Gold Country

We got a long weekend (Labor Day in March!) so packed up ourselves and Austin’s friend Michael, and drove a couple of hours west of Melbourne to Gold Country … Ballarat, Soverign Hill and Ararat. It was lots of fun — similar to our own Gold Country around Sonora and Columbia in California, but even better.

At Soverign Hill they have 6 acres of living museum: an old-time mining town complete with a creek with gold panning, a gold mine, a working blacksmith (giving demonstrations), several restaurants and bakeries, a woodworking shop with a working steam-powered lathe (with demonstrations and very nicely-made tables, chairs, toys, trays, and other for-sale craftware) …

A confectionery, a shop of tin products, an apothecary shop, general store, clothing store, pottery studio, a display of beautifully-restored old buggies, a train, and horses and stagecoach rides … even a real old-time bowling alley (3 lanes — no kidding) with wooden bowling balls, which we got to try.

Most of the machinery in town was run on old steam engines set up so you could see all the belts and moving parts … also large steam boilers around the town providing the power for all sorts of mining machinery … so things were going on just as they had been in the 1860s.

There were also sections of a shanty town where the miners lived in shacks or tents. You could peek in and see the cots (which were often their only furnishings). Inside one hut we came upon an “old miner,” who invited us in for a cup of tea and told us stories about mining in the early gold rush days in Ballarat.

In another part of town were the Chinese tents, vegetable gardens, and some kind of house of worship (by far the nicest and best-maintained structure in the mining shanty).

Panning for gold was fun! We had to shovel gravel into a pan, then kneel at the creek to pan, hoping our technique wasn’t too clumsy.

The pans we purchased for the boys were “spiked” with some “color” so they could have the experience of finding gold. Unfortunately, Austin did not like the look of his gravel and threw the lot away.

Michael was more patient, and — lo and behold — he found some gold!

There’s also an interesting gold museum, with impressive displays about the history of gold … showing the Egyptians, and all the way to the California gold rush (with a lot of emphasis on how badly white people had treated the native Americans) … also lots of actual historical gold coins, even one from the 1500s.

They’re still being found (seems some of the locals use metal detectors now), and there are still some people here who actually make their living prospecting, mostly using the same tools and techniques as in the old days.

We recently heard about a new Australian gold rush; one old prospector — he’s been at it for over 50 years — is apparently sitting on $10,000,000 worth.

Was he surprised? “No, I knowed there was some gold in there.”



5 Responses to “Gold Country”

  1. Hi there may I use some of the information here in this post if I provide a link back to your site?

  2. Eleanor Simpson says:

    some bowling balls are heavy and i accidentally dropped one on my foot. it is quite painfull~-;

  3. Alice Kelly says:

    bowling balls are dangerous on the foot if you mishandle it.,.-

  4. Melatonin Dosage  says:

    bowling balls are quite dangerous to the hands of a newbie and untrained bowling player,`.

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