I had wanted to visit a close friend the next day. He is always busy with children and grandchildren and left with his wife on a tour of Turkey, Greece and Croatia the following week. He suggested I stay with them the first night. He met me at the station which is the end of the line that goes through the airport (or rather under it). However I was very tired by the time we retired for bed, it being 2 hours later back in Dunedin.
On Thursday I went back under the airport and through the city to my sister's home in time for lunch.
On Friday I was back at the main city train terminal for the 8am train to Melbourne. An elderly lady sat next to me from Moss Vale to Cootamundra (about 10am to 1pm) then a young man took the seat. After a little while he must have noticed that the lady across the aisle was reading a history of New Zealand (she was doing a PhD on timber cutting). He asked her about it and said, while he lived in Melbourne, he was a Kiwi and, when I asked, he said he had lived until the beginning of this year in Dunedin and just graduated from the University of Otago. Life has such strange coincidences.
I spent the weekend in Melbourne. I have been there quite often so walked around the gardens, travelled on the trams and trains including out to the bayside suburbs and attended Choral Eucharist at the cathedral.
On Monday I went by train to Ballarat (population 96,000) and on Wednesday by bus to Bendigo (92,000) then back to Melbourne by train on Thursday before catching the overnight train to Sydney.
|Cobb & Co Coach at Sovereign Hill|
|Miner's Camp, Sovereign Hill|
|Sovereign Hill Mine|
|Chinese Store, Sovereign Hill|
I visited Ballarat and Bendigo in 1987. They are the 3rd and 4th cities in size in Victoria and were important gold rush cities in the 1850's.
I knew Ballarat had some important museums so decided to stay 2 nights there and 1 in Bendigo. However I much preferred Bendigo as a city.
My motel in Ballarat was near Sovereign Hill, an open air museum with over 60 buildings recreated as they would have been in the mining era of the 1850s. Gold was discovered nearby in 1851 and the 2nd largest nugget in the world (the Welcome Nugget weighing 69 kg,(2,200 ounces) and containing 99% pure gold was found in 1858.
I wandered around the Chinese village, went down a mine, saw gold being poured, no samples given out, rock being crushed by stampers and went through miners' houses and typical shops. I did not try gold panning and all I bought was some boiled lollies which I gave to my sister but she did let me have about 3 or 4. It was much the same as I remember back in 1987 but some exhibits have now made use of modern technology.
On Tuesday morning I went to the Gold Museum opposite which did not exist on my first visit. In a modern building it had lots of information about Ballarat and gold mining and the uses of gold throughout history.
I decided to walk into town with a detour to the Eureka Stockade. Again I had visited in 1987 but I did not do my homework. It was closed for major renovations so all I achieved was a blister on my toe.
Back in town, after some much needed coffee, I caught a bus to Lake Wendouree. I found, as a senior citizen, I could get an all day bus pass for about $1.50 so even less need for that blister. The lakeside was very pleasant and the botanical gardens were picturesque although it was a little early, spring had not really sprung as yet. Flowering trees became more obvious the next day as I travelled to Bendigo which is 200 metres lower. I was pleased to discover the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War memorial which has all their names engraved.
|Ducks on Lake Wendouree|
|Botanical Gardens, Ballarat|
|Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial|
In Bendigo I had a tour of a mine which only closed in 1954. The 75 minute tour took us 61 metres below the surface. There is a longer tour which goes down over 200 metres and you experience actual mining. As the guide said, you pay to experience hard work. I think I am past that now.
The ticket also gave me an hour ride on the so-called "talking tram" through the city but it was getting late and I decided to leave it until the next day, also visit the Chinese migration museum and garden as well as follow a walking guide brochure to see the many old buildings in the city. It meant I would get to Melbourne only a few hours before my overnight train left but as the weather forecast was good, I thought that would be better as I had only planned museum visits in Melbourne which, hopefully, I will visit again anyway.
|Bendigo Talking Tram|
|Chinese Gardens Bendigo|
|Town Hall Bendigo|
|Impressive Catholic Cathedral, Bendigo|
|Not so impressive Anglican Cathedral, Bendigo|
The train left Melbourne on time but came to a halt in less than an hour and we were informed there had been a fatality ahead, not our train. We sat in one spot for over 3 hours but thankfully I had a sleeper so went to bed. I woke when the train started moving but did not look at my watch but we arrived in Sydney at 10.30am instead of 7am as timetabled. However breakfast was served about 7am instead of the planned 5.30am.
So again I had a shortened time with my sister before heading off for the reunion that had been the main reason for my Aussie visit. I will leave that for a later post.