Sunday, February 22, 2015

Southern state shuffle

We have just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Victoria to visit family and once again we've exhausted the budget and worn out our shoes trying to squeeze as much as possible into our 8 day excursion. 

Departure this year was marred by the loss of a loved pet and as usual my nonchalant attitude and chaotic approach to preparing inspired no confidence from the rest of the family. My bike ride a few days earlier left me with severe sunburn which resulted in blisters and the destruction of one or two layers of skin. Wearing shoes to ride must have burst a few blood vessels under the nail of my left big toe which created swelling and a bloody sore toe until the bruising finally appeared! I'd already lost the big toenail on my right foot from the same problem while on the Great Vic Bike Ride! I hate wearing shoes!
At least on this trip I did managed to pack my case (7 kg carry on luggage) more than an hour before departure... Quite prudent preparation time for me.

Gross Eh?

Although the main purpose of our trips down South is to visit family we always try to fit in some tourist stuff. After all, our options are fairly limited in Darwin. This particular trip was action packed and left little time for sitting around. While in Victoria we managed to visit the Children's farm at Bundoora Park, Melbourne Aquarium and the Werribee open range Zoo but the highlights for me this year  (besides seeing our families) were Trees Adventure in Belgrave and Sovereign Hill, Ballarat.

Trees Adventure

A fraction of the course including Mountain Ash in the background

The Great Oak Home Tree

Trees Adventure at Glen Harrow Park was a great bonding experience with my daughter. Climbing on a network of cables right up in the tree tops of high above the ground! It was awesome and felt quite safe. The carabiner locking system ensured we were locked on to a safety cable at all times. Actually once you allow the harness to take your weight a few times the whole fear of being so far above the ground seemed to disappear and we just got into moving along the obstacle course and riding the awesome flying fox zip lines! Unfortunately we forgot to bring the camera and I didn't want to take my camera phone up so high so we only got photos at ground level. 

Ballarat - Sovereign Hill

The trip to Ballarat turned out to be jam packed! It's a long story but a trip to meet some friends of Bill W for an anniversary weekend turned into two days of family reunion and exploring the 1850's goldfields reconstruction at Sovereign Hill.

We left Melbourne early and were in Ballarat by 10am. It turned out that the gathering just happened to be in a hall opposite the Eureaka Stockade memorial right by the Museum of Australian Democracy.

Unfortunately we didn't have the time to explore the museum but I was beginning to feel inspired by the sense of rebellion which radiated out of the Ballarat Goldfields and spurred the beginnings of democracy in Australia. (Once again another long story which I'd love to look more deeply into, i.e. the 'Australian' national identity, how we identify with rebellious characters but tend toward the bureaucratic and authoritarian colonial authority model of governance... etc... etc...)

Sovereign Hill

Two days in Sovereign hill was a real treat! It's a working replica of an 1850s gold town and an opportunity to see some of the crafts, technologies and social conditions of that era. I didn't notice any mention of the Aboriginal history of the area and I do intend to look into it, but will have to leave that for another time. There was a very Eurocentric theme to the place, I wondered how accurate this was but I accepted the narrative for the sake of soaking up the atmosphere they had gone to so much trouble to create. It was a peculiar setting, there were quite a few references and examples of the Chinese presence on the gold fields but very few opportunities to hear about the Chinese experience from Chinese guides who seemed to work exclusively with the Chinese tourists. It was like an apartheid tour experience. I wonder what the Chinese guides were telling their tour groups? 

I may have had a slight error of judgement when I booed the Redcoats. Who'd of thunk they'd have so many keen supporters? If ever there were a time and place for rebellion against imperialism I woulda thought This was a good one. Just goes to show how complicit Australians have become! Some even swore allegiance to the Queen! Don't they know it's satire!?!

Coming from Darwin where everything is new and made of concrete I was spellbound by the woodwork, the old brick and timber buildings, the craftsmanship and the beauty of natural materials and the use of old techniques for constructing everything from wagon wheels to gold ingots! 
Gold! Yep we had a go at panning for gold in the creek. Unfortunately for the rest of the family, as soon as I got a pan in my hand, my obsessive nature took over and I wouldn't leave until I'd gathered enough specks of gold in my collector jar to leave no doubt what I'd come for! (The jar, property of my daughter, was left on the plane home!) 

Dinner on Saturday night turned into an unexpected gathering and a reunion with friends and family, some of whom I was once very close with and haven't seen for at least 15 years! Too many experiences to describe! 

Our last 3 days were spent in Geelong and actually by then we were pooped! We've found an amazing place to stay down there, not too far from family, spacious and with a playground and a pond full of ducks to sit and watch while we unwind! After so much running around the duck pond was our favorite retreat, we could have stayed there another few days.

We are now finally back home in Darwin. We arrived at midnight on the day that cyclone Lam hit the Arnhem coast. 
One of the kids lost an expensive electronic device in transit... 
Friends at Elcho are stranded with no running water, no sewerage and no electricity...
The house smells of mold, our bank balance is in the red...
We missed our home but have no extended family here, there's a sense of loss emanating from most quarters, it's often that way.
Slowly we ease back into the jagged rhythm of Darwin life.

1 comment:

Chandra Eswaran said...

Hi Peter,
Glad you got to visit your folks and also glad your sunburn has healed. The narrative was very nice. It was as though you were reading it out loud, to me, personally. The forest setting with the ropes on the tress sounds like a lot of fun. I used to climb all sorts of trees when I was young and didn't fear many things. Bank balance will grow, but time is precious too.
Best wishes for a healthy bank balance and other good things to come.
Peace :)