Day 183: After The Gold Rush

Tues. 12th February 2013

Nearest we came to GoldOur destination today is Ballarat where in 1851 a discovery of gold led to the world’s biggest alluvial gold rush. We have two options, firstly catch the 9:07 train from Melbourne which connects with a free bus to Sovereign Hill (entrance $45 each) where there is a reconstructed gold rush town and you can pan for gold and four hours later catch the bus and train back. Or alternatively get any train and see what is there. I think you can guess which we opted for!

Ballarat Railway StationOn arriving in Ballarat we head down the main street, which is as we expected, wide  spacious streets full of grand colonial buildings. It pretty much fits the mental picture we have of what and old Australian town should look like. Our first stop is the Information centre and ask for suggestions of what to do, which creates new possibilities. We opt to walk to Lake Wendouree to see the War Memorials and Botanic Gardens, apparently it is 6k around the lakes and the record time to circumnavigate the lake is 11mins. We decide that is a bit too quick for us.

Olympic rings and rowing lanesOnce we study the map we see the first point of interest on the map is Olympic Rings, very appropriate as we started our trip with the London Olympics. The rings are placed at the end of the rowing lanes used for the 1956 Olympics. I hope in 60 years time London will have such memories of the 2012 Olympics as we have seen in Melbourne.

So many names - covers a long distanceClose by is the Australian Ex-POW Memorial which we would pass on our way to the Arch of Victory on Remembrance Drive, so we thought we should stop. Well I am glad we did as it blew me away seeing the enormously long wall of names. There were thirty seven Fishers and no Hornseys on the list, but I do not know if I am related to any of them. After this, the Arch of Victory was a disappointment. As it was nearly lunchtime, we rushed back to the nearby bus stop and joined a group of school children who were waiting to catch the imminent bus back into the centre of town, some 5km away.

Carved Metal Eureka MemorialOver lunch we decided that as we had not seen anything relating to the gold rush we should rectify that and walk one of the Eureka Trails. Our brief reading of the history told us that these relate to the battle between the diggers and the Government forces over taxes imposed on the gold miners. This led to a strike by the diggers who were then massacred by the soldiers.  The outcry resulting from the massacre led to a more representative government in Victoria.

We followed the TrooWords of the Diggerspers trail, being the route they took from their viewpoint at the top of the hill to the stockade where the diggers were entrenched. The walk required quite a lot of imagination as the area is now built up and the landscape changed due to later mining activity. However at the sight of the battle there is an impressive memorial and a new museum being built. From here there is a further 3.5km trail following the diggers’ highlights but time is marching on so we opt for the bus back into town for afternoon tea and a cake, which we are sure we deserve.

Eureka diggers MemorialThe last stop in Ballarat we want to see is the old cemetery where there are memorials to the diggers and soldiers killed, and it is about a 1km walk in yet another direction out of town.

Eureka Soldiers MemorialThe words on the memorials are quite telling of the feelings regarding both parties. Stating “The soldiers devotion to duty whilst being attacked by aggrieved diggers against what they regarded as a tyrannous administration”. Apparently the feelings are still strong in town to this day. The appropriate flags can be seen flying at each memorial even today.

The hourly trains to Melbourne are replaced by a coach at 5pm so we revive ourselves with a beer whilst waiting for the 6pm train. Appropriately Dave says the beer must be gold plated given the price we paid in a local café, as we could not find a bar near the station. We return to Melbourne tired but happy and glad we have seen some of the local countryside and now know another piece of Australia’s history. We return to yet another amazing sunset over Docklands and I manage to take a photograph of the ‘Cow In A Tree’ statue  from a different angle just as the sun set.

Cow in a tree at night

[Editor’s note: I think this might be the best photo we have taken on our trip so far. Give the girl a new camera and see what she does with it!]

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