The pouring rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of communities in Victoria, who donned their drizabones, raincoats and umbrellas to watch the relay pass by on day 43.

The rain fell as the torch set off from Portland, once one of the best whaling areas in the world. During the 1800s hundreds of whales were caught there annually. Today the city’s heart still beats to the drum of its deep-water shipping port.

Further along the track, in Yambuk, people were kept entertained by spritely 96-year-old Tony Blair skipping down the road. ‘Puts us all to shame!’ one bystander remarked.

Even the local cows were curious as the procession passed by their paddocks on its way to Port Fairy for the lunchtime celebration.

The youngsters of the Moyne Shire were a large part of the celebration, which reflected the town’s strong Irish tradition. The connection dates back to 1843 when two Irish land developers subdivided the township and named it Belfast.

Fellow Irishmen later migrated to the area to escape the potato famine devastating their homeland and took up, not surprisingly, potato farming.

The town has, however, always been dominated by its natural harbour. Whaling and sealing once flourished in the area that attracted the tag ‘the shipwreck coast’ in the 1800s for the 30 or so ships that met their untimely ends there.

One of the most popular moments of the lunchtime celebration was 90-year-old community icon John Woodrup lighting the community cauldron.

Prominent Torchbearers on the day included Olympic cyclist Michelle Ferris and racing car drivers Larry Perkins and Greg Murphy.

The flame’s overnight resting place is Warrnambool, the largest coastal city along the Great Ocean Road. The former whaling town still has a thriving industry based around the large mammals, but these days it’s all about preservation.

The protected whale nursery at Logan’s Beach is one of the best spots on the coast for viewing the visiting southern right whales, one of the largest and rarest mammals on earth.

Source: SOCOG