Photo Journal: The Light at the End of Great Ocean Road, Australia

You know that grumpy, stern and stone-faced [Greek mythology] teacher in high school whose eyes squinted suspiciously at anyone with a heartbeat, whose mouth talked through a permanent scowl and whose long, jagged fingers sent slow scratchy shivers down your back?? The one who was never wrong and never let you forget it; especially on your report card?

Well, he made a comeback as my tour guide in Melbourne last weekend.

D, the white-haired love child of Cruella de Vil and Gargamel of the Smurfs, kicked off our tour by requesting that we not ask any questions about what to expect, run back on the bus at the beck and call of his urgent hand gestures and that we sit with our hands folded, our mouths shut and eyes forward (OK, he didn’t actually request that last one but we did it anyway!)

All along the 3-hour drive to the coast of Great Ocean Road, he regaled us with interesting stories of blood, gore, death and destruction (bridges collapsing, ships capsizing, gas explosions). I think the only non-gory story he shared was about vegemite… And speaking of dark-brown-food-paste-made-from-leftover-brewers’-yeast-extract, his enthusiastic jerks and swerves along the windy coastline in the torrential rain allowed us to brew our own, especially the woman who threw up three times. Most of all, though, D wanted us to know that he was the authority (even when he forgot the actual years, statistics, places of the stories he shared.)

Listen, behave, agree or be left behind. He seemed to exude.

But to be fair — D’s behavior came from a good place. Throughout the 10-hour tour you could really tell he was, in his own way, ecstatic to share the breathtaking scenery, diverse look-out points and furry creatures that called it home. You could tell that his nervously-recounted anecdotes were to distract us from the poor weather that befell our day. And that his request for us not to ask questions was so we wouldn’t get our hopes up if we didn’t see a kangaroo, koala, king parrot (we saw all three). And that his urgent gesticulations were to ensure that we would make it to the beautiful sunset at the coast’s infamous Twelve Apostles.

But as much as he managed our expectations, he was dead certain about one thing: “In all my years leading this tour, whatever the weather conditions the sun has always always always made an appearance. It always finds a way to peek through the clouds.”

Despite the absolution in his voice Eloria, an Eastern European tourist, asked “Look at the sky, there is no sun at all. Why are we waiting for nothing?” Everyone murmured in agreement beneath the stubbornly impenetrable clouds that hung over our heads the entire day. At that moment D’s face remained frozen and immovable, but silently his spirit seemed to be crushed.

We marched through the meandering fields at the beat of his hurried gait anyway and arrived at the Twelve Apostles at exactly 7:42pm, just minutes before the forecasted sunset. Some of us clutched our thin clothing to stay warm as Melbourne’s four-seasons-in-a-day blew threw, while others were already mentally checked out.

One minute passed, two, three were gone, and so were we.

But then, an almost undetectable orange speck grew and grew until its sparkling light illuminated the dramatic landscape with a warm and welcoming gaze. It was for a mere three minutes but the warm glow juxtaposed against our cold and shivery day was like the yin to our yang, the black to the white, the light to the dark. For just a moment, it made us appreciate all the good there was in the day, in our lives.

And with this came our belated recognition of D’s efforts to manage our expectations, protect our hopes and bring us along for the journey. Despite his grumpy demeanor, there was method to his madness.

As the sun shared its last glimmer before saying good night against the inky sky, we turned to D with captivated awe and said, “You were right.”


Park Hyatt Melbourne
1 Parliament Square
Melbourne, Victoria
Australia, 3002
+61 3 9224 1234



  1. I love showing off part of my backyard to international and interstate guests. Feeling grateful for how close I am to this beauty, thanks Lisa. You captured great light on your Great Ocean Road exploration!

  2. Absolutely beautiful, amazing photos! Really makes me want to get over to that part of the world. Not sure I would want the same tour guide but he did indeed get you where you were supposed to be and managed to get get the sunset to appear.

  3. Beautiful photos! And I love how you tell a story that lures me in and captures my imagination. Thank you for taking me on this journey and making me feel as if I were there with you and D. :-)

  4. Your photos are so beautiful! It makes me want to book a trip to Australia today!!

    nicoleliloia - reply
  5. Photo’s are just wonderful arent they? They capture so much more than the naked eye, they capture a time and a place that can be lodged only now in our memories. Photography is so under-rated and your work always inspires me to use my camera more. Thank you so much

  6. you are such a wonderful story teller. Both with your words and your photographs. I love checking in with your page. How long have you been travelling??

    • Thank you, Kate! I travel a lot for work and try to throw in a few days of fun around the weekends. I do wish I were a professional traveler though!

  7. You really are quite the anecdotal wordsmith – carefully crafted, lovingly recounted. This and the Melbourne post have kicked off in me a yearning to visit the land of our antipodean brethren.

  8. Stunning photos! Sadly I didn’t get the chance to stop by the Twelve Apostles on my last trip to Australia, but hopefully next time! I’ll let you know if I end up meeting grumpy old D. ;)

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