Macedon, Melbourne, Ballarat

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December 18th 2011
Published: December 18th 2011
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Blog 23 - Macedon, Melbourne, Ballarat

We had an enjoyable picnic and walk to the waterfall at Stanley Park in Macedon with Mel, Gareth and Maya. We then all travelled to Airport West in Melbourne to stay the night together. Being without a car only meant that we had to travel differently. Taxis, trains and buses really are quite useful, but maybe not quite as convenient as having your own set of wheels. When travelling back to Macedon the next day we caught the wrong train (thanks to the Station attendant) and so we had to sit in heat at Gisborne for an hour with no pubs, coffee shops or bookshops open. That’s all part of the adventure and we were soon on our way for the remaining 5 minutes of our trip back to Macedon.

The weather had been quite warm for our visit to Melbourne, but on our return to the country, the weather was horribly cold and wet, and so going out for Peter’s birthday Celebration without a car looked a bit doubtful. Throughout the day we waited for breaks in the weather to take a brisk walk up town to visit a lovely café for afternoon tea. We also made a booking at a brand new restaurant for their opening night that night, hoping that the weather would be kind. We had a lovely night and enjoyed the first night of Parmigianino and Schnitzel. You may remember that Macedon was affected by the Ash Wednesday Bushfires in February, 1983 however there is little evidence of that today, except for the local memorial and the fire safety notices around town.

Hesitantly, we departed Macedon with the car attached and drove through pretty countryside catching glimpses of Melbourne city in the distance. Finding our way around Ballarat city at first was a challenge but we did manage to deposit the car at the auto-transmission mechanic for the repairs/replacement of the broken bits. Peter was right in the last Blog when he said that the transmission was “stuffed”. We got the car back 2 weeks later with a second hand (less kilometres) transmission, so there was plenty of time to take buses, ride our bikes and go explore the area on foot. The weather was very cold and windy for quite a bit of that time so spent quite a few days cocooned in the van with the heater and ugg boots on.

Our first exploration around Ballarat was the site of the Eureka Stockade (next door to the van park we are staying in). As it turned out we visited the park on the day before the 157th anniversary of the historic battle between protesting gold miners and government troops. There are several monuments and a small lake in parkland. The Eureka Stockade Centre is currently being refurbished, enlarged and upgraded, so that is something we’ll have to see next time we’re here. The following day (the actual anniversary) we visited the Art Gallery to see the original Eureka Flag which had returned from Adelaide after restoration work and went on display THAT day! Wow! We thought perhaps we might need to queue to see this special exhibition, but we were the only ones there, and so we were provided with a personal escort to the display in the gallery. That was interesting but as you can see the flag isn’t even all there…check your history books to find out why.

Upon arriving at Ballarat, and after having spent $110.00 in Bendigo to get the TV antenna repaired, Peter was unable to tune in
The original (restored) Eureka FlagThe original (restored) Eureka FlagThe original (restored) Eureka Flag

It's kept in special conditions in Ballarat Art Gallery
the TV for 2 days. That was a real tragedy and so he just kept trying to get it tuned and worried about what it might cost to get fixed yet again. Well, he was a little embarrassed when he realised that he was trying to tune it into Austria and not Australia.

On the next Monday we decided to catch a bus to Sovereign Hill. That was interesting as we missed one and had to wait an hour for the next. As it turned out we also waited at the bus stop with another couple doing exactly as we were, and they also went to see the flag the day we did. Nice people too, and we shared the bus home at the end of the day.

Sovereign Hill is an extremely well done theme park (as Peter describes it). It is actually like a working museum and even school kids go there to dress up and attend the old schools and learn – in situ all about the life and times of the 1850’s Gold Rush days in Ballarat.

While at Sovereign Hill Wendy weighed herself and discovered that she was worth $1,920,666.69 in gold, and she now has a certificate to prove it. Peter suddenly got very excited. Dream on Peter! Also, on the subject of Gold we tried some panning for gold in the river and Wendy did find a few specks. Meanwhile Peter just sat on a rock at the side of the stream and watched a couple of staff using the cradle and pan and they gave him quite a bit more of their find than Wendy had to work so hard for. That was a great day out.

The day came when Wendy had to renew her drivers licence so we found that the Vicroads office was at Wendouree. That took about 1½ hours by bus (because we missed one by 1 minute! and we also walked about 20 km that day, (slight exageration!) from the bus stop to town (30 minutes), then from the next bus stop to Vicroads office, back to and around the Shopping Centre and then the journey home. We did learn how the other half get around without a car, especially the elderly and disabled (that’s not us yet!), and it was fun.

After several bike rides to the City Centre to find various shops and eateries, we made a couple of trips to Wendy’s favourite Beechworth Bakery. Well, one day who should walk in but the founder and owner of the business – Tom O’Toole? We had heard Tom’s rough Aussie personality from his video and CD previously, but when we met him, we found him to be a lovely quietly spoken man, who was very interested in our travels and what lay ahead of us. Tom does not hold a management position with the Company these days; he says he is no manager but only a baker, however with all his business success as just a baker (6 amazing stores and now licensing the business in South Australia) he just spends most of his time on the speaking circuit. And - no we didn’t get a job with him.

Just before the car came back, we decided to take a bike ride through town to check on the mechanical progress and out to Victoria Park, the Botanic Gardens and Lake Wendouree. As usual the day was sunny but the wind was freezing so we started off looking all over town until we finally bought some weather proof jackets. Comfortable again, we set off and the day did improve and was beautiful until we decided to do the final leg riding around the lake in very cloudy and windy freezing conditions. We really slept well that night.

Peter made the final repairs to the panelling on the truck (from the tyre blowout in July) after many phone calls back and forth to Winnebago to decide the best way to attach all the pieces.

Well the car came back and runs well. On the day we picked it up we went and did all the things we couldn’t do on bikes, like filling a gas cylinder, grocery shopping (although we did that a couple of times with back packs and on bikes), and travelled a little further afield to look at some of the outlying attractions of Ballarat such as the Memorial Avenue Arch, and back to the Botanical Gardens, etc. Yesterday we went for a drive to Daylesford and Hepburn Springs and did all the touristy things like checking out the spring water, the sights, the shops, caravan parks and of course picnic lunch by the lake, shopping at the farmers’ market, not to mention the most amazing book shop. We would have loved a trial of the Hepburn Springs Bathhouse but they wanted $35.00 each (2 hours) and there was some rock band music concert right next door which wasn’t conducive to a relaxing hot spa bath.

Well that almost brings us to the end of our stay in Ballarat. We leave tomorrow afternoon and head West for Christmas. It is a little strange to not be spending time with family and friends this Christmas, but you are all very much in our thoughts and hearts. Therefore we wish you all a very merry Christmas full of love, peace and joy. Now that you are up to date on our travels, stay tuned for our first blog of 2012.

We love you all very much, and thanks for following our story in 2011.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


A visit to the Botanic Gardens A visit to the Botanic Gardens
A visit to the Botanic Gardens

A chance for some experimentation with the new camera
Sampling some of the spring waterSampling some of the spring water
Sampling some of the spring water

Of the 110 known mineral springs in Victoria, 72 are located in and around Daylesford and Hepburn Springs.
Our friend is a show-off!Our friend is a show-off!
Our friend is a show-off!

This peacock was very obliging.

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