We managed to leave home at 8.45am – something of a record for us. It was raining steadily, but looked like it might be clearing, a bit. Or maybe that was wishful thinking?
Being a Sunday, and reasonably early, John decided we’d brave traffic on Eastlink and the Tullamarine Freeway, and take the Calder Highway.
Only a couple of kms from home, that ominous revving noise we’d experienced on the last trip, appeared again. By the time we reached Croydon, it was starting to happen in top and third gears, as well as fourth. By East Ringwood, there was a bit of a smell, too. We decided to turn around and head back home.
Part way back, we stopped and took the Terios off the tow, to make it easier for the struggling Bus. There was a definite acrid smell about the rig, now.
I drove the car behind the Bus. A couple of kms from home, there was a huge cloud of smoke came out from under the Coaster. I flashed my lights at John, who pulled over. The smell of something burning was very strong.
We agreed that Bus was not going to get up the last, fairly steep, hill to home.
I phoned the RACV, feeling pleased that I’d taken out their new Tow Pack option, last year. No problems, they said, they would arrange a tow truck for us.
I took the dog and drove home, leaving John to wait for the tow. When the truck arrived, it turned out to be the operator’s first day on the job. Not a good sign. He tried to charge John $300 before loading up Bus, which John refused to pay. Operator made a phone call, which straightened him out about a RACV job. Then he set about loading Bus onto the tilt tray, which took quite a while.
Bus had to come home because, being Sunday, repair businesses were closed.
Now comes the hard part…
Offloading at home was not easy. It had to happen out on the street, and Bus would have to stay out there. Ours is a narrow, dead-end road, and we are on a slope. What was that about “life” and “easy”? The operator managed to scrape the tow hitch receiver on the road, before realizing that the angle meant he needed to run it down wood planks, off the bottom of the tray. We supplied some planks!
That didn’t sound good…
Eventually got Bus off the truck. John enlisted some neighbours to help push it backwards so it was half on the nature strip, half on the road. There was no activity at all, in any gear – totally burnt out.
Not sure about this process…
Then our hapless tow truck driver had to do a multi-point turn in a neighbouring driveway, to get away. Hope his first day on the job got better…
Unloaded the fridge again. Emptied Bus of things like the laptops and camera, and the assorted pills that keep us alive. Put out a warning reflective triangle in front of Bus and hoped all would be well for the night.
Phoned M to let her know that she would be remaining on her own.
Back in September, I’d researched bus repair places, as an alternative to the local Toyota dealer, whose capacity to deal with a Coaster was limited. At that stage, John had not been inclined to act. Now, I resurrected the details of the bus repair place in readiness for tomorrow.
I told John that, despite the fact that it was quite chilly, and that we were now home, dinner for the next three nights would be the cold meats and salads that I’d made for the trip. Like it or not!
Obviously, I was less than impressed with the whole abortive episode. But did agree with John that “it could have been worse”. Like we could have broken down in the Melba Tunnel, or out in the wilds of the Mallee. I refrained from pointing out that it could have been better, too…
Son’s wedding a month previous had been a wonderful day, with his two children acting as attendants. They had even managed to crack a partly sunny, dry day – by no means certain in a Melbourne spring.
Since then, friend M had been wandering about in SA for a few weeks. Her travelling companions had, however, needed to head home. So…
We planned to meet up with her on the Yorke Peninsula, where we’d not been before, and spend a couple of weeks sightseeing and relaxing by the sea, there. The Driver was even prepared to sacrifice a couple of Saturdays of bowls, so we could fit this in before hot weather eventually hit Melbourne and we became tied to garden care for the summer.
Lovely in springtime but a tie in summer…
On our last trip, an intermittent revving that may have been clutch or gear-related had appeared in Bus. John had decided, in his wisdom, to wait and see if it got any worse, before taking action. Somehow, I didn’t think it was going to disappear of its own volition, but what would I know of things mechanical?
Did all the usual preparations, including moving all the potted plants into one shady area, where it would be easier for our flat tenant to water them.
I cooked up some chicken drumsticks and pork strips, to be our meals for the first three nights. Made some potato salad and coleslaw, that would pass through the quarantine checks between Mildura and Renmark.
M was going to suss out a dog friendly caravan park, by the sea and let us know what our destination would be.
There was light rain all through the night and the morning seemed distinctly damp and dreary. I was up at 8am and did the usual dog walk.
Had my little radio on whilst I was having my breakfast coffee and did not like the weather forecast I heard. The Bureau was issuing severe weather warnings, with a lot more heavy rain to come, especially around here and to the west and north. It was expected to be a prolonged bad weather event.
