Monday 12th October
Leaving Melbourne, we travelled directly to Ballarat in our latest hire car, another Ford Focus.
We had pre booked tickets to the evening show “Blood on the Southern Cross”, and next day's visit to Sovereign Hill pioneer village. Also included was entrance to The Gold Museum where we saw replicas of nuggets of gold up to 4.4 kg, some found as recently as 2000ish with metal detectors in the area. Made us want to stay and try our luck.
There was much more to the museum than that though – very interesting. Lots to see.
Heading into town, we stopped at The Eureka Stockade Centre, but after a look round and picking up some leaflets at the Information Centre, we decided not to pay to go in. Again we were not going to have time for everything.
We had lunch (Ned Kelly Pies) at the famous Beechworth Bakery, followed by a drive along the Avenue of Honour, and just generally around Ballarat, till heavy rain came on mid afternoon.
We checked in at the Best Western close to Sovereign Hill and caught up with internet things. Internet cost $6 per night for a good reliable connection and the accommodation was lovely.
Heavy rain in the early evening made us think our luck had run out and we looked out our waterproof coats, but when it was time to leave for the evening show it had gone off, and the stars had come out. Very cold though. Not what we’d expected of Australia when we left home.
The show was excellent in spite of the cold, and we looked forward to seeing the setup in daylight. As it turned out next day, we couldn’t figure out exactly all the places we'd been taken (or thought we'd been taken).. Very clever.
Tuesday 13th October
Arrived at Sovereign Hill at 10am, hoping the rain would stay off. It was vey cold though, only about 8C as we went around.
As the day went on there were various interesting demonstrations, making sweets, candles, cartwheels, etc. Hugh was interested in the working steam engines, and had a chat with one of the boiler stokers. The whole site is set up on the original gold mining settlement and made to be as authentic as possible.
We didn’t try panning for gold, but left that to the dozens of children on school trips. Apparently a set quantity is “fed” into the stream now and again. We were given an interesting tour of the “diggings” by a young man. Just the two of us, which was good.
The whole thing is very well done, and thinking back to the previous nights show made us appreciate the "trickery" of it, because we couldn't figure out how it had been done.
We ate at the on site bakery, before leaving about 2pm, mainly because we were so cold.
I bought a couple of books at the souvenir shop, one of which is keeping me engrossed at the moment. It's called Black Kettle and Full Moon by Geoffrey Blainey, Daily Life in a Vanished Australia.
Looking at all aspects of life for the ordinary Australian in the years between the gold rushes and World War 1.