Stawell had treated us well and our motel was quite the treat, but it was time for our next adventure. On to Bendigo but, not before filling up Mickey and picking up some turkey for lunch. While in the grocery store parking lot we may have had a “we’re still new to driving in unfamiliar car configurations” mishap when Doug forgot to put the car in park before taking the key out (yes, it let us do that) on a slight downhill slope. Other than rolling a foot backwards before realizing this and getting our hearts pounding, nothing major happened. And we have now learned that lesson!
The drive to Bendigo was due to take roughly 2 1/4 hours, so we chose to break it up a few times. The first spot was to Taltarni Vineyards in the Pyrenees ranges which would allow us to figure out this “cellar door” business that we had been reading about the night before. A number of Australian winery websites listed cellar door hours, but did not really describe what a cellar door was. Was it a tasting room? A small restaurant? Either way, we were hoping that Taltarni would educate us. We showed up just as they opened and were directed to ::drum roll, please:: a tasting room! But the fun doesn’t stop there. We quickly realized, as our sommellier laid out three laminated pages of wine options, that unlike most tastings we had previously done, there was not a set tasting menu or a fee to taste and we could taste as many as we wanted. Well, we couldn’t really, because we had places to be and needed to get there safely. So we picked out four to try – a white, a sparkling white, and two reds. All were superb compared to what you get at the wineries in Texas and we ended up purchasing a bottle of the white, a fume blanc, to pair with dinner in the evening. Before hopping in the car for our next stop, we took a stroll around the cellar door and realized that this part of Australia looks a whole lot like Texas.
Our next stop was a brief one in Maryborough at their nicely architected railway station. We had planned to find a picnic table and take in the view while enjoying lunch, but the wind would have blown all our food away. Instead we snacked from the front seat of our car in the station’s parking lot. So romantic!
At around 12:30 we realized that we had exactly 1 hour to make it to Bendigo in time for the 1:30 Central Deborah Gold Mine Tour and Google informed us that it would take 57 minutes to get there. So, with some carrots still left to eat from lunch, we were off to Bendigo!
…. And, despite some misdirection on Lynn’s part, we made it with 3 minutes to spare to join a group of 4 others on the Mine Experience tour. Ian, our guide, quickly brought us up to speed on the mine and its history in Bendigo. The Central Deborah mine we were currently at ceased commercial operations 61 years ago because its quartz reef was not as profitable as those surrounding it. Since 1971, though, the mine has been operating as a tourist attraction. After the introduction, we donned our hardhats and light gear before taking a lift down 61 meters into the mine, a mere fraction of the 412 meters total depth. With good humor and and some terrifying stories, Ian introduced us to the various jobs minors in those days would have. Drilling was done by hand and required two people initially, but as more technology was added, only one was required but boy did it add some noise. We also were able to learn about the blast patterns used in order to optimize the size of the boulders created and the placement of them within the mine. I did mention that some were terrifying stories though right? Well, they preferred to use a carbine lamp over an electric lamp since the flame color allowed them to know if the air surrounding them was losing oxygen. Yikes. Safety concerns combined with small quarters does not a happy Lynn make. So, she is quite happy she did not have to be a gold miner back in the day. Safely back on the surface, Ian continued the tour showing us how they would extract the gold from the boulders while keeping the town awake with all the noise it once generated. Then Doug got to try his hand at panning, albeit unsuccessfully.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in the downtown area of Bendigo, a city built to feel like a mini-London. Having picked up a free audio tour from the downtown information booth, we started on foot through Bendigo’s Rosalind Park. We quickly realized that this would not be a very fast tour since every stop featured 1-2 full songs to go with the background information and our audio guide didn’t allow fast-forwarding. Our meter was due to expire soon, so we finished the tour without the audio and instead took in the architecture.
The rest of the day was spent getting to know our Airbnb host, Elizabeth, and her family who seems quite similar to us, though far more artistic. She keeps a list of places she wants to visit written in dry erase pen on the window over her kitchen sink. We also cooked a delicious dinner which we enjoyed with our bottle of wine and took in 4 miles back to the city center to up our walking miles for the day.
Daily Walking Mileage: 9.4
- Mark Twain visited Maryborough’s railway station 5 years after construction completed and describe the town as, “A railway station with a town attached.” We would still agree with this 130 years later.
- There is no natural water source in Bendigo, though the water table is quite high. The area mines have to pump out the water to evaporation areas because it cannot be reused due to high arsenic contamination.
- Kangaroos in Australia are like deer in America.
- It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (in Australia)!