I wasn’t too interested in the goldmining history of the town, having had my fill the month before when I’d played ‘tour guide’ to friends around the Victorian northern gold field villages of Yackandandah and Chilten area, plus we were sitting in the most golden city of all, Bendigo. The city described as “a major planet in its own solar system” is not only visually stunning but also vibrant and pulsating.
The glittering gold dust of the city hadn’t attracted us to its orbit, I was in search of the oldest dragon in the world, the 112 year old Loong. This 60-metre imperial dragon has held court in Bendigo since 1892 and portrays the proud heritage of the Chinese miners who flocked goldfields in the 1800’s. Although his beautiful silk and papier-mâché length has lost its glittering lustre, Loong is still an intricate sight to behold. He now sits in the Golden Dragon Museum along with various other stunningly beautiful ceremonial dragons. The museum is fabulous, filled with colourful pageantry banners, beautiful embroidered cloaks and gowns, ornately carved furniture and a full history of the contribution the Chinese community has given to the area and Australia.
Beside it sits the tranquil Yi Yuan Gardens (a welcome relief to the intense heat that was hitting Bendigo at that time of the afternoon) and the Kuan Yin Temple – a Chinese Buddhist temple dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy. I was delighted to further find another Buddhist temple in Bendigo (or just on the outskirts of the city) which Big M and I proceeded to ‘hunt out’ the next morning on the way to Maldon. Said to be the largest stupa outside of Asian, The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion has been design to be identical to the Great Stupa of Gyantse in Tibet. Having dragged Big M to every stupa and temple I could find during previous trips to Nepal, Thailand, Bali and Cambodia, there was no way I was going to miss seeing Australia’s great Stupa.
We drove up and down country roads and dirt tracks and came to the tranquil bush setting of the Atisha Centre. Passing the gates of the Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery we drove up to the Exhibition Centre and viewed the Stupa. I felt a tiny pang of disappointment when I saw that the Stupa is still being built – “the scaffolding tour” as Big M would call it – but at the same time I was impressed and awed at the size it would be. When finished, this will be a stunning Stupa and in its surrounds, will be a very special peaceful place for contemplation.
We left the Great Stupa and followed the narrow country roads to Maldon and stoped at the first beautiful historical building we came to. The Maldon Railway Station. Well it wasn’t so much beautiful as pretty - a quaint building with ornate ironwork and arched windows. There didn’t appear to be much around it other than a couple of small miners cottages with the cutest picket fences and iron-laced verandas. Then I spied the shot tower in the distance. A tall round brick chimney sitting in the middle of diggings mound. “We must go there,” I declare. We leave the car and hike through the old mining diggings to ogle at the enormous 30metre stack, all that is left of the Beehive Gold Mine (est. 1862). It once stood at 32meters but lost 2 meters in a lightning strike in 1923. Just below the Beehive is the vintage machinery museum Big M wants to visit. It’s closed. There doesn’t appear to much else to see in Maldon and we are about to retrack to the car and leave when Big M suggest we go to wander back to the car a different route.
Turning the corner, we stumble upon the township of Maldon and I just about wet myself with absolute excitement. Maldon is every description of gorgeous! Wherever we look, we see living history right down to the vintage and veteran cars that drive through the streets. Many hours later we drag ourselves reluctantly away from this picturesque town and head for Castlemaine. This town is on our ‘one day’ list for one thing – petrol bowsers.
And Big M is in total heaven. We spend hours wandering around one of the best antique/junk shops we’ve ever been in, actually we spend hours in one section of the shop, looking at every bowser, oil can and garage memorabilia conceivable – thousands of items. For anyone who collects anything to do with cars and garages....this is their nirvana.
It’s late by time we reach Daylesford, only 75kms from where we started this morning and we’ve still 319 kms to where we plan to be tonight – Portland. On the banks of Lake Daylesford, we grab a quick lunch in the company of a beautiful black swan who has a craving for fish&chips on the banks of Lake Daylesford then head into the setting sun, bypassing Ballarat (on the new list) and watch the countryside go from goldfields and ironbark to endless fields of golden wheat and rolled bales.
At Streatham we discover a town that has risen from the ashes of a 1977 fire that practically wiped it out and in Dunkeld we see the cutest little school with a teacher you wouldn’t have wanted to cross (if you’d been a student back yonder). According to the sign near the front gate, this teacher would hang a sign declaring your naughtiness around your neck and parade you around the town. As the day draws to an end the days dawning in the goldfields ends with a spectacular sunset over the bay of Portland in Victorias golden south west.