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This day in 1985 …. I was in Ballarat

The temperature had peaked at 42 degrees in Melbourne earlier in the week. Wow, that was hot. Not humid but hottest I’ve ever been. You just want to move from one air conditioned place to another, house to car to shop. It’s exhausting.

I got the train to Ballarat, an interesting two hour journey that travelled though an area caught in bush fires recently. Some logs were still burning, red hot inside. We saw a house that luckily was still standing, despite the fire circling it on three sides. A long strip of fertile earth with this house at the end was surrounded by charred black earth. Seeing the after effects bring home the magnitude of these bush fires.

Ballarat has beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings and gardens, being the site of the world’s largest deposit of alluvial gold.

Sovereign Hill is a reconstruction of Ballarat in the 1850’s at the height of the gold rush. There are tours of a gold mine, gold panning, open diggings, tents and cottagers that miners would have occupied, furnished for the times. There is a huge township, with Main Street, shops, workshops, demonstrations, blacksmiths, coach builders, wood turners, bakers and others. It was a thriving town with all the key buildings, fire station, post office, bank, gold office, theatre, hotels. There are stage coaches to tour the whole site. All staff are dressed in period costumes, providing a fascinating day out and a real step bank in time.

When gold was discovered, the town’s population suddenly rose by forty thousand, so the army was brought in to keep order, or try to. At one point, convicts from Tasmania were recruited into the Victorian police force to keep control of the mines.

Ballarat has a very different story to our British history of the same era. This felt more like the “wild west”, pioneers and a distinct history.

This trip was the real beginning of my gap year travels. Doing my own thing, deciding where I wanted to go, what I wanted to see and just getting up and doing it.

Back in Melbourne, I got three films developed for A$36 with three replacement films. Now, in 2015 we forget the old ways, taking photos but waiting days and spending money to discover if any of our photos were actually any good. Oh bless digital and smart phone technology.

(My 1985 photos are packed up in storage, so these are internet images but as this is a historic place, these current images are just how I remember it.)

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