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Ballarat and Sovereign Hill

The jetty
Tuesday, September 21

I told Anne I would like to see the seashore, as it is hard for me to stay a long time without seeing the sea. We went down to the beach in Port Adelaide and the Fevre Peninsula. The jetty was the longest I'd ever seen. We shared a fish'n chips with a crowd of seagulls that grabbed our chips right out from between our lips.

Adelaide's seashore
By the time I could wipe my hands and take the picture,
two thirds of the expectant seagulls had gone.
Try eating with such a crowd staring at you!
The next day we stayed home, except to go out to dinner at the place where we had to deliver Wayne's message to his friends. I tasted kangaroo meat, and was surprised to find it tasted like our Lebanese kafta.

Thursday September 23

Ballarat
We hit the road towards Melbourne again, as my trip was nearing its end and we had a few things planned in Victoria and on the road. We stopped at a village called Hahndorf that is just outside Adelaide; it has lovely streets lined with shops that reminded me very much of Monterey in California. Later on in the day, we took another break for supper at one of those road diners where truckies take their meals. Coincidence: Anne and Katt ran into two truckies they had met on their way to pick me up from the airport. I met the place's pet, a gorgeous malamute named Caesar. The paw he presented to me was larger than my hand.

Our destination for that evening was Ballarat, a miner town famous for having yielded the world's largest gold nugget. What brought us there however was Sovereign Hill: A reconstruction of an Australian Gold Rush town, peopled by costumed volunteers playing various roles. We booked a room in the park's Barracks, and with the key to it we were also given the key to the park's back door.


Friday September 24

We were ready long before opening time, so we drove around Ballarat to contain our impatience. I wanted a few shots of the lovely Australian houses I had been noticing everywhere, with their lacy woodwork.

Ballarat houses


When we finally entered Sovereign Hill, it was like stepping into a time machine. The town was complete with coach, horses, the smell of horses, artisans, school, etc.

Main street
Volunteers in period dress bring life to the town
In the school we were given a pen and ink to write with, and then we were graded.
The smith at his anvil
We entered a parlor where a gentleman was seated by the chimney. He instantly started to play his role: "Hold it there! This place is restricted, women are not allowed in here. Especially women of little virtue who have their hair down!" He winked and continued with an overview of the status of women in 19th century Australia. At 14, girls started wearing long skirts and covering their hair. Only husbands ever saw their wives' hair. And yet, he said, it was in 1835 that the first computer was constructed by Mr. Babbage, and this, thanks to the help of Miss Ida Lovelace, sister-in-law of Lord Byron. She was the one who solved the necessary algorithms. Nobody had ever done it before there wasn't even a name for them.
At some point he discovered I was from Lebanon, and I was astonished to hear he had lived there for 2 years himself, right above Noubar, the photo studio where I had my pictures printed during my school years. We stayed almost an hour in the parlor while he reminisced and enquired about Lebanon's present state.


We watched a show at the Victoria Theater. That establishment was a total flop when it opened: it only survived 5 months. In the meanwhile, a circus from San Francisco stayed for 5 years. It was so popular that its musicians led the city's miner parade!

I had a good laugh at the drapery shop, where a dignified old lady dressed in black was sternly asking a tourist to go and get decent clothes. It was again an act; she then lifted her skirts to show the number of layers that was considered proper at the time.

Inside the drapery shop
The receipt for my purchase
The apothecary shop
 In the street, we were entertained by street musicians and a fight: a dancer was accusing a journalist of spreading lies about her and attacked him with an umbrella, until a policeman intervened.

The funeral entrepreneur gave me his card saying: "Come back before 1890, that's when we went out of business".

Among the educational exhibits, two were really interesting to me: gold smelting and candlemaking. The gold smelter joked that as he breathed gold vapor all day long, his wife was going to have him incinerated at his death to pick the gold out of his ashes.

The gold was picked out of the river...
... to be melted into ingots
The final result
The candlemaker

I couldn't resist the photographer this time...

The day ends when the redcoats march through the streets, salute the flag and lower it.
After a good rest we had dinner at a place called Swaggers. The word designates a bushman, and originates in the swag, a carpet that they carried around.

Saturday September 25

We walked around Sovereign Hill again before checking out, then visited the town's gold museum. There we found the Welcome Stranger, largest gold nugget in the world. It was found by three lucky miners who at first didn't seem so lucky at all. Demoralized by the failure of their mine, they closed it and left. After a few kilometers they were bogged. While digging their wheels out of the sand they hit something hard. Need I continue? The Welcome Stranger was 2.5 cm from the surface. It weighs 71 kg and its gold is exceptionally pure. It was also in Ballarat that the second largest nugget was found.


On the road again, where I noticed a cool advertising campaign against drunk driving, triggered by a graffiti that read "If you drink then drive and make it home alive, then you're a legend." The government replied with this ad campaign: "If you drink, then drive, then you're a bloody idiot."