For the very first time, I am headed away from the ocean towards the drier interior of Victoria. I am excited to explore the gold mining area of Victoria that flourished at the same time as that of the California gold rush, one of my favorite periods of US history. Eva and I left early in the morning and headed to Ballarat, a predominant gold mining city, famous for the Eureka Rebellion, the birthplace of democracy in Australia. When we arrive, we climb the steps and walk through the gates into another century.
The streets are lined with small shops and businesses you would expect to find in the 1850's, several of which contain artifacts from the period, artisans demonstrating their crafts and character actors that play people of the time.
There was the blacksmith working in a completely equipped shop turning out wrought iron pieces.
An apothecary shop filled with herbs, tinctures, medicines and minerals to tend to one's health.
This gentleman was a delight to speak to. Obviously Victorian as he proceeded to tell Eva and I that we were not proper ladies due to our outspokenness. But an interesting conversation ensued regarding women's rights and we parted with laughter, agreeing to disagree.
Several animals were to be found in pens along the main street. I would imagine that cattle would have replaced the sheep in California, if meat was to be found at all.
Lucky turkey here. If he were in the U.S., he might have been counting the hours until Thanksgiving! Isn't he gorgeous?
We watched the creation of tapered candles here. Each vat filled with hot wax where the candles are dipped every few minutes until they are large enough and then coated with colored waxes.
An old bowling alley were the pins have to be set up by hand. We rolled a few bowling balls down the lane, although I am no better at these than at the modern bowling lanes.
A cozy old church. Although not as ornate as the lovely cathedrals I explored in other towns, the interior had a simple and appealing charm.
Nature has created her own art here in the weathering of the paint, wood and metal.
A wood working shop with amazing hand tools, both big and small.
Old-fashioned billboards advertising a wide range of services.
A dressmaking and milliners shop filled with period dresses and accessories.
The letterpress shop filled with printing materials and a demonstration of book repair using old paste glue and a book press I would love to own.
Teams of draft horses pulled sight-seeing wagons through town; hard work with the steep hills they must climb.
A reenactment of of the days of the Eureka Rebellion with the Queen's army dressed up in red and marching through town to make proclamations.
Finally, we walked back down the hill to the company store. The day was cold and brisk and I had to buy a hat to manage my freezing cold ears and be able to take advantage of the opportunity to pan a bit of gold.
And on my first panning, I FOUND GOLD!!! It was such a rush that I didn't stop panning until about two hours later, when we had to return to the motel to get ready to attend the nighttime show. What a rush, even if all I found was a few flakes with little worth. That's more than I've found before and I could see how folks get bit by the gold bug!
That evening we attended "Blood on the Cross", an amazing live production reenacting the Eureka Rebellion. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed. But we began in a theater with a video presentation of conversations between involved parties in the rebellion. The miners were required to pay unfair licensing fees and denied the right to vote. They eventually barricaded themselves and the local police and Redcoats were called in to disperse them. At this point we were taken outside where fog swirled and a series of speakers made us feel as if the events were taking place all around us.
We were then bused up the hill to another theater open to the air and watched as a reenactment of the rebellion took place in front of us. Action swirled all around with fire, gunshots, sound effects and narrative. When it was all over, the miner's lost the battle, but won the public sentiment and eventually won their hard won rights to vote and mine fairly.
In the end we traveled by tram down the hill where we listened to a speech by Peter Lalor, who organized the miners and went on to serve in the Parliament. A very stirring show.
At last, we head back to our motel to sleep before we continue our journey on to Bendigo.