When John surfaced at 11am, I suggested to him that we bail out and go home today, before the really bad weather set in tomorrow. Heading further west, as originally planned, was clearly not a good idea now. He agreed, even though we’d paid for another night here. I think he was sick of feeling cold, damp and confined, too.
We got away at 12.30pm.
As we were driving away from the Park, there was a sudden revving type of noise from Bus engine. We both thought “slipping clutch”. I was tense for a while, but there was no repeat, so relaxed somewhat.
I had thought we would head to the Calder Highway, then home on the usual route from Bendigo, through Heathcote. But as we travelled through Daylesford, the GPS issued different directions to mine. John obeyed the machine. I had another look at the map and worked out that we could head over towards Kyneton, which GPS had us doing, but then go on up to Heathcote and home. John was quite happy to travel on C class roads, so we headed on through Lauriston.
The Campaspe River
The roads were mostly fine to good, with a few slightly lumpy sections, in places. It was basically an easy route and a pretty drive, through mostly open country to Heathcote. Another new line for my map of roads we have travelled…
Threatening skies on the way to Heathcote
At Redesdale, there was an unusual warning sign – for a narrow bridge with a curved top.
Don’t see many of those signs
At 4 metres high and 3 metres wide, it was fine for us. But it was a very unusual bridge over the Campaspe River – a narrow stream here – with stone posts in the centre of the roadway. That section was hilly, down to the river valley, and back out again.
Not a truck friendly bridge
Reached Heathcote at 1.45. Stopped in the usual side street area, by the oval. John took dog for a run, whilst I went to the bakery for lunch – a sausage roll and pastie for John and a ham and cheese sandwich for me. Plus a big coffee each.
We had that revving noise happen again, not far from Heathcote. Again, we were in 4th of the five forward gears and on a flat road at the time. It was strange, because Bus had not displayed any issues on the hilly sections we’d been on.
Went straight through Seymour, now both being somewhat anxious to reach home.
There was so much surface water lying in the paddocks between Seymour and Yea, and full dams. There were some ominous low storm clouds hanging on the hills to the north and east.
Turbulent skies near Yea
When we reached Yea, the fuel gauge had just ticked on Empty, so John didn’t take the chance of trying to make it to Glenburn, It took 86 litres in what we thought was a 96 litre fuel tank! Was $1.209cpl – more expensive than it would have been at Glenburn, for sure.
Around Glenburn, we came up behind some sort of vintage car that we eventually worked out was left-hand drive. He was going a bit slower than us, which was why we’d caught him, but wouldn’t slow to let us past. When there were overtaking lanes, he kept going just a bit too fast for us to be able to get past him, after allowing other tailed back cars to go by. It was really annoying. He was also wandering over the road, noticeably. John though maybe his steering was loose. I thought he may have had a liquid lunch! If it was the steering, it must have been a cow of a thing to drive. We remained stuck behind him all the way from Glenburn, over the Range and all the way to Lilydale.
From the roundabout on the Yarra Glen bypass, one can usually see the hills of home in the distance, but today they were covered by cloud.
Home is under those clouds…
There was another episode of the revving at the Yarra Gen roundabouts. It went on a fraction longer, this time. Clearly, to me, this was becoming a significant issue.
Reached home at 4.15pm. Bus had trundled up the long, winding uphill road leading towards home with no problem.
Took less than an hour to unpack the fridge contents, other perishable food, assorted electronics and gadgets that don’t stay in Bus – and a large basketful of washing.
So – our planned several weeks trip was rather drastically curtailed. In light of the subsequent weather, and major flooding in the areas we’d planned to be, the right decision had been made.
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 11 CASTLEMAINE TO DAYLESFORD 35kms
The day was fine, but overcast and rather gloomy.
I walked Couey in the Gardens, which was a really pleasant way to start the day.
It was time to move on. We were reluctant to head west and further away from home, with the possibility still of deteriorating weather. We’d never visited Daylesford, just to the south, so decided to go there, whilst we waited to see what the weather would do, next week.
I phoned the Daylesford Caravan Park, on instructions from John to query whether they had decent TV reception and free wifi. The answers were yes, and no. Today was the day of the month when we get access to the next 8Gb of data, so the latter was not a problem. I booked a site with a slab for two nights.
We were out of the park at 10am and on to a route we had not travelled before.
A day of gloomy skies
The country was undulating green pastureland with some woodland areas. In one area it looked like grapevines had been planted – but I wasn’t aware that this was a wine area?
