Great Ocean Road and Grampians

I’d like to share my itinerary for this famous road trip to make your life easier!

Tip: It tends to be gloomy in the morning with really blue skies 12pm onwards, so keep this in mind for your photos.

Day 1:

Pick up car from Melbourne Airport, drive to the Great Ocean Road putting in Torquay as you first stop. The Great Ocean Road is a permanent memorial to those who lost their lives whilst fighting WW1. From here, head to Bell’s beach known for its surfing -> Anglesea -> Memorial Arch -> Lorne -> Eskirne Falls > Teddy’s Lookout -> Apollo Bay for lunch and grab takeaway dinner here -> Otway National Park for Cape Otway light station (this is a paid activity and closes at 5pm with last entry being 430pm. If you miss this, you can still do a free walk on the side to see the lighthouse from a distance). Check in to 12 Apostles Inn and drive to Gibson Steps and the 12 Apostles for sunset.

This sounds like a lot in one day but keep in mind it’s all about the drive and view points so nothing took up too much time other than the lighthouse walk. Of course we took the first flight that got us into Melbourne ASAP.

Day 2:

Continue along the Great Ocean Road and ensure plenty of time to stop at the lookouts along the way. There are short walks at Loch and Gorge -> Bay of Islands -> Logans Beach viewing platform for whale watching (May-Oct is best) -> Warrnambool for lunch and cheesy factory-> Tower Hill State Game Reserve for multiple walk options -> Port Fairy for Griffith Island lighthouse (nice gentle walk) -> Stay the night in Warrnambool Redwood Manor Motel Apartments.

 

Day 3:

Drive to the Grampians! First stop Dunkeld where you will find The Old Bakery known for its croissants (opens 9am) -> Boroka Lookout especially stunning at sunset if you wanted to do the drive here the night before instead (90m from carpark, best view) -> Reeds lookout (100m from carpark) -> The Balconies (Easy 2km return walk) starting from the Reeds lookout carpark -> Mackenzie Falls 2km return to the base of the falls (there are also other short walks to other falls from here) -> Beehive falls which is almost the highest point of the Grampians National Park (there wasn’t any water when we went, seasonal, 2.8km return therefore not worth doing) -> Pinnacle Lookout (2.1km climbing rocks too, best hike, starting from Sundial Carpark). Stay at Halls Gap, The Grampians Motel and eat at The Views Bar and Restaurant. Food around this area is pricy because there isn’t much choice. Halls Gap is the base for the Grampians. Sunset is best from The Balconies and Reeds Lookout if you want to catch this.

We initially thought we needed to split all these across two days but it is absolutely doable to see and hike everything in the one day as long as you stay the night because you will need the rest!

 

Day 4

Grampians to Ballarat exploring the town known for Gold. From the information centre in the city centre, pick up a free walking tour guide so you can read up on the historic buildings you will see everywhere you walk. Definitely visit Sovereign Hill and the gold museum. Drive back to the airport to return the car and fly home.

Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is a small island nation 180km east of China with modern cities, traditional Chinese temples, hot springs resorts and dramatic mountainous terrain. Taipei is it’s capital up North. I was in Taipei for over 2 months to learn mandarin, ended up falling in love with the place so visited a year later making it extremely difficult for me to narrow down my top recommendations! But here goes nothing:

In Taipei:

  1. Climb Xiang Shan for a view of Taipei, in particular of the 101 tower. Of course, why not do this and watch sunset! Tip: Don’t pay to go up the tower, book your place in Starbucks for a free view since you just pay for your drink.
  2. Visit Yang Ming Shan both in the day and at night and have a meal up top, but be sure to book in advance as it always gets busy. Ride a scooter if you dare to, everyone has a bike in Taiwan!
  3. Visit Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, National Palace Museum and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall. These are significant places and beautiful grounds. You can even see dancers practicing around the buildings if you’re lucky. I love how their government is extremely open about arts, culture and hip-hop.
  4. Taiwan is extremely famous for its night markets, my favourites in Taipei being Shilin night market and Roehe night market. Enjoy all the hawker foods, different types of noodles and make sure you try their mango ice dessert.
  5. Continuing on about food, try their most famous bubble tea in Gong Guan night market with the delicious Gua Bao (pork bao) stall opposite and also try the 2h buffet style Ma La hotpot!

