Good title, eh? The Woe arises because today I went out without my
We visited another gold-mining site, Bendigo, above Lake Dunstan. You might wonder what the attraction is - wandering through arid hills and avoiding falling down mineshafts under a baking sun - and lacking pictorial evidence I feel a thousand-word blog isn't really on. I'll try to convey what we saw.
The hillside is like a desert at this time of year. The only vegetation is Manuka shrub - think a thyme bush, with the same size of leaves and flowers (white), only up to 12 feet tall. Full of bees. There are a few thorn bushes as well. And there's dust, and there are stones, and cushions of dry, pale lichen. And more stones - heaped where the miners stashed them when they dug them from the ground, or built into the walls of their tiny cottages and around their claims. All around this hill are unfenced mineshafts, giving an impression of desperate activity to reach gold at any cost. Some of the shafts are tiny - just wide enough to take a man. The gold was there, right enough - good deposits in some places, just enough to make some money in others. Several mines closed after a few years, leaving the remains of stampers - the buildings where the rock was pulverised before the gold could be retrieved.
But the most extraordinary thing for us was the silence. At times it seemed total - and then a single bird would call and we would realise how alone we were. Among the manuka which still flowered there were hundreds of bees, but where it was dried out, nothing. And we saw not a soul - in this place where a hundred years ago 500 men, women and children lived and toiled.
And that's why we enjoyed it so much. When I was a child, if we saw another family within a hundred yards of us on the beach, we said "it's seething", and that attitude must have stuck. Can't bear being a tourist with other tourists. Here in Cromwell we feel we're the only visitors in miles. Great!