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Reports

Saturday, 24 August 2002
Melbourne --> Ballarat, Victoria, Australia

After a great three night’s stay at the Hotel Bakpak in Melbourne I had to get going again. Today’s next destination was Ballarat, a small city northwest of big Melbourne.

I know from experience that hitchhiking out of a big city can be a big problem. But today that problem was solved immediately when Ed Scully, my host at the hotel, told me that his parents are from Ballarat. And they were in Melbourne today. And they were heading back to Ballarat today too! And they have a bit of place left in their ute for me! I was lucky once again.

(I actually had to ask Ed about his last name, Scully. Were there many people who wondered about the resemblance of his last name with the lady named Scully in the X-Files TV-series? “I once visited a doctor at the hospital and he asked if I was in any way related to Scully from TV. This doctor had just thoroughly examined me and was very serious with his question. I could not believe it!”)

With the rest of the day relaxing in and out the hotel, walks through the city centre and a last meal at the café with its best pizzas of Melbourne (Thanks David!) I climbed into the car of the Scully family at 4.30pm.

It was an easy ride to Ballarat. In Melbourne it had been sunny warm all day, but when I arrived in Ballarat, the sun had disappeared and it was bloody cold again. As soon as I was dropped off at the grand Town Hall I had to dig in my backpack to get my sweater and winter jacket out of it.

Ballarat is located 110 km west of Melbourne and 441 metres above sea-level (that explains the sudden cold, too). Like many towns in Australia this city is known for its gold-rush history. I have mentioned Ballarat before while I was cruising the Great Ocean Road and passed the coastal town Robe in the state South Australia. It was from Robe to Ballarat that many Chinese people walked (only 300km) to avoid the customs tax they had to pay if they came through Victoria.

It was in Ballarat where the second-largest solid gold nugget was found; the Welcome Nugget was almost 69 kg (99% of it pure was gold).

Only half an hour after my drop off by the Scully family I was picked up by Karl and Vivian Hemphill and their two kids. And believe it or not, I was picked up in a big long-stretch black Limousine!

Now that was something what I don’t experience every day, so I enjoyed very much to sit in the back and be treated as a… Well, what is this for anyway? While I sat in the back cabin with Vivian and the kids, Karl was driving in the front. “I am a limo driver, myself,” he said, explaining me his part-time business. “In the week I am the director of Hempco Industries and there we produce seatbelts and do distribution transports through the country. Driving cars like this one is a hobby for me.”

Karl told me how he just ‘finished a wedding’. He picks up the bride and brings her to the church, waits a while, then goes to a park for a photo shooting and then drops them off at some party spot. “That’s you weekend job?” I asked amazed. “That sounds like a great and easy job!”
“It is! And I happen to love these classic cars, so I can even pay them off by doing weddings or driving around official people.”

At their home I discovered that Karl is a well-travelled person. He has been around the world already and toured through Asia, Europe and Northern America. He met up with Viv when they were still at university, but Karl still had his urge to travel. “He made me wait for him for over three years,” Vivian said and Karl laughed.

When Karl was teaching at a school in England, just to score some money to continue his travels, when his father called him. “He needed a hand at the company here in Ballarat and as it earned better than as it would being a teacher, I decided to get back to Australia.” His plans have changed a bit and he married Vivianne, settled next to the company building and got their two kids. “We both want to travel as soon as it’s possible with the kids,” Vivianne told me.

For dinner Karl had picked up take-away Chinese and champagne and strawberries from the shops and that wasn’t because of me. None of them felt like cooking today and as it was logically Sunday tomorrow, why not spoil everybody in the house and get champagne too?

During dinner we talked about travels and about the company that Karl took over from his father. “I am from a big family and I am the only one from my brothers who wanted to take over the company and I don’t regret it at all.”

Meanwhile the kids were playing around with their plastic swords, looking for possible targets that look like the ones as seen on the Cartoon Network.

After dinner I was introduced to a back room of the living room, which was supposed to become Vivian’s sun room, but ended up as Karl’s leisure room. One wall is stacked with CD’s and in the corner is a authentic Graceland leather bar. And a bar in a house goes together with a drink, so for this occasion Karl made me a Pink Cadillac cocktail.

Karl is a madman on trash and treasure markets, according to Vivianne. With pride Karl tells me how he just loves to by these very wrong and very kitschy stuff, that surrounds me: a light blue tea-plate with Prince Charles and Princess Dianna, a Buddy Jesus statue (you must have seen that movie Dogma! It's a fascinating droll) and a secret drink bar hidden behind fake Shakespeare book covers. It is all so wrong, it becomes real art in a room like this.

The living room couch is folded out into my bed for the night and while I sit in the bed with my laptop on my lap we watch Pulp Fiction on TV. I probably have seen this movie over twenty times now (almost wonder who hasn’t), so it was actually quite funny that I know all the lines of the actors.

When the movie finished everybody got to bed and I hid under the thick blankets. The heating was off for the night and it was going to be very cold.

Good night Ballarat!

Ramon.