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Published: April 12th 2010
Day 331 - Orange
Today was the start of the normal working week for Jane and she headed off before even the dawn light had brought in the new day. We woke to the sounds of the front door shutting and the cruiser reversing down the drive, darn, now we needed to wee! Not usually a drama but camped on somebody’s driveway we felt it a little impolite to do much more than ‘water the lemon tree’ so imagine our horror when we find the front door well and truly locked. A quick run around the back proved we were definitely shut out with that locked aswell! Shivers! There was nothing else for it but to jump in the car and head for the nearest public conveniences …. but they too were locked. Argggghhhh! We finally found sanctuary in the BP garage in the main street and returned to the caravan wide awake. Disaster averted and soon after we see Tony is up and about so we tap at the door to be let in.
We’re off on our own today as Tony has an appointment he can’t miss this afternoon and Jane is working. Tony has talked a
No suffering for us!
Sofala General Store
lot about the old gold towns north of Bathurst, Sofala and Hill End. They sound interesting so we head out to Bathurst and pop into the visitors centre to get ourselves some touring ideas. Something so simple started drama number 2 for the day! What was supposed to be a quick purchase of a present for a special young person back home ended up revealing an issue with our Australian bank card. The message on the swipe machine said ‘voucher limit exceeded’ so I jumped to the scary assumption that the piggy bank may have finally run dry. The lady tried the card another two times but it wasn’t having it so I ran out to Darryl and we hot footed it to the Commonwealth bank in town. After a very nervous few minutes stood with one of their helpful members of staff I’m reassured there’s nothing wrong with the card and the piggy bank isn’t quite empty after all, it was a problem with the machine not with us. Phew, what a relief. That will teach us to try and buy presents!
By this point we’d armed ourselves with plenty of information for our days excursion so drove
off in the direction of Peel then Wattle Flat. We didn’t stop at either but Wattle Flat is where the Bronze Thong competition is run every year, a bush bash carnival with horse racing and a Thong tossing event. I hoped to find a huge Bronze Thong somewhere but alas there was nothing on the main drag.
When we finally made it to Sofala we’d travelled through some great countryside and already had the feeling that this tiny town was going to be somewhat out on a limb. In its hay day, Sofala’s district stretched for 16km along the banks of the Turon River. The prospectors (those that searched for gold) had over 40 licensed hotels, general stores and associated businesses servicing their every need. Today we find a place living a very different existence but seemingly full of character and characters. We follow the little mudmap walking tour to check out what’s left of the town. The quaint general store and the Panners Inn are both great to mooch around. It’s great to see somebody is taking on the challenge of restoring the two storey Gold Commissioners Residence. It looks like a big job but with some tender
loving care it will be fantastic when finished.
Part way round we find the bus load of school kids that arrived when we were eating our lunch in the park. Their hard working teachers are trying to ensure they get the most of their visit and are firing a number of questions at the kids; “If a property had two chimneys what did it mean?” was the first and a voice offered “That the owners were really rich?” And so it went on for the next few minutes, we got to learn quite a bit whilst we stood and ear wigged!
We had a swift half (schooner!) in the Royal Hotel which was first established in 1862 and is an apparently typical example of an early goldfields hotel. In the back room we come across the chap we bumped in to further up the street outside his caravan home where he’s lived for 25 years. He even has his own painting on the wall in the hotel! Gorgeous chap and very friendly.
It’s time to move on though and we take the unsealed road through to Hill End which we find, like Sofala, is a ghost of
its former grandeur. In 1872 the largest single mass of gold found in Australia was uncovered here and Hill End became an area where fortunes were made overnight. With a mile of shops, 28 hotels, five banks, several opium dens, an oyster bar, two newspapers and a brewery, the town population climbed to more than 8000.
Now the population is about 100, many of whom are descendents of original Hill End gold miners and fossickers. Managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Hill end is now a national historic site with many of the buildings dating back to the 1870s, when the gold rush was at its height.
Trust us to arrive when the interesting, quirky shops are shut and there appears to be some sort of residents meeting going on in the pub. We couldn’t even buy sweet nuggets of gold to eat on the journey home! Ah well, with no panning done today we could hardly expect to find our fortune in a gift shop! The journey back to Orange was good, plenty of scenery along the way and we managed to find an alternative route back to the highway avoiding much duplication.
arrived back at Tony & Jane’s to find a note telling us where the key to the house was as everyone was still out and about, they must have known we’d be desperate for the loo again! On their return it was great to hear that Tony had been complimented by the heart consultant about his fitness and that Jane’s day at work had been a good one.
For dinner we splashed out and treated everyone to fish and chips served by a lovely lassie from Liverpool (but now living in Orange). The homemade batter and chicken salt on the chips made for a nice change too. Delicious!
And there ended our last day in Orange. We leave for pastures new in the morning.
Dar and Sar
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