Beside the Loddon River then onto Smythesdale and Ballarat

Last Saturday we made our way 60 km southwest from Bendigo to Laanecoorie and the Laanecoorie River Reserve on the Lodden River. Laanecoorie is a small township on the Loddon River and approximately 2 hours from Melbourne. It is in the heart of the Golden Triangle and where in 1853 gold was discovered at Jones Creek.

Our parkup at Lodden River, Laanecoorie

Our parkup at Lodden River, Laanecoorie

The Loddon River’s journey begins in Victoria’s Great Dividing Range. It flows 392 km north through the townships of Newstead, Bridgewater, Serpentine, Boort and Kerang, before joining the Murray River between Barham and Swan Hill. Along the way, it flows through the Cairn Curran and Laanecoorie Reservoirs and several weirs providing a haven for water skiers, boat owners and sailors. The Laanecoorie Weir, completed in 1891, was an easy 6km return walk from our parkup at the Reserve.

At Laanecoorie, the river is crossed by the Janevale bridge, a reinforced concrete girder bridge built in 1911 now listed as a Heritage Place in the Victorian Heritage Register. The structure is quite impressive when you consider that most bridges of that era were constructed using red gum timber.

We were pleasantly surprised on our arrival at the Reserve that there was a reasonable areas of green grass and plenty of space for both the motorhome and Chuck and Ali’s caravan. After a scout around we picked our spots and made the Reserve our home for the next two nights. It is obviously a very popular stop with locals and travellers as by 3pm on Saturday afternoon many caravans and motorhomes were driving into the Reserve then leaving as there was no room to park. We spent a very pleasant two days at the Reserve taking in river walks and socialising with locals and other travellers. ‘Apparently’ the river boasts good sized Murray Cod and Yellow Belly but we saw no evidence of that during our short stay.

On Monday morning we said our goodbyes to Chuck and Ali who headed eastward toward Canberra and home as ‘work was beckoning’. No such problem in the motorhome so we travelled southwest through Maryborough, Avoca, Beaufort, Skipton and into Smythesdale where we paused for the night.

Smythesdale is a town in Victoria and located on the Glenelg Highway. It was established during the Victorian gold rush and was known as Smythes Creek until 1864. We parked up at a free spot at Smythedale Gardens about 1km out of town and on plenty of green grass. As we had arrived late in the day, there was not much else to do but to set up for the night then relax with a pinot gris.

The Skipton Hotel in the village of Skipton, Victoria

The Skipton Hotel in the village of Skipton, Victoria

We have to mention a stunning little hotel we came across on our journey on Monday – the Skipton Hotel in the small village of Skipton. Skipton was first established in 1839 as a pastoral run (fine wool is still the main agricultural product of the area) and a town site was surveyed in 1852. The town was settled some years later with the Post Office opening in1858 and the Skipton Hotel opening in 1859. Successive hotel owners have done their very best not to change or modernise anything where possible. A great bit of history and certainly worth a visit if you are in the area.

On Tuesday morning we departed Smythesdale making our way 20km into the city of Ballarat and to the local Big4 Camp where we have been parked up for the past two days. Ballarat is located on the Yarrowee River in Victoria and is approximately 105 kilometres northwest of Melbourne. Gold was discovered at Poverty Point in 1851 and news quickly spread of rich alluvial fields where gold could easily be extracted. Within months, approximately 20,000 migrants had rushed to the district making it one of the most significant Victorian era boomtowns in Australia.

The navigator relaxing at the entrance to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat

The navigator relaxing at the entrance to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat

In our two days here we have managed to visit much of the town’s history and spend time fossicking in the antique markets. It’s amazing the little places we find to put ‘things’ in the motorhome. The challenge will be finding them when we get home. The standout for us was our visit to Sovereign Hill, an open air museum in Golden Point depicting Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851. Set in the1850s, the complex is located on a 25-hectare site and comprises over 60 historically recreated buildings, with costumed staff and volunteers. The recreation is completed with antiques, artwork, books and papers, machinery, livestock, carriages, and devices all appropriate to the era. A pleasant afternoon was spent.

We leave here tomorrow and head into Melbourne and the final stage of our mainland Australia adventure. Over the next week make of couple of significant changes to our journey. We are taking the jeep to its new owners, Brent and Jo, at Warrnambool on the south coast so will lose some of our ‘storage’ space. We have been very lucky and have friends in Melbourne who have offered to store our bike and other bits and pieces from the jeep until we return from Tasmania in the beginning of March.

This weekend is Australia Day weekend so there is plenty on in Melbourne. We will be paying a visit to the National Hot Rod Show on Saturday as a scene setter for the Beachhop in Whangamata at the end of March. Our plan is to depart Melbourne on Sunday and slowly work our way south west to Warrnambool.

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