Trip Start Jan 14, 2012
Trip End Mar 13, 2012

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
Where I stayed
Windmill Holiday Park

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Friday, February 24, 2012


Our drive from Bendigo to Ballarat was pleasant through wooded, hilly countryside and a few small country towns such as Castlemaine but nothing exceptional caught our eye enough to stop, park and take a closer look. At Guildford we drove past a small vineyard under nets to keep pesky birds from destroying the fruit. Further on we passed an Angus stud, a few pine forests and Mt Franklin where we presume the spring water bottlers are found. The next town we came across was the pretty leafy town of Daylesford - Spa Centre of Australian Mineral Springs. We noticed the elevation increasing as we passed a sign ‘Highway Subject to Frost, Ice, Snow’ and after Blampied, the wide open farmland has lines of trees as wind breaks as we saw in New Zealand. As we approached Ballarat we passed both the McCain Vegetable and Mars bars/M&Ms chocolate factories. The GPS took us through the outer industrial sites, then the residential area of Alfredton before we turned right into the Windmill Caravan Park. We booked in just before noon and it was definitely heating up outside reaching 34 degrees an hour later. After a bit of hassle trying to unhook the caravan and the use of a jack to get the necessary height to attach the jockey wheel, we were settled in and sitting with the air conditioner going full bore. Thankfully there are many trees in the caravan park but the sites have little or no grass or concrete pads and reminds us of a typical outback park.

Ballarat with a population of approximately 78,000 is 112 kms west of Melbourne and is Victoria’s largest provincial inland city. It can also lay claim to being the only Australian city to experience an armed civil uprising, the Eureka Rebellion in 1854. “Ballarat had its beginnings in 1837, when pioneering squatters led by William Yuille camped on the shores of the ‘Black Swamp’, which now has been converted into Lake Wendouree. Its name Balla-Arat has the aboriginal meaning of ‘resting place’. When gold was discovered at the Golden and Poverty Points in August 1851, the peaceful pastoral district was inundated by the rush of gold seekers. Within weeks an armed escort had been established to transport gold to Melbourne. By the following year, some 20,000 diggers worked on the shallow and deep shafts of the Ballarat goldfields. One of the largest pieces of natural gold in the world, given the name Welcome Nugget, was found at a depth of 180 feet at Bakery Hill and weighed in at 2,217 ounces.

On the weekend we came to Ballarat the town was overrun with a different type of treasure seeker, those, especially farmers who were seeking useful bits for their farms and households. Just as well we had booked at the caravan park, as we were soon surrounded by people ready to spend the full day on Saturday and then Sunday morning searching for their own little piece of personal treasure. This swap meet is said to be the biggest in Australia boasting up to 2,000 stalls. It’s true that ones mans rubbish is another mans treasure. They then all head home with their vehicles full of junk with the hope that their pets and livestock have been able to care for themselves while they were away. Our neighbour, a farmer who has been here on 28 consecutive swap meets, said this weekend and the occasional cattle auction were are the only times they could leave the farm for a short break. We had quite a good chat before they wandered off to find fellow farmers in the park and we settled down with our first small tin of peaches from Shepparton.

As we sat there Mike greeted someone slowly driving passed in a Toyota Jeep - we were delighted to see that it was Peta-Jean, Dave, Jess and Jason looking for us. They had lived in the cabins here when they first moved to Ballarat so knew the park and when Dave changed his mobile phone and our number was lost, they decided to just drive around till they found a WA car and caravan. It was a lovely surprise and we pulled out a couple more chairs, made coffee and had a good evening outside even though the mozzies became a bit of a bother. When they left they told us where to find their house and invited us to a braai for the next evening.

