Inside The Dragon House

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February 9th 2012
Published: February 11th 2012
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Tuesday 7h February started dry and bright although there was a fair bit of cloud about. We woke quite early because the exit barrier at the caravan park makes a noise when a vehicle travels over it and our current site is close to the exit/entrance. Many people in the park are residents and obviously start work early - we were aware of the barrier noise from about 6:00am onwards. We had no major tasks today except to get ready for a trip away from Melbourne – possibly our last trip on this voyage around Australia. We thought to head towards Bendigo tomorrow and to drift around North West Victoria before returning to Mansfield where the car and caravan would be put into storage. With that in mind, we decided to buy some covers for the car and caravan and identified a few outlets that might provide what we want. As luck would have it, there were several outlets a short distance away so, after a very casual start, we drove to a caravan accessories store and identified precisely what we wanted. Alas, when I came to pay for it I discovered that, with my over-zealous security arrangements from the night before, I had left our credit cards hidden away in the caravan and had no means of payment with me!! Never mind - we went back to the caravan for some lunch and made the same journey in the afternoon, this time armed with credit cards. We took the opportunity to check on the internet where we might find a car accessories outlet and so we went there first and found exactly what we wanted to cover the car and it came with a substantial discount so we were very pleased. Back at the caravan outlet we collected our caravan cover – a bit pricey but seemingly excellent quality. The only problem was that both items are quite hefty so storage may yet be an issue. Back at the caravan Graham rang Mark in Mansfield to tell him of our plans for the next few weeks and to chat about the storage arrangements. Everything appears to be in hand for the construction of a car port which we plan to help with when we reach Mansfield soon. Then we both had a bit of a nap before we began our preparations for tomorrow’s journey. The rest of the day drifted by uneventfully and we went to bed after watching an old episode of The Vicar of Dibley (the Church Window saga!).

On Wednesday 8th February we were finally taking the caravan away from Wantirna after it had been there since 21st December. We hadn’t occupied it all of the time, of course, as we had spent time in Tasmania and also had a recent 5 night trip to eastern Victoria including Lakes Entrance. While we were at Wantirna the caravan park had proved to be excellent – a huge improvement on the one at Crystal Brook we had used for Christmas 2010. The facilities here were better, the sites were good, the pool was lovely and often we had it to ourselves and the staff were particularly friendly, unlike Crystal Brook. We had mixed emotions about leaving Melbourne – we were pleased to be leaving busy city traffic behind but rather sad because when we return it will be to fly home.

Today we had decided to head for Bendigo but we didn’t know whether we would get that far. We made an excellent start and were soon well on the way to Yea, passing by the wedding venue at Yering Station. Before too long we passed the signpost for the small town of Kinglake and Kinglake National Park. We thought it would probably be a very pretty drive and we were tempted to go that way but we decided against it because, only yesterday, it had been the third anniversary of the ‘Black Saturday’ bushfires. On that terrible day 173 people died and many of the little towns in this area, including Kinglake, were all but destroyed and we didn’t want to appear to be “sticky beaks”.

We had considered staying one night at Yea but we made such good time that it seemed to make sense to travel the extra 100 kilometers to Bendigo. So that’s what we did - we stopped at Yea for a cuppa and then travelled on to Bendigo, arriving at the Big 4 Caravan Park at about 1:30pm. The park was splendid and we were allocated a nice site and all of the facilities looked to be excellent. Alas, for a second time, we couldn’t get the fridge going on the electric so we had to use the gas. Later, after lunch, Graham removed the two panels as he had before and examined all of the wires but, unlike last time, there was no positive response. We asked at reception if they knew anyone who could help and they recommended “Reg The Refrigerator Man”. Disappointingly, Reg didn’t fancy the job but he, in turn, recommended a nearby company and one of their engineers, Fletcher, agreed to call by on his way home at about 5:30. The suggestion was that it might be an element that had gone but Graham was certain that it was an electrical problem as the independent fan didn’t work either. Fletcher duly arrived at about 5:30pm and promptly set about checking all of the electrical connections and discovered that all wires etc were in order. As a last resort he checked the main power point and a dual adaptor which is well hidden in one of the kitchen cupboards. Access would normally be through an aperture in the work surface but a microwave is fixed above the aperture so poor Fletcher had to scramble on the floor to get at the power point. After a bit of fiddling everything began to work again and Fletcher believed the dual adaptor into which the fridge and the fan were plugged had worked loose, perhaps disturbed by things being placed in and out of the cupboard or maybe the bumpy roads had affected it. Either way, it was now working and since Fletcher hadn’t used any parts and was happily passing the time by chatting about our adventures, he was reluctant to charge anything. We gave him some beer money and thanked him for his time. A great result for us as they had quoted about $200 for the fitting of a new element.

After our evening meal we drifted into Bendigo and parked by a lake we had spotted on the way through the city. It was called Weeroona and seemed to be the place for walkers to do their exercises. It looked delightful and we joined the many walkers in doing a circuit of the lake. It had been a lovely day and was a very pleasant evening – a bit breezy but very nice – and we enjoyed our stroll around. Afterwards we drove through the city centre and pinpointed a couple of places we would like to visit tomorrow. Back at the caravan park the sun was beginning to set and was replaced by a beautiful full moon. We tried to make contact with some people we had met in Cairns and who live at Nuggetty – a small country town near Maldon. We hope to call in during the next couple of days when we will be exploring the Castlemaine and Maldon areas. By now, the park was quiet and we were both quite tired so an early night beckoned.

Thursday 9th February was the day we had set aside to fully explore Bendigo. We had a couple of ideas in mind and a couple of places we desperately wanted to visit so, after a fairly casual start to the day, we drove into town – or as far as we could drive and park without incurring parking charges. This happened to be next to Lake Weeroona that we had walked around last night. Bendigo is quite a large city so to walk to the centre was still some way but we took our time and the weather was good so it was no problem. Near the centre of the city, we reached one of our chosen venues – The Chinese Dragon Centre. I had visited this fascinating museum 8 years ago but had not spent enough time there and Graham hadn’t visited it at all. Today we started in the public gardens (Dai Gum San Precinct) which, themselves, are very attractive with plenty of Chinese sculptures. We then paid to go into the main centre (concession rates for pensioners!!) and it was absolutely magical. The artefacts and historical memorabilia which explained the presence of the Chinese during the gold rush era were both numerous and exquisite but the main features were two ceremonial dragons – Sun Loong is kept in the main hall and is the longest Imperial Dragon in the world, being over 100 metres in length!! It is used only once each year in the Easter Parade and requires at least 56 people to carry it with another 50 to help manoeuvre it. A separate room housed Loong which is the oldest surviving Imperial Dragon in the world (an Imperial Dragon is a 5 clawed dragon). Loong was brought over from China in the late 19th century and was paraded through the streets of Bendigo every Easter until 1970 when the new dragon, Sun Loong took over. Although he has been ‘retired’ he was paraded through Bendigo to mark
Ming and Ping - a pair of dragons brought to Bendigo in 2001Ming and Ping - a pair of dragons brought to Bendigo in 2001Ming and Ping - a pair of dragons brought to Bendigo in 2001

Ping (on the right) is Bendigo's first lady dragon
the start of a very special Chinese New Year – the Year of the Dragon.

There were 5 other ceremonial dragons on display, all beautiful but much shorter in length. Our tickets also enabled us to visit the formal Chinese gardens and they, too, were splendid. We’d spent much longer in the museum than we had expected but it was a truly amazing place.

Our next plan was to see as much of Bendigo as we could by catching the tourist tram which travels up and down the main street. We bought some tickets from the Information Centre (pensioner rates again!!) and decided we would have lunch before spending some time on the tram. We ended up doing virtually two whole circuits but this was mainly so that we could be dropped off within easy walking distance of where we had left the car. It was another fascinating exercise and we learnt a lot about Bendigo’s old buildings and the tram system. We soon found our way back to the car which was next to Lake Weeroona where there is a lovely looking waterside restaurant. Unfortunately we let ourselves down badly by treating ourselves to some coffees and
Xiao Le Loong - the baby of Ming and Ping Loong!Xiao Le Loong - the baby of Ming and Ping Loong!Xiao Le Loong - the baby of Ming and Ping Loong!

and is used for hands on school workshops
some fancy puddings – my resolve completely disappeared as I had a fruit Pavlova while Graham had Tirimisu!!!! (They were delicious though!) Back at the caravan park the swimming pool proved to be too inviting and we both had a good long swim and afterwards had to sit in the shade as the sun was so hot. Later we drove back into the city to visit the railway/bus station. We thought they might have details of buses from Mansfield to Melbourne which we may need to use after we’ve left the caravan and car in Mansfield. Unfortunately they didn’t have what we wanted but we did get a telephone number to ring for details. Often we can look such things up on the internet but on this occasion the information we’re after is in PDF format which we don’t want to put on our old laptop. After that we visited Rosalind Park – a beautiful area we had spotted from our tram ride earlier. It was another delightful green space which, in addition to some lovely gardens and a very impressive conservatory, was where many Bendigo residents went for their fitness routines so it was a hive of activity. We had a late dinner (omelette) and settled in for another quiet night – the Big 4 Caravan Park was proving to be an excellent choice.

Also published with this blog is our 5000th photo – an incredible milestone especially when we remember that we only publish a fraction of the photos we take!

Additional photos below
Photos: 26, Displayed: 26


11th February 2012

Not long now
we can hardly believe that you'll be coming home in a few weeks! We are up in the Lake District this weekend with the lads but we aborted our first walk as we needed crampons and only had one set between us - on my feet! we've all got some now tho so are prepared for the morning!!! Give our love to everyone x x x x
12th February 2012

Serious Stuff!
It all sounds a bit serious - needing crampons! Take care with the mountaineering! Yes, we definitely feel as though we're on the homeward leg - we've just arrived in Shepparton. M&D xxx

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