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  6. The Chinese course I did was through the mandarin learning centre at National Taipei Normal University. However, my mandarin improved by joining HRC dance school where I got to interact with the locals on a day-to-day basis. If you’re into dancing, I highly recommend their studio which has two locations in Taipei. And of course, catch all the dance related camps/festivals/competitions that go on!
  7. Visit the upside down house in Hua Shan creative park which also has other exhibitions you can visit e.g. where is wally.
  8. Visit Yi Lan beach where I first tried surfing!13557666_10155269511323849_597601209174748538_n
  9. Visit Ying Ge famous for its pottery
  10. If you are into hiking, you’re visiting the right place. There are so many trails with amazing views and waterfalls in a lot of the places. 13615417_10155278469828849_3243686137910364284_n
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    绢丝瀑布, 冷水坑 & 擎天岗

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    Shifen Waterfall

Please see my other post about things to do outside of Taipei which are all accessible from Taipei, especially with their high speed rail system.

Lima, Machu Picchu and Cusco, Peru

Conquering Machu Picchu was such a lifetime experience and am so glad I took a bold step to do this trail having only ever hiked in Hong Kong.  It made seeing Machu Picchu on the last day so much better because you earned it after hiking for 4 days 3 nights. I joined Intrepid Adventures (link) in order to guarantee being able to do the hike as they are extremely strict with handing out passes and you must always be accompanied with qualified guides. I also extended my stay beyond the 8 day plan to explore Cusco further as there is a lot you can do!

Tip: People found it helpful to take coca leaves or coca tea to help the altitude sickness. Don’t bother with water tablets or altitude pills! Don’t forget to get a bunch of injections to be safe even though I felt Peru was extremely clean and bug free compared to Asia.

Check out what I visited:

  1. Lima is the capital of Peru and a key place to visit is the The Plaza de Armas and the 16th-century cathedral at the heart of old Lima Centro. I only managed to see the buildings at night but they were so grand and beautiful regardless. Lima can get a bit intense and busy so always stay alert.

  2. Cusco. In my opinion, it is the most incredible and beautiful city in the world. Their flag happens to be the rainbow btw. Photos can’t capture what I saw and experienced!13138834_10155087580978849_2992228658144963619_n13055368_10155070515388849_6107906054222961856_n
  3. Inca Trail. The hike could not have been possible without our amazing porters who carried so much to make our lives as comfortable as possible on the tough but doable hike. The views were absolutely breath-taking and changed each day depending on where we were on the path. It definitely got pretty cold when we reached the peak. The hike is 26 kilometres long in total and its highest pass is at 4,450 meters above sea level.
  4. Machu Picchu. The end result of our hike and a memory the group of us will keep forever.
  5. Saqsayhuaman Horse riding from Cusco. This is actually the town of our assistant tour guide Sebastian. They are famous for horse riding and I can see why! The amount space to ride is huge and the horses are so free with plenty of greens.
  6. Salinas salt flats and Maras Moray from Cusco. The photos look nice but the tour to get there through a local company we booked through when we were at Cusco was awful. Try grab a cab instead if you can to avoid them trying to fill up a huge bus and go in circles.
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    Supposedly natural! Maras Moray

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    Salinas salt flats
  7. Zip-lining was sick! Definitely a bit dodgy but YOLO. They let you hold your mobile phone to film whilst on the zip-line which I definitely did haha. The views were to die for.

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    Ready to zip-line!

Extra: Fried Quinoa Chicken strips @ Seledonia’s Mesa Cusco. Literally could have eaten here everyday including trying all their other dishes. And of course… why not take a selfie with the lammas and alpacas you’ll see roaming everywhere, they are really cute.

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Alpaca Selfie