A reasonable start to what could be a busy day. After breakfast we joined the throng at the Camp Kitchen for free pancakes. Definitely worth lining up for, in fact I lined up a second time !!
We've arranged to meet my sister at Sovereign Hill at 1030 arriving there with time to spare. She's arranged complementary tickets which are gratefully received. Before proceeding into the park we also paid for the Sound and Light Show for that evening.
The park covers an extensive area and we're determined to cover all of it if we can. The Chinese Village not only shows the dreadful conditions of their accommodation but also brings out the strong anti-Chinese prejudices that existed at the diggings. The government of the day did all in its power to discourage them from coming. A discriminatory tax and barring entry at the Port of Melbourne were but two of such measures.
We then chanced on the General Store where we found the cast-iron camp oven that we'd been looking for. The shop-keeper kindly offered to keep our purchase under the counter for us to collect on the way out. We spent the next two hours looking into the many establishments along the main street. Each store is set up to reflect the period and the staff are all dressed in period costume. Much of the merchandise is manufactured or produced on site from the boiled sweets, pies and pastries to the 'tin' ware and wrought iron items at the blacksmith shop.
We had a lovely lunch with my sister who 'works' at the park on a volunteer basis. Her role is to dress as a drunken homeless woman who spends most of her time sleeping on the board-walk outside the 'New York Bakery'. She poses with the tourists and occasionally is roused by the troopers who call her a drunken smelly old hag. I think she quite enjoys her 'job'.
After lunch we made our way up the hill and took in the foundry, the undertaker and bowling saloon. We looked in on the boiler room and observed the stamp battery in operation followed by the gold refining demonstration. We had seen this previously at the Perth Mint, but in the midst of the mining town setting it took on a sense of authenticity.
There is a variety of domestic animals throughout the park much as would have been expected at the time. From peafowl to pigs goats sheep turkeys and the biggest rooster. For many, especially the children, these were a significant attraction.
Along the way we called into the school house, sat at a small desks and with nib-pen and ink practised our penmanship. Bought back many memories and demonstrated my considerable loss of dexterity in my right hand. In contrast Jenny produced an outstanding display, completing the entire alphabet in cursive capital letters.
A brief shower caused some short-term discomfort – fortunately we had our rain jackets. The final highlight was the wheel making demonstration. Each step was performed by a separate specialised machine. A block of wood was turned into the hub using three different belt-driven machine tools. Similarly the spokes were turned and shaped on machines that were over 150 years old. The wain-right then went on to show how the spokes we connected to the hub and the rim fitted to the spokes. She was not able to demonstrated the fitting of the steel tire as this process requires many hours. The workshop maintains all the horse-draw vehicles in the park and also performs outside work. The full set of specialised machines is thought to be the only working set-up in the world.
I picked up our cast-iron pot on the way out and dropped it off at the car before visiting the Gold Museum. It isn't part of Sovereign Hill but there are tickets for the Museum are included in the entry price. A most extensive collection of all things gold with considerable emphasis on gold coins. Finally left for the caravan about 1700. It has already been a big day and there's more to go.
After a quick light dinner we headed back to Sovereign Hill for the 'Blood on the Southern Cross' sound and light show. The park takes on surreal appearance under the various lighting effects. We moved from an indoor auditorium to the diggings outside as the narrative described the evolution of the gold fields. We moved on to the later stages of the park as Ballarat grew. We were then transported to a covered outdoor auditorium where the events leading up to and following the Eureka Stockade were narrated and graphically displayed in front of us.
The 'show' started at 2015 and finished at 2145. Most impressive and a highly recommended 'extra'. There are other options, like including a dinner or even overnight accommodation. All very well run and packaged.
Back at the van and well past our bed time.
Stay well and travel safely.
Cheers … Tony
Jenny with my sister and niece
The 'Big Rooster'
Just Kidding - it is looking for food
The hub of the wheel being finished
Hub fitted with spokes