Thursday, May 28, 2009

Trip Report, Great Ocean Road, Day Two, Part Two

Technically, the Great Ocean Road stops in Warrnambool. So, after a quick stop in Warrnambool for some go juice (for car and driver) we turned off the coast and headed inland to check out what was indicated to be a scenic route because of the volcanic history of the region.

This region of Victoria is supposed to be the third largest volcanic plain in the world. What we had read indicated that there was a lot of evidence of craters and lakes formed however long ago by the volcanoes. It wasn't what I expected, but I wasn't disappointed.

We made a beeline to the center of the state, but not before first seeing the clear winner for oddity of the weekend. We turned the car around for this one.

Farther up the road was Mount Elephant, which was surrounded by cows who were scared of our car. We couldn't tell if they don't see a lot of cars, or if cars are related to other cows not coming back. Also, Mount Elephant only looks like an elephant from one side. Note the huge rock slide on this face.

From here, we were off for a tour of the lakes. And this is where the trip got interesting. Everybody always hears about how Australia is in such a drought, and there are water restrictions in place (more severe in the country than the city), but I don't think too many people really realize the magnitude of the problem. Much like in the US, people are told things and it doesn't really sink in.

This is Lake Tooliorook. You can see that it shows up on Google Maps. Sorry for not embedding - it wasn't holding the zoom I wanted.

This is the boat ramp.

And this is the sign right next to the lake. Look how new it looks.

The condition of this sign perplexed me. Poking around the Internet, I found that the Department of Primary Industry (?) still shows it (bottom of the page) as a spot to fish. I found a personal website that shows a camping trip from 2007. The lake is full. Parks Victoria, however, has taken it out of their list of parks.

This lake has disappeared virtually overnight, at least in geologic time. I was, and continue to be, shocked at what we saw. The park, and the whole area around it, was like a ghost town. Perhaps the strangest thing was how clean the bathrooms at the park were. It was like someone was still coming out to scrub them down, despite no visitors. Great government job? By the way, we were there on a Sunday.

Naturally, it didn't get any better from there.

Next, let's have a look at Lake Martin. Google is starting to show how dried up it is. Note the two parts that are named the same thing, but clearly aren't connected. Also, this used to connect to Lake Corangamite, but even the map shows that it doesn't.

Near this old flood gauge, there was a parallel farm road crossing that had five absolutely huge pipes that connected the lakes. Now, the pipes, and the floodgates that you can just barely see the controls for are totally try.

We eventually made it around to the main shore of Lake Corangamite, and you can see that the picture isn't much better. Also, you can see how much larger this lake is than anything around it.

But wait, is that a glimmer of water in the middle?

Yes, it is, but it's become so saline that is is mostly full of brine shrimp now. The upshot is that it provides a feeding ground for birds from as far away as Japan. I can only presume that this water once was used to drink and irrigate crops with.

Without getting totally preachy, seeing what is left of these lakes was a real eye opener for me to the severity of the situation in this country. It will certainly make me take shorter showers. It also makes me think that humans have a far larger impact on their surroundings than they realize. I even read an article today about how there are fears of Angkor Wat sinking because the water tables are being depleted so quickly to serve new hotels in the area. And while I can't say that these lakes were totally destroyed by human factors, I can't help but think that everyone should read Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. That was a hell of a read.

Amazingly, we did get a bit more volcanic action in before calling it a weekend. There is a hill called Red Rocks, and from the top, you can see craters and flat farmland that were formed by volcanoes back in the day. You can also see why it's called Red Rocks.

On the way home, we stopped at a craft brewer out in the middle of nowhere and had a few samplers by the fire and pondered the water situation. It was striking, and still is after a few days of mulling it over. Then we hit the road and called it a weekend.

All in all, a great trip. It reinforced the notion that you never know what you'll find when you travel.

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