Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Ballarat Trip -> Day 2

Everyone slept quite well and stayed in their sleeping bags all night. I woke up and went to the kitchen for a cup of tea and realised that I hadn't bought my tea bags with me. I read my book for a while, and everyone else was up by about 8am. We had breakfast and the kids scooted around the park, played in the playground, jumped on the jumping pillow, watched some tv, while I got ready for our day. The park had a 4 seat pedal car for hire, so we had a go on that before we went out. Caitlin and LiAM were able to pedal when the ground was flat, it was much harder when going uphill though, so I walked behind them and pushed when necessary, and I did have a bit of a turn at pedalling as well. It was raining while we were pedalling and everyone we saw made a negative comment about the rain, but it didn't bother us.

Around 11am we walked over to Sovereign Hill. It had stopped raining by now though was still overcast. We bought our tickets (valid for 2 consecutive days) and got the last 4 tickets to the next night's Sound and Light show. Luckily. It would have been incredibly disappointing to miss out on the show entirely. We wandered around to the main street, looking into mining shafts on the way, then checked out the Blacksmiths, the horses in the stables, and the lolly shop - deciding to buy our lollies on our way out rather than carrying them around all day. For now, we bought horse head lolly pops and chocolate frogs with crushed raspberry drops in them (one each). We explored the hotel, then while Caitlin and LiAM went to see the horses pulling the carriage, Millie and I popped in to the Mechanics Institute where she found a display of precious gems and stones which was fascinating. We joined the others and met and patted the horses, then wandered down to the Red Hill Mine, where we did a self-guided tour - the lights and voices are automated and led us through the mine, with holograms in places showing men digging for gold. It was well done and showed a pretty vivid picture of what it was like in the mines. Once above ground again we headed for the gold diggings. We sat on a log and ate our lunch, in between panning for gold in the creek. I'd done it before and had a vague recollection of how to do it but wasn't having much luck. The kids chatted to a European couple next to us who had found a bit. A guy came over after a while and helped me with my method (although he wasn't too critical for my liking) and after that I found several small pieces of gold. Very exciting. Once I'd figured out how to do it, LiAM lined up pans for me to work through and I usually found a couple of pieces in each pan. Another guy came over and asked if he could check the pans I'd finished, and he found a couple more pieces which he let me have.

Caitlin at the stables
Millie panning for gold
LiAM with a gold ingot worth $149,000
We wandered back up the hill, stopped in at the confectionary factory and sampled the raspberry drops and discovered that they sold really big jars of them, then went up to the gold mine and paid for  a guided tour. A quick toilet dash and then down into the mine with a group and a guide. We went underground through pitch darkness on an inclined tram - a bit scary and also quite exciting. This tour talked more about how they went about finding gold and how the mine was structured, and the differences between company and independent mining. The guide asked lots of questions which the kids usually answered, although many of his questions were more aimed at tricking the audience, which I didn't like. There was a seam of real gold that had been placed in the mine, that was quite cool to see. We went on a small train through tunnels to get to the exit tram - a little like riding in mine carts which had a nice minecraft flavour! Back up on the tram, then we climbed the tower above the mine shaft - but it was quite high and the wind was strong and everyone freaked out a little so we went back down. There was a line of mine carts at the base so the kids played in them for a while - Millie in particular had been excited all day at seeing mine carts and realising that they really do exist, they are not just a minecraft creation.
Mine carts!

From there we went and saw a demonstration of real gold being melted down and poured to make an ingot. It was quite interesting and exciting to see the process, then everyone got to hold it. The ingot weighed 3kg and was worth about $149,000 - it felt SO heavy because it was small and dense. The guy who poured it was chatting to us and discovered we lived on a vineyard and that the kids' dad makes wine, so he declared himself Caitlin's best friend and wanted her to come back with wine... We went into the shop and looked at lots of items made of gold, and bought a personalised gold coin for the kids' friend who loves rocks and minerals and gold and was having a birthday this week (we got his name and birthday engraved on it, and a wooden stand to keep it in).

Up to the candle making shop from there, where we purchased plain white candles and the kids were able to dip them into dye and colour them. It was an amazingly simple but effective process, using 3 vats of dye, to create a candle with 5 different bands of colour on it. LiAM played with the colours a bit more than that, the lady warned him that he'd get brown, but he was happy to add a 6th brown band and was pleased with his result. We went to the bowling alley next and all had a go at old fashioned 9 pin bowling - it was fun although the ball was a bit heavy for Millie to bowl very far. We wandered back down the main street and stopped to buy our massive jar of raspberry drops (and a couple more chocolate frogs). From there we meandered down the rest of the street and then headed back to the caravan park.
Candle Dipping

The kids played with the kids in the caravan next to us, on the jumping pillow and in front of our tent and caravan. One of the boys had just turned 5, and he and Millie played with all their soft toys together. I had a hot chocolate and read my book, then went to get dinner ready. The group we'd met the night before were having a party in the camp kitchen - at least 25 people - and they were too loud for LiAM and Millie so I heated up our leftovers and cooked some noodles and we ate back at our tent. It was getting a bit chilly so the kids ate wrapped up in blankets. We had a shower after tea, Caitlin went to the ladies and the rest of us used the family bathroom. We watched TV until the TV room closed then went back to the tent and read Eldest for a while.

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