We came into an area where there were some rocky outcrops and then old stone walls evident, like those in the Western District that were built of volcanic scoria rocks.
Rock wall craft
From that I assumed that Mt Franklin, coming up on our left, was once a volcano. It had the right shape.
We had been passed, somewhat before the Mt Franklin area, by two motor cyclists, then a couple of minutes later, by a third. They had all waited behind us until it was clear to pass. John commented at the time that the last rider did not seem to be riding as confidently as the first two. Then, just south of Mt Franklin, we came around a bend and could see some vehicles stopped in the road a way ahead. We stopped behind a short line of cars that were going our way and waited while a man directed oncoming cars and a caravan past one of the motorcyclists, who was face down on the road, on our side. As there were several people stopped and assisting, including one using a mobile phone, we moved slowly past, when the man waved us through. The downed rider was moving his legs, clearly in much pain, but at least still alive. I couldn’t tell if he had come off his bike by himself, or whether a vehicle had also been involved. There was a bend in the road, just past where he had fallen. It is always horrible, encountering something like that.
The ill-fated motor cyclist
We were not far out of Daylesford and were soon there. An ambulance passed us, heading out, but not with siren or flashing lights – a good sign.
Drove past a big market event, on through town and out the Ballan road, to the caravan park.
Our powered site cost $34 a night. No discounts here.
The slab on our site was actually a bricked area, with gravel and grass around it. It would be more solid underfoot than the Castlemaine grassed site had become with the rain. The site was a good size. There were lots of large conifer trees around this park. The amenities were nearby – good – and were clean and adequate. There was a dump point across from the park entrance, and an oval which would be a good dog run area.
After set up, we drove back to the markets. It was almost midday by then. Walked around. The area of stalls was quite extensive, but very heavily dominated by second-hand bric a brac and general junk. This sort of stuff seemed to characterize market set ups in these parts. There were a few fresh produce stalls of different kinds – this was what interested me. Also some clothing vendors and the ubiquitous fragranced oils and candle offerings.
The market was by the old station where there were historic train rides on offer. Something a bit different.
I bought some walnuts in shell, a kilo each of Victorian and Tasmanian ones. John bought a bag of chilli flavoured peanuts and a bag of Fuji apples. I bought a home made olive bread loaf for our lunch.
John developed cramps in his legs, so it was back to the car. He let me drive back to camp. Had to be bad for that to happen!
On the way back, went to Coles as John was out of “his” milk. There is a rigid divide in our household between full-fat and low-fat milk consumers… I got him some ham to go with the bread, some Brie, and a bag of mandarins that was on special.
By the time we got back to Bus, John was feeling better and took dog across for a run on the oval while I made lunch. The bread was yummy, especially with the Brie, and the hummus dip – another thing John didn’t eat.
He didn’t want to do anything else today, except play WOW on his laptop.
I drove alone to the Information Centre and browsed there for material about things we could do here. Coming to Daylesford had been John’s spur of the moment idea, but he didn’t really know why or what he wanted to do here. I could not find much that was promising. It was too wet and cold to go walking in the bush. Apart from that, Daylesford seemed to be heavily into eating, drinking and indulging in mineral spas. Sharing bath water, no matter how mineralized, with a heap of other people didn’t appeal, either.
Back at Bus, I had a nap for a couple of hours, having not slept very well the last couple of nights.
Unusually shaped branches on the conifer
Our perception was that Daylesford was a cold, damp and cheerless place. There were some showers – a light drizzle – during the afternoon. Just enough to make it seem rather miserable.
I decided that I liked Castlemaine much, much better.
Tea was roasted chicken drumsticks, cooked in the electric frypan, outside Bus. I boiled some asparagus for John and sprouts for me.
We watched Australian Survivor, then John watched a film and I read. I went to bed around 11 and slept well. John stayed up till 3am playing WOW.
This morning was much drier. Whilst it still felt damp, there was no rain falling when I got up.
Did the usual morning walk with Couey, through the Gardens.
I drove to the shopping centre and bought some supplies at the excellent IGA supermarket. This was an interesting place, because it had been integrated, in part, behind the façade of an old building. Very well done.
Bought the Saturday papers, then went back to Bus, where I read these for a while, until John was up and breakfasted.
Back into Terios, to go driving again. John wanted to visit Taradale and look at the school there, which was the third school he’d taught at, in the late 1960’s.
Passed through Chewton, which looked interesting, but we didn’t stop.
The whole region is a treasure trove of old buildings of all shapes and sizes, and I could certainly spend a lot more time here.