Saturday morning we set the GPS to Sovereign Hill and off we went but we found ourselves at the Admin Building and were greeted by some friendly guinea fowl before we noticed a lady putting the bin out who directed us to the Gold Museum and Sovereign Hill Village. We had no problem parking as we had arrived fifteen minutes before the Gold Museum opened. We duly paid the entrance fee and entered to look at the well laid out and interesting exhibits of gold nuggets that had been discovered in this area. Having been through all there was to see, we headed over to the Sovereign Hill Village, “Ballarat’s most renowned tourism experience - gold rush of the 1850s recreated” in the form of a village with local’s dressed appropriately for that era. They were in the shops and businesses and putting on little shows for the visitors demonstrating what life in those days would have been like. We walked around taking numerous photos, watched the humorous show put on by a policeman who had been a convict but had been recruited to try and keep some kind of order in the goldfields. Convicts were used because everyone else were too busy looking for gold and not interested in working for a policeman’s wage in those days. Inevitably corruption set in and false arrests were made to supplement their wages.

We then made a stop at the village bakery and settled down on a bench to enjoy our tasty stockmans pie, freshly cooked in the traditional way early in the morning. After a cool drink refreshment, we walked past the replica mine and down to the river where people were panning hoping to find their own alluvial gold. Here we could get a good idea of what living conditions were like by looking into the tents that the diggers from Britain and China called home. By then the temperature had risen to 35C and we decided after four hours it was time to go home to relax and cool down.

After a relaxing couple of hours and a shower, we drove into the Alfredton residential area to find the Neave’s house using the good mudmap they had drawn the evening before. It was good to greet them again and meet their dogs and cat before relaxing with ice water in their comfortable lounge chairs. As it cooled down a little, Dave and Peta-Jean drove us around the Wendouree Lake and told us about the activities in the park, before parking at the Botanical Garden on the other side of the road. We walked down lovely shady paths between enormous oak trees and colourful flower beds. The path took us passed numerous statues including one for each season of the year and Prime Ministers Path with the bust of each previous Australian serving prime minister and a space marked out for when Julia no longer holds the position. From there we walked through the War Memorial and back to their car. Back at their house we relaxed with more ice water before a delicious braai and evening of conversation before it was time to say our goodbyes to this lovely family whom we had met last year when we went to Phuket with the Liechti family.

The next morning we were woken by the people in their camper trailers packing up and after a good cup of coffee and banana sandwich we headed off to see the City of Ballarat. The caravan park here has the feel of a bush park and across the road from the entrance is a sheep farm and then a short distance further on is the fairly new residential area of Alfredton. We continued on down the wide dual carriage avenue passing many impressive old school buildings on the sides and statues in the middle of the road. The city seems more sprawling then Bendigo where we were able to park and easily see all the buildings in the one compact area.
We first turned off down Eureka Street through a lovely old residential part of town, with some grand and some quaint houses, to the Eureka Stockade Centre which we found to be closed and under reconstruction. We found a park behind all the cars of the local people who were going to the Aquatic Centre and took some photos of the Eureka Flag surrounded by cut out iron metal work. From there we walked up the hill and came to the Eureka Stockade Memorial Park with the Memorial Granite Pillar listing the names of the 21 diggers and six soldiers who lost their lives in the Eureka Uprising and four cannons used by the soldiers to quell the uprising. One of the diggers’ complaints was the exorbitant price the diggers were expected to pay the Victorian Government for a license just to look for gold! We drove back into town to see the original Eureka Flag, housed at the Art Gallery, which the diggers had flown during the rebellion and though damaged it is still a treasured reminder of those times.

We also walked passed the grand building of the Ballarat Railway Station and more statues, one of Robbie Burns with his dog and another of Queen Victoria. The grand old buildings are testimony to the wealth that gold brought to this town, and are kept in good condition for present day people to enjoy, in comparison to the modern glass and steel constructions we see today. There was quite a strong wind keeping it cooler but by midday we had done with site seeing and just stopped at the Arch across Remembrance Drive for a last photo before saying goodbye to this city and heading home for the afternoon. We sat drooping in the heat until quite unexpectedly it thundered and rain started dropping bringing us instant relief with that wonderful smell that only rain falling on parched ground can give.  

We had settled down for the evening after dinner watching a DVD about Victoria when the storm broke and after a few peels of thunder and lightening close by, our power went off for a few hours.  We opened all the curtains and enjoyed the spectacular entertainment as the lightning lit up the sky frequently for an hour or more. 


Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: