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Showing posts from January, 2015

Home sweat home

"I wish we could live here!" said Alex of the Schaller hotel in Bendigo. Unfortunately all good holidays come to an end and it was time for us to return to Sydney. It's a pity because I was certainly enjoying our stay in Bendigo and there remained plenty for us to see and do. The Schaller was also a very nice hotel to stay in, especially the artistically decorated foyer with its collection of novels and National Geographic magazines. A pleasant place to relax. But once we were in the car Alex wanted to return to Sydney as quickly as possible, lacking an idea of the distances involved. This time we followed the A300 all the way to Shepparton and the M31. Shepparton is home to the well known SPC Ardmona canning and food processing factory. One of the reasons to travel to this region is the fresh fruit on offer. We were on the lookout for roadside stalls as we passed the rows of apple, orange and other fruit trees. Spotting a sign for one we pulled up a side road a

Bendigo slow

After days of driving and training long distances today was a more local affair. It wasn't planned to be that way, as I was hoping to spend at least half of it on the steam driven Goldfields railway between Maldon and Castlemaine. But B wanted to go horse riding and a suitable place was located. When we arrived it was closed, but the owner returned my call and we organised for a trail ride in the afternoon. So we drove back into town for breakfast at the Beechworth Bakery outlet. Across the road is the Central Deborah mine, so we completed the other half of our ticket with a tour of the outdoor section of the mine, climbing up the poppet head tower and learning about the people and processes associated with the mine. The astounding thing is how small a quantity, less than a metric tonne, of gold was actually produced by the mine compared with how much material was extracted. The mine is also the terminus of the "Talking Tram" service, which runs old wooden

Open in Melbourne

We had rough plans to spend a day in Melbourne on this trip. They crystalised when a colleague mentioned that you could buy reasonably priced passes to the outer courts of the Australian Open tennis tournament. B loves her tennis and Alex is learning so it was great timing on our part, however unintentional. Rather than drive we caught the train from Bendigo. This necessitated an early morning. We were very fortunate finding a car park spot at the station,then we quickly purchased a ticket and ran inside. The Velocity sets are some of the fastest trains in Australia, running at up to 160 km/h. Not so fast in the international scheme of things, but quicker than driving between the cities. I found it quite comfortable and I enjoyed the scenery outside. As we started approaching the centre of Melbourne we passed freight lines and marshalling yards. This looked like a real railway, not like the separation of commuter and freight that occurs around Sydney. Unfortunately, Al

The Sovereign Hill Minor

The gold rush continued today with a trip down to Sovereign Hill at Ballarat. After an argument with the GPS we eventually found ourselves heading down the A300 to that city. It really is a pretty route through the countryside and historic towns. Many views were like out of a classic Australian painting. I feel a kinship with this country. When I was a young kid we would stay out at farms around Victoria, so I knew the smell and the sound of the wind trhough the windbreak pines, the feel of the hard soil and the stubble, the scent of hay and dung. I wonder how different my outlook would be if I was here and not living in Sydney. Sovereign Hill is one of Victoria's most popular attractions. It recreates the old gold mining town, from the main street of shops and workshops, schools and cottages, to the mines and diggers' camps. Alex isn't to keen on history, but he loves machinery and factory processes. Sovereign Hill has many operating workshops and Alex enjo

Shocks and holes in Bendigo

Shirefolk like to live in holes in the ground, at least according to The Hobbit. Although this particular hole was definitely more suited to Durin's Folk. It even ran with dragons' blood. After some very tasty pizza at La Porchetta we retired to our motel in Albury for an early night. Prior to falling asleep I watched a little bit of Sherlock Episode 2 on ABC iView and was bugged by the familiarity of one actress. When I awoke the television had Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit showing and I was surprised to see the same actress (Gemma Chan for the record)! But recognition stemmed from Doctor Who, which has featured so many British actors. We ate cereal and toast from the free motel breakfast then quickly crossed the Murray River into Victoria. Alex fell asleep and we continued down the Hume highway before turning off towards Murchison. I'm not certain that it was the most direct route to Bendigo, but we were just following the car's GPS. At least it was a fairly sceni

Gunning for Albury

As we approached central Albury I switched stations on the car radio and was greeted by some Bryan Adams. It could have been 21 years ago, when B was studying in Albury and I was a too frequent visitor. Next up was Belinda Carlisle's Summer Rain , a song that has accompanied so many important moments in my life. With closing time fast approaching, we pulled into a carpark outside  of a shopping centre. As we wandered through Albury's Myer department store Summer Rain  again played over their sound system. I was difficult not to read something more into the coincidence. I don't know exactly why I wanted to go into Myer, some vague fantasy about rural department stores that I've had all these years, of buying a computer system from one. I didn't, of course, just wandered mainly around the small toy section while Alex indulged in his own fantasies of ownership and play. With most of Albury shut we wandered the main street reminiscing while Alex demanded to che