I was navigating us, and got myself totally disoriented in Malmsbury, somehow. Think it was due to mixing it with the new Calder Highway, which wasn’t on my maps. At a T intersection, told John to turn right, but he reckoned Taradale was up the road to the left. He was correct. I don’t think that where I thought we were, was actually where we were…
The Taradale Primary School was still there, functioning, and in the old building he remembered.
Taradale Primary School
According to a local who John got talking to, the school had been on the verge of closing, but was revitalized by a new Principal and was now flourishing. Good to hear. But the old school house that John had lived in, was no longer there.
Showing the school as it was
I wandered about and took photos while John was talking. It was a very pretty place, in rolling hill and valley country.
Some of the old houses had become weekenders for people from Melbourne. I presumed that, with the Freeway now nearing completion, it would not take long to get here from the city, so maybe some would become full-time residences.
The new Calder Freeway would also have cut right down on traffic through the little towns along the old road route – another drawcard for people from the big smoke.
From the area near the school, the Taradale Railway Viaduct, completed in 1862, was visible along a valley.
…and in the distance…
This was a high and impressive structure, still used by the Melbourne to Bendigo trains – of which we saw one crossing, but I was not quick enough to photograph it. They move fast! In the days of the steam trains, an engine and carriages chugging over the viaduct would have been quite something to see.
Taradale Railway Viaduct
The original stone piers of the structure were strengthened with steel supports, in 1933, because trains had become heavier than when the viaduct was built.
Signs around Taradale provide a wealth of information
We drove down the road that goes under the viaduct and along for a distance.
Viaduct close up
When John had been Principal of the school, he established a plantation of pine trees – to bring in future revenue for the school – out this way somewhere, and he wanted to see if he could find the place. In an area of bushland reserve, we took the unsealed Plantation Track, and followed this for quite some way, as it wound through the bush. There were some slightly boggy sections. It actually felt quite remote.
Couey seemed interested in the bush smells and was actually up and sniffing out of the window. Usually, she lies on the back seat with her head down as close to the floor as she can manage. Would get her whole body down there if she wasn’t restrained by her car harness. She does not like car travel. A wallaby or small kangaroo hopped away from in front of us, but I don’t think she saw it. We stopped in a small clearing, and John gave her a run and threw the ball for her.
We didn’t find any sign of a pine plantation – but it was over fifty years ago!
Retraced our way, back to the sealed road, then followed this until it ended up against the new freeway. Then we went back the way we’d come, to Taradale.
I wanted to look at the railway station, where several old buildings constructed from bluestone remain, though the verandah that was once over the platform has gone.
Taradale Railway Station platform and goods shed
The two-storeyed station building and a goods shed were really solid structures, dating from 1862.
As it was…
Trains no longer stop at Taradale and haven’t since the early 1970’s. However, the Melbourne to Bendigo rail route is still very active and the trains pass through here. There is a double line because it is part of a passing loop.
It looked as though the old station was being used as a residence. Reckon that could be a bit noisy, with the passing trains. But I guess those old bluestone walls are pretty thick.
Old Taradale Railway Station
We returned to Castlemaine, back the way we came. Again, experienced some confusion and wrong turns, due to the new freeway impinging on old roads.
Our explorations around Castlemaine
Had a late lunch, then watched football on TV. It was finals time in the AFL.
I took Couey for a really long walk through the Botanic Gardens, She’d had a really active day and spent the evening being suitably quiet and tired.
Tea was lamb, honey and rosemary sausages. John had a corn cob with his. I had an egg.
The steady rain of last night continued over much of today as well. It had turned quite cold, too.
I slept in a little. Was rather reluctant to get up and face the miserable morning. Eventually, with no choice, dug out my rain jacket and took Couey on her morning constitutional. With great good sense, she did not want to go far or stay out any longer than necessary, either. I dried her off with one of the several old towels we carry for such occasions, and put extra protective sheets and towels over my bed before she went back in Bus – since that was her preferred daytime sleeping area.
I spent much of the day sitting in Bus, doing quilting – hand sewing pieces of fabric together.
John phoned Telstra and bought an extra Gb of data, so he was able to play his WOW game.
After lunch, the rain eased a little, so we set out to follow the drive around historic Castlemaine, following a guide obtained from the Information Centre. It was interesting, although it would have been better to stop and look properly at some of the places featured in it, like the Railway Station. But John was driving, and only wanted to cruise slowly past each place, while I read out extracts from the Guide.
The route took us to the northern part of town and through a creek ford. This was flowing, but still very shallow and was no problem for the Terios.
