FARMERS DOWN UNDER 2006 travel blog

More Of The Great Ocean Road

Redcoats At Sovereign Hill

Downtown Sovereign Hill

The Apothecary

Riley Outside the Goldmine

Kristen Pans For Gold

Andrea On Mainstreet Sovereign Hill

Happy Father's Day (Aussie style) to all you dads. We don't know when Mother's Day happens; Labour Day is in March, according to our travel guide, and doesn't seem to occur in all states We haven't seen any indication of a Thanksgiving. And Halloween hasn't really taken off either.

We had some more breathtaking views along the Great Ocean Road, and then headed inland, about 100 km north, into Ballarat.

It's time to talk politics just to give you a taste of Australian life. An amusing tidbit we've heard over the past few days on the radio while we've been on the road is that Prime Minister John Howard publicly criticized immigrant groups, specifically Muslims, who haven't embraced The Australian Way by learning English and treating women as equals. Muslims have been offended by this, and Howard refused to back down, but did open up his criticism to include "any" group of immigrants. The opposition responded by criticizing Howard for slashing funding to programs such as Teaching English as a Second Language and others that could be helpful to immigrants to learn The Australian Way.

Ballarat was first settled by pastoralists in the 1830s, and then gold was discovered nearby in the 1850s, the first gold find in Australia. Thousands of golddiggers flocked to the area soon after. At first, gold was found at ground level, either lying openly in fields or in rivers, and then mines were built that produced gold-bearing quartz until the end of World War I. An old mine still exists at a tourist park called "Sovereign Hill". The Farmers flocked to Sovereign Hill to explore the historic streets of the old pioneer town.

Sovereign Hill demonstrated all sides of life, the residential, the commerce, and the industry circa 1850s. Actors dressed in period attire were located in all areas to show what these facets of life were like. A "preacher" stood in the street lecturing about the virtues of temperance: "Indulging in drink does not come about by sadness, but by a lack of fortitude." An argument broke out in the street between a gentleman from the established upper class and a "new money" couple all decked out in flashy gold jewels. British Redcoats who were the law of the land in this area marched down the street in full uniform, led by their drummer, to a ceremony where they fired their muskets as the Union Jack was raised.

A tent town was set up to show the original settlement, where people lived in tents. The church, the school and the shops were also tents, until more permanent buildings were established. At this tent-town, the kids gave panning for gold a go.

The Battery, which was the engine of the old mine, was turned on and made a terrific noise, like a train roaring nearby. Inside the Battery, there were huge gears and conveyer belts operating simultaneously. The Battery was powered by steam, produced by burning wood in a huge boiler. Back in the day, a radius of 25 km was stripped bare of trees to provide the fuel for the steam power. The area was subsequently reforested and today is lush again.

An old goldmine is located in the Park and we got to walk deep down inside, where it was extremely dark and we would have had trouble making our way through the halls without our camera flashes to help us. It was a relief finally to emerge and get to the streets of the town. There were old homes in which to poke around, and a school where the kids wrote with old fountain pens. Down the main street, there were the usual printing presses, post offices, fabric shops, a builder/undertaker, carriage builders, dressmakers, bakeries, confectionaries. At the apothecary's shop, the female "shopkeeper" explained that any quack could set up shop and claim to be a pharmacist, mixing up any concoction of seeds and leaves.

We concluded our day in the park by watching a video which documented the history of the town. Finding gold took priority over all other activities. Sometimes the digging activities underground destabilized the foundation beneath the buildings. However, rather than prohibit or restrict the mining, whenever a store or church (or any) building's stability was compromised, that building was packed up and moved to another location.

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