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26 Ballarat Goldfield and Murray River

all seasons in one day 11 °C

NB PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU CHECK THE ADDITIONAL MATERIAL AT # 25

14th October
Melbourne to Ballarat

After a brief celebration of someone’s birthday (not mine), we made an early start towards Ballarat, our next stopover. The highway was very busy with many large B-Double trucks as well as many trades vehicles. The not unexpected poor roads (except a part of the M1) slowed us down somewhat. How can it be described as a highway when it is so unsafe? Victorians, please write to your State MP to get the situation improved!

About morning tea time we decided to exit the ‘motorway’ at Bacchus Marsh, in part to have a break but also the see somewhere different, we hoped. What we found was a range of fresh vegetable and fruit shops (that would leave the so-called ‘fresh fruit people in shame) that was very reasonably priced, very well presented and really FRESH. They certainly tasted like real vegies and fruit later on when we ate them. Anyway, we were surprised at the number of cafe/coffee shops, and it being that time of day we entered the Ferguson Plarre bakery and coffee shop. Wow, really delicious French Vanilla Slices at a great price, beautiful coffee and very friendly service. If you are in the area at some time, go and try them out, we’ll be back if we return to Victoria at some time.

Well, we found the CP and got set up in the cold afternoon and had lunch.
We then drove some 50km west in the Victorian Goldfields region to a small village named Beaufort in search of details of Mary’s distant family connection who had apparently moved there about 1854 after finishing his ‘government service’ in Tasmania a few year’s prior. He was listed as being a ‘publican’ (probably meaning a pub licensee as well as the Biblical description) and the holder of a miner’s licence. The very nice librarian at the local library was most helpful with maps and information about the exact location we wanted to find (Beaufort, previously known as Yam Holes because the indigenous folk enjoyed eating the yams from that place), however, everything was now overgrown and it was a bit difficult to really trace anything useful. Mary managed to acquire a few lumps of quartz as a memento of the visit. Reading some of the very limited literature at the library we noted that violence was rife on the goldfields and it was quite common for someone to disappear into a disused mineshaft if they had upset the claim holder. Perhaps this best explains why so far we have not been able to find any legal reference to his death anywhere. Never-the-less it was an interesting day, especially reading some of the fascinating notes that the library hold.

We drove back to Ballarat and walked around the Eureka Stockade monument (right next door to our camp site) and took some photos of this historic place. (For those not familiar with Australian history this site commemorates some 28 miners and 5 soldiers who died in a battle (or insurrection if we accept the British version of events) because the miners wanted justice in their gold claim licences and the right to vote as free men – somewhat similar to the Boston Tea Party in the US). See various internet sites for the tragic details.
We popped over to nearby Sovereign Hill Historical Goldfield to book for the following day site visit.

15th October
Ballarat (Sovereign Hill Historical Village)

After a very stormy night (yes, again!) and continuing heavy rain we decided to go to Sovereign Hill to get a refund of our prepaid tickets, however, the lady informed us that the rain and possible forecast thunder only enhanced the experience and they never gave refunds!
We managed to see many of the reproduced gold mining experiences in the rain, and yes, it did seem to add to the impact of what an 1850’s goldfield existence may be like –even if we got wet today!

The underground goldmine tour was excellent as was the gold refining and pouring exhibition. One young lass was allowed to hold the cooled gold ingot in her hand (just!) that was valued at $135,000.
The whole place is set on a hillside so the pouring rain, the Cobb and Co horses leaving their mark on the track(!) and the generally dismal outlook actually gave us a good insight into the hardships of life then. To then visit the adjacent Gold Museum was to visit another world, one in which the drama and history of gold down through the ages to the present was very well done indeed, and of course, one could always part with a good many dollars to buy the latest knick-knacks on sale.

Late afternoon we returned to the van to find that a small branch had come down in the strong winds during the day, fallen onto the leading edge of the awning and caused some damage. Not serious but annoying and something that will have to await our return to Brisbane in the near future before repairs can be made.

We had booked for the evening dinner and the ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ show, so off we went to ‘enjoy’ a brilliant re-enactment of the Eureka Stockade uprising after a delicious dinner in a replica ‘olde’ hotel. The show included an excellent scene-setting to the events that were then portrayed out in the cold (but presently not raining) amphitheatres around the site. The final drama was played out on a nearby location and really topped off a brilliant portrayal of a seminal series of events in Australia’s formation. The tonnes of gold that were mined here was phenomenal and at today’s prices the money could have bought and sold whole countries.

A real value for money complete package that completely overshadows the Horseback show on the Gold Coast in terms of reality, price and drama. We would do it again, but in warmer weather next time.

16th October
Ballarat to Echuca

Another very cold morning but with no rain! Snow forecast in the area and sure enough, after passing through pleasant farmland we came upon snow drifts near Daylesford, a few Klm north of Ballarat. Farms with canola, sheep (some already shorn in spite of the rotten weather), cattle and forests made for an interesting trip. Our arrival at Echuca CP, right on the levee protecting the town from Murray River floods. Very quite and very handy to walk the levee path into the historic river port to view the sights. We drove through the town and crossed the border bridge to Moama, NSW, to check out the markets (so important when you are on holiday not to miss one opportunity!) and then returned to Echuca for a further look around this fascinating little town. We tried to get the TV to work, but nothing useful at all.
What does the ABC do in supposedly providing a service to smaller communities right around Australia!?

Posted by psstevo 03:44 Archived in Australia

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