There really are some superb old houses in Castlemaine. With some excellent gardens.
Half way through the tour, came to the old flour mill, which was being re-purposed as a kind of indoor permanent market, and associated businesses like a micro-brewery. It is great to see these superb old places being made relevant again. This one was still being set up.
John wanted to browse, here. We spent some time in a cavernous display area that housed old furniture, some household and industrial used items, ranging from vast filing cabinets, through hospital screens, to art works. There were some very nice tables made from reclaimed timber.
The adjacent space was even larger, containing lots of individual “stalls” – mostly the usual second hand market things like crockery, books, clothing, kitchen wares.
After a bit of browsing, I found it rather repetitive and boring – and cold – so I went back to the car and waited there whilst John finished his wanderings.
Not sure what this bush was…
The rain had become heavy again, so we went back to Bus for the rest of the day.
John went out again to buy fish and chips for tea.
Watched football on TV.
Bus is better than the van was, on such days. As the ceiling and exposed upper areas of Bus have a type of felt/carpet surface, we did not get the condensation on metal surfaces that was an issue on really wet days in the van. And – touch wood – to date, we did not have the worry of leaks.
I walked Couey over the nearby footbridge, down a track to another bridge and over the creek into the Gardens. There we followed various paths with assorted smells of much canine interest, to a different footbridge that brought us back to the park entrance. It was a great circuit.
The Botanical Gardens were designed by the explorer and botanist Baron von Mueller, one time Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. They really are most attractive and add an excellent walking adjunct to this caravan park.
I went to the park office to extend our stay by another two days. The lady on reception was a different one from yesterday. It emerged, in chatting, that she and her husband are relieving here for a couple of months, and that they had worked tourist seasons at Adels Grove, but more recently than we did. So we talked a bit about times there and the development that has taken place since we were last there.
As arranged yesterday, we were at D’s place by 9.30. In his car, he led us out of town, along dirt roads, for about fifteen minutes of driving. Then we parked and followed a faint track into the bush, crossed a stile over a fence, and came to the remains of a water wheel installation.
Remains of water wheel structure
In the gold rush days, big wheels turned by the force of water falling on them, were used to power quartz crushing machinery. The loose alluvial gold easily found in current and former stream beds, that began the Victorian gold rushes of the 1850’s, soon became much harder to find. The mining focus then turned to deeper mining, chasing gold still contained in quartz reefs underground. The mined quartz needed crushing to extract the gold.
Guess there was once a channel to take the water away?
There is the remains of one well known such wheel near Chewton and there were a number of others in the district. The water needed to turn the wheels was supplied by channels from the Coliban River, designed in the 1860’s and 70’s by an Irish engineer.
The groove that contained the wheel
Here, the wheel is no longer in place – it would have been wooden – but the stone walls of the race that contained it are there, as well as some stone walls of the surrounds. It wasn’t clear here though, just where the quartz stamping battery itself would have been.
Hard to tell where the buildings were
We were amazed at the scale of this thing, and by the stone work itself. It was just incredible what the mining companies of the last part of the 1800’s did, in order to try to obtain gold.
Look at that stone work
We climbed to the top of the hill and at the top could see faint remnants of the water race that would have brought the water to this wheel, from the nearest channel from the Coliban. Apparently there were hundreds of kilometres of such races, all over the central Victorian goldfields.
The line of a water race channel?
Couey had a wonderful time, free ranging about in the bush whilst we explored.
D left us so he could return home the quickest way. We continued on the unsealed roads and eventually completed a loop through the old Campbells Creek mining area and back to Castlemaine. It was an interesting little explore on back tracks. The GPS was useless. Eventually emerged onto the Fryerstown-Campbells Creek road, and GPS went “aha – I know where we are!”.
I went to the Information Centre to pick up what material I could about the town and surrounding historical areas – my interest was now fired up. Mentioned that we’d been out to the old wheel structure to the SE. The lady at the desk had never heard of it.
Thence to a supermarket for some food supplies. John bought a short extension cord for use with the fan heater. The currently used long one just gets in the road.
After lunch at Bus, drove back to Maldon, along the way we’d come yesterday. There, I went to the Information Centre and collected some very useful and informative material.
Drove back out to the old dredge and haul line machine that we’d passed yesterday.
Old haul line machine near Maldon
These structures were of impressive size, but not as old as we’d assumed yesterday. They were actually used here in the mid 20th century, to dredge for gold, going over the earlier Porcupine Flat workings from the 1800’s. Apparently, it was not all that successful an operation, and the machinery was just abandoned there.
The dredge sits in a dam, created by its own operations.
