And she sang, as we sat and waited til’ our billy boiled, putting a damper on the fire

5 10 2011

After two wonderful days in which I was able to develop a deeper appreciation of what Melbourne has to offer and experience an activity packed excursion to Phillip Island, I wasn’t sure if my choice of the third and final day’s activity, an excursion to Ballarat, was going to be a wise one, as I really wanted to have the chance to have a better feel of the city especially having heard about how much more Melbourne has on offer. I wasn’t to be disappointed though – as not only did it give me the chance to see (and feel) some of the well known creatures of the Australian Bush at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, but also take a step back in time to a world that existed in the mid-1800s in and around Ballarat.

The third day involved a visit to Ballarat Wildlife Park.

The blue skies we woke up to that morning may have been seen as a sign of good things to come, but then, the grey skies of the two previous mornings were not really an indication of the fun filled days we were to have. The skies were indeed blue – brilliantly so, so much so that they deserve mention. The ride of a little more than an hour was fairly pleasant, taking us past the apple and pear orchards of Bacchaus Marsh along the way, and it wasn’t too long before Tony Poletto of Tourism Victoria pointed a sign welcoming us to Ballarat out close to where we passed a medieval castle – Kryal Castle that’s probably worth a visit on my next visit to the area.

The road near Bacchaus Marsh - an area where apple and pear orchards can be found.

Kyral castle - a replica medieval castle on the road close to Ballarat.

At Ballarat Wildlife Park, we were welcomed by a curator Julia Leonard, who made a short introduction and led us to a cabin in the park where she had a little treat in store for us, right under the shade of what might have been a coolibah tree at the front of the cabin. Borrowing from the lyrics of that famous song Australian song Waltzing Matilda, it was there where Julia sang as we watched and waited til’ her billy boiled. What was boiling in the billy, was the famous billy tea – tea brewed in a billy, a tin can, suspended over a fire and flavoured by the addition of eucalyptus leaves, that was supposed to be swung around a few times to sink the leaves to the bottom of the can. Over the fire, we were also able to try our hand at baking damper – a traditional scone like soda bread prepared in the outback made of flour, water and baking soda, at the end of a stick. It was a good thing that there was pre-prepared damper waiting for us in the cabin, as I promptly got mine burnt. There was an assortment of condiments such as butter, jam and golden syrup and even vegemite that we could spread on the damper – much like a scone. I like it – as I did the strong eucalyptus tea that Julia poured out for us.

The cabin we had the damper and billy tea in.

Deenise Yang and Huang Kee Hong baking the damper, as Julia looks on.

The billy (it should really not have a spout!) and our damper being burnt.

Loved the aroma that reached my nose as the billy tea was being poured.

The pre-prepared damper with a selection of condiments which included vegemite!

After that very interesting experience, it was time to wander around the park with Julia. We were first able to feed some very tame kangaroos – ones from Kangaroo Island where there are no predators. It was quite a treat to get up close and personal with them – and have them eat out of my hand – as it was a treat to see two joeys in their mother’s pouches.

One of two very tame Kangaroo Island kangaroos we saw with joeys in their pouches.

Another joey in its mother's pouch.

The mother and her joey.

Other treats were in store for us – I stared right into the eyes of an emu, looked at the sharp and long fangs of the Tasmanian devil (the first time I had actually seen the famous Tassie devils), patted Koalas, including a baby Koala (one of the few places you can pat a Koala) and said hello to Patrick the wombat, as well as saw a host of reptiles including snakes. I enjoyed meeting Patrick in particular – wombats are a lot bigger than I imagined them to be – an adult wombat can weigh as much as 40 kg, but they did not look any less adorable than the cute soft toy replicas we often see being sold.

Staring into the eyes of an emu.

Close up of the feathers of an emu.

A koala at the wildlife park. The wildlife park allows koalas to be petted.

An adorable baby koala peeking through the fur ball that is its mother.

Patrick the orphan wombat, who weights 32 kg. A full sized adult can weigh as much as 40 kg.

Cute and adorable, but they do bite!

A poison gas breathing tortoise? A giant tortoise - the ray of light is a reflection off the glass panel.

Not a two-headed snake - but two rattlesnakes colied up together.

A lizard on a tree.

Going in for the kill! Lab mice being fed to a Tassie devil.

A Tassie devil baring its fangs.

The short visit to the wildlife park was one that I thoroughly enjoyed, not just for the unique experience of billy tea and damper but also for the opportunity it provided for me to see many of the iconic creatures of of Australian outback really up close and in the case of the koala and kangaroos – to pet them – something I am sure would appeal to visitors with children. For the four of us – the experience probably made us feel like kids once again – and I was certainly thankful for that. Next stop on the third day was Sovereign Hill – to hunt for gold, but more importantly to also stop for lunch.


Ballarat Wildlife Park is set in 116 hectares of beautiful peppermint gum woodland and is dedicated to the care and appreciation of Australian wildlife in its natural surroundings. Proprietor Greg Parker uses his considerable breeding expertise to develop an array of Australian fauna such as wombats, Tasmanian devils, goannas, crocodiles, birds and koalas. It’s a favourite with all visitors.

Ballarat Wildlife Park
Cnr Fussell & York Streets
Ballarat VIC 3350
Tel: (03) 5333 5933
www.wildlifepark.com.au


This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.


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