The Sovereign Hill Minor

The gold rush continued today with a trip down to Sovereign Hill at Ballarat. After an argument with the GPS we eventually found ourselves heading down the A300 to that city. It really is a pretty route through the countryside and historic towns. Many views were like out of a classic Australian painting.

I feel a kinship with this country. When I was a young kid we would stay out at farms around Victoria, so I knew the smell and the sound of the wind trhough the windbreak pines, the feel of the hard soil and the stubble, the scent of hay and dung. I wonder how different my outlook would be if I was here and not living in Sydney.

Sovereign Hill is one of Victoria’s most popular attractions. It recreates the old gold mining town, from the main street of shops and workshops, schools and cottages, to the mines and diggers’ camps.

Alex isn’t to keen on history, but he loves machinery and factory processes. Sovereign Hill has many operating workshops and Alex enjoyed seeing a blacksmith in action, the belts and pulleys of a brass smith and the press of the tinsmith. Not to mention the steam driven big rock crusher. We explored the Chinese encampment, panned for gold (without skill or luck), watched boiled sweets being rolled out and went down a simulated mine.

The gold pouring was surprisingly educational, with a very succinct and clear explanation of the chemical processes used to separate and purify gold.

Also educational was sitting in an old classroom trying to use a pen and ink. Sorry, as a leftie I failed!

But what Alex loved best was the pirate pantomine in the old theatre. He laughed and participated and even ran down to get his photo taken with the actors!

As it was getting late we didn’t hang further around Ballarat and headed back towards Bendigo.

We took the bypass at Hepburn Springs to try the different spring waters. I quite liked the naturally carbonated first spring at Locarno Springs, then less until I hit one with a high and disgusting sulphur content. That spoilt it, but Alex found a playground, which cheered him up.

Rather than hunt around Bendigo for food we stopped at the Railway Hotel at Castlemaine. There we had a somewhat pricey but very nice meal (though I can’t recommend their “Indonesian” curry) with dessert.

Then utterly exhausted we arrived back at the hotel, where we first had to play Connect 4 with Alex in the relaxing lobby area before being allowed to collapse into our room.

I enjoyed the drive through the countryside and the atmosphere at Sovereign Hill. It’s good to understand the very tough conditions that many of our forebears, both Western and Chinese, had to endure and how they got by. It makes you thankful for what we have today.