Quite a sizeable dam created
The haul line machine had been sourced from the Yallourn coal mine workings, in Gippsland.
Historic artefact or industrial pollution?
When we’d first pulled up here, I’d seen what I assumed were lots of plastic bags, floating around the edges of the dam. On closer inspection that turned out to be frog spawn. It was a busy time for frogs! They were certainly croaking really loudly in the vegetation all round the dam.
I stood in one place, on the edge of the dam, trying to spot frogs in the rushes. Past experience had taught me that, often, the louder the noise, the smaller the frog. Despite the racket, I couldn’t even see one. But I was there long enough for many of the occupants of the ants’ nest that I was inadvertently standing on, to swarm up my sneakers, socks and the bottoms of my trousers. There must have been hundreds of them. They moved incredibly quickly. I got busy trying to brush them off – fast! John was no help at all, choosing to make a video of the frantic activity. Some of the ants made it to bare skin and I received several bites on the lower legs. The most enterprising of the critters was found half way up my thigh.
Enough wildlife encounters! Drove on then to the Union Hill Mine, in Maldon. This had been a very rich mining area in the late 1800’s, that had later been further mined by open cut, around 1990.
Explaining the several phases of gold mining here
After that, a shaft had been sunk into the hillside, to try to meet up with reefs, and this was still being mined.
Union Hill Mine
Continued on, to the old Government Battery, where miners of yore could bring quartz for crushing. Wandered about there for a while – watching where I was putting my feet. Nothing like wisdom after the event…
Old Government Battery Maldon
Opposite the Battery was an area that had fairly recently been open cut mined, and then – in line with modern practice – rehabilitated by the mining company. The “bush” was growing well and I wouldn’t have known it had been mined, if not for the information board.
Modern mine land rehabilitation
By now, the pleasant day of earlier was turning less pleasant, getting quite dark at 4pm, with rain clouds in the distance.
Drove up Mt Tarrengower, on the edge of Maldon. There was a big fire lookout type of tower on top. I could only manage the climb to the first level, given my dislike of heights, and John didn’t want to tackle the next two levels either. We were high enough to get the idea of the surrounding views, anyway.
Maldon from Mt Tarrengower
There was more that we hadn’t explored and seen, in Maldon, but with the weather coming in, that was enough for today. Vowed to return another time.
For a little variety, drove to Newstead, south of Maldon, along an attractive road. Did a quick pass past the historical court house building there, then headed back to Castlemaine along the Pyrenees Highway, thus completing a triangular drive.
Tea was my tarted-up packet chicken noodle soup. I added spring onions, creamed corn, beaten egg, bean shoots, strips of ham, and sesame oil, to turn it into a light meal, with a bread roll each, followed by fresh strawberries.
Watched some TV. A couple of programs we find engrossing had started up again on the ABC.
About 10.30pm, the rain started, and it rained steadily all night.
We were up in time for an unhurried breakfast and pack up. Left the park just after 10am, after chatting for a while with the lady owner.
Before that, I’d phoned and booked a Castlemaine site for a couple of nights. John had previously phoned friend D, thinking we could stay there, but he had another friend visiting. So John said we’d go to a caravan park. I was secretly relieved – prefer to be independent.
It was a lovely day. Warm enough for a T-shirt, blue sky, only a little cloud. Whilst nights north of the Divide, can be cold in winter, days are often beautiful.
Took the Alternate Calder Highway from Marong to Lockwood South, then turned off for Maldon. This was going the long way round, since the caravan park had said we could not check in until after midday.
The country was green, and there was so much long grass. Great now, but could maybe mean a nasty fire season later.
Lots of green feed
Soon after we turned onto the Maldon road, outcroppings of rock (granite?) began to appear, in the form of rocks, slabs and occasional hilltops.
Stony hill south of Bendigo
We passed a stone house, built in the style of a castle. Quite incongruous in the setting. Then the open paddocks gave way to woodland – box ironbark? There were lots of wattles in bloom, which added cheer to the roadsides.
Passed a large old dredge beside the road, not far from Maldon, but were past before it really registered. John did not want to turn around and go back, but said we’d come and see it from Castlemaine, as it would interest him too.
There were lots of quaint old buildings in Maldon, as I’d expected from brother’s paintings. The route took us through the centre of the town. It did look to be holding its own as a viable settlement, which was great to see.
On to Castlemaine. John was not one for doodling around, exploring, in Bus, but prefers to go straight from A to B, settle in and then sight see. He was the same in the vanning days.
Wooded country between Maldon and Castlemaine
In Castlemaine, he missed the turn the GPS indicated and so we finished up taking what seemed to be a very round about route to the Castlemaine Gardens Holiday Park.
It was only a bit after 11am when we arrived, but they let us check in anyway. After the Big 4 discount, cost $34.20 for a powered site. The one they allocated us looked rather uneven; the next one looked better. I’d walked ahead of Bus to the site, which was a fair distance from the office, and now walked back again to change the site.
Backing onto the site was easy, as there were no slabs. We looked down across a creek into the adjacent Botanical Gardens – a very nice outlook – and there was a good, “bushy” feel to this part of the park. The amenities were clean and adequate, but just a little too far from our site, though, for my liking. Bit of a trek there and back.
The way to the Botanical Gardens
There was a nearby footbridge over the creek, which gave access to either a bush track, or the Gardens – which allows dogs on leads. Great.
Caravan Park and Gardens
After setting up, drove to D’s, a little south of Castlemaine. After a tour of his house and garden, we sat on his back patio and chatted – the men over a few beers. Mostly, the talk was of mutual friends from college days and since.
D insisted on giving Couey the run of his yard, and house. She made herself quite at home, too. He was most taken with her. So was his guest, who had been out doing some prospecting when we arrived, but who returned later. When she heard him at the front door, Couey went into watchdog mode – it was her new home, after all – and barked and growled. Guest was well used to dogs, though, and introduced himself properly.
We were invited to stay for tea. There was much talk of prospecting and woodworking – the latter an interest the men had in common. Tea was a very nice meal of curried sausages and rice, followed by apple pie. I passed on the offered wine and Sambucca laced coffee, suspecting I’d be driving us back to camp.
It was a most pleasant afternoon and evening. Not too late, and we didn’t stay up for long after getting back.
There were very regular trains on the line on the far side of the Gardens. We were hearing them whistle at crossings and the station. I eventually realized that Castlemaine is on the Melbourne to Bendigo train line – duh! Nonetheless, we were surprised at how many trains there were each day. Seemed a pretty good service.
John had to be up much earlier than usual. After he showered, I put a fresh dressing on the leg wound. Although the stitches were removed before we came away, the area rubs on his trouser leg and becomes sore if it is not covered.
I did a load of washing – $3. Had to go hang it on an older rotary line at the corner of the park, as the long lines by the laundry were full. There was lots of bedding, rugs and the like occupying the lines. I suspected someone from the retirement village section had done a big spring clean.
John left about 11am to drive to Williamstown in Melbourne for his sister’s funeral. He wasn’t sure if he would come back later, or stay overnight with another sibling. I had arranged with the park to move the Coaster onto an ordinary drive through site if we need an extra night, as this site is booked. I could manage such a move on my own, but am not very good yet at getting Bus lined up well by a slab, if I had to back it alone – hence the drive-through.
Read a novel found in the laundry, which was quite engrossing. Walked Couey around the park a few times. I wasn’t quite brave enough to run the gauntlet of the retirees, to take her up the back.
Caravan park at Marong
Spent some time studying the maps – paper variety. John really wants to go visit the site at Boolite, west of here, where he taught at a one-teacher school for a year in the 60’s. I thought we could go on there, from here, .look at the place, then go on to Warracknabeal, Donald or St Arnaud for a couple of nights. All of those are new ground for me. Then we could base ourselves at Maryborough for a few days and look around the region, then ditto Castlemaine. There were so many little former gold mining villages in that region I’d like to look at. My artist brother went through a period when he painted lots of old buildings and scenes from those places and he was often off, poking about looking for new inspiration, but I had never visited them.
Daughter, S and her mum, and the boys, arrived about 6.30, as arranged, to have a BBQ tea here. V brought hamburgers, rolls, sausages, bacon. They bought a very nice bottle of wine for crocheting the rug for their gift. I supplied some salad, eggs and tomato sauce. We cooked in the BBQ section of the camp kitchen and ate there. It was a little chilly, but not too bad – the big roof kept the worst of the chill off. After we’d finished, did a thorough clean up of the BBQ area to return it to its previous immaculate condition.
Adjourned to Bus because it was warmer, to chat and finish of the bottle of wine, mixing talking with partly watching Australian Survivor. John had phoned at 5.30 to say he was just leaving to come back. He arrived at 7.45. The family left at 8.30pm – past the boys’ bedtime on a school and kinder night.
The funeral had gone off well enough, as these things go. John had the usual catch up with members of his very large family that he only usually sees on such occasions. We tried to count how many times he is a great-uncle, but gave up as he was not sure of “who has had what”. He knows all of the offspring of his eleven older siblings, but it gets a bit hazy after that. As a later-comer second wife, I know hardly any. With only one brother and one nephew, I find John’s family rather overwhelming. However, my recent family history research had turned up the fact that one of my great-great-grandfathers had 101 grandchildren, plus 21 step-grandchildren! I must be related to most of Tasmania…
John did not like the travel plans I’d devised today. He wanted to go straight to Castlemaine, from here, to visit his friend from teachers’ college days, who lives near there, and then go touring around the old goldfields towns.
Usual morning – me rising about 8am and John sleeping late.
While walking Couey on the lead around the park, got talking to a man working on the gardens. Told him how attractive and well kept I found the place. The poor man said he was constantly battling rabbits that come in from the surrounding farmland and dig up newly planted shrubs to eat the roots. Given all the surrounding grass, that rather surprised me.
I said that, from my perspective, all the park needed to make it perfect was a fenced dog run area. Pushy? Well, maybe they hadn’t thought of it? He seemed to think it might be worth considering, but said that we could walk Couey through the residential section (that says no entry except to residents), to the paddock at the back and throw the ball for her there. Very nice of him.
Left the park at noon to meet daughter at her workplace in the centre of Bendigo. The drive in from Marong to the city was really pretty. Forested areas alternating with farmland, from Marong to Maiden Gully – an outlying sort of new suburb development – then more treed and farm lands. The built up city area really only extends about three kms in this western direction.
Mining dump area beside Calder Highway
I seemed to recollect from some long past history study, that the rich gold reefs found from the 1850’s on, extended in a roughly N-S direction and that was the way the early gold rush settlement developed. There was still much evidence of these beginnings about the place, in more than just locality names. We passed large mullock dump heaps as well as the occasional mine poppet head.
Old mining area only 3kms from city centre
At work, daughter was there on her RDO to take part in a blind pie tasting test, to determine the best one to buy for a future function, and she’d invited John – with all his pie eating experience – to join in. There were two pies from local bakeries, one from Aldi, and a Four and Twenty one. Rather surprisingly to me, the first choice of the majority of the tasters was the Aldi pie, with the Four and Twenty one second.
There were some great shops in Bendigo and daughter had a favourite where she bought many of her clothes. I’d been hunting for a while for an outfit to wear to son’s wedding, and not been able to find anything I liked in shops around our local area. I was really trying to avoid going into central Melbourne or one of the mammoth shopping complexes for same. So daughter took me to her favourite outlet, not far from her work. The sales lady there was most helpful and I ended up buying not one, but two, outfits. I suspected daughter who encouraged me, may have an eye to borrowing one of them at a future date.
Trying on outfits
I did love the manageable scale of Bendigo’s shopping areas – and traffic. Maybe one day….
We’d left Couey tied outside the shop, because John wanted input to the clothes decision making. She complained loudly whilst he was still visible, but lapsed into silent and sulking mode as soon as he was not in sight. Handy to know.
I bought a wrap for my lunch, the pie eaters being too full for any more. Then went to daughter’s for coffee. After that, we all drove to grandson’s school, in two cars. He’d commenced Year 7 this year at a fairly new school, on the outskirts of town. I was most impressed with the appearance and behaviour of the students at get-out time. Very tidy and mannerly. The buildings were excellent – interesting and innovative, heavily into open-plan learning areas and flexible spaces. High tech. Beautiful landscaping. Schools had come so far in the couple of decades since I worked in them. We heartily approved of the place.
We continued on back to Bus, Called in at the Eucalyptus Shop at Marong. Bought some laundry powder, lemon myrtle oil for my scent burner at home and wash liquid for the dog’s bedding. Received two “free” jars of local pickled onions as a bonus. John was happy – he eats lots of these.
Met daughter and the boys and S’s mum at the Marong Hotel at 6pm, to have a counter tea together. We’d heard good things about the meals here and were not disappointed. It was a pretty standard pub bistro menu but the food was, mostly, very well done. John had flathead and chips – often his choice at such places. I had a modern take on a souvlaki, which I found a bit heavy on the leafy greens and a bit light on the lamb. The other adults had parma and schnitzel, which they enjoyed. The boys had pizza. The younger one is a fussy eater, but does eat pizza. The kids’ food arrived first, which we appreciated. It was a very pleasant time together.
We were back at Bus in time to watch Australian Survivor.
After that, we had a serious discussion about the pros and cons of selling up at home and relocating to Bendigo. There are both, and no decision was reached. But there was no rush to make such a momentous change.