The reward for stealing a horse – holding $0.25M in her hand?

5 10 2011

It was to our horror that we discovered that we had a horse thief amongst us, just as we tucking into the main course of the lunch we were having on the Main Street of an early but already thriving Ballarat. It was midway into the main course when a man dressed in a blue uniform and armed with a sword – a policeman I guess, stormed into the quiet dining room in which we were seated and read out charges of horse stealing and furious riding to Deenise, one of the bloggers with us.

Firing of guns on Main Street. Were they aiming at a horse thief furiously riding down Main Street?

Main street in the Ballarat of the 1850s - where we found out we had a horse thief in our ranks.

Bills stuck on a wall - no 'Wanted' sign and no sign of trouble.

The horsethief in happier times.

Oh dear! Charges were read in the dining room just as we started on our main course.

It wasn’t of course at all real – but part of the fun we had at Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill where we were transported into the heat of the mid 1800 gold rush on which the city was built. Sovereign Hill, referred to as an outdoor museum, is a recreation of Ballarat in its early years, where one can have a feel of what it was like in the days of the gold rush, as thousands of migrants descended on a an area where one of the most significant finds of gold at that time was discovered. It was also at Ballarat that the largest nugget at the time and the second largest ever, the massive 69 kg Welcome Nugget, was discovered by a group of miners in an underground mine in 1858 and this is re-enacted in a replica underground mine which can be visited at Sovereign Hill.

It was all part of the fun of being in Sovereign Hill - a reacreation of the gold rush town of Ballarat in the 1850s.

The find of the second largest gold nugget ever found is reenacted in the replica Red Hill underground mine which visitors can descend to for a feel of the conditions the underground miners faced.

Walking down Main Street gives a feel of the dusty wild, wild west like town, where one can stumble on soldiers, miners, and townsfolk dressed in the costumes of the day, as well as shop at shops that are decorated very much like what one expects of the shops of the day. It is also possible to take a horse-drawn wagon ride around the area – past buildings that would not have been out of place on the set of a wild west movie.

A scene from the wild, wild west.

The Post Office.

Soldiers marching down Main Street.

Horse drawn wagon rides are available.

The view from the wagon down to Red Hill Gully Creek.

The ouside of the replica underground mine.

A church.

Livestock can also be found to add a feel of what conditions were like.

Candles from a candle maing shop.

Soda bottles in a grocery shop.

One of the more interesting activities that are available is at Red Hill Gully Creek where one can pan for real gold amongst tents and shacks that would have resembled the area during the gold rush days. It was quite interesting to do it – not that I was any good – it was Deenise and Yiwei who did find a few bits of the shinny metal. We also had the opportunity to dress up in costumes resembling the dressing of the period and have our photo taken – which was quite a blast.

Panning for gold at Red Hill Gully Creek.

An oldtimer demonstrating the technique.

The inside of a Chinese miners tent - Chinese made up a substantial portion of the miners' population then.

A replica Chinese temple.

The tent city.

The highlight of the visit was probably the gold pour for me. It was where we could watch 3 kg of gold being melted over a furnace and poured in light of the orange glow of the molten metal into a mould and cooled down – and after everyone had left, we had the opportunity to have a feel of that 3 kg of pure gold – worth close to a quarter of a million Singapore dollars! And for half a minute – I felt rich!

The glow of molten gold during the gold pour.

A quarter of a million in gold in the hands of the horse thief.

Australia’s foremost outdoor museum – Sovereign Hill recreates Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851 when thousands of international fortune-hunters rushed to the Australian goldfields in search of riches. By day, Sovereign Hill is where Australia’s history comes to life – from the hustle and bustle of Main Street where costumed ladies and gents parade their new-found wealth, to the excitement of the Red Hill Gully Diggings where you can pan for REAL gold.

Sovereign Hill
Bradshaw Street
Ballarat VIC 3350
Tel: (03) 5337 1100
Fax: (03) 5331 1528

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.


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

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.

Off the Edge 300 metres up down under

20 09 2011

For a very brief moment in my life, I had a feeling that I was a thousand feet up with nothing but clear air space below my feet all the way down to those tiny objects moving far below. It was a feeling of fear mixed with exhilaration and one that came with standing metres from the edge of a building – not a result of doing something that comes with me being out of my mind (as some would probably have suspected), but from standing in a clear glass cube that had been extended some 3 metres beyond the side of a building, the Eureka Towers, on Melbourne’s South Bank.

Eureka Towers is located on the South Bank of the Yarra - just across the river from Flinders Street Station on the North Bank seen here on the pleasant spring evening's walk from the hotel to the Eureka Tower.

The Edge is a steel framed glass cube that is extended 3 metres beyond the side of the Eureka Tower some 285 metres above the ground (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

The Edge seen extended out from the 88th floor of Eureka Towers (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

That feeling was for me, the best part of a truly awesome Edge experience, one that a visitor to what is to the Southern Hemisphere’s highest observation deck, the Eureka Skydeck 88, would be able to do. The Skydeck is located on the 88th floor of a residential skyscraper, the Eureka Towers, some 285 metres above the ground and offers simply stunning views of Melbourne and beyond, as well as giving an opportunity for the visitor to have what is a one-of-a-kind experience with the Edge.

Eureka Skydeck 88 is the Southern Hemishpere's highest observation deck (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

A nighttime experience of the Edge was what nine other bloggers and myself got (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

The Edge experience was part of a visit to the Eureka Skydeck 88 that along with nine other bloggers, I made on the start of the first evening’s activities during a 4 day / 3 night adventure to Melbourne made possible by Tourism Victoria, Jetstar and Greeting the group at the reception area on the ground level was Ms Megan Peacock who provided the group with an interesting presentation about the tower. Interesting facts that came out during the presentation included the ability of the top of the tower to flex up to some 600 mm in high winds, and that two large water tanks have been placed at the top of the tower to counteract any excessive swaying movement – much like an anti-roll mechanism on a ship. Another interesting fact is that the glass on Eureka’s top 10 levels is plated with 24 carat gold!

Ms Megan Peacock of Eureka Skydeck 88 was on hand to greet the bloggers.

The glass on the top 10 levels of the Eureka Towers is plated with 24 carat gold (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

At the end of the presentation, it was time to step into the lift, which at a speed of 9 m/s, are the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere. All it took was 40 ear popping seconds and we were up to take in the breathtaking panorama of Melbourne’s night lights through the safety of the large glass windows of the observation deck. There was also the opportunity to get out to the Skydeck Open Terrace, an open air terrace exposed to the elements, accessible through an air-lock. This is positioned next to the Edge, allowing visitors to observe passengers inside the Edge.

All it took was 40 seconds to reach the 88th floor on the fastest lifts in the Southern Hemishpere.

View from the 88th floor.

A close-up of Flinders Street Station as seen from the Skydeck Open Terrace.

Taking the magnificent night time views probably took the initial apprehension I had felt about getting on the Edge that had much to do with a previous experience walking on a glass floor at a similar height above the ground that I well remembered. Excitement rather trepidation seemed to overtake me as I slipped booties over my shoes (a requirement to prevent shoes from scratching the glass floor) and stepped into the Edge. The door soon closed and light and sound effects added to the growing sense of anticipation as the cube we were in was extended outwards (not that we could feel it), and once fully extended, we saw the light – the opaque glass that had surrounded us suddenly became clear. And that moment that I first described arrived as the ground below came into full view – a moment when legs immediately turned to jelly – before I realised I was actually standing on a 45 mm thick glass floor – certainly an experience that is not to be missed!.

Off the Edge! Ten bloggers, Han Weiding from and Megan 285 metres over Melbourne.

The Eureka Skydeck 88 is open from 10 am to 10 pm (last entry 9.30 pm), 7 days a week. Admission to the Eureka Skydeck 88 is AUD 17.00 for adults and AUD 10.00 for Children (4 – 16 years). Prices for the Edge Experience are AUD 12.00 for Adults and AUD 8.00 for Children.

Eureka Skydeck 88
Riverside Quay
Southbank VIC 3006
Tel: (03) 9693 8844
Fax: (03) 9693 8899

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.

Crossing the river in the days of old

1 06 2010

It was at the start of the 1970s that my parents first took us on a holiday to the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia. They decided to do it more out of curiosity for what the East Coast had to offer, having already made frequent journeys to the likes of Malacca, Port Dickson, Kuala Lumpur, and the mountain resorts to the north of Kuala Lumpur, on the West Coast. It was on this maiden trip that, deciding to venture a little further than Kuantan, we discovered the peace and tranquility that the East Coast offered in a little place just north of the Pahang-Terengganu border, Kemaman, to which we would subsequently visit annually. We would stay in a quiet motel, set in a coconut grove, with a magnificent bay with a expansive sandy white beach, 5 miles north of Kemaman. This provided us with access to coconuts which we could pluck right off the tree, the wonderful beach that was washed by the surf of the South China Sea, fresh oysters which we could pry off the rocks that stood at the corner of the bay with a screwdriver, deliciously fresh seafood that the wooden shacks that were restaurants in the nearby town served up, and my favourite keropok ikan (fish crackers) that was made in the villages nearby and sold at the market in town. All this made that long and perhaps arduous road journey that we have to take to get there, well worth it.

Wiseman's Ferry across the Hawkesbury River, at the town named after the ferry, north of Sydney, is the oldest ferry crossing being operated in Australia, is a cable operated barge similar to the crossing that was at Rompin (source: Wikipedia).

The journey by road via Kuantan was often an unpredictable one, not so much for the North-East monsoons which bring the eastern states of the Peninsula torrents of rain in November and December making stretches of road impassable due to flooding (months which we avoided making the trip), but due to the fact that crossing some of the rivers was done in the good old way. That was a time when the infrastructure that now makes it a joy to drive to many parts of the Peninsula, hadn’t quite been established yet. Attempts to build the much needed bridges often stalled due to the lack of funds and it was common to see little or no progress in some of the road construction activity that we passed year after year. By the time we made our journey, two of the rivers along the route did not have bridges constructed over them yet, despite plans for many years to do so. The first, at Endau, was across quite a wide river, Sungei Endau, and the second, a narrower crossing at Rompin, across Sungei Rompin.

Wiseman's Ferry across the Hawkesbury River. Built as a link to the Hunter Valley from Sydney, it commenced operations in 1829 (still capture off a video taken in 2002).

The crossings had to be made then by a vehicle ferry, which was a rectangular steel barge on which vehicles could be driven on to via a ramp. Cars and smaller vehicles often shared the deck with the timber laden lorries that were a common sight on the East Coast roads. What it meant was, at the crossings, we had to wait in a queue of vehicles for the next available ferry. On a good day, the wait would usually be not longer than half an hour, and on a day when traffic was particularly heavy, or when the ferry broke down, the wait could stretch into hours, with a five or six hour wait not uncommon in the case of the latter. When this did happen, the wooden shacks that lined the road leading up to the ferry ramp, which served as makeshift refreshment outlets, would do a roaring trade, with the occupants of the vehicles filling the tables and chairs that would have normally been occupied mostly by houseflies.

The river vehicle ferries across the Endau and Rompin Rivers, as with Wiseman's Ferry shown here, always involved a wait, which could sometimes add a few hours to the drive up to Kuantan (still capture off a video taken in 2002).

The crossings which always seemed like an adventure to us, were not without danger, and it was common to see a barge listing dangerously from the weight of an incorrectly placed timber lorry. This brings to mind an incident which happened on Sungei Kerian in northern Malaysia sometime around the time we started making the annual trip, in which a similar ferry capsized, taking a schoolbus and several vehicles that it was carrying with it into the river, killing 33 people. The Endau crossing seemed particularly dangerous, not so much for the distance across the choppy waters, but for the very strong currents. The currents also meant that the tug-boat which towed the barge from the side had often to move on a heading upstream at an angle to the ramp on the other side of the river, to avoid us being carried downstream. The other crossing at Rompin, somehow seemed to provide less excitement. There, the crossing was much narrower and the river more passive, allowing a cable system to be used to pull the ferry across the river. What this meant was the wait would usually be longer, as only one barge could be used to ferry vehicles to and fro, even with the lower volume of traffic that used that crossing.

It wasn’t too long ago, sometime in 2002, on a drive around the Hawkesbury Region, north of Sydney, when I chanced upon a similar crossing to the one at Rompin, which brought memories of the ones we made on the East Coast of Malaysia, at Wiseman’s Ferry. The crossing which was built by a former convict Solomon Wiseman in 1829 to provide a link to Sydney from the fertile Hunter Valley, is the oldest ferry crossing still in operation in Australia, and provides a link across the picturesque Hawkesbury River. The charming old cable operated ferry is now operated by the state government and was certainly well worth the detour off the highway to get on to it. For me, it served to remind me of my own adventures on the ferry crossings on the East Coast, which said goodbye to us sometime around 1975/1976, when the bridges that had long threatened to render them obsolete, were finally built.