ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

12. Australian Road Trip: "Rat" with a Heart of Gold - Ballarat that is

Updated on October 23, 2013

The cross country route

The Grampians
The Grampians

The Journey so far...

Every mile travelled reveals a tiny bit more of this vast continent. See Google map below for details and terrain.
Every mile travelled reveals a tiny bit more of this vast continent. See Google map below for details and terrain.

The Heartland of Victoria

A
Ballarat:
Ballarat VIC 3352, Australia

get directions

The Golden City

I have always fancied a visit to Ballarat: there is a romance in the name that echoes through Australia’s short history. Gold built the city, its discovery bringing people from all over the world to seek their fortune. In the mad, greedy scramble to make money from the yellow metal, Ballarat became the focus of a class war, fought with a frontier spirit that defined the Australian character for decades to come. The “Battle” of the Eureka Stockade was the only real "whitefella versus whitefella" battle in Aussie history and has come to symbolise the Australian Republican Movement, with its working class martyrs, its Southern Cross Flag, and its Irish born leader, Peter Lalor.

Earlier...
From Port Fairy we drove inland through flat grazing country that stretches north for forever. Heading into the landmass is a strange feeling for me - in all my Australian travels so far, I have followed the coastline, now ahead of us lies the vast red ocean that is the outback The road is dead straight but after an hour or so a tiny bump appears on the horizon. As the morning progresses the bump gestates into an impressive mountain range, the Grampians. In the shadow of a huge escarpment, we turn east and skirt the stormy southern shore of the range. We catch glimpses of dramatic valleys, shrouded in cloud or bathed in filtered sunlight, as we roll on over the gentle foothills, Ballarat bound.

Ballarat, or the 'Rat' as we christen it, is the second largest city in Victoria, behind Melbourne. In fact, the ‘Rat' looks and feels like nothing more than a big old country town; which is exactly what it is. We arrive on Saturday afternoon, the second last Saturday before Christmas, and the first thing we notice is that the shopping precinct more or less shuts down at midday on Saturdays. I love Australia – if this was England two weeks before Christmas, the high streets would be swarming with frantic shoppers, here the attitude appears to be - “No bloody way am I working or shopping on a Saturdee arvo.”

Gold Town

Bikers parade up the main drag
Bikers parade up the main drag
The hotel verandah - great place from which to watch Ballarat life unfold
The hotel verandah - great place from which to watch Ballarat life unfold
I'll have a pint of nuggets and a bucket of dust please
I'll have a pint of nuggets and a bucket of dust please
Pure Victoriana
Pure Victoriana

Nine things to do in Ballarat

  1. Check out the grand Victorian colonial architecture
  2. Pan for gold at Sovereign Hill Gold Rush Museum ($$$)
  3. Visit the Eureka Stockade - "Birthplace of Australian Democracy"
  4. Do the Historic Eureka Stockade Walk
  5. There is at least one Gold Museum to visit
  6. Go Shopping
  7. Play the pokies in the big hotel
  8. Check out the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery
  9. Get out of the Rat and explore the beautiful gold field countryside, towns and villages

Things to do and see in Ballarat

We decide to stay in the biggest colonial hotel in the city. It may be the biggest but it has seen better days. Nevertheless, the viewless room has a stratospherically high ceiling, a huge bathtub and just down the corridor I can sit on the second story verandah and watch Ballarat life go by twenty feet below.

The things I see during our two night stay includes a cavalcade of Harley Davidsons and other big bikes that takes almost 20 minutes to pass; a bride and groom having their wedding photos taken in the middle of the main street and countless drunks pouring out of the rowdy bar and casino on the ground floor of the hotel.

In the casino we discover the mind-numbing pleasure you get from pumping five bucks into a slot machine. The fiver lasts us hours as we only gamble one cent a pull. We win nothing at the end of it but Sheila exhibits a worrisome tendency to become entranced by the flashing lights and funny music that emanate from the poker machines, and there is the chance that she might actually WIN MONEY. This wont be the last time this Sheila ‘plays the pokies’.

Other things to do in Ballarat – Walk the heritage trail. It is a four or five kilometre long marked trail which follows the actual route taken by the heavily armed mounted police as they headed toward confrontation with the militant rebel miners at the Eureka Stockade. As historical walking trails go, this one is pretty tame, winding as it does through bourgeois suburbs of middle-Australia. But we actually enjoy gawping at peoples’ houses and imagining life in such a suburban, country town idyll. We pass some picturesque and sometimes grotesque suburban houses, a Victorian cricket ground, and a hill that was flattened by gold miners in the 1870s, (i.e.: no hill).

The site of the Eureka Stockade is now a major historical site with a good interactive museum and a solemn memorial to the martyrs of Aussie Republicanism. The Ballarat of those days was a wild west town made up of a ramshackle hinterland of mine claims, muddy creeks, tents, shacks, and slag heaps of rubble. It was populated by a motley collection of ex-convicts, Irish famine refugees, American gold diggers from California, Chinese, Brits, and a host of different European nationalities, all scrabbling in the mud to find gold. In the end they found it and turned it into the tracts of weatherboard and red brick bungalows that we now wander past.

The things you see in Ballarat...

In the suburbs, with sugar
In the suburbs, with sugar
In the suburbs, with Cheese
In the suburbs, with Cheese
Our big Hotel
Our big Hotel
High Street Christmas Tableau, with tack AND cheese
High Street Christmas Tableau, with tack AND cheese

Out in the Gold Fields

North of Ballarat lies the immensely historical and picturesque Gold Fields Country. Numerous little towns are dotted about the map. They are beautiful without exception, but Mauldon is the jewel in the crown. It seeps history, oozes charm and drools with Aussie curiosities. By far the best attraction here is the Gnome Factory, a ramshackle barn and shed complex that is stiff with all imaginable types of garden gnomery. There are your bog standard Seven Dwarf-style gnomes, your 'Aboriginal Standing on One Leg with a Spear' statues, the Big Green Frog pool monument and every type of Aussie bird or animal - au natural or dressed like gnomes. To top off the whole magical experience there is a real Santa Claus standing out on the footpath ringing a bell in the hot spring sunshine to remind us that it is almost Christmas.

Eureka! We have struck gold!

Martyr - Peter Lalor
Martyr - Peter Lalor
Under the Southern Cross
Under the Southern Cross
Mauldon
Mauldon
Mauldon Servo
Mauldon Servo
Rocky
Rocky
Victorian Christmas Tableau
Victorian Christmas Tableau
Steam
Steam
Train
Train
Crossing
Crossing

Heading East - toward the big mountains!

As I said in Chapter One of this epic, this section of the Round Australia Road Trip is intended as a “practice run” for our complete journey around the continent, so with just over under three weeks till Christmas we decide to point toward Sydney and clock up some serious kilometres in that direction. We drive through Bendigo and across the heartland of Victoria, arriving dry and parched in the town of Benalla late that same afternoon. From Benalla the plan is to cut across the Snowy Mountains, Australia’s alpine region, for the final adventure of this leg. Little do we know that this detour will expose us to the terrible beauty of the Australian wilderness and the harsh reality of the Bush.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)