cape Otway Lightstation's map here.

Due to time constraints and also the weather (it rained the moment we stepped in), we sought shelter at the "important" areas and gave the open areas a miss. Haha. It is not fun to explore historical sites in the rain - especially when you are on a cliff, exposed to strong winds and not dressed in rain gear!

Not heading straight for the lighthouse, we stopped at Telegraph Station first, followed by Flagstaff and Weather Station respectively. The lighthouse was our fourth stop. A small group ahead of us were making a move, leaving us with the lighthouse for ourselves. We took our time to look around and interacted with the "lighthouse keeper" who is actually a trained guide there.

Light at the end of the pathway.
Let's check out the 360 degrees balcony.
This could be the current lighthouse.
We stepped out from the lighthouse into the rain. Not prepared for such weather, we dashed towards the Cafe which used to be the Assistant Lightkeeper's residence for shelter. It was near closing time and there was not much options for us to snack out. We waited out for a bit and when the rain eased, we made our way back to the entrance (also the exit). 

Unfortunately it rained again before we got there which saw us making a detour into the Old Workshop. There were historical items on display which kept us occupied throughout the wait. The rain eased up again and we made our way to the exit one more time. This time we were successful and made it just in time to our car before it poured.

One final scary picture of me before leaving Cape Otway Lightstation grounds.

For more information on Cape Otway Lightstation, visit their website.

Blazing Saddles at Airey's Inlet

I am not a fan of horse riding yet this is the second time I have chosen to participate in a sight seeing activity that involved one. The first time was due to no choice and since it left a good impression, this second time was by choice. 

It was a beautiful morning with no signs of predicted rain. We arrived at Blazing Saddles (Airey's Inlet) after a 90 minute drive along Great Ocean Road. We checked in at the reception and were given forms to fill up - a questionnaire (to access your riding skill level which in turn will decide the horse you will ride, so best not to lie) and indemnity form. With that and payment out of the way, we were asked to select a pair of riding boots and a helmet for use during the ride.

Helmets were labelled according to size - pea head (S), pickle head (M),
melon head (L), mega melon head (XL). 

Once that was sorted, we were assigned and introduced to our horses. It is important you remember your horse's name because from then on, that is your name. The ride began soon after. It was a small group that morning, eight in total. Four were experienced riders (including Mr H), 2 not experienced (1 seemed an expert compared to the other. You will know why later), leader/teacher and her assistant. 

My ride and I did not get on to a good start - I could not remember his name.

The 1 hour 15 minute scenic bush ride is categorised as beginner's bush ride and involved trotting and cantering. The trail was either muddy, gravel-ly (is there even such a word?) and hilly which made me thankful I was not covering this trail on foot! We also had to contend with other challenges like ducking under tree branches or your horse wanting to stop and eat wild grass at every chance it can. These also made galloping somewhat impossible. That did not stop a rider from falling off her horse tho! 

Remember the inexperienced rider I mentioned earlier? She was nervous from the start and it was unfortunate she got a "naughty" horse. He probably sensed her fear and messed around with her whenever possible. At a particularly tight curve, her horse suddenly moved forward with a start. In trying to avoid a branch, she lost her seating causing her to lean sideways. She would have remained in the saddle if not for the muddy ground. Before she could regain her position, her horse lost his footing and she landed head first. You could hear a pin drop. We remained in the saddle waiting for her to move while the teacher/leader raced towards her. After what seemed like eternity, she stood up and tried to regain balance while checking her attire (poor lady, she was half covered in mud). After an assessment, the rider felt she was able to continue with us and we moved on. I was extra nice to my horse from then on.. just in case he had any ideas to unseat me.

Happy that I would not have to walk through the puddle. Not sure if the horse is happy tho.
We finally reached the top of the hill. The better riders were allowed to canter up the hill. They gave us non experienced riders a head start too (perhaps so our horses would not join in the canter like their friends).

The view that greeted us left us speechless. With clear blue skies, we could see as far the eyes could go. I recognised the Otway Lighthouse from its red rooftop. I did not bother to take that many photos as my iPhone camera and the cameraman (me) would not do justice to the view. You just had to appreciate it with your own eyes. 

Can you spot the Cape Otway Lighthouse?
After a few more moments, we made our way back to the stables via the same path we came. It was an incident free ride back and everyone made it without falling off. After "parking" my horse and tying him to his post, I patted his neck and said goodbye. He barely looked at me while munching his food.

Final farewell before we head back to the stables.

If you asked me if sight seeing on horse back is a good idea (especially after the horror story above), I would say yes. Despite the risks, there are benefits too.

What are the benefits?
  • You can explore a wider area in a shorter time span (compared to walking).
  • You have access to areas not easily accessible on foot (e.g. bush trails, hill top views).
  • You get to rest your legs (kind off).
  • You get a horse's eye view of things.
  • It is fun (especially when you stay on your horse)
What are the risks?
  • You might not like your horse.
  • Your horse might not like you.
  • You might fall off your horse and/or get injured.
For more information on Blazing Saddles, go to