Monday, 16 June 2008
Mrs. Caliban and the two smallest Duck Noodles were in NZ visiting family last weekend, so the four-legged members of the Gang and I went camping near Hill End, an old gold-mining town about 4 hours driver west of Sydney.
The Australian gold rush began in the 1850s, on the heels of the great 19th century Californian rush, and was no less fervent: in the 20 years from 1850 to 1870 Australia’s population increased by more than 400%. At its peak in 1870 the Hill End area had a population of over 30,000: 51 hotels, 8 churches, 5 schools and 3 newspapers. Today fewer than 100 people live in Hill End and the entire town is classified as a protected historical site.
There were two main reasons for the trip: I wanted to see the Golden Gully – an alluvial goldfield primarily worked by Chinese (whose mines can be identified from the Caucasians' sites by their rounded shape) at the start of the rush, and to (I know how much of a redneck this makes me sound) try out our new SUV (it’s only a small one, so I’m not that much of an enviro-vandal – honest!) on some real 4WD tracks.
The Golden Gully, which was in a now non-existent neighbouring township called Tambaroora is amazing. The temperature was hovering around freezing (hence Fiver’s jacket) as we climbed through the long-abandoned diggings: seeking the gold which had filtered down to the bedrock several thousand miners dug down over fifty feet along about a mile of the river’s course. In the 1850s there’d been gold-panners from every country on earth; now it was silent – we clambered around for several hours and saw nobody.
We did, however, find a mob of large kangaroos – or rather the dogs did. There’s no pictures because I was too busy giving chase: while the ‘roos could easily outrun two inner-city canine warriors the senior male saw no reason to abandon his ground, and was getting ready give a certain Dachshund-Labrador the kick of a lifetime when I managed to catch up. Seeing me the boomer fled, leaving two small heroes convinced they’d defeated a foe the likes of which they’d never imagined existed.
Soon afterwards they found a wombat burrow (with grumbling resident inside) and I unsportingly decided it was time for leads to go back on.
And then the drive home along the old road; a 4WD-only track that needed low-ratio for most of the way: lots of mud, hills and a spectacular drop-off with no guard-rail.
Sorry, but I was too busy watching the road (white-knuckle stuff by my standards;-) to take any pictures during the really scenic stretches: I grabbed these during one of the river crossings.
Finally a late lunch and photograph at the track’s end: I suspect if Mrs. Caliban had seen all the warnings there’s no way she’d have let us go…
… but I know a funny-looking black dog and his little mate (who was too excited to stand still and pose) enjoyed themselves so much that they're not telling anyone.