Bendigo, Echuca and Swan River
Sun 30 Oct 2011 06:53
We did a mini trip up through central Victoria to the Murray River to explore North Western Victoria which is a bit of Australia that we had not visited before.
En route we drove through the goldfields, called into Bendigo and visited a The Central Deborah Gold Mine. This was a working mine from 1939 through to 1954 and produced $62,000,000 worth of gold during that period. It’s now open as a tourist attraction and visitors are taken under ground to the level 2 diggings 62m below the surface. The mine itself descends a further 15 levels each at 30m intervals making the lowest level some 510m below ground level!
We learnt that Bendigo still has a working mine but is obviously no longer the bonanza town of the past. It is however the town with the most mines running below it in the world and every now and then a tunnel collapses and a very large hole appears on the surface. Luckily no building have actually sunk as yet, but it must only be a matter of time.
We then drove up to Echuca on the mighty Murray. Big flat farmland on each side of the road, huge paddocks full of cattle and huge wheat fields stretching away into the distance. The roads are long and straight populated by almost no traffic except Double B Trucks hauling up to 68 tonnes at a time. These trucks aren’t road trains which are not allowed this far east, but articulated trucks with a second articulated trailer behind the first. Great to see but would not like to be in front of one if it had to stop suddenly.
Took a river boat cruise on a steam driven paddle steamer which was built in Echuca in 1902. The engine was built by Marshalls of Gainsborough and was still running like clockwork. At the turn of the century Echuca and the other ports on the river were some of the busiest places in the country shipping sheep, cattle, timber, wool and people up and down the Murray and Darling river systems.
On this trip we also took the opportunity to test out our borrowed tent and other camping equipment. All worked well and we were very glad to be back sleeping under canvas after the last few weeks getting soft with a solid roof over our heads. The X Trial didn’t break down and justified its purchase with admirable fuel economy which bodes well for when we set out on the big trip to Western Australia after the wedding.
Sandy wrote that bit. This next bit is from Stef. Swan River was lovely, we camped right on the side of the Murray and were woken early by a magpie flying around inside our tent, that sure makes you get up quick. A tiny tent had appeared next to ours, and a really tall guy in a black suit unfolded himself out of it, stretched and had a smoke, and came over and apologised for any noise they had made arriving at 5am. I said no problem, and complimented him on how smart he looked compared to us. Sadly, he explained, he and his colleague (who also squeezed out of from the microtent) were there for a funeral. The deceased was Uncle Bruce, an aboriginal elder of the Yauta Yauta Aborigines. The tall guy, call him Ted, and his friend worked with aborigines “helping on work projects and storytelling”. Uncle Bruce was an important elder, he did a smoking ceremony, burning blue gum leaves and allowing everyone to walk through the cleansing smoke. Ted said Uncle Bruce had helped them in their work, coming to meet them wherever they went and performing the smoke ceremony, and also made them “permission sticks” to help them be accepted by other communities. He was only 65, and would be greatly missed.
Life expectancy for aborigines in Australia is quite low, so dying at 65 is probably not unusual for a man.