The trip from Ballarat to Bridgewater was quite a lazy journey; as we didn’t have far to go we just toddled along at a leisurely pace taking our time. Leaving Ballarat we travelled through the small centres of Creswick, Clunes, and Talbot; we stopped for morning coffee at Maryborough before moving on through Dunolly and Tarnagulla before arriving at Bridgewater on Loddon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridgewater_On_Loddon,_Victoria) just after 11:00 am.
At Bridgewater on Loddon (http://www.bridgewateronloddon.com.au/), the local Council has constructed this great caravan park – The Bridgewater Public Caravan Park (http://www.bridgewaterpubliccaravanpark.com.au) on the banks of the Loddon River (we understand that this park replaces an earlier park severely damaged in the catastrophic floods which inundated the town in 2011). There are 98 powered sites set on acres of green grass with modern amenities and only one cabin. There are only a few caravans in the park and it is a very peaceful setting.
On Thursday afternoon we took a walk through the town checking out what is here and speaking to some of the locals. Walking tracks have been constructed along the river so we had quite a walk seeing the sites along the banks. At first sight, there appears to be little here, but closer examination reveals quite a lot of industry. Laucke have a flour mill here which was only completed in 2014 (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/bran-new-mill-against-the-grain/story-e6frgczx-1226964274047), there is also a solar system test facility on the outskirts of town (http://solarsystems.com.au/installations/bridgewater) (http://yes2renewables.org/2012/03/22/253bridgewater-solar-plant-commences-operations/) and a variety of rural based businesses located in and near the town.
Friday morning was a bright clear morning so we drove the thirty-seven kilometres into Bendigo to do some shopping and to take a tour of the Bendigo Tram system (http://www.bendigotramways.com/). We joined the tram at the Central Deborah Gold Mine site (http://www.central-deborah.com/) with a ticket to take us to the Tram Depot and Workshop for a tour and then a further trip to the Bendigo Joss House for a tour there then a return trip to Central Deborah Gold Mine to collect our car.
It was an interesting journey on the trams – we actually travelled on two different restored trams one from Central Deborah Gold Mine to the Tram Depot then a different tram to the Joss House. The return journey saw us on the same tram for the entire journey that we had first boarded.
At the Tram Depot and Workshop we saw quite a number of trams in various states of restoration and repair and were given a brief history of each of the trams by a guide who later drove the tram that took us on to the Joss House.
The Joss House (http://www.bendigojosshouse.com/) is still used for worship but is open for inspection by the public when not needed for worship.
The website indicates – From when gold was first discovered in 1851 to the present day, the Chinese community has been a part of the proud history of Bendigo.
The Bendigo Joss House, a Chinese house of prayer, was constructed in the late 1860s. Standing for over a century, the Bendigo Joss House is one of the few remaining buildings of its type in Australia.
Constructed with locally handmade bricks and painted red, symbolising the traditional Chinese colour denoting strength and vitality, the Bendigo Joss House provides a glimpse into Chinese culture and tradition.
The Joss House is owned by the City of Greater Bendigo and has been managed by The Bendigo Trust since 2007
Behind the Joss House is the former munitions factory, now operated by the Thales Group and is the site where Bushmaster vehicles operated by the Australian Defense Force, are manufactured. The Bushmaster Vehicles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushmaster_Protected_Mobility_Vehicle) have been a good choice for the ADF and have proved to be a very safe design as there have been no Australian personnel ever killed in these vehicles.
Inglewood (Victoria not the town in Queensland) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inglewood,_Victoria) is just seven kilometres up the road from Bridgewater on Loddon and we drove to the town on Saturday morning. A walk through the town revealed a lot more shops and businesses than in Bridgewater on Loddon. There are 71 businesses and places of interest marked on the Inglewood Tourism Map compared to 48 on the Bridgewater version (http://inglewood.vic.au/).
Walking round the town we found a number of Antique and Collectible businesses as well as pubs, butchery, grocery and the other run of the mill shops one normally encounters. In one of the antique shops we noticed gold nuggets for sale – the note attached to the box indicated something along the lines of “Seth’s gold nuggets – not real gold but nice collectible nuggets, only $1.00 each. Seth is raising money to visit the snow.” The gentleman in the shop told us the story of Seth (obviously his grandson) who had cleaned and painted some quartz pieces and sprayed them gold with some old paint – some frustrated fossickers came into the shop and declared they were having no luck so Seth offered them his gold; in turn the fossickers gave Seth $2.00 and that was the start of his enterprise.
There were a lot of interesting building in Inglewood and we took photos before we visited the Eucy (Eucalyptus) Distillery Museum (http://inglewood.vic.au/eucymuseum). The modern museum building is built adjacent to an old eucalyptus distilling plant which has been closed for some time. At the museum you watch a DVD –an Australian Story (ABC) episode about the TAIG family (http://www.australianeucalyptusoil.com.au/); then give a practical demonstration of the distilling of eucalyptus oil from the leave of the blue eucalyptus plant (more a bush than a tree) using the model distillery built in the museum. A very interesting visit on the day.
We drove on to Wedderburn where little seemed to be happening, found a small café open and had some lunch and coffee before heading on to Boort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boort). Boort is located on the edge of a very attractive lake system and the local caravan park is perched right on the edge of the lake. The town (http://boort.com.au/) is a very attractive looking small town but as we arrived after 1:00pm on a Saturday there was virtually nothing open in the way of business – didn’t check the pub but I guess it was open for business.
Boort is also home to the Spanner Man – John Piccoli (http://www.loddon.vic.gov.au/Visit/Local-attractions/Boort/Star-Spanner-Sculpture-Garden), however we didn’t get there as one has to make an appointment to visit; we did however, see some of his work on display in the town.
We walked around the town and drove to a local lookout (not a lot to see through the large trees) before we left Boort driving towards Durham Ox (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Ox,_Victoria). There is virtually nothing here except the Ox.
Turning south along the Loddon Valley Highway we headed for the township of Serpentine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serpentine,_Victoria) where we turned off the highway to the Bridgewater road and back to the caravan park. The Tourism Officer at the Loddon Shire Council (http://www.loddon.vic.gov.au/Visit/Loddon-Discovery-Tours) would be pleased with us as we had followed one of the tourism routes recommended by the Council; we enjoyed the day and found the area very interesting.
Sunday was a day for late rising (but the frost was still evident in the caravan park) and essentially preparing for the next phase of the journey. Cleaning the interior of the van was in order and filling of water tanks and containers (lovely soft water here) was achieved. The rest of the day was spent doing very little. Tomorrow we move on to Echuca for a couple of days.