Bendingo gold mining – Wednesday 28th December 2011

Go North, or rather North West of Melbourne! There must have been so many people rushing there when gold was found. These Goldfields treated everyone the same. Prospectors came, worked the land and were either lucky or disastrous. After that, of course came the usual industrial proprietors when you were either an owner or a miner. It’s the miner’s life we found out about today.

Bendigo flourished with some grand civic buildings. Enriched with columns, ornate stone work and using some beautiful colored stone. It’s the original home of Sydney Myers, of the department store fame, but the Myers store here is hardly a flagship. Rather it is a mundane, uninspired dated clothing outlet, judging from the windows. The one Melbourne city is a pearl in comparison.

Bendigo is a large confident town. Just outside is Kangaroo Fat and the Central Deborah Gold Mine. For around $26 you can spend an hour down the mine, although they offer far more intense experiences, taking you deeper for longer and getting far dirtier if you have the mind for it.

Our guide is passionate. His grandfather worked down this mine and he has incredible knowledge and is able to describe some difficult concepts, really clearly. He helped us identify the difference between fools gold and real gold. He gave brilliant insight into the history of the area, the geology of the mine and the method of mining.

The experience of total darkness, the heavy weight of the battery pack to fuel the head lamp, the noise of the drill, the development of drilling, the methodology of blasting a new tunnel were so fascinating.
He explained that Miners were not paid lots and there was a constant battle between them and the owners over pilfering. The work of the mine ‘monkey’ was a man who set the charges overnight to blast a new section of tunnel. He had to listen to check each charge had gone off and if not creep back to see why. He was paid more because he had such a dangerous job.

There was lots to see above ground too and I couldn’t resist a bit of panning just in case – but no gold!

Malden is a much smaller, but truly charming town. A quaint feel with boutique stores. Even the garage felt 1950s. There are lots of old cars, the buildings seem arrested in time and they make excellent ice cream at Cherries too.

I have been having a great problem with shopping. Close to our flight limit when we started this journey and to our bag capacity we have not bought anything except consumables and IT requirements since October. Even Christmas had no presents to unwrap because of this problem. However, if you’ve been reading since the beginning you will remember my nightdress got picked up with the bed linen, way back in Sydney in October and they have agreed to refund me a new one. Here in Malden I finally find a replacement I like.



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