Leaving Sydney was exhausting. The amount of last minute things to do seemed to multiply faster than we could attend to them. The unbelievably hot weather didn’t help either, but finally, we got there. And as I put the finishing touches to the roof rack and strapped on the surf board, I felt a rare little moment of peace. We’re ready.
We got a good night’s sleep and were up early, prepared for a swift departure the following morning.
Even still it was noon by the time we left, after a lot of scrabbling around to hook up the trailer, final bits and pieces to be thrown in, then at last – woo hoo! We hit the road. For a minute or so that is, then, being Sydney folks now, we stopped for coffee. Ha! Next Erin tells me we have to stop off at the Library to drop off some bloody books. Are you kidding me? No. OK now, off we go – woo hoo!
Our first stop was about four hours inland to Bathurst, where good friends had suggested we set up camp for the first time at their farm, and it turned out to be a great idea.
They have three little boys around Katie and Skye’s age, so the kids ran around the paddock non-stop, as Erin and I tinkered with the set-up. We ended up staying a week, which was probably longer than we expected, but two days in I got ill. Brought on I think by exhaustion, the flu and the 42degree heat. A bit too much for a pasty wee Scotsman.
We did settle into it though. There was a trip into Bunnings or Supercheap Auto almost every day for little things we never knew we needed. And most evenings we took the two-minute drive through the fields to our friends’ house, for a lovely dinner sitting out under a gum tree in the backyard.
We began to get acquainted with the wildlife. Huntsmen spiders (of a reasonable size) seemed to be everywhere, hiding in little flaps of the tent ready to give Erin and I a fright when we rolled down a window.
Ants were fairly large, and wasps were common but didn’t cause any problems unless they were hassled – like when Skye picked one up! Every time we drove into our camp bunny rabbits scarpered in all directions. It was lovely.
Once I was feeling better we decided to explore the area a little bit, which is how we ended up in Sofala.
Bathurst is one of the oldest towns in Australia, and all around are traces of the gold rush that transformed the country from a far off backwater, into a bustling and burgeoning colony. We were almost going to go to a lovely forest park where ‘payable’ gold was first discovered, encouraging people from all over the world to come and make their fortunes.
Instead, we ended up in Sofala.
It sounds nice. Quaint even.
Historic Sofala is the oldest surviving gold mining town in Australia. There’s a steam museum on the outskirts, café’s and ramshackle buildings crowd the two main streets just as they have for a hundred years, and you can pan for gold in the picturesque river than carves its way through the town.
You see? Sounds like it’s worth a visit, doesn’t it?
The café we went to had a tourist information sign outside, which as it turns out meant they had bits of crap on the walls, and a couple of books about the good ol’ days for sale. One of which I bought of course, ‘Fossicking for Gold’ by Malcolm Drinkwater. How could you not buy a book with that title, by an author with that name, in a place like that?!
I ordered chips because I thought oil at 350 degrees Fahrenheit might be enough to kill any germs lurking in the place, and the kids had a couple of icy pops which were in their packets and freezing cold – so still no good for the germs.
After lifting the cushion back onto the filthy sofa on the stinking hot veranda, we sat for about 30 seconds before Erin said “Let’s go and eat these in the car.”
“OK” was my quick response. “Come on guys.”
First I jumped back in to ask where we could take the kids panning for gold though, and to give this lady her due, although cleanliness wasn’t her forte, information was – and she directed me to a section of the river where we could seek our fortunes.
Sofala itself wasn’t the nicest, but panning for gold with the kids, was bloody brilliant. Not that we found anything of course, but the kids were just so excited about it. It really felt like our trip had begun.
There was one more adventure before we left, and it was one that Katie had on her own.
She was going for a play date, but she was going to get there under her own steam for a change. It was a real ‘growing up’ moment, and I felt quite emotional as she carefully negotiated the long gravel drive, cycling through the fields to see the boys in the house down below.
My wee girl.
In the end we were sad to leave, but happy